Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 4 seconds

On Gendered Gamed & Toys

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 4 seconds

My daughter daily defeats gender stereotypes in her own little ways. Like today, she had her lego mermaid figurine sit inside a toy car. Later, she had the car drinking from her tea set. But she’s affected by gender stereotypes in other ways, of course, and lots of that happens beyond my control as she sees things happening at daycare and as other adults outright tell her she should not behave like a boy (whatever that means – her behavior is either acceptable or not, but it should not be acceptable for one gender and not another!)

This morning I read Kevin’s awesome post with the lego gender mixer, and how this sparked discussion in his class much like what has been going through my own mind for a while. On why it’s acceptable for girls to play stereotypically boys’ games but not vice versa.

I couldn’t get the lego mixer thing to work (old browser) but this led me to YouTube and Anita Sarkeesian’s videos on gender stereotypes in Lego’s (i am addicted to her stuff and that’s saying a lot because i generally hate watching videos) They’re two videos, here is the first (this was kinda fun coz i watched these with my daughter on my lap and she enjoyed them too):

Which all led me to #gamergate coz when you watch Anita’s videos you get lots of recommendations of videos on the side from male gamers responding to her (or at least that’s what i saw). I didn’t know about Anita or gamergate until Andrea Rehn pointed me to it based on something I said on Twitter. This article by Liz Losh (of #ccourses) is a good intro. I’m not going to comment on the specifics, you can read others who know more about it. I can say, though, two things:
A. While I love Anita’s videos and arguments, I can see why men find it confusing (does not give em the right to harass her). Criticism from “outside” one’s own identity gets confusing. I can see men scratching their heads at the Lego criticism saying, “um, but many women do wear pink and put lipstick” or, “if you think it’s ok for women to play action heroes, go ahead, what’s stopping you?” – but of course, that’s not the issue. The issue is that the male-stereptype games have no female characters, and the female-stereotype games have no male characters. As Anita says, as if men don’t eat and women can’t be police or firefighters. I do, though, remember Lego while I was growing up which was relatively gender neutral.

B. It should be ok to criticize Anita. No one is foolproof and perfect. But the problem, I think, is in the ways men feel entitled to criticize women violently and aggressively to protect their “boys club”.

This reminded me of a funny (real) story i read on Reader’s Digest a long time ago, it was about a kid whose mom was an airpilot in the army, and someone asked him if he wanted to be an airpilot when he grew up. His response? “But that’s women’s work!” – which just goes to show that enjoying airfighter status is not a male-thing, but apparently the “not wanting to be confused with a woman” thing is a big deal!

Another story on Reader’ Digest relates to someone who was driving behind another vehicle where the driver was not driving very well. He kept saying, “that must be a woman driving so awfully”. But when he discovered it was a man driving? He said, “must be his mother who taught him how to drive”.

I have to cut this short because my daughter needs me and I want to take her out. More later.

And the whole gamergate thing? It is just one story among many that relate to women being harassed online. Frances Bell wrote earlier about edtech female bloggers getting threatened with physical violence. I’ll be back.

Can I just out in a couple of words for some of my favorite feminist men? I don’t mean to label them, but they’ve done really awesome things…

Like Dave Cormier who posts on his twitter profile that he is “maker of coffee for @bonstewart” and constantly praises her work. How awesome is that? Touchwood

Like Michael Berman who decided to campaign for child care at the edtech conference we’re both on the steering committee of

Like Kevin who just wrote that post linked above and talks gender with his students.

Like Shyam who is always praising the intellect of his wife and feeling guilty for ever delaying her career

Like Keith Hamon who is not scared of calling himself a tree-hugger and people-hugger

Like Simon Ensor who writes about how it feels to feel “left out” just because you are male… (Maybe i got that one wrong?)

8 thoughts on “On Gendered Gamed & Toys

  1. Interesting post as always Maha. I completely agree with what you say about Lego – no doubt market research led them to do this by way of maximising profit and it’s unlikely to change without a change in demand for their type of product. A long time ago a colleague and I ran ‘taster’ courses for girls around 14yo who might want to study engineering when they came to university as our courses were never more than about 13% female. We gave up eventually there being little impact on female recruitment – so difficult to make a difference! I’m fairly convinced that gender bias is cultural to a very large extent but complicated by real differences mistakenly perceived / distorted as stereotypical. The important thing must be equality of opportunity, removing barriers and attitudes that serve to exclude anyone from whatever activities they wish to pursue. Change may be slow but I’ve seen dramatic changes in my lifetime – smoking, drink driving, gay marriage etc and the educative power of chipping away at these issues in conversation, articles and blogs like yours should not be underestimated – Scottish saying: “many a mickle makes a muckle” 🙂

    1. Hey Gordon, thanks for responding. Am curious to know what you did to try and encourage girls. I agree it’s confusing to recognize which aspects are stereotypes and which natural, tho i posit that even stereotypes get internalized by girls such that you sometimes end up having to take em into account. E.g. Sports, cars, space, often targeted at boys means using such examples in physics can turn girls off. Equally, altho boys can enjoy dolls and cooking, they’re often discouraged from this. It takes a lot of time and effort as a community to change these around.

  2. If I remember correctly we had about 100 girls on each course from all over the UK staying in a University Hall of Residence for a few days. We bussed them in every day for pep talks by academic staff and a tour of the university conducted by postgraduates but they spent considerable time in the labs doing experiments themselves (eg using minicomputers – leading edge at the time!) to acquire some flavour of electronic and electrical engineering. I don’t think we had any female postgraduates or academic staff then. My secretary (female) stayed with the girls at night (‘in loco parentis’ applied because of their ages) but again not exactly the right signal!

    Interesting re cars, space, physics etc. Talking to our female students about how they coped in an almost all male environment some were irritated by male lecturers whose explanations referred to stuff outside their prior female experience – how cars, motor bikes, engines work etc – something that just hadn’t occurred to me – or many colleagues.

    1. Right. Exactly. Female role models matter, and some things would not occur to you unless pointed out. The prob is it might not even occur to the female role mode coz she “survived” and “thrived” in spite of it. I only became cognizant of these things when i started studying education. Couldn’t put my finger on it before. Definitely was made to feel a bit stupid by male computer sci colleagues even tho i performed better academically. It did not come “naturally” to me and i did not “tinker” with machines that way. I didn’t “enjoy” computers. But look at me now. Passionate about using tech for the right edu purpose but agnostic about its value still. I like that much more than the geekiness of my male colleagues. For me anyway 🙂

  3. lovely to end this post with a list of feminist allies who are men. GamerGate is a great example to teach with. Talked about it with my class today! thanks for being part of connected courses!

    1. Thank YOU, I love this unit’s topic even though I couldnt engage as much as I wanted to. I have another GamerGate related post coming up (guest post for another place, not here) that I will share to the #ccourses hashtag soon

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