Today’s Twitter rage* is brought to you by some people who think it’s necessary to market science toys at girls and boys separately. Sigh.
Here’s Fizz Pop Science – apparently it is:
a Community Interest Company that is run by David Reed (aka Rocket), an experienced and friendly individual with many years of experience in organising science parties and scientific shows.
Fair enough. While the 0845 contact number, lack of a twitter account and other personable elements makes me raise an eyebrow, the rest of the site seems to be OK (although comic sans critics might disagree with that).
Until, that is, you have a look at the Science Toys section. Overall quite a good idea, to collate some Amazon links to sciencey toys that children might find appealing, inspiring, fun and so on. I’m all for parents who want to encourage kids to explore science from an early age – it can lead to them sticking with STEM topics at school, going on to university, choosing a science career – all of those positive things, if you (and, more importantly, they) like that.
However, On the right are menu items I like a lot less.
Why does this list of toys have to be repackaged for girls, and for boys? And how are they deciding this? Pretty arbitrarily, it turns out. A click on the for Girls link takes us to a pink-background list, titled “Girls Science ideas for gifts or sleepover suprises” – because that’s what girls all do, apparently. The boys, on the other hand, get “Boys Science Toys and Gadgets“. Slumber parties for girls and gadgets for boys! Not the best way to encourage more girls and women into tech.
Most of the toys from the original list are not gendered at all – things like microscopes, chemistry sets, some of the boxes even have pictures featuring both boys and girls. The boys‘ section has all sorts, including dinosaurs, sports-themed things, rockets, robots – all the cool stuff, basically. And there’s more than 10 pages of items. The girls’, on the other hand, has only TWO PAGES, which are dominated by make-up and toiletries-based kits. Pathetic.
So I’ve written them a short complaint to go with the tweets they are unlikely even to see:
Dear Fizz Pop Science,
You might find yourselves the object of some Twitter rage today (try searching “gendered #science toys”). I hope you can see through the volume of ire and take on board some measured complaints.
The part of the site in question is on the toys page, under the “…for girls” and “…for boys” menus on the right.
That the girls’ page has been pinkwashed and the boys’ page is generic, the girls’ toys fills 2 pages where as the boys’ has over 10 – what is going on here?
I know you have tried to be diplomatic with “Although I do not particularly like the idea of Girls Science as a stereotyped style of toy” – but then, why have this section at all?
Why feed into these stereotypes? This kind of site has the power to influence parents and children alike, and with gender inequality still visibly affecting academia and science as a broader field, there is no need.
You could feed both links into a page that says “anyone can do science!” and similar – showing no field within science is restricted or biased towards any gender (or at least, should not be).
I hope you will consider redesigning this small area of your otherwise appealing sciencey website, to fit more in line with your About Us page’s commendable goal of making “…fun and inspiring science affordable and accessible to everyone”.
Do join me if you would like to encourage them to fix this poorly thought out section of their website, and do a little bit for gender equality in science, and indeed generally. They’re not the first, and probably won’t be the last, sadly.
Edit: David, the owner of the site, has picked up on this (see below) and will be redesigning the pages – watch this space!