Mike the Mad Biologist

A colleague looking to buy Christmas gifts went to the Discovery Channel store page and noticed that boys and girls had two different pages. It’s nice to see that a company supposedly dedicated to scientific inquiry has decided that girls don’t like or want science.

What do I mean? Well, here’s the first five gifts for the boys:

  1. Discovery Whodunit? Forensics Lab
  2. Discovery Fingerprint Lab
  3. Discovery Speed Detector
  4. Radio Control Equalizer Stunt Car
  5. Discovery Remote Control Chromashift Roboreptile

Here’s what the first item looks like:
sciencyboysstuff

Very sciency. Now for the girls:

  1. Discovery Ultimate Pottery Wheel
  2. Discovery Knit Kit
  3. Discovery Deluxe Nail Salon (not only are they reinforcing stereotypical gender roles, but they’re also turning them into Long Islanders. Besides, you wouldn’t want to break a nail working with that Fingerprinting Kit, now would you, dear?)
  4. It’s My Life Scrapbook Kit
  5. Discovery Friendship Bracelets
  6. Discovery Jellloopdeloops Jewelry Kit (just what the fuck is a “Jelloopdeloop”? Somehow I don’t think Marie Curie played with Jelloopdeloops)
  7. Klutz ® Paper Fashions Kit
  8. It’s All About Me Quiz Book (yes, one can never be too vacuous)

I’ve added more to this list just to show you how craptacular it is. Oh yeah, you have to get to the bottom of the girls page to see the “Discovery Whodunit? Forensics Lab”–the first item for the boys. And here’s a girls item, the Jelloopdeloops:
jelloopdeloops

Sciency? Not so much.

Way to reinforce stereotypes, guys–and I mean guys. Why are they dividing science-oriented toys by gender anyway?

Update: Lindsay and Shakes have some thoughts on the matter too. Amanda also comments.

Comments

  1. #1 Membrane
    December 7, 2006

    Math is hard!

  2. #2 Joshua
    December 7, 2006

    Math is hard! (For girls?)

  3. #3 The Ridger
    December 7, 2006

    I remember a classic Cathy cartoon where she was shopping for a toy for her friend’s child, and the clerk wanted to know if it was a boy (GI Joe) or girl (Barbie). Cathy had a tantrum about it, finishing up with “It’s a person! I want a toy for a baby person!” The clerk said, “Okay, how about a dinosaur?” “Great,” said Cathy.

    And the clerk brought out the “cowboy-soldier-astronaut dinosaur” T-Rex and the “princess-ballerina-bride dinosaur” brontosaurus.

    (And I wondered how wrong it was the bronosaurus was actually kind of pleasing, with its crown, tutu, and veil…)

  4. #4 Tyler DiPietro
    December 7, 2006

    Wow. That’s really all I can say. It’s shocking that the Discovery Channel is that egregiously sexist.

    Oh well, I never watch that shitty channel anyway. I wish TechTV wasn’t completely butt-reamed by Comcast.

  5. #5 YellowIbis
    December 7, 2006

    This is just so many kinds of wrong. And unfortunately, many companies selling science products for kids (or adults!) do go down this route. I attribute part of the issue to the actual buyers and/or marketing people often being non-scientists themselves.

  6. #6 Gerard Harbison
    December 7, 2006

    Un-be-freaking-lievable.

  7. #7 KarenMcL
    December 7, 2006

    Yeppers…just like when I was kid (and I ALWAYS wanted that Microscope and Erector Set!)

    Kind of egregious for a Science webpage.

  8. #8 csrster
    December 8, 2006

    I have a five year-old-girl and a four-year-old girl, and all they want for christmas is Barbie/Princess/Ballerina girlie-stuff. They’d _love_ a nail salon. Where did I go wrong?

  9. #9 John
    December 8, 2006

    I looked at the list myself. Did you notice that the list is for “Best Sellers”? The actual lists contain the same Items. It is the customer that determines the best seller lists, not Discovery Channel. All Discovery Channel do was show us the stereotyping that still exists in our society.

  10. #10 Jessika
    December 8, 2006

    I just had a baby girl in April and I’m already dreading her wanting & receiving “girl” toys. I did a post just a month or so ago about it, but seeing this warrants a follow up post.

  11. #11 Rob
    December 8, 2006

    I’m about to have a child this coming spring – I don’t know the gender yet, but I was thinking ‘Dinosaurs, building blocks, and lots n lots of cuddily things. I have wondered (and I’ll admit slightly hoped) if it’s a girl, how will I manage setting an example that women make damn fine scientists, engineers, doctors, etc – but for the love of goodness stay away from LAWYERS! Ah well – best way to nurture is to teach them to make their own decisions. Gender roles, while appearing strictly set in this culture, are really pretty fluid. I just want a kid who’s happy, confident, and doesn’t get suckered into believing what others want them to believe.

  12. #12 Rich R
    December 8, 2006

    Horrifying and funny at the same time. I like Mike’s commentary, tho it is easier to laugh when you have boys (which I do).

    I did actually go to the website, and (as one of the other feedbackers pointed out) the list is sorted by best sellers — see Boys8-12 vs Girls8-12, you can resort the list by price low to high, and there isn’t much difference.

    Still, some discovery channel employee decided that the jello bracelets were for girls and the Miami Vice Daytona Spider model kit is for boys — so I’m not letting them off the hook.

  13. #13 Chris Pierson
    December 8, 2006

    These links lead to pages where the view is of “bestsellers.” If you look at the bottom of the page for girls, you’ll see the forensics and fingerprints labs as well.

    It seems it’s not just the Discovery Channel that is guilty of stereotyping girls’ and boys’ interests, but parents.

  14. #14 fanny666
    December 8, 2006

    I think this was presented in a hyped-up, hyperbolic way. Here’s some other comments:

    http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/45244/#comments

  15. #15 Edward
    December 8, 2006

    Yeah sex-role stereotyping is alive and well. I’ve got one of each, so I see a bit from each side. I cringed when my daughter got into Barbie dolls. Marie Curie may not have played with Jelloopdeloops, but my daughter would probably like them. Despite that, it’s my daughter, not my son, who wants to be a scientist. She wants to go into physics.

  16. #16 Dr. Free-Ride
    December 8, 2006

    It’s not just the girls’ toys/boys’ toys. Check out what passes for science for girls!

  17. #17 Medulla
    December 9, 2006

    I’m confused about how the Discovery Channel knows which items are the best sellers for girls and which items are the best sellers for boys. Do they actually keep track of gift recipients?

  18. #18 ElizabethTX
    December 9, 2006

    Lawyers are ok. Especially those of us who work for research universities…representing scientists.

  19. #19 Dana
    December 9, 2006

    “These links lead to pages where the view is of “bestsellers.” If you look at the bottom of the page for girls, you’ll see the forensics and fingerprints labs as well.”
    The thing is, Discovery doesn’t keep track of which toys are bought for boys and which for girls. So how do they decide that the pottery wheel is the girls’ “best seller” and the forensics lab is the boys’?

  20. #20 Daniel Martin
    December 10, 2006

    These links lead to pages where the view is of “bestsellers.” If you look at the bottom of the page for girls, you’ll see the forensics and fingerprints labs as well.

    This statement is mostly true. The list of toys is actually independent of what you choose in the “sort by” box.

    It seems it’s not just the Discovery Channel that is guilty of stereotyping girls’ and boys’ interests, but parents.

    This statement is not. After comparing the boys’ and girls’ lists for both 8-12 and 5-7, I’m fairly confident in saying that what happens is this: discovery.com, probably relying on what the manufacturers say, classifies each toy into an age range and optionally a gender. From this, they make up a list of “boys” toys and “girls” toys, with some overlap for those toys that were not given a gender classification. Then, those pages sort the lists. As evidence for this, any time you find two items on both lists, they will be in the same order. For example: #4 and #5 for 5-7 yr. old boys are #11 and #12 for 5-7 yr. old girls, even though that puts a 6″ by 6″ remote controlled spider as the #11 gift for 5-7 yr. old girls. The #2 gift for 5-7 yr. old boys never shows up anywhere on the girls’ list.

    What this shows is that the pottery wheel outsells the forensics kit, which I guess I find mildly surprising, and that there are a bunch of cutesy-girl things that are much, much cheaper than the $80 forensics kit, and so outsell it as well. It also shows that the ultimate pottery wheel has been classified as for girls only. (I’m puzzled that the $80 pottery wheel sells better than the $25 “Knit Kit”, but they may be doing some strange accounting there)

  21. #21 oswald
    December 11, 2006

    I donĺt understand how one could claim that Discoverey is attempting to discriminate against girls or is somehow attempting to pigoen hole them. The forensics kit in question appears on page 1 of the best selling gifts for BOTH boys and girls ages 8-12. I donĺt see how that could be interpreted as steering girls(or the parents buying the gifts) away from science-oriented gifts for girls. They are offered to both. In fact, many of the same science related gifts appear in both the boys and girls sections. The real difference is that you will find very very few crafts-related suggestions for boys. So, one could argue that Discoverey is really offering a much wider selection to girls, while pigeon holing boys.
    The site doesnĺt appear to favor any particular item selection for boys or girls. And showing which items are best sellers only reveals the preferences of the buyers, not a bias on the part of Discoverey.

  22. #22 Sean
    January 9, 2008

    Agreed Oswald.

    However, we must ultimately remember, we must never discuss the fact that boys and girls often like different things.

    Because acknowledging differences in the sexes is apparently sexist.

    You are all tools…well…except for Oswald and csrstr….

  23. #23 Bedava Oyunlar
    March 4, 2008

    …just like when I was kid (and I ALWAYS wanted that Microscope and Erector

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