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Nina In New York: Girls Can Learn Math (As Long As Its Still Pretty)

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Christmas In NYC

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

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By Nina Pajak

Have you heard? Gender roles are changing. More women are winning the bread, and more men are staying home and proudly (or begrudgingly, whichever) donning the moniker of Mr. Mom. It’s not just a 1980s Michael Keaton/Teri Garr flick anymore.

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So, to keep up with the modern times and the idea that Dad is the one going a-marketing these days, stores and manufacturers are changing the way they do things. More specifically, as reported in The New York Times, the pink aisle is getting a little makeover.

Mattel, makers of that plastic vixen, Barbie, is introducing a new suite of girly Lego sets aimed at involving dads in play and helping girls develop some of the same math, science and spatial skills that boys’ toys more naturally do. No matter how many times she sharpens that curriculum, Teacher Barbie just can’t compete with Lincoln Logs. Wait, do kids still play with Lincoln Logs? I never understood the appeal. (Sorry, Dad.)

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Anyway, the sets will be in pinks and purples and other pastels, of course, and some of them will build scenes like clothing stores and hair salons. Hey, I said it was a little makeover.

My feelings are conflicted. On the one hand, I loved Legos as a kid, never cared what colors they were, and spend hours upon hours upon days upon weeks working on long-term “construction projects” which never quite panned out the way I’d hope. (Seriously, how do you make a roof that goes up AND comes back down on the other side?)

On the other hand, I can acknowledge that little girls are naturally attracted to pink and purple and they don’t like to pretend they’re on an active work site holding the blueprints to an office park, they like to pretend they’re creating their own store or salon. Listen, you can fight it all you want, but I loved “Mall Madness” long before I delved into shopping as a hobby. And there isn’t a little girl in this country who didn’t at some point take a pair of safety scissors to her poor Barbie doll’s head in a vain effort to play hairdresser. If these new pastel-colored sets actually appeal to little girls who would otherwise refuse to engage in building materials, I say go for it. Frankly, I’d put skill development over a nuanced understanding of societal gender norms as the higher priority in raising a daughter. And if she’s the type of kid who won’t look at a Lego set unless it’s the same color as her My Little Pony, then she’s so far gone down that pink abyss that you may as well try anything to get her to broaden her tastes.

On the other other hand, it appears I got shorted in my cognitive development, as my years of clocked in Lego time did positively nothing for my math, science, or spacial skills. Not only was I never particularly good at those things, but I’m actually unusually bad at them, and worsening as I age. Perhaps I should pick up one of these new sets. You’re never too old to learn, you know.