The first time I saw the BrightMinds catalogue I was impressed, and pointed anyone looking to buy a present for HackneyChild towards it - the toys were fun, educational and good quality. The company is founded by an ex-teacher and makes a point of the educational value of what it offers.
Flicking through the latest catalogue in search of presents for winter-born nephews I didn't at first notice what was going on in the Science & Discovery Section. But after 20 pages of chemistry sets, weather stations, telescopes and electronics comes a two-page section called In the Pink - beauty salons, perfume making kits, a kaleidoscope, pink Meccano. Hang on, I thought, this is special Girl Science? Who was all the rest of that section aimed at?
Looking back, sure enough in the 20 pages preceeding, and the 12 pages following, the "pink" section, there are 22 pictures of boys interacting with the products (not including the packaging) and two pictures of "Dads". There is one picture of a girl, and one of a mum (bizarrely under the headline "Made by Dad and Me"), and one of a child whose gender is not clear. (There is also a mum and a girl on a video fridge magnet that a boy is looking at).
So where are all the girls? Oh, here they are, bless them, in the Creativity section. Nineteen of them, and not a boy in sight.
This would be bad in a mainstream high street toy catalogue. In a catalogue that touts its educational nous it is appalling and unacceptable. I am affronted on two fronts - as a woman I am incensed that girls' science toys are ghettoised in a two page pink section, and as a mother of sons and aunt of four nephews, I am disappointed that boys are steered away from creativity and art. I had a chemistry set, my sister had an electronics kit. If we were young today would we be making perfume and jewellery boxes instead?
I have nothing against these products, they sound fun, and I'm sure girls, and maybe some boys would enjoy them. I have nothing against products that are mainly targeted at boys or mainly targeted at girls. And I can see that some specific products in the creativity section are boy-friendly. But to have 22 boys and two (at a push) girls in the science section, and 19 girls and NO boys in the creativity section is really saying something disturbing about just who should be taking Chemistry and who should be taking Art.
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