An article in the New York Times this week signaled an interesting cultural shift. Touted for developing math and science skills, construction set toys have typically been purchased for (and marketed to) boys. Think Lego, Erector Sets, etc. According to the Times article however, the increasing numbers of stay-at-home dads (and their attendant influence on purchasing decisions) have inspired manufacturers to develop toys that they believe would appeal to daddy sensibilities – particularly those with a penchant for construction or spatial-type toys. Thus Lego and Mega Bloks have introduced product lines in which the snap-together pieces are purple and/or pink, and the construction results in a mansion or ice cream shop.

It’s not limited to building sets either. Mattel has come up with Computer Engineer Barbie and Zeno’s Executive Director Tammie Schacher has an Architect Barbie on her desk. (Note the “2011 Career of the Year” exhortation on the box, which is pretty hilarious considering how many architects lost their jobs during the recession. But I digress…) Either way, there are a few more STEM-positive toys out in the world being marketed towards girls.

Yet, the article notes that the sets are still rather gendered in a way that triggers the “ick” factor for some – for instance, building sets that result in a beauty or fashion shop. And then there is the pink issue – don’t girls build in primary colors?  Architect Barbie (thankfully she is not clad in a micro-mini or bathing suit!) clearly still has ample time to accessorize; hipster cool in her dark-rimmed glasses, Barbie sports a bracelet to match the pink drawings tube. Her boots, tres chic, may not be job site ready though. Oh and the Dream House model (is it to scale?) seen in the background? Pink!

You have to wonder if this is just more lipstick on a pig.


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