Stories tagged Barbie

Space Camp Barbie

by Gene on Jul. 08th, 2008

Math can’t be all that hard – Mattel is releasing a new line of Barbie ™ dolls with a Space Camp theme.

May
28
2008

Babs may have been on to something: It's not that girls can't do math--they just don't want to.
Babs may have been on to something: It's not that girls can't do math--they just don't want to.Courtesy CherrySoda!

Remember a few years ago, when Mattell got in trouble because a talking Barbie said Math is hard? Reinforced negative sterotypes. And then, a few years later, Harvard president Larry Summers noticed that there were more men than women in advanced mathematics, and speculated on a number of reasons, including culture and genetics. He got in trouble, too.

Well, a new study shows that a large part of a reason there are so few women pursuing careers in mathematics is because … they don’t want to. Given the choice, most girls choose not to pursue math. Not because it’s hard. Not because they can’t do the work. Just because they don’t want to.

This, in an odd way, feeds into our earlier conversation about the relative happiness of liberals vs. conservatives. Most conservatives value free markets, where millions of individuals make their own choices. Conservatives of a libertarian stripe place great emphasis on individual autonomy and responsibility. Liberals (not all, but many) have a tendency to see societal forces having a greater impact on human behavior, oftentimes determining it. Thus the impulse to place society under central control.

Here’s an example of a case where the “social forces” explanation for why girls don’t pursue math (“they are discriminated against!” “society teaches them not to!”) is outweighed by the “individual autonomy” explanation (“I don’t wanna—I think it’s boring”).