Girl in the Machine has an excellent post about Ubisoft’s forthcoming release of a series of games “for girls ages 6 to 14 years old” in October 2007. We’re told they will have Imagine™ Fashion Designer, Imagine™ Animal Doctor, Imagine Babyz®, and Imagine™ Master Chef to choose from. The general gist of Girl in the Machine’s critique is that although these activities all have the potential to be fun or rewarding, the fact the games are marketed exclusively to girls actually really sucks because it alienates boys who are interested in them:
While far from equality, feminine, domestic, and/or nurturing men are slowly becoming more acceptable in society today. Male fashion designers are a common sighting, and the patriarchy is finally beginning to see that men can take care of babies as well. However, while this is becoming acceptable behavior for men, it is still very taboo for young boys to express interest in these ventures. Just take a look in any toy store: children’s toys are still severely gendered, and these games aren’t helping the bias. Looking at the game descriptions themselves, they seem fairly gender-neutral, and yet Ubisoft feels the need to exclude young boys.
I couldn’t agree more. I’m all for ending the stigma attached to activities typically framed as “feminine” and that means that, as a feminist, I have a responsibility not to join in with that denigration. However, I’d say there is little point in taking up that particular cause if I ignore that toy and gamemakers seem to be framing those activities as “women’s work” and not actively encouraging boys who might be interested in the same way that they seem to assume girls automatically are.