RE 2: Many girls request gender-specific media

From: Dempsey or Brown (
Date: Mon Aug 23 1999 - 11:40:26 EDT

Hi Folks,

Isabel wrote:
"I don't think Mattel is at fault for making 2 different computers, pink and
blue. It is smart business, because the boys' mass market and the girls' mass
market DO yearn for different things. But Mattel IS
at fault if they don't put math software on both kinds of computers, or they
don't put typing software on both, or they don't put design software
on both.."

I would ask if the designer of a mousetrap would be held blameless by a jury of
mice when the design of the mousetrap enticed many mice into the designer's
version of a mouse heaven. It seems to me that, when "smart business" developed
the slick package and the contents of that package continued with the same
stereotypical blueprint that the purchasers have fallen victim to what Claude
Steele, a Stanford University psych prof, called "stereotype threat." Industry
still needs mathematicians and those are men, aren't they? (I said,

Basing his ideas on the work of mathematician Urie Treisman from the University
of Texas-Austin, Steele found that when students were led to believe the items
were intellectual and their race mattered, the performance results were lowered.
 When the "stereotype vulnerable" conditions aren't available to the students
the results do not appear
to reflect the related reduction of the test results. Oh, sure, Steele's
research is more widely cited as a race study, but since Treisman was working
specifically with women and "math anxiety," I am willing to accept that what
Mattel did was more than a mass marketing decision.

One of the definitions I like of discrimination is: "any act that unreasonably
differentiates treatment, intended or unintended, or any act that is fair in
form but discriminatory in operation, either of which is based on age, handicap,
national origin, race, marital status, religion or sex." The action of making
it obvious that this is an area where gender is fundamental, even if we don't
admit "unreasonable differentiation," leads us into the world of "stereotype
threat" and the results should be
visibly discriminatory. I look forward to the research and until then you can
read for a little more complete version of Steele:

Herb Dempsey

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jan 04 2000 - 12:33:20 EST