Saturday, 27 May 2017

Sparkle Science

Now, I don't often get angry and shout at the tellybox. Actually, that's a damn lie. I shout at it a lot. But it's not often I'm quite so incensed with rage as I was last night. What made it worse was that SBOTH was in the room and I had to temper my language accordingly, which was neither easy nor satisfying. So what was it that had be so apopletic with rage? That made me spy my arse so much I was practically donut shaped? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you this shiny pile of utter crap.

Sparkle Science. Sparkle. Science. Sparkle flipping Science. A pink, shiny, glittery 'science' kit aimed at girls. As if girls can only possibly be interested in science if it's covered in pink, glittery, shiny crap. How patronising? I begged my parents for a chemistry set for years when I was younger. I wasn't allowed to have one. Not because my parents didn't think it was for girls, more that they were worried I'd blow myself up, set fire to the house or set about on a plan for world domination (the latter being especially appealing). If they'd have presented me with this abomination I'd have thanked them graciously, of course, but inside I'd have been deeply disappointed and mortally offended. The box would likely have been consigned to under my bed, unused, and eventually disposed of.

If you can't see the box clearly, the cartoonish Comic Sans font invites the recipient (who must grin inanely when presented with the box , while wearing an unfeasible amount of make up for a child) to 'Grow your own crystal necklace', 'Grow a sparkly geode', 'Make a fab glitter bath bomb', 'Create glitter chalk' and 'Make a glitter lava lamp' and announces it's 'The Amazingly Sparkly Glitzy Chemistry Set'. It does have a pseudo Breaking Bad periodic table graphic (for Scandium and Cerium, if you're interested) but that seems to be its only nod to science science. Apparently, these are 'experiments', not just an excuse to make a pile of tat. Tat covered in glitter because, well, wimminz like sparkly glittery stuff and their wickle heads can only absorb science if it's pink and shiny and makes them look pretty. My blood pressure is rising to dangerous levels just thinking about it.

I'm pretty bloody sure Marie Curie wasn't bothered about how pink & pretty radium was - or how sparkly her polonium necklace looked and whether it went with her shoes. Rosalind Franklin was probably more interested in her works on viruses and early contribution to understanding DNA than in knocking up a glittery lava lamp for the lads in the lab. In the year when we're celebrating the Suffragette Movement and 100 years of The Women's Institute, science is being marketed to girls as pink, sparkly, glitzy and pretty - and that its results are, or should be, things that make you look pretty or decorate your house. It's infuriating.

I know there are things like Gross Science that are usually advertised using small boys throwing fake poo at their older sisters, but at least the box is in pastel, neutralish colours with cartoon pictures - at least one of which is a girl having fun. Much more gender neutral. being marketed exclusively at girls. What if there are boys who want to make bath bombs & sparkly geodes?

Science is having a hard enough time recruiting women without banal, fluffy crap like this. Making a 'fab' bath bomb and a lava lamp isn't going to encourage hoardes of females into scientific fields. Stuff like this is more likely to put them off. Is this really the best they could come up with? It's shallower than a petri dish and reinforces the message that women are only here for decoration or to make it. That's not a message I want to be passing on to girls growing up today.

I get that it's a toy, it's meant to be fun - but what's wrong with marketing a regular chemistry set, electronics kit or microscope & slides? Proper science equipment? Making them more appealing to both genders? It doesn't have to be bloody pink, sparkly or pretty to be fun, interesting and educational. It doesn't have to be pink, sparkly and pretty to appeal to females. Just stop it and give us credit where it's due. Put a lid on the patronising. Don't demean science by making everything bubble-gum Barbie before you think we'll buy it or understand it. Women do real science, get over it.

And don't get me started on gingham...........


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