“Girls play with dolls, boys play with cars” – Just another myth
By Liz Bazurto
Christmas was always one of my favorite times of year; I never expected to receive a lot of presents from Santa, but I had fun building instruments that I could play during the “Novena de Aguinaldo,” a celebration in Colombia that we practice while waiting for the nativity of Jesus. Nine days before Christmas Eve, we meet around a manger, simulating the Nativity scene, and we sing Christmas carols while playing our instruments.
We couldn’t afford to buy expensive instruments, so we built them. Some kids liked to fill cans with rice, but the instrument I most liked building was the tambourine. All year, we collected metal caps, and then with a hammer we made them flat. With a nail, we made a hole in the center of each cap, and through the hole, we put a wire. All the flat caps together made our homemade tambourines come to life when we shook them in our hands.
Our instruments were not fancy; but the process of making them was very exciting for me. I did it with my brothers. Let me tell you, it was a hard work. I bled many times, but the satisfaction provided by building something with your own hands is priceless.
Legos and Cars
I never cared about dolls. I actually had a Barbie doll or two, but the toys I loved to play with were Legos and cars. I loved to build and rebuild – deconstruct and construct every single device just because I was curious to see how it was made.
I am lucky that my family supported me on that. They let me be creative to entertain myself, and they understood that I did not want to play with kitchen sets. It is a shame that many of my girlfriends were discouraged by their families and told they “just couldn’t play with cars.” It is a shame that many boys are not allowed to play with dolls and kitchen toys.
It happens frequently to me, and some female colleagues, even today, that we are told we are “too feminine” to be civil engineers.
We look like “Barbie girls” they say. I say: Why? Girls cannot play with cars instead of dolls?
I wonder how many aspiring female engineers were discouraged because they were girls. I wonder how many great male chefs or stylists or fashion designers were discouraged just for being boys.
I think it is a better idea to let children play with whatever toys they want, to encourage them to pursue their passions and what makes them happy. We, as female engineers, should help to improve opportunities for the girls who are following us. We have to lead by example, but most importantly, by giving them freedom to explore the world and reengineer their surroundings.