Recently, I felt like I was lacking in hobbies that didn’t involve reading or writing, so if I felt too tired to read, I didn’t have a lot to do. Chris and I talked about this and I believe we stumbled over an idea that we had been unaware of and that I have not heard discussed elsewhere.
There are really only three kinds of hobbies: hobbies that work on your body i.e. sport, hobbies that produce something and hobbies that consume something.
This is relevant because the more we talked about it, the more we realized that little girls are mainly encouraged to do the hobbies that consume something unless they are the artistic or domestic side of production, i.e. music or sewing. They tend not to be encouraged as much in the athletic side either, but we will leave that aside for the moment.
I don’t think this is intentional. Parents don’t just think ‘I’m not going to teach my daughter to produce’, but on a subconscious level, parents, teachers and other adults often end up nudging boys toward production more often than girls.
This doesn’t change as we get older either. If you Google hobbies for women and hobbies for men, you get a very different set of results. Women are encouraged to do things like read, cook and paint. Men aren’t discouraged from this, but the lists targeted at men will be longer and involve a great deal more in the way of production.
I realized that in my mid 30s, this meant that I am decidedly uncomfortable producing things beyond food, written works and maybe doodles, so the idea of trying out something like woodworking or building a robot sounded very daunting.
This may have been a deeper introduction than you wanted, but all of this resulted in me deciding to try my hand at building the Lego TARDIS set.
I do have some of my own Lego. I bought and built Research Institute back when we lived in the UK. The most complex thing I’d built recently was the Fantastic Beasts Story Pack, which is ages 7-14. The TARDIS is for age 10+. I think that the lower part of the age is the relevant one. I found the TARDIS much harder than the Fantastic Beasts set. I remember finding the Research Institute on the hard side, too. I understand now. The 10+ Lego really is that much harder than the ones intended for 7 year-olds. The 16+ that Chris has built, such as Brick Bank, look that much more challenging still.
Some of the difficulty was that the TARDIS had a lot more technic pieces and they are less intuitive to use than the traditional types of Lego. I think more than anything though, it was that I am not in the habit of building things with my hands. By the end of it, I felt I was in much more of a flow and it felt a lot easier, but it took me a few goes to get into it and I think I mainly persisted because I really, really like Doctor Who.
To the men reading this, building a Lego set of any complexity may sound like a non-problem. I think it was actually on par with if I’d never sung before the age of 33 and then had to develop my vocal chords for the first time as an adult. The things you do with your voice to speak are different than what you do to sing, and in the same way, the dexterity involved to build something like Lego is different than that needed to type or make a spaghetti bolognese. I didn’t develop the basic skills as a child, so it felt daunting as an adult. It’s also easier to do something badly as a child, whereas doing something embarrassingly badly as an adult is harder.
Chris has said that the practice of manipulating physical materials developed as a child playing with things like Lego has made him feel more comfortable doing other manual tasks, like wiring in a thermostat or putting up shelves. I feel quite daunted at the prospect of most home improvement related tasks and this may be part of why.
At any rate, the point of the whole post is to encourage parents to encourage girls to do more of the same things they would encourage boys to do in terms of making us all producers rather than mainly consumers. It opens up so much more of the world if you don’t just have to consume it or only produce things in a few narrow domains.