Andrea's daughter Maya, wearing pink and braids

Girls and Robots

Andrea Phillips is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author. This is a guest post, cross-posted from Deus Ex Machinatio.

My daughter Maya is five and a half years old. She’s in kindergarten, and is as clever and adventurous a child as you’ve ever seen. She loves dancing and princesses and rainbows and anything that is pink.

Andrea's daughter Maya, wearing pink and braids

Maya has also always, always loved cars and robots, right along with those butterflies and flowers and hearts. But recently she’s been saying that she doesn’t like these things anymore.

“I don’t like cars,” she told me, “because I want people to like me.”

This breaks my heart. And I imagine it breaks your heart, too. Five years old, and she’s already figured out just exactly how this thing works.

It turns out that “it got out” in school that she liked cars, so she says. And then the other girls in her class made fun of her for liking boy things.

All her life I’ve been talking about being true to yourself, about liking the things you find in your heart whether it’s a girl thing or a boy thing, and still, still, this is how fast it can unravel. Five years old, and she’s already trying to change who she is because she doesn’t think it’s who she should be.

Internet, talk to Maya, and talk to me. Tell us about girls who make robots and cars and bridges. Girls who build rockets, girls who can make and build and invent — girls who have grand adventures, but who can still go dancing, and still braid their hair, and still wear pink. Tell us about you. I know you’re out there.

169 thoughts on “Girls and Robots

  1. Lukas Blakk

    Hi Maya and Maya’s mom,

    Here’s some girls and women who make cool things to check out:

    Super Awesome Sylvia: http://sylviashow.com/
    Jeri Ellsworth: http://www.youtube.com/user/jeriellsworth

    Apparently you can do robot stuff with the Girls Scouts and get to travel and compete with other girls for prizes, see these winners: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/cedar-hills/girls-and-robots-go-together/article_19c7f55c-95da-571f-afa5-4a0dea23e585.html

    You can even make robots with Lego and maybe get to meet the President, if that sort of thing seems cool to a 5 year old… http://fllinnovationaward.firstlegoleague.org/past-innovators

    It may seem like wearing pink is what makes you a girl when you’re 5 but there’s actually so much more to being a girl than that. Be funny, creative, adventurous, tenacious, and curious about the world. Go deeper than the clothes you wear and discover where happier feelings than the ones you get if you think people ‘like you’ come from.

  2. Koiyuki

    That absolutely broke my heart. To think that we’re breeding kids to fit into a mold that was long ago proven useless, especially as society inches closer to being truly equal. Thankfully she’s young and still has time to develop her own perception and her own voice, but as an aspiring teacher, I would hate myself if I ever taught my students that such things were acceptable behavior

  3. Barefoot Doctoral

    A little older, but in 7th grade, I entered a solar car race with another girl in th 8th grade. Her father was an electrician, so he sat down with us and taught us about gear ratios and wiring. We went to the hobby shop and told him about our project, and he showed us how to mold balsa wood.

    Our car was unpainted and minimalistic, and eventually got disqualified because it looked more like a means to carry a motor and solar panel than a “real” race car. It beat the heavy aluminum car built by the only other (male) team from my school with ease and grace though! ;)

  4. Erica

    Hi Maya!
    I’m Erica and I am a fashion and costume designer. My favorite things to design are Wedding Dresses and Super Hero Costumes. Its ok for girls to like “Boy” stuff and its also ok for boys to like “Girl” stuff! You like what you like and you should not worry about what others think!

  5. Cait

    Maya, tell those girls that they suck because they are too busy worrying about what other people like to have fun themselves.

    (Also, don’t let your younger siblings or relatives have the toy cars because they’re ‘boy toys’. They will sell them on Ebay when you are all in college and make lots of money and not share it even though the most expensive thing in that lot was YOUR G1 Megatron….)

  6. Tor

    I’m a girl who loves cooking, singing and dancing, has long hair, wears dresses all the time and still finds room to ride a motorbike, geocache, build bicycles, learn symbolic logic and read astrophysics. People love me for being myself – and the people who judge me don’t matter!

    Maya, don’t give up on ANYTHING because people tease you. You can be a fairy engineer, an astroprincess or anything you like. Be who you want to be, and do the things you love. Find your niche. Build your dream. Being ‘normal’ is overrated and boring. :)

  7. Angelica

    Hi Maya! I make robots, and they do super cool things like play music with me :)

    Here are some videos you might like to watch. I LOVE robots and am not afraid to tell the world about it! :)

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mspetitegeek

    You might also want to check out RobotGrrl and Heather Knight who are a couple of very cool roboticist ladies. RobotGrrl has made a robot bird that you can feed using your iPhone, and Heather has made a stand-up comedian robot!

    http://robotgrrl.com/blog/

    http://www.marilynmonrobot.com/

  8. EROSE

    Andrea: It’s definitely possible to make peace with what you like.
    I collected bugs and Barbies when I was little and climbed trees in a tutu.
    I’ve been the only sports reporter at a press conference in red high heels and the only political speaker on a panel wearing Hello Kitty earrings.
    The sad thing is, there isn’t going to be much you can say on your own to convince her because you’re her mom and you “have to say that.” It definitely matters that you say it, but when I was that age, I didn’t necessarily have adult idols because they seemed so vastly older than I was and everything about being grown up seemed so alien. But I would have flipped to have a girl who was maybe 10-15 think I was cool – the whole idea behind the “reading buddies” programs in schools. I bet if you tell her what she likes is just fine, and also find her someone just a bit older to hang out with or to babysit her, etc. who does some of those “boy” things she’ll have that image inside that helps her feel like those girls are wrong and she is right.

  9. Meg

    Elena Myers is an awesome motorcycle racer, and she’s not the only one (it’s cheaper than cars, so it’s been easier for women to break in). I love motorcycles, and I’m a member of an all-women’s motorcycle group. I started riding first and am now convincing my boyfriend to get a bike because I want to go for road trips. Not only are motorcycles a ton of fun, they also come in pink: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/34/73903273_c8e756f861.jpg

    I recommend Amelia Earhart: there are some good kids books out there about her life, and some of the other barnstormers too.
    Detroit was pretty sexist, but there are a bunch of women NASCAR drivers now. Maybe you could help her write one a letter, Tweet, read their Facebook or find a local racetrack and see if they’d be able to help her meet some women who race (I’ve found them less sexist than car shows or professional racing). Maybe by meeting some grown up women who are into cars she could see that other kids are living in a limited little world.

  10. Katie

    Hey Maya- It’s totally not okay for other people to make fun of you just because you like “boy stuff.” Here’s the thing- those people that make fun of you? They aren’t very smart. And they aren’t very fun to be around. They’re not worth hiding things you like.
    When I was 5, which wasn’t very long ago, I had the same thing happen to me. I like space ships and rockets and planets, and the kids at my school said that was boy stuff, and I wasn’t cool for liking it. But I didn’t stop liking it just because they weren’t very smart.
    School wasn’t always easy- I didn’t have tons of friends and sometimes I got picked on. But I did have some really good friends who understood liking cool stuff, and they liked their own cool stuff to.
    And now that I’m almost grown up, I’m really glad that I didn’t listen to them. Because I stayed interested in space my whole life, I get to study the planet Saturn. Everyday I get to do the coolest job ever. If you keep liking cars, then someday you can do things like design and build cars.
    Maya, I really hope that you are strong enough to stand up for what you love. There are lots of girls and women out there that would be happy to be your friend, especially because you like cars and robots. And if you ever want to talk to someone that understands what’s going on, ask your mom to email me. I want to make sure that you feel like you can love whatever you want.

  11. K00kyKelly

    For Maya – Keep liking cars and robots! When you’re older knowing things about cars and robots will make you the coolest person ever.

    On another note – the double bind women face about being competent vs being likable seems to have it’s kindergarten version. D:

  12. azurelunatic

    Hi Maya!

    My name is Azz, and I’m 31 11/12. I think cars and robots are pretty awesome. Also rockets, computers, friendly hens, rainbows, butterflies, dragonflies, and airplanes. My favorite colors are blue and black and silver with glitter. The holographic rainbow glitter is the best kind, especially when it is shaped like hearts or stars or both. I like pink and purple too, but not for every day like blue.

    Nobody teased me about robots and stuff in school, but they teased me about other stuff. When I was in 2nd grade some girls spied on me in the bathroom because I wore soccer socks with blue stripes and they thought a boy was in the girls’ bathroom. That made me really mad and also sad, because I liked those socks. I kept wearing those socks anyway. In 4th grade I brought one of my pet hens to school for show and tell. She was one of the best hens ever. She would read books with me. After that lots of people called me “chicken lady” and that made me mad. I still like chickens. My aunt took me to a class that teaches people how to use a clicker to train cats and dogs, but in the class instead of dogs they used chickens! I was pretty good because I already knew how to hold them and stuff because I used to have them as pets, and when some crows flew past and scared all the chickens, everybody else was confused but I knew why.

    In high school I took a class in electronics and made a radio and had a lot of fun, even though it was all boys except for me. I made some friends in that class and one time Mr. Johnson left my friend Geoff and me in charge of the class when he had to go to the office because Haakon microwaved a hackey-sack again. It was sort of annoying when some of the boys threw capacitors and other little parts at each other over my head while I was trying to work, and sometimes the capacitors fell on my project and got in my way. But I had a lot of fun and I am glad I took that class.

    Sometimes I can fix my car when it breaks. I like being able to do that. It makes me feel strong and awesome when I can. Sometimes I can help other people when their cars aren’t working right. Mostly it is simple stuff like a flat tire or a dead battery. One time my dad gave me some parts and the manuals and had me change the water pump in Mama’s car while he and Mama went with my sister to her horse show. That was exciting and a little scary, but I did it almost all by myself (my neighbor helped me when I wasn’t quite strong enough for one of the bolts, but that was it). It was awesome. I was so proud of myself.

    Right now I work at an awesome job where just about everybody likes computers. They are really happy that I love computers too, even though my job is more doing other stuff. Liking computers just makes it a lot easier for me to do my job and talk to everybody at work.

    Three months ago my main boss asked me how I got my nail polish to be so awesome that day. I used three kinds of glitter nail polish. I don’t polish my nails every day because changing tires and stuff will mess up my nail polish, but I like to do it for fun sometimes. We have to wear ID badges at work, but we can pick our own lanyards. Mine is blue with rhinestones. It’s really pretty. It sparkles more than anyone else’s.

    Part of my job is noticing when some of the computer stuff is hard to use or broken, and then I get to tell other people exactly how it is broken so they can fix it. A lot of times the people on my team at work complain about the broken programs, and it makes me happy when I can tell them that I have already checked and it’s on the list of things to be fixed. I do a lot of things at work, but that is one of the fun ones.

    I have some friends at work too. One of my friends at work is someone who I think is just like I would be if I had been born a boy. He is a good friend. We like a lot of the same jokes. Another one of my friends is also sort of my boss. That could get awkward, but since our desks are not next to each other, we do not get mad at each other, we just help each other and share candy. Even though I hate peanut butter, she likes it, so sometimes I get peanut butter candy just for her. Another one of my friends works in another building nearby. She and a bunch of other friends and I used to write stories about our favorite superheroes together. That was a lot of fun.

    My favorite TV show is MythBusters, because they build stuff (and blow stuff up, but mostly I like the building stuff). I really like the robots that Grant builds. I got to meet Grant and Tory once. I was so excited. They really are as funny in real life as they are on TV.

    I hope stuff at school gets better for you, and I hope you still like cars, robots, rainbows, princesses, butterflies, and pink. All of those things are awesome, and so are you.

  13. Amanda

    Hi!

    I’m a Nuclear Engineer, and a Hairbow maker. I would love to make her a rocket-ship hair bow, if she would like it. :)

  14. Vass

    Hi Maya! Did you know that years and years ago, back when she was a princess, the Queen of England was a truck driver and mechanic? Here’s a picture of her changing a tire back then. She was a princess and a truck driver at the same time! She had lots of fun working on trucks, because she was working with friends who did the same thing too.

    I hope you can find some other girls and boys to play with who like lots of different things too, not just the things they’re meant to like. Those are the most fun people. Maybe you could find a few people who like lots of things, and form a club.

  15. Miss Andrist

    Dear Maya,

    My daughter Abby likes robots! She is going to robot camp this summer, for girls only. Her favorite color is pink! Her laptop keys glow rainbow colors. This summer, I am teaching her to program computers so she can be a programmer like me. When she grows up, she is going to be a robotics engineer.

    Love,
    Abby’s Mom

    Dear Maya’s Mom,

    It’s okay. The best way to protect her is to ask the other girls (and boys!!) why robots and cars aren’t for girls. Then tell them that the internet was invented by a woman, computer programming was invented by a woman, modern astronomy was invented by women, mathematics – Radia Perlman, Grace Hopper, Sophie Germaine, Ada Lovelace. Look for movies, books, commercials on tv – any example you can find of women and girls doing “boy” things. It really does help…

    -Abby’s Mom

    1. AMM

      Don’t forget Rosalind Franklin, or Lisa Meitner!

      [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  16. John

    Spread-spectrum radio (as used by cellphones, and by military systems) was invented by the film star Hedy Lamarr (who some people thought was the most beautiful woman in Hollywood).

    By the way, she didn’t think that well of the glamorous side of life; she is quoted as saying “Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”

    Here’s a US cultural icon for women in practical engineering: Rosie the Riveter

    And here’s the classic song about a woman’s struggle to Be An Engineer.

  17. Melissa Wardy

    Hi Maya –
    I’m Melissa, and I started a company for girls just. like. you. My little girl, Amelia, is just a tish older than you, and she loves science. She loves whales and dolphins. She hunts spiders and loves art and swimming. There are so many ways to be a girl, and cars and robots are part of that.

    My company is called Pigtail Pals, and it is so popular because there are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of girls like you who have so many interests. One girl like you that I met is named Bella, and I wrote a letter to her when she was teased for wearing blue shoes. Maybe your mom can share it with you: http://blog.pigtailpals.com/2011/08/a-letter-to-bella-and-other-girls-with-blue-shoes/

    And if you come to my website, you’ll see you are quite full of awesome.

    Hugs to you and your mama,
    Melissa

  18. Janessa

    Hi Maya and Maya’s mom,

    We have a family of all boys and face the issue from the other side. He likes robots and Legos, but *also* likes flowers and princesses. He gets frustrated because as he says “All that boy and girl stuff is not real.” He is now 7 1/2 and we have found ways to let him express himself while navigating the rough space of the elementary school classroom. Best of luck.

  19. Jaimie Leader-Goodale

    I”M a girl…

    i LOVE cars. :) i’m 37 and I still love cars. My brother and I share a love for them – and you should see the spreadsheet we have on all the cars we’ve owned and driven. We also both love motorcycles.

    I”m a girl – and love computers and work with them every day fixing them for many people in my company. Until they talk to me they sometimes assume i’m a boy, and then are excited to find out a girl has been helping them all this time.

    One of my best friends is a girl. She’s also an FBI agent who shoots, and tackles drug dealers and catches bad guys, but she also LOVES the color pink!

    When i was 12 and in camp, I joined the rifle (target shooting) team. All the boys got mad because a girl was better than them the first day. :) Do that! OWN IT! Be who you are and don’t let anyone else tell you it’s wrong.

  20. emandink

    Dear Maya –
    My 2 year old daughter loves cars and fish and chasing after balls and books and anything that sparkles. My 8 year old son loves many of the same things – he used to get teased a bit because he had long hair and liked for me to paint his nails. Sometimes he preferred playing with toy animals to playing with cars and some of the kids – and even adults – didn’t quite know what to do. But now he loves playing with his sister and the 4 year old girl across the street and the boys down the way. You are not alone! I hope that when my little girl is 5 she has friends like you who know that there’s no such thing as “boy” toys and “girl” toys, but toys that anyone can have fun with if they let themselves.

    Good luck Maya. I promise, it gets easier and you will be happier if you are true to yourself, and not the silly people who miss out on half of what life has to offer.
    Best wishes,
    Em (Mo’s mommy)

  21. Dawn

    My 8 year old daughter loves paper airplanes, rockets, crafts and science. Her favorite tv show is “How It’s Made” on the Science channel. She plans to be an astronaut and tells everyone she’s going to wear a pink spacesuit when she goes to Mars. I’m so sorry that Maya’s been let down by her friends at school and I hope that you’re able to tell her about all the other little girls just like her so that she feels better.

  22. JJ

    Dear Maya and Maya’s Mom:

    The mother of my son’s classmate teaches robotics at two schools. Everyone thinks she’s really smart and really nice and really cool. She loves building robots, and teaching kids to build their own robots. She’s awesome.

    My best friend–a woman–knows all about cars–and football, too. She taught me how to change the oil in my car and to take care of it in other ways. She is also very pretty, and has a lot of friends, both men and women, who think she’s fantastic just the way she is.

    Be proud of who you are, Maya. Don’t let anyone tell you what or who to like, or to dislike. The people who tease you about liking “boy” things are probably just worried that you know more about something than they do. And if someone doesn’t like you because you have different interests, then there’s something wrong with them, not with you.

    Because you’re awesome.

  23. Joanne Rigutto

    Hi Maya and Maya’s Mom.

    I have a small farm in Mulino, Oregon. I’ve done many things in my life. Professional horse show photographer, artist, tile setter, marble mason (specializing in stone repair and fabrication), tile and stone contractor and how, farmer.

    In my life I have learned that there are no “Boy Things” or “Girl Things”, there are only the things you like to do and are interested in and those you don’t want to do and are not interested in. Do what you like and are interested in and let others do the things you don’t want to do and aren’t interested in. And don’t put much stock in what others say of you. After all, your life is yours to live and not theirs.

  24. Kate

    Hi Maya,
    I have a daughter, and she’s a Maia, so sort of like you but a bit different.

    She’s nearly 16 now, but she sounds like she’s awesome like you. My Maia asked Santa for tip trucks and Matchbox cars, and always loved them. She also loves music and art, and she’s in a circus, and loves science and loves to dance too. So being a girl – and being a boy – means that you can do anything…and the fact that you know this now when you’re 5 just means you’re smarter and wiser then the girls who don’t know this yet.

    Just remember this though, something I taught my Maia…you are smart, and you are wise, and you can do anything.

  25. Megan

    Maya,
    Rock your pink cars and robots! Don’t ever be put into a category! I LOVE the colors pink and purple and wearing pretty dresses. You know what else I love? Practicing mixed martial arts and adventure racing. I’ve traveled all over the world and seen things that most people couldn’t even dream of. And the best part is, I have lots of friends, cool ones just like me! The kids that made fun of me for being “different” are still lame and boring. Forget about them.
    Go be awesome, Maya!
    Lots of love,
    Megan

  26. Sara M

    Maya,
    You are beautiful and perfect, just as you are. Girls like you will change the world. The people who don’t understand you now, will remember you in the future. They will wonder what became of you. Maybe they will feel sad for not being a better friend. So always be kind, because they will tell their kids about you someday- the girl who dared to be different.

  27. Beccy (@birdfortytwo)

    Hi Maya (and Maya’s mum),

    When I was at school I liked lots of different things too: flowers, perfume, animals, Star Wars, ballet, dinosaurs, stargazing, drawing and so many other things. I had Barbies to play with and binoculars, for looking at the stars.

    And when I grew up, I became a teacher – and I get to teach ALL OF IT! I teach maths and science and music and computing and… well, you get the idea. Liking lots of things makes you an interesting person, I think.

    I have two girls myself now. Right at this minute, one is playing the violin and one is playing with Space Putty from the Science Museum Shop in London. They like the same sort of things as you, so like everyone else has shown – there’s lots of us out here just like you.

    We have a brilliant book called “Girls are Best”. It’s by Sandy Toksvig and it tells you about what women have done through history, because sometimes at school they forget to mention what girls and women did. We liked the bit about the women gladiators. ( )

    With best wishes from 3 girls who like all sorts of things.

  28. Becky

    Hi Maya.

    My name is Becky and I’m a scientist. When I was your age girls weren’t supposed to like science. I love what I do and there are tons of other awesome women/girls who work with me.

    I’m totally a girl. I like reading, and camping, and cooking. I also like numbers and experiments. Guess what. Those things aren’t so very different. The interest and ability to bake a tasty cake comes from the same place that allows me to map a DNA sequence.

    I also coach Lego League and my team has a blast creating things and playing with robots. I saw lots of other girls at the competition as well. We had so much fun.

    There are lots of ways to be a girl. Liking the same things that boys like means noting more than that you like those things. There are lots of other girls that like those things to.

  29. Deborah

    Maya, my little girl is just like you! She loves to wear her princess dresses while she races cars on the carpet. She wears her favorite tiara while she builds spaceships and rockets with Legos. She has a special tutu that she wears when she’s outside digging in the dirt. It’s her special dirt tutu. You do what YOU want to do. Those other girls don’t know what they are missing!

    -Marianne’s Mom

  30. Andrea Phillips

    Thank you so much, everyone, for your comments. Maya is feeling a little better about things now. (And her teacher talked to the class about it this morning, too, so we’re working at it on more than one front.) It’s meant a lot to her to know so many people care!

  31. Alex

    Dear Maya,

    I like cars. I’m also wearing nail varnish and sparkly rings. I like Disney films. I work online, doing creative things that also require me to be analytical and understand numbers and trends and so on. Female friends and relatives include: a long-distance truck driver, a financial company director, lawyers, a judge, a dentist, stay-at-home mothers, an antenatal teacher, a school principal, a wedding dress beader, several web developers / programmers and graphic artists, writers / authors / journalists on every topic under the sun (including technology), a psychotherapist, a psychologist (who as well as having a clever scientific brain has the best collection of cake stands I’ve ever seen and LOVES pink), several bakers and a speech therapist.

    I would be really proud and happy if my daughter liked cars, and also if she didn’t. Because what really matters to me is that she likes what she likes because it makes her happy. Not because anyone else told her she could, or couldn’t.

    It took me years and YEARS to understand that if other people have to spend their time worrying about what you like, then they haven’t found enough things to interest them! Perhaps they just need someone like you to show them how exciting cars can be. It’s sad, and a little scary, when you think you have to fit into a box marked ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, and one day, if they’re smart, they’ll thank you for showing them another way.

    Bottom line: there are so many ways to be a girl, but there is only one way to be YOU.

    Love, Alex (Ramona’s mummy)

  32. Alyssa

    Hi Maya!
    I have two boys who like pink and stuffed animals, and one of them is 10! I don’t let my husband use tools, because the toolbox belongs to me. :) I loved cars, and Barbies, when I was a little girl. I played with BB guns, rode four wheelers, and read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. I watch kung fu movies and knit girlie clothes. It’s all about liking what YOU like. Being yourself is much better than being “just like everyone else”.

  33. Name *Connie, mom to Miss Abigail

    Maya,

    I am so sorry to hear that you were not treated well because you have a love of cars and other things that “boys like.” The world needs people like you, not less. There is no such thing as “boy’s toys” and “girl’s toys.” If you like cars, robots, and all things mechanical, that’s great. We need all kinds of people to work in those fields. If there is a boy who likes to play with dolls, that’s great too. There are lots of dads who stay home to care for their children or do other jobs caring for children. You need to do what you like to do, not what someone says you should like to do. Life is to be enjoyed. Keep being a great girl with lots of interests!

  34. Bryan

    Maya,

    I want you to live in a world where you can love whatever you want. That is more important that what people think!

    Plus, if you are true to yourself then you will only be surrounded by the truest friends. There may be less of them, but they will be real.

    Maya’s Mom,

    One little girl with the guts to try and reshape the world might actually be able to do it. Thanks for fighting the good fight!

    Bryan

  35. Marianne

    Dear Maya –
    It’s okay to like-what-you-like. It’s who YOU are that’s important. Because, there is only one Maya. If you go changing who you are to fit in, the world will never get to know who the REAL Maya is. And, that would be a shame. Because I’ve heard she’s pretty awesome.
    A wise man once said, “”Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
    Do you know who said that? Dr. Seuss. And, we all know that he was a VERY smart person.
    I like princesses. Belle is my favorite. She likes to read, like me. She even liked to do it when other people thought she shouldn’t. Do you like to read? I bet you do.
    I like science. I am a chemist. I love to do experiments. Have you done experiments? My favorite experiments I do with my daughters make a BIG mess. I think the mess part is their favorite part of the experiment. Science and building is FUN.
    Play with those trucks. Build robots. Paint some butterflies and rainbows on them. Be who YOU are and you’ll find some great friends. And, you’ll be happier. Trust me. It all works out.
    Maya, I really hope you stick to being awesome.
    :) Marianne

  36. Jay Gischer

    [Mod note: edited to remove a portion that’s not relevant to the topic of this post.]

    I knew a woman in college who was named Maya. She was a physics major, and was very ready with jokes about bosons and other elementary particles. She could also tell funny stories about famous mathematicians. She was into robots, I’m not so sure about cars, though.

  37. Jill

    Hi Maya and Maya’s Mom! My name is Jill and I have a daughter who is 5, too! She isn’t in Kindergarten yet, but she will be this fall and boy is she excited! I bet you could tell her all about it!

    I have a friend that I went to Kindergarten with a long time ago. Her name is Jennifer and she is a scientist! I am going to put a link to an article here so you can read all about how she works to keep the oceans safe for fish and fisherman!

    She travels the world and talks to many different kinds of people in all kinds of countries. She has even testified in front of Congress! I am really proud to be her friend and to have her in my life so she can show my daughter that being a girl just means being who you are! All of it! Whatever you like is girl stuff because you are a girl and you like it!

  38. Jennifer

    Dear Maya,
    People are really strange sometimes. They try to make you feel bad because you are different from them. I think that is usually about THEM–they feel bad because they think YOU don’t like the things they do.

    I think that we should get excited about what other people like, because that makes them feel good. ESPECIALLY when it is different from what you like. If everyone were the same, school, home, the world would be a boring place.

    Miss Maya, one other thought for you…..is thinking the same things the only way to be friends? That is a question you can ask the girls in your school. You like some of things they do, why can’t there be differences? Personally, I have a hard time with people who say I have to think exactly the way they do. That is not how friends treat each other.

    Thank you, Maya, for helping me think this through so I can be ready if my guts-loving, lego-loving, bug-loving, clothes-loving girl experiences this, too.

    Jen

    PS Maya’s Mom–Isn’t the teacher or the school doing something to help kids learn to celebrate their differences and similarities? Kids lose their teeth, wear glasses, smile. They like cars, or to build, or nature or whatever–boy or girl, young or old, fast or slow.

  39. Cathy

    Dear Maya,

    I want you to know that it’s really cool to like cars, and pink, and it’s especially cool to like both of them.

    I actually don’t like cars or pink, but I think it’s awesome that you do. I like people who like different things from me, because it means they know about things that I don’t and I can learn things from them. Sometimes I even end up liking things I didn’t like before because they can show me how cool it is!

    I like to a do a lot of different things. I like making things – I like programming and knitting and woodworking and gardening. I also like making art: I like doing my makeup and my nails in interesting ways, and I like writing and drawing. I like dressing up in pretty dresses, and I also like rock climbing, but I don’t usually wear a dress for that.

    I like challenging myself – trying new things, like new sports or new makeup techniques or growing something new in my garden.

    I hope that you know that it’s really cool to like a lot of different things, and that there are lots of people out there who like many, many things, some that you may not have even heard of yet.

    Love,
    Cathy

  40. Lana O

    Dear Maya and Maya’s mom,

    I remember the first time I encountered this kind of social pressure with my daughter. She was in preschool. I repeat: PRESCHOOL! Maddie had chosen her new school-year tennis shoes with great care and they had bulldozers on them. You see, Maddie’s great-grandma worked with her dad on road crews when she was in high school and her greatest ambition at that time was to operate a bulldozer full-time. Maddie was so proud of those shoes!

    The first day she wore them to school, however, she came home very sad and withdrawn. When I finally managed to get her to talk, she told me how the boys had made fun of her shoes, saying they were for boys. I was so hurt for her and for me and for all of the other girls who like “boy stuff.” I gave her the choice of wearing them or getting some other school shoes at a second-hand store and she chose the latter. I was a little sad, but I didn’t think forcing her to stand up to the pressure would be very effective.

    I’m proud to say that today, Maddie is a well-adjusted 8 year old who still loves digging in the dirt, finding bugs, and catching frogs, as well as singing to her stuffed animals, combing their hair, and tucking them into bed.

    Maddie is lucky enough to have lots of great female role-models in her life; her great-great grandma tells her stories of growing up on a farm and enjoying life with very few material posessions, her great-grandma still remembers those bulldozing days with fondness, and her grandma is a chemist who loves to teach Maddie about math and science! As for me, Maddie’s mom, I am back in college, trying to show her how important school is.

    We are who we are, Maya, in spite of the labels people try to saddle us with. Maddie is a girl, and she hunts for bugs. That means bug-hunting is girly! You are a girl and you like cars and robots. That means cars and robots are girly! If I can quote my favorite website, Pigtail Pals, for a moment…

    You, Maya, are full of awesome! Just remember, there are so many, many ways to be a girl!

  41. Nicole

    Maya, I build spaceships for a living with NASA. Right now, I’m working on the replacement for the Space Shuttle. I’ve worked with some phenomenal women here at NASA, and we aren’t afraid to be smart and wear girly clothing and even pink hardhats when we’re on a job site. :) I love cars and I love kittens and when I was growing up I did ballet and played softball and was good at Math and English. The other kids didn’t always understand my choices, but many years later, they all say, “We always knew you would do something really cool!” My parents supported me in all of my endeavors, just like your mom supports you. Hang in there, Maya. You can like WHATEVER YOU WANT, and BE whatever you want! :)

  42. Crystal

    Hi Maya,

    When I was young I played with Hot Wheels and Barbies, LEGO and baby dolls. I loved watching football, hockey, and baseball. People didn’t make fun of me exactly, but they told me it was weird or unusual for a girl to like sports. I didn’t listen and eventually people began to think that it was pretty cool that I could cite baseball statistics and explain the rules of football.

    What you went through with your friends isn’t easy to deal with, but I hope it doesn’t make you give up cars and robots. It is hard when you are five, but staying true to who you are will make you happier. I know that from experience :) All the best!

  43. Richele

    Hi Maya,
    I don’t know you, but based on your mom’s description, you are one totally awesome little lady! It doesn’t matter what your interests are, because the idea of “boy interests” and “girl interests” is only an idea. It’s a lie! The most amazing people are the people who follow their hearts and explore ALL the things they love, the way that you love dance AND princesses AND robots AND cars. Those are some pretty cool things! When I was in kindergarten, I really liked science. I did science experiments in front of the class! And do you know what? When all the other kids – boys AND girls – saw how cool that science stuff actually was, no one teased me about it. Anyone who does tease you for doing what you love isn’t very smart, because they don’t know that the “boy stuff/girl stuff” thing is a lie. But you do! So get out there and show the world just how awesome you are! Everyone here believes in you! We know you can do it!

    P. S. Maya’s mom: Checkout this cool website

    http://www.amightygirl.com/

    They have special sections for Science & Technology and Transportation

  44. WM

    Hi Maya,

    I have two daughters, one is almost 16 and the other (also a Maya) is a toddler. Your mommy is a very smart woman when she tells you that it’s ok to like the things you like. You see, there really is no such thing as “boy” things or “girl” things. It’s just easier for some people to label activities as such.

    My older daughter loves music and she loved playing with her dolls. But she also loves to get dirty, whether it’s out exploring in the woods or by the creek. She’s not so much into wearing pink, her favorite color is green. And guess what? She wears mismatched socks…every…day! But her friends think she is cool the way she is, and she thinks the same of her friends. Because what is important is how you treat each other and having fun together. Having different interests can be a learning experience for each other.

    When I was a girl I loved what people consider to be “girly” things – wearing dresses, playing princess, playing dolls. I also liked to play with my brother’s cars and we would race each other on our bikes outside (I could ride very fast!) I had many scrapes on my knees from all the adventures we had running, climbing trees, discovering our neighborhood.

    I also have a very good female friend who loves to work on cars, and when I was in high school I had a male friend who loved to design fashion clothes for women. And it was all cool!

    So go ahead and like what you like, because that is who you are! And you are A-OK in my book!

  45. Jarrah

    Hi Maya (& Andrea),

    That’s so cool that you like cars and robots and building things as well as pink and butterflies and stuff. I wish that I had spent more time playing with cars when I was little so I would be better with cars and machines now that I am older and have a job.

    I always really liked robots, though. When I was just a few years older than you I went to a science camp and we got to build robots out of Lego. We built a car that drove up a ramp and turned its lights on and off. It was really fun and I got to make friends with other people who liked the same things I did.

    Last summer I went to a thing where I met girls who liked robots and machines and math. Now they are older they work on building spaceships and studying stars and planets.

  46. tdm

    Hi Maya. My name is Teresa. I write computer programs that help stores know what sizes of clothing they need to buy. My job has a lot to do with math and computers and a little to do with clothing. I think it is terrific fun.
    When I was in college, I studied economics but I took a few math and computer classes too. It’s a good thing I did because I needed to learn all that stuff to do the job I have now. When I was in college, most of my math and computer classes had mostly boys in them. Not a lot of girls wanted to study math and computers, I guess, but I think that’s a shame because my job is so fun and I get to use my brain a lot and I think it’s a lot more fun than sitting around in a castle waiting for a prince (or something like that).
    When you are older and are interested in boys and having a boyfriend, I think you will find that the boys you like best will like you because you are smart and use your brain. Actually, that’s probably true of anyone you will like, boys and girls. My best friend is also a smart math-girl. We both also like planting our gardens and cooking and doing other things.
    Nobody can tell you what to like and what to be like, Maya. You are uniquely you. You are a marvel. When you are older and you make robots and cars and maybe even robots who make cars, I think the people who are laughing at you now will be pretty jealous. I know that’s hard to understand because you are young and you want people to like you NOW, not in 20 years. But anybody who doesn’t like you because you like robots and cars is just being silly and mean.

  47. Kate

    Hey, Maya!
    You ignore those fools who tell you that cars are just boy things! I think that your friends from school might just be confused. Maybe they didn’t have cars to play with when they were little like you did, so they don’t realize that they can play with them, too. My big brother and I used to have lots of toy cars – and trucks and trains and spaceships, too – when I was little. I loved playing with them and with our Legos, our tea set, our Cabbage Patch Kids, our Erector sets, with the ballerina tu-tus my mom made me, with all the dress-up costumes my mom made me and my brother, and with my My Little Ponies, although what I loved more than anything was drawing, which is kind of what I do now. My daddy used to race cars way back before my brother and I were born, and he wouldn’t have insisted that both my brother and I learn about cars if they were just for boys! A girl’s gotta get around too, right?
    Now, my twin nieces are learning about cars, too, and they’re not that far from your age. They’re 8, and they can already help their daddy change a tire! They’re really awesome, and they love lots of things, whether someone might think it’s “for girls” or not. They love skateboarding, biking, dress-up, archery, karate, trips to Disneyland, and trips to museums. Their favorite subjects in school are science, math, and social studies. They love chess, My Little Ponies, Perry the Platypus, painting their nails, Star Wars, and the first music they added to their Barbie mp3 players I got them last year was Daft Punk. (It’s okay if you haven’t heard of that, because that’s kind of my point. Everybody likes different things!) They don’t take nonsense from anyone, and if you’re ever in California, they’ll put anyone who messes with you right in their place – probably while wearing a frilly pink skirt.
    If you love robots, you would love my friend Amy. She was an engineering major in college, and is now working on her doctorate, which is a pretty big deal because it means that she worked really hard, for a long time, to learn a lot of things. She set up some cool activities for kids when we were in college together, showing them how to build robots out of Legos, and even teaching them about robots we use in space! She now works with robots in grad school. I mean, it’s her job! How cool is that? But she worked really hard in school to get where she is. What if she had let some misguided person tell her that robots weren’t for girls? Then my awesome friend from college wouldn’t have been the same Amy, and that would just be silly.
    Amy and some of my other friends also really, really love dancing! They go to big get-togethers where people from all over go to swing dance together. Swing dancing’s really cool, because I love the music, and the dancers get to wear some pretty awesome outfits. My friends tried to teach me back in college, but I’m a big klutz who hates dancing, so it wasn’t really my thing – I’d much rather be part of the band than one of the dancers. But you know what? Even though I don’t like something they like, they’re still some of my best friends ever anyway. And I’m sure not going to be mean to them because they like something that I don’t like, because that’s not how real friends act! Because it’s what you like that makes you awesome, not what someone else thinks you should like. Be kind, be proud of yourself, and your real friends will most always be proud of you, too!

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