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. David A. Carlson

    If cars are for boys, someone needs to tell Danica Patrick, but it’s not going to be me. And Im also not going to tell your daughter to quit liking cars either. Or robots. Im waiting for the day I can have my own mecha to pilot, even if its just to work and back. And if its a girl who designs and builds them, it makes no difference to me. Cars and robots arent just for boys. Their for anyone who has the imagination and determination to do what they love.

  2. Sara

    Dear Maya,

    Sage is six and she loves robots! She also loves cars and fixing them, animals, science experiments, playing outside, cooking, and helping people. She has short hair and loves the color blue, too. Because of this sometimes people call her a boy! Even after we correct them, they still call her a boy sometimes.

    But you know what? Girls come with so many different personalities and interests! Like Sage, I liked my hair short when I was little, and I liked the colors blue and green. I liked playing in the dirt and Ninja Turtles, which lots of people said were “boy toys.” People called me a boy, too. But my mom let me wear what I liked and play with what I liked because she loved me just as I was, just like your mom does–just like I do with Sage. And I have had lots of friends in my life; so does Sage! We know that it’s important to always be yourself and that your very best friends will always love you just as you are. I know my best friends and Sage’s best friends do! I also hope that someday the other kids at school will learn to be who they are and love what they love, too, without feeling like they have to change.

    Do you like Dr. Seuss books? Sage is really into them. Dr. Seuss said this: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I think this is a really good quote to keep in mind no matter how old you are! I hope that you can keep enjoying all of the things that you love, Maya, and Sage sends you a big high-five.

    Sara

  3. Christine M.

    Dear Maya,

    I don’t really like pink as much these days, but for many years it and purple were my favorite colors! I wore pink and purple (and teal sometimes) and I loved it!

    Color preferences change, but one thing that hasn’t changed for me is my love of science. Since I was very little, I loved computers, robots, biology, astronomy, pretty much anything scientific that I could get my hands on! So it was no surprise when I grew up and decided to study physics and mechanical engineering. I even worked with robots for my Master’s thesis, though I didn’t end up with a career in robotics.

    These days I happily work alongside other geeky guys and girls as a programmer and digital signal processing analyst. In my spare time I play board games, video games, and read sci-fi/fantasy books. I love my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything – and all that from loving science since I was a little girl.

    I also love weight lifting, another “boy thing”, but that’s something to think about when you’re a little older. ;)

    Love,
    Christine

  4. Rachel

    I always think of Asimov’s I, Robot when I think about robots, and the woman who ties all those short stories together is Dr. Susan Calvin. Even in the best stories, robots are never ‘just for boys’. :)

    Maya, your classmates may sound like they know much more than you do, but it’s not true. They are still figuring things out like you are. Maybe later, they’ll learn that cars and robots aren’t just for boys, and that you can both love butterflies and engines. Then they’ll feel bad for making you feel bad about liking that stuff, because they hadn’t learned yet. And – AND – maybe they like ‘boy things’ but are afraid to admit it.

    I’ve always liked boy stuff and girl stuff, ever since I was little. I was the only girl in my class to want to take home a lizard from my science class when I was in elementary school. I named him Denver and he was the best lizard. I also loved (and still do) to wear big dangly earrings and shirts with sparkles everywhere.

    Robots and cars are awesome. I’ve been in love with robots forever and nobody will convince me that they’re ‘boy things’. They are way too much fun and I don’t want to miss out. :)

    I program and I love artificial intelligence, and I’m a writer, and I love long skirts and how they look when they twirl. I like dressing up fancy and going out to dinner so that everyone wonders what the special occasion is, and I like trying to figure out what’s wrong with my computer and fixing it all on my own. I love driving around just for the fun of it, going on grand adventures and exploring places I’ve never been and I wear purple lipstick while I do it.

  5. Stacia Hoover

    Maya and Maya’s Mom,
    I love snakes and frogs. So does my 7 year old daughter, Reina. I also love power tools and building things. Reina loves being covered in mud. The other day she asked me why she likes ‘boy stuff’ like dinosaurs. I said ‘who says its only for boys?’ When people tell you about “boy things” and “girl things” they are really talking about little cramped boxes that some people wrongly try to fit other people into. Don’t believe them because they’re wrong! The world is large and wonderful and you dont have to live in a teeny box. By being yourself and loving what YOU decide to love, you are breaking down those walls. Sometimes it takes courage but you are strong! You will be happier doing things your way. Many people will love that you are brave enough to be yourself. I love you already just hearing about how interesting you are from your mom.

  6. Robyn

    Maya is awesome! It’s so wonderful that she has a great mom who will help her understand and accept herself as the amazing little girl she is.

  7. Debra Taylor

    Dear Maya,
    My daughter is around the same age as you. When I told her what happened to you, she said she wanted to write you about what she thought. Here is what she said…
    Maya,
    I want to be your friend. I think you are great just the way your are and I wouldn’t want you to change. I like dinosaurs and rainbows and robots and cars too. You know why? They are fun. Being who you are is good. Being who you are is wonderful. I think we would have fun playing together if you lived close to me in Canada.
    When those guys said those things to you that’s bad. Don’t listen to them. Like all the things you like and play only with friends who let you like whatever you want.
    Charlie Lela

  8. Christine Mooers

    Hi, Maya, you sound like an incredible girl and I think it’s great that you like cars and robots and princesses and pink. My favorite fairy is Tinkerbell because she’s the cool science gadget fairy who builds things. Plus, it’s really cool to look under the hood of your car and know what all the parts are. That way if your car breaks, sometimes you can fix it yourself. And there are so many kinds of cars! There are classic cars, there are sports cars, there are race cars. Do you know who Danica Patrick is? She is one awesome race car driver. I watch her race on the weekends!

  9. Gabrielle

    Dear Maya, my daughter is 5 years old and she likes pink. She also likes purple and red and orange. She likes princesses and cars, Tinkerbell and pirates, wands and lightsabers. She likes to build things with her dad and go camping and rock-climbing. I met my husband because he and I both enjoy rock-climbing. I’m a woman who loves to read both fantasy and science-fiction novels. Some of my favorite authors are Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey. I love to read about robots and spaceships and strong women.

    I know it’s hard sometimes to be “different”, and I watch my daughter going through it, too. Sometimes boys will tease her about her Spiderman shoes. But she is learning to tell them, “I’m a girl and they’re my shoes and it’s ok for me to like whatever I like”. And she rocks her princess backpack with the How to Train Your Dragon lunchbox inside.

    Accept no limitations, Maya, from yourself or from others. You’re an awesome girl, and anything you do, by definitely, is girly. So enjoy pink or black, butterflies or rocket ships, whatever you like. And if those silly kids in class don’t understand you right now, it’s their loss. I understand you, and so does my daughter. You’re not the only one.

  10. Amy

    Hi Maya & Maya’s Mom,
    My name is Amy and I have 3 little kids – 2 girls and a boy.

    My oldest girl is 4 years old and she sounds a LOT like you, Maya. Her favorite color is orange, she loves dinosaurs, robots, ducks, butterflies, princesses, cars, and crafts. At preschool, most of the other girls would pick on my daughter for wearing shirts with cars or colors other than pink and purple, but she stood up for herself. “Colors are for everyone!” she’d say. Or, “our moms drive cars, so why do you think they are only for boys?” She’s right. Colors, cars, dinosaurs, robots…all of those things…they’re for everyone to enjoy.

    My younger daughter is also quite diverse in her interests. She is 2 and absolutely loves computers/robots. She also loves playing with baby dolls and thinks that giraffes are fantastic. She picks out her own [very colorful!] outfits every day and sports messy uncombed hair because that’s how she likes it. People will probably tell her she’s weird for liking the things she does, but I have a feeling she’ll take a cue from her sister and let them know it’s okay to be different.

    As for me, well, I’m obviously a girl (well, woman). My husband and I are currently rehabbing a classic car together – most of which I already knew how to do because I read about it on my own and took interest in doing the things that needed done. I met my husband when we were both working as tech support at an internet provider, and I really, really like dinosaurs. My favorite color is pink, and I love getting all dressed up in fancy dresses and heels.

    Oh, and by the way, my 9-month-old son loves to play with his baby dolls. He doesn’t know that people think dolls are “for girls.” My husband wears pink shirts to work. They also like digging in the dirt together….

    Do you see a theme here? The people in my family like little bits of everything. And we are SO happy because of it. It sounds like you were happy too until someone was mean to you about your interests.

    Please don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t like. Don’t give them the power to change you. YOU decide what you like and stick with it. Question anyone who says differently – chances are, they can’t come up with a real answer.

  11. Megan

    Dear Maya,
    My little girl is almost the same age as you. She also loves princesses and dancing, and her favourite colour is purple. But she also loves building things and finding out how things work. Her favourite show is called “How it’s Made” and it explains how they make all sorts of things. For her dance recital this year, she is playing a robot and a monster, and is very excited to wear her costumes that are sparkly silver (the robot) and blue and furry (the monster).
    A few weeks ago, she came home from school and was very sad because the people in her class were teasing one of her friends because he was wearing a black shirt that had pink on it, and they didn’t think a boy should wear pink. I told her that colours are for everyone, and there isn’t a colour that should be “just for boys” or “just for girls”. It made me sad that kids were thinking that way.
    When I was younger, I liked things like camping and history, and those were things that a lot of the girls I knew thought were boring or icky. So I had a few close friends at school who were girls, and also friends who were boys and enjoyed those things. I also joined clubs and danced and was in Girl Guides (like Girl Scouts but in Canada) and hung out with people who liked the same things as me, even if they didn’t go to the same school.
    As you get older, if the people at school aren’t into the same things as you, find people who are…you can even start your own “robot club” or whatever you’re interested in. You don’t have to wait for people to be friends with you…you can go out and make your own friends, too. I hope you always find things and people that make your heart happy :-)

    Dear Maya’s Mom,
    This is something we’ve struggled with in our house too…there are very few girls in my daughter’s class, and they are all very girly…which my daughter enjoys, but not all the time. We have just tried to expose her to lots of different experiences, and read stories and watch tv shows about things she enjoys.
    One of the stories I like telling her is about Dr. Roberta Bondar, who was the first Canadian woman in space…she dreamed about being an astronaut from the time she was a little girl, and she made it happen when she grew up (her website is here: http://www.robertabondar.com/astronaut.php but I’m sure there’s lots of stories like that from where you’re from too). Good luck…it is so scary to send our daughters out in the world and see all the negativity they are bombarded with, even in kindergarden. But if we keep talking to them and building them up and speaking out when we see or hear things that are wrong, I think they take those things and it makes them strong girls and strong women.

  12. Babette Cordero

    My name is Babette and while I always like girly things I also LOVED superman growing up. There are multiple pictures of me from 4 and up wearing all blue but that also included blue necklaces and clip on earrings. I now have a 5 1/2 year old named Sophie she’s wild and beautiful with crazy curly hair that she hates to have brushed. Sophie likes pink but blue more and she likes barbies, butterflies and puffy dresses BUT Soph’s favorite thing is playing in the mud. Head to Toe Sophie loves to be covered in mud and she too likes superheroes. Being a girl is about so much more than what some people like to tell us we should be. Love what you love play with robots, pretend to be superman, dress up and play dolls or get muddy. Be yourself! Lots of love from Babette and one Muddy Sophie

  13. quartzpebble

    Hi Maya,

    I’m a scientist. I make chemicals in the lab. It’s a little bit like cooking but I need to be a lot more careful, and what I make is not for eating! I’m going to use these to make it so we can easily find out if babies are sick so that doctors can make them better faster. I also have been getting much better at fixing the machines I use in the lab so that I can do my work better and don’t have to wait for other people to fix them. I’ve been taking them apart and putting them back together, and it’s a really good feeling when they work again.

    As a little girl, I collected bugs and loved learning about how things worked. I also learned how to dance, how to French braid my hair, how to knit and sew, and pretended about fairy tales. When I got a bit older, I loved long skirts that I could spin around in. Other kids sometimes told me that my name was a boy’s name, and that confused me a little. People also thought that what I was interested in was weird, and I didn’t have a lot of friends for awhile. I didn’t like pink that much, but I did like bright and cheerful colors and I remember painting my nails with turquoise sparkles and wearing huge and colorful earrings.

    I have good friends now and a wonderful partner, ones who love watching me do what makes me happy. I don’t dance much these days, and I’m not as girly as I used to be, but I’m happy with who I am and love the science I still get to do. If I wasn’t really interested in what I study, I would be much less happy. I hope that your school gets better for you, that you keep liking the things that make you happy, and that you find other people who like them too and like to see you being happy and interested!

  14. Dawn

    Hi Maya –
    I am really sad to hear that your friends at school were not being nice to you. Maybe they don’t know how fun and interesting cars and robots can be! Maybe a fun thing to do would be to show them some neat stuff that you like about these things. I happen to love my car and when I was younger my dad taught me all about cars so I can fix it if I ever have a problem, which is a pretty cool thing.

    But you know what? If you show your cars and robots to your friends and they still aren’t interested and still say mean things – stay strong Maya! There are some really amazing people in the world who were interested in things that other people didn’t like and they changed the world – they invented things like Marie Curie, they explored places like Amelia Earhart and they changed the way people thought like Nellie Bly. You could be one of those people!

    I hope you hang in there and know what there are other people in the world that are rooting for you!

    Take care!!
    PS – To Maya’s Mom – My two daughters belong to Girl Scouts and their troops do all kinds of things that encourage girls to try new things in a supportive environment. It might be something worth looking into.

  15. KiwiBunnz

    Hi, I’m Chelsea and I’m 32. I always liked the woodwork table over the dolls at preschool, I used to get teased for having a boys’ haircut at school, I got teased at highschool because I played (field) hockey and soccer and cricket – which were all supposed to be “boy” sports. I never liked pink (although now I think it can be cool sometimes!) I had Ken instead of Barbie and I searched for hours for a boy Cabbage Patch Kid doll. Now I’m all grown up I am training to be a midwife, which is all about women. I am so not a girly girl, and sometimes it was hard – but it was harder to not do what I wanted. I have amazing friends (mostly boys growing up sure, but now that we are all old I am friends with their wives and girlfriends too) and they all love me for who I am. Plus, I have never had trouble getting boyfriends, because they like girls who share their interests. (Although I know it is a long time before Maya will benefit from that!) Maya, love who you are, do what you enjoy and you will end up a lot happier than the people who hold back and conform to what other people think.

  16. Nell McGrath

    Hi Maya,
    I have a little boy who’s 2 and a half so much younger than you! He likes robots and cars and rockets and space too. But he also likes pink and glitter and Charlie and Lola and butterflies and ladybirds and flowers. Especially daffodils. I hope he likes all these things forever because they’re all beautiful and interesting and fun. It sounds like you’re beautiful and interesting and fun too, and I’d love to play with someone like you! The girl/boy thing is just about some silly adults trying to sell stuff, I think. You rock!
    Love, Joe’s Mum x x x

  17. Kim @frogpondsrock

    Hi Maya, My name is Kim, I am a grandmother and I like to play in the mud, in fact it is my job. I am a ceramist (which is just a fancy word for potter) and I turn lumps of mud into wonderful arty things, as well as cups and bowls. But I like making little treasure boxes that look like rocks the best.
    I am also a photographer and I like to take photos of spiders and snakes and lizards the best. Not many people like spider photos but I keep on taking them because they make me happy :)
    Lots of people like lots of different things in this world and it is okay to be different.

  18. Sixty Second Parent (@60secondparent)

    Hi Maya,
    This is Abby and I am 10, my mum is writing this for me. I love cars and I made a robot out of boxes. I love Harry Potter, rainbows, drawing, making warrior barbies and my favorite color is blue. I have a great car and soft toy collection. I think it is silly when kids say boys can only play with cars or girls can only play with fairy stuff. I don’t listen and I have LOTS of friends. I will send you a picture of my robot if you like.
    Abby

  19. Leah

    Maya-don’t let those other kids get you down. It’s okay for girls to like all sorts of things, and okay for boys to like all sorts of things too! Sometimes girls like trucks, mud, Star Wars, pink, fairies, glitter, and princesses. Sometimes boys like all those things too. Those other kids just haven’t figured it out yet. You are super awesome for already knowing it’s okay! My daughter is 7 and she likes Star Wars, Lego, mud, tree-climbing, dolls, princesses, fairies, and glitter too. She says to say “I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you, because I like myself!”

  20. Mercury

    Hi Maya! That’s my name, too. :)

    I’m not much for cars, but robots are pretty neat. Data the android was always one of my favorite Star Trek characters.

    But cars and robots aren’t just boy things, just like dancing and rainbows aren’t just girl things. They’re everybody things. It’s okay to like whatever you want to like. I like knitting and adorable kittens and wearing cute skirts, but I also like math and snakes and big heavy combat boots. And if people make fun of you for what you like, they’re the ones who are being uncool, not you. There are always going to be mean people around, but the great thing about living in a big world is that no matter what you like, there are other people who like it, too. You just have to find them. :)

  21. Tasha

    Hi Maya! My name is Tasha, and I just wanted you to know that I think you are full of AWESOME for liking cars and robots and princesses. Those are all such fun things, and I like them too! I have a little girl named Sophia, she’s three years old. She LOVES princesses, and science, and math, and sports. She also likes art and books and playing in muddy puddles. One time, Sophia’s friend at school (a boy) told her that wearing blue pants was dumb because blue is for boys. You know what Sophia told him? She told him that colors are for everyone, and that she can wear whatever color she wants, because she likes blue! I was so proud of her for saying that to her friend, because you know what? She’s right! Sometimes kids at school aren’t very nice, are they? They say things that hurt our feelings and tell us we can’t do things or SHOULDN’T do things because we’re girls. But I want to tell you something, Maya. Some of the most famous women in history did such awesome things because they didn’t let someone else tell them they couldn’t do it. Amelia Earhart was told that she couldn’t fly a plane because she was a girl. Marie Curie was told that girls couldn’t be scientists. And look at the great things they accomplished! They didn’t let other people spoil their fun, did they? All around you are women who are doing really cool things in their jobs because they did the things that interested them, and didn’t listen when people told them that they couldn’t do things because they were girls. That’s just silly.

    When I was a little girl, my mom told me girl a special secret. She said “Tasha, you can do anything or be anyone you want to be, if you just put your mind to it.” She was right, you know. I went to school, worked really hard, and got my Ph.D.! Maya, I think you can be anyone YOU want to be and you can do anything you want to do too! If you do the things that YOU are interested in, you will ALWAYS have fun. Maybe if those other girls who tease you see how much fun you’re having, they will want to play with you too! I think you have a really great mom for letting us know all about you, because I think you are a super neat kid!

  22. Tasha

    Maya, also, please watch this video:

    It’s all about Google’s first science fair for kids, and you know what? 10,000 people entered, and ALL the winners of the science fair were GIRLS!! And they had some REALLY neat projects! I bet they were told once that girls aren’t “supposed” to be interested in science. But they didn’t listen to those people, and look at them now! They won a really great prize! I really like these girls, and I hope you do too!

  23. eve11

    Hello Maya! I think it is awesome that you like cars and princesses. I loved playing with matchbox cars when I was a little girl. I also loved dinosaurs, baseball and catching crayfish in muddy creeks :) I didn’t like dolls or princesses as much when I was growing up but nowadays I really like to sew. I sewed a princess dress costume for myself from a pattern; it was really fun to learn how to piece it together and to design the specific decorations for it. My niece is a little bit younger than you are, and she loves princesses too; for her third birthday I made her a custom made princess dress! It’s purple and pink with gold accents and trim, and I had to adapt a pattern to make it; it was a lot of fun to do! I was really proud of it. My niece is teaching me a lot about how much fun princesses and jewelry can be.

    I also LOVE robots, and computers and math. My graduate school (Carnegie Mellon University) is an amazing place for building robots; they have a robotic soccer team! They also built a robot arm that can throw basketball baskets! In two weeks I will graduate with a PhD in statistics, which is a special brand of math that helps computers and robots to think on their own and learn from the data that they collect on their surroundings. Maybe some day you can come here and build… a robot princess?

  24. Elizabeth Tobias

    Hi, Maya!

    I learned how to drive when I was 13. It was a 1950s Ford tractor. My first car I bought was a 1953 Plymouth. Cars are awesome. I bought the really old car because I wanted to have something I could take apart and fix myself.

    I really like being able to take things apart – I’ve learned how to build houses, solder pipes, install plumbing, shingle houses, and many more things that are usually considered “boy stuff”. I just think of it as “cool stuff”.

    Trying to figure out what you like can be hard some times. Especially when other people want to do something different. I had people make fun of me when I wanted to learn how cars work – and I was a teenager then! It hurt my feelings and made me feel alone.

    Maybe you could tell your friends the cool things about cars and robots that you like. They might understand it better if the stories about cars and robots were coming from you. Maybe they only get stories from grown-ups who don’t realize some girls think cars and robots are awesome.

    My two sons (5 & 8) were *really* impressed when we had a flat tire and I changed it all by myself.

    Elizabeth Tobias
    Minneapolis, Minnesota

  25. Kacie

    Hi Maya!! When I was in high school, I helped found my school’s robotics team! We made really cool robots for a tournament called Vex Robotics. I was one of the lead designers and a team coach and we made it all the way to the world tournament with both of our robots! It was awesome! We flew all the way across the country to compete with people from Brazil and China. Don’t ever stop liking something because your friends don’t like it! You are your own person :D

  26. ladyoftherocks

    Dear Maya,

    I’m sorry that the other kids in school made fun of you, and I’m sorry that you now don’t like cars and robots as much anymore.
    I have a story for you that might cheer you up a bit, I hope.

    That story is about a good friend of mine. She’s a little older than you (28, not 5), but she also likes dancing and pretty dresses, just like you. In fact, she is a very good ballroom dancer (she can dance a wonderful waltz, like at a fairy-tale wedding), and she really loves sewing. For a costume party, she designed a beautiful dress, all by herself, modelled after that of a fantasy princess in “Lord of the Rings”. And when she gets all dressed up, she likes putting on red or pink lipstick and sparkly nail polish.

    But this friend of mine also likes “boy things”. She is really, really good with computers, and at work, she actually helps to make a computer program to steer a little robot car. But not just any robot car. It’s a small vehicle that you can remote control, like a toy, but when it’s finished, it’s supposed to go into space and explore the planet Mars. She loves her job, and she loves that robot car, because she’ll have helped a little to put it on the surface of another planet, even further away than the moon. How cool is that? :)

    And nobody makes fun of her for liking so-called “boy things” AND so-called “girl things”. Our friends all think it’s awesome that she helps to bring a robot car to the Mars, and we think it’s great that she makes her own pretty dresses. There’s nothing wrong with either. Girls can like cars and computers and robots, and boys can like pretty clothes and the color pink, and nobody should make fun of them for it.

    I hope the other kids will find that out soon, and you will get to enjoy everything that you like, whether it’s a princess or a robot.

    Love and hugs!

  27. Sophia

    Hi maya! My name is Sophia and guess what? I grew up with all brothers and played cars, video games, skateboarded and got dirty climbing trees and running around through the woods all the time. I took an inventing class and I was also in dance class too. I played dress up, barbies, wore sparkly shoes and pretty skirts all of the time also. You don’t have to be just one type of person, you can like everything you want to! When you stay true to the things you love people will like you more for being yourself. And those kids who pick on you for being a little different? Forget them! You don’t want friends who make you feel bad right? There are plenty of kids JUST like you out there who like all sorts of things you do. It’s boring anyway to be te same as everyone else anyway! Don’t change for anyone! You go little mama!

  28. Kathryn A

    Dear Maya,
    Those girls are mean girls. They aren’t worth being friends with. Be like Sarah in “The Little Princess”, be brave. Be like Princess Leia in Star Wars – she was a Princess who could shoot the baddies (and she was good with robots too!)

    I program computers and make websites for my job. It is awesome. Programming computers is like having the biggest box of Lego EVER, and making stuff with it.
    I have really long hair, which I usually wear in plaits so that it doesn’t get tangled. My favourite colour is purple. For fun, I write stories, do crochet, and make bead necklaces. I once sewed myself a water-nymph costume, made out of lots of layers of blue-green chiffon. It was very pretty. Some people think you have to be stupid in order to be pretty. That’s pretty stupid, isn’t it?

  29. Tansy Rayner Roberts (@tansyrr)

    These are my daughters, Raeli & Jem. Raeli is 7 and Jem is 2. They both love Doctor Who, robots, soccer and superheroes. Jem has been known to go around the house declaring that she is Batman. Not Batgirl, mind you. BATMAN.

    Raeli went through her pink phase between the ages of 3 and 5 (bad news for Jem, those hand-me-downs are fast approaching) and loves plenty of traditionally girly things like Barbie and princesses. But she’s learned to be quite wary of products that are marketed too girly. She loves it when she finds books that aren’t “girly or boyy, but BOTH’ – like her favourite comic, Tiny Titans, which I can definitely recommend for all kids, boy or girl. She still likes pink a bit, but pretends not to because she likes to say something different when asked what her favourite colour is – and she always gives people at least three! Right now – yellow, aqua and white.

    My heart used to sink whenever Raeli came home from daycare or kindergarten parrotting something awful about gender rules she had learned in the playground (the classic one was that stars were for girls, and triangles for boys, I mean…WHAT?) but amazingly, me telling her over and over that there’s no such thing as ‘girl stuff’ or ‘boy stuff’ has sunk in, and now she’s confident to tell her friends at school the same thing.

    Jem is lucky to have such an awesome big sister, and a great role model. I hope Maya finds her role models too (with a lot of help from the grown ups around her!), and that in a couple of years she’ll be the one telling the other girls in her class that it’s okay to like… whatever it is they want to.

  30. AMM

    This may be somewhat off-topic, but: what about girls who aren’t interested in girly things at all? Do they feel supported in who they are when they get messages like “you can like robots and still like pink ponies and tea parties”, if they can’t stand pink or tea parties?

    Not sure where to go with this, though. Most _adults_ think that the concept “there are lots of different ways to be and they’re all OK” is too hard to wrap their brain around, so I don’t know how you’d help a kindergardener get it across to other kindergardeners.

  31. Liz

    Hi Maya!

    There are a lot of people who might try to tell you that certain things are only for boys or only for girls. Those people are missing out on a lot of fun, because they are limiting what things they think they can try!

    I have a picture I’d love to share with you. It’s a picture from when I was about your age. I’m standing with a rocket that I built with my dad, and we’re getting ready to launch it way up in the sky. If you look closely, you can see that I decorated the fins with sparkly stars. Some people might say that rockets are only for boys, but trust me – it’s a lot of fun to watch them shoot up in the air and then slowly float back to the ground on a parachute!

    These days I am a programmer – I write software for computers. That’s another thing that people might say is only for boys, but those people have not looked around to see all of the girls who work to make software.

    Those are some of the “boy” things that I do, but there are still girl things I like to do, too. I knit, which many people think is just for girls. Or, more specifically, “old ladies!” Guess what? Many of the knitters I know are cool young women, and I even know a bunch of boys who knit really neat things, too. They often have people tell them that knitting is just for girls, but they ignore it because they know knitting is fun.

    Sometimes it’s hard, especially when you are in school, because other kids haven’t met many girls who like cars and robots. As you get older, you’ll find more and more people who like both girl and boy things.

  32. Meredith

    I know it’s hard to act like you just don’t care when someone teases/questions what you like, but I think that’s the best way to deal with it.

    In my experience people (and especially kids) usually back down in the face of confidence. I would confidently tell them, “Girls and boys can like anything they want,” and keep playing. Maybe there are other girls who like cars (or something else that’s a ‘boy’s toy’) and they’re just too insecure to say anything.

    When one person has the courage to stand up to a bully it makes it easier for other people to come forward.

    Also, surely the teacher is helping in all this…? They don’t have to bluntly say “Toys are just toys, none of them are specifically for boys or girls,” but can talk about female race car drivers and scientists, male fashion designers and chefs, they can point out that no hobby or career is just for men or just for women.

  33. Cal

    Hi Maya! My name is Cal.

    I have a little girl too, but she’s littler than you — she’s only two. She loves dinosaurs more than anything else in the world, except maybe ponies. If she could have a ponysaur, I think she would maybe be the happiest little girl in the world.

    When I was little, I loved cars too! My dad and I once rebuilt a whole car, a very special old car. I learned so much about history and how cars work and how things are put together, and I made a lot of great friends when my dad and I took that car around to shows and won prizes for how awesome it was that we’d fixed it all up ourselves.

    Those girls who are telling you that you aren’t supposed to like cars just don’t know how fun they are, and that’s sad! Maybe you can teach them that cars are awesome and fun, maybe you can’t — but you’re ahead of the curve because you already know they are! Isn’t that awesome?

  34. Science Chick

    Hi Maya! I just wanted to tell you that it’s ok to like whatever you want. It’s ok to like pink or blue, cars or dolls, robots or flowers. I like science and video games along with cooking and makeup, and when I was your age I liked playing with matchbox cars and mario brothers the same as I liked my easy bake oven and jewelry making sets. And I LOVED dinosaurs and cats! Sometimes it’s hard when people think you should like or not like something for silly reasons, but now I have friends that like me BECAUSE I like comic books and still can dance, and my fiance likes me because we can talk about video games and science fiction together. So don’t be afraid to be who you are! Maybe you’ll even get other people to like these things!

  35. Ann Garth

    Hey Maya, my name is Ann and I am 14. I just want to tell you how very cool it is that you like robots and cars and building stuff. When I was your age I never liked robots that much because I couldn’t understand how to make them work. Mostly when I was your age what I loved was climbing trees and building things with LEGOs and playing with blocks and reading and doing ballet and wrestling with my dad. I still like doing a lot of those things. Some I don’t like so much anymore (like ballet). But the reason I stopped liking some of those things was because they weren’t fun for me. I never stopped liking those things because I thought somebody else would think they were stupid. Don’t ever stop doing something because somebody else thinks they are stupid. I think that playing with cars and robots is super awesome. I think that YOU are super awesome! Don’t ever ever ever let anybody tell you that what you want to play with is silly or dumb or not “right.” I promise you that if you really truly love playing with cars and robots and making up stories about princesses, those are all really, really cool things to do. Please don’t stop doing them just because someone says you should.

  36. Jamie Henderson (@iphy)

    Dear Maya and Maya’s mom,

    My 4-yr-old daughter’s name is Amailah. Her favorite color is green, and her second favorite color is pink. Her favorite things in the world are:
    - anything with robots
    - dragons
    - Rapunzel
    - playing Superheroes and BadGuys
    - playgrounds with lots of things to climb
    - anything with My Little Pony
    - stories
    - lollipops
    - her blankie

    My favorite color is purple. I am director of a group of people who keep hundreds of computers all running and working together to make some parts of the Internet work. I practice martial arts and I play cello. I like reading books, watching movies, and playing video games. I love wearing nice clothes.

    At our house we have a lot of stuffed animals, legos, toy cars, dolls, and balls. Amailah insists on wearing a skirt to school every Tuesday. She likes to wear skirts on other days, but she always wears a skirt or dress on Tuesday because Tuesday is Dance Class Day. Her dance recital is coming up in June and she’s super excited.

    This summer we’re going to play tee-ball and take swimming lessons. We like to do all kinds of things and learn all kinds of things. If someone says something is for Boys only, we smile and tell them we like it, so it must be for Girls too. That’s empirical evidence, and that’s science. We LOVE science!

    Maya, I hope you continue to do and learn about the things you like. I know that sometimes people might tell you something is a Boys thing. That can be very hard to hear. I think that kids your age are just trying to find their place in the world and it’s a hard thing to do. Sometimes kids do it by trying to label everything. This usually means they might be feeling a little nervous about their own place in the world. You should feel happy that you are so confident and know what you like! And maybe you could be a little patient with those other kids who are still trying to find out what they like. :)

  37. Kimberly Spillman

    Maya,

    Another story for you:
    When I was young I bought some combat boots which I loved. There was a boy who made fun of me many times for wearing them. Within a couple of years that type of boot became very popular and he was wearing a pair.

    What I learned from this is that when people don’t have anything interesting themselves they make fun of other people. It really shows the weakness in the people who are making fun of others.

    Be whomever you want to be!
    Best Regards,
    Kimberly

  38. Kimberly Spillman

    I have very cute robot greeting cards. I’ll send one to Maya if there’s a physical address I can send it to.

  39. joe

    Hi Maya,
    when I was in school the girls in my class called me names because I liked needlework. Now I am a surgeon.

  40. Evil Killer Poptarts

    Dear Maya,

    Hi! I was made fun of in school too, because I didn’t like all the girly things I was supposed to. I tried, I really did, but my friends to play with were my brother and two boys who lived down the street. So we played GI Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mostly, and climbed trees and made forts and other fun stuff. At school I tried to act more girly but it made me feel like I was lying.

    When I grew up and was in college, I re-discovered a love for the cartoon Transformers. That was ten years ago, and ever since, I’ve made some of the best friends of my life through Transformers! I make Transformers jewelry and occasionally build robot costumes to wear to the big conventions. I have a ton of toys and they are mostly “boy” toys, and I am 110% okay with that.

    Always be yourself, Maya. I’ve been myself for the last ten years, and I’m happier than I ever was the eighteen before that, when I was pretending that I didn’t like boy stuff when I was at school. There is nothing wrong with liking whatever you like! Do what is true to yourself and don’t try to impress other people. It isn’t worth the heartache of denying yourself happiness.

    All my geeky love,
    Courtney

  41. Yvonne

    Hi Maya
    One thing I have learned is never mind blondes or brunettes, Tom Boys have more fun.

    here is me doing some very geeky things and its a lot of fun.

  42. Rebecca

    I’ve always liked boy things, and Maya, it is great! I design sound systems, have worked in recording studios and exciting things like that. Usually these would be classed as boy things! I also have done woodworking since I was little, and car mechanics, and DIY, oh and I ride a motorbike and used to love playing cricket with the boys when I was young.

    I do things girls like to do as well, like sewing and baking and gardening. This is all ok. We can choose what we want to do and have fun! People can sometimes be confused and even mean if you like different things, but just ignore them and do what you want to do! There are too many fun things to do, so shouldn’t just be for boys or just be for girls!

  43. TJ

    Hi Maya,

    My name is TJ, and I love cars. I love Formula 1 cars most of all, but I like pretty much all cars. I got to see an A1GP car right up close when they came to New Zealand. It was awesome.
    I also love to dance – I did ballet for nine years. I sometimes combine watching formula 1 and dncing, because hey, they’re good dance partners.
    Yeah, sometimes kids laughed at me, and sometimes I felt really really bad for liking the stuff I liked. But I kept liking them, and eventually people got tired of teasing, and they stopped. And you know what… Cars are still cool.
    Cars aren’t “

  44. jerseycow6

    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 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 have different favorite colors – one likes purple, and the other likes orange. They don’t take nonsense from anyone, and they’ll politely set anyone who messes with them right – even their Aunt – probably while wearing a frilly pink skirt. All of that is what makes them cool, just like EVERYTHING you like is what makes you awesome!
    If you love robots, you should hear about 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 dislikes 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!

  45. Jennifer

    I might not build cars and robots, (I’m mostly like gluing and sewing) BUT…I love watching robots!
    I think it’s cool that you like these things.
    I know it’s hard right now, but believe me…being different and more importantly, being YOURSELF is a true gift.
    Hang in there kiddo…it gets SO much easier.
    Sincerely,
    A fellow ‘different’ gal in Pa.

  46. Sarah

    Hello Maya!

    I love tinkering with machines and building things. I work as a tunnel and foundation engineer. Here is a link to something I worked on: http://www.mta.info/capconstr/sft/

    I’m afraid I can’t tell you that I like pink much…because I’ve always gone for BRIGHT and LOUD colors like fire-engine red and yellow. But, we definitely agree on rainbows, butterflies and dancing!

    When I was your age, I went to a school that had both boys and girls, but really separated them for most activities. In my kindergarden classroom, there was a carpentry bench on the “boy’s side” of the room and there was a play kitchen on the “girl’s side” and a bunch of dolls. I wanted to be on both sides. It made sense to me that I might need to build a table to use in the kitchen, for example. And I wanted to make a car for the doll to ride in. The teacher and most of my classmates thought I was very strange. I was actually pretty stubborn and told them all that I thought they were boring if they always just stuck to one side. That got me in trouble with the teacher, but my parents were on my side. Unfortunately, this kind of argument went on for pretty much my whole childhood and I had (and have) a reputation as a troublemaker because I stand up for myself against this kind of silliness. But, I wouldn’t trade who I am for anything.

  47. spacegeek

    I’m a “rocket scientist”–I work for NASA and I’m a girl, a mommy and love makeup and shoes. :-) I work on Mars missions and help scientists and engineers figure out how to go from an idea to actual science data returned from spacecraft. It is the best job I could ever have and I LOVE IT!!

    Check out womeninplanetaryscience.wordpress.com
    to see others like me… :-)

  48. Julia

    I think it makes sense to involve her into some simple actions BUILDING things and see if she likes it. “I like cars” is role playing, which is the behavioral model girls are pushed into! – boys play with things, girls play roles.

    My husband has a niece and when she was this age, she was flooded with barbies and such, and everything pink because family members decided those were things she was supposed to like. Then I said “it doesn’t make sense” and we started to buy her “doing” not “liking” presents. Hard to find good ones, even in boys’ sections (like many toys seem to be designed for “liking” parents). The best toy we bought… was from a dollar store. Those were sets of wood parts to put together and make a toy. Ours was a horse. We prepared to follow the instructions as it wasn’t obvious how to put it together. Yet, the girl didn’t need any instructions and simply built it on her own! And then she brought her water color set and painted the horse.

  49. JL

    Heather Knight is a scientist who builds robots. She also dresses very much like a girly-girl. When I saw her give a talk, she was wearing a pink skirt that looked like a tutu.

    http://www.marilynmonrobot.com/

    http://www.ted.com/speakers/heather_knight.html

    I’ve met Heather, she’s very friendly, and I bet if you or your daughter contacted her, she’d get back to you.

    I’m a female scientist and I happen to have a daughter named Maya (and three boys). Tell your Maya that I have very long hair and wear high heels, dangly earrings, and lipstick to work on a regular basis. My favorite color is purple instead of pink, but that’s close. Today I’m wearing purple suede heels and a lace shirt while performing statistical analyses on genetic data and writing a scientific paper.

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