Most people have heard of Moshi Monsters, an annoyingly addictive online game that features six monster blobs interacting with each other, fulfilling tasks and generally causing chaos. But now when you think of Moshi Monsters you might think of coding, or at least that’s the idea if their new spin-off magazine, “Poppet” takes off.
Mindcandy, the creators of the game, are taking a girl-centric turn and just this week launched Poppet magazine targeted specifically at young girls, using the pink monster, “Poppet” to attract them. But the magazine isn’t just to spread Moshi love to the world, it’s to get girls into coding.
The magazine features puzzles, quizzes and readers’ letters, as well as stories with a focus on technology and leadership.
“Coding can be a very complex and often dry subject, and definitely one that often slips under the radar when it comes to girls and the opportunities they are often presented with,” Jessica King, editor of Poppet Magazine, wrote to us. “We want Poppet magazine to be a platform to introduce girls to the world of technology. Each issue will provide our readers with puzzles, interviews, information and, most importantly, tips on sites and events they can visit to practice these skills more, and generally get involved.”
This might be the first time that their female audience has heard of coding, so their aim is to make it accessible. “Spreading the message of code is so important and we want Poppet magazine to be an introduction to the subject, and hopefully become a go to place for girls who want to know more.”
King makes some valid points about introducing young girls to coding, and we certainly applaud the initiative to demystify and degenderize technology from an early age.
But at the same time, is making coding accessible through a dominant pink monster with cutesy affectations really going to challenge the gender gap?
“For me, the issue is not the color pink,” responded King. “The six main monsters are all different colours, and it just so happens that Poppet is the second most popular. The point we are trying to make is not that “pink is for girls” or that “girls can only like pink," it’s that girls can like pink, or orange, or blue, or green, AND they can learn to code.”
They can do more than that, however. “AND they can be leaders. AND they can be whatever they want to be. Pink isn’t the issue,” she adds.
King may not feel pink is the issue, but even with an attitude of inclusion and participation, pink IS a color loaded with expectations.
Even if we forget the fact that women now have the majority of purchasing power for big ticket tech items in the home OR the fact that they are sick of campaigns that put them into stereotyped gender roles or the fact that toy firms continually get slapped for “aggressive gender segregation” we can’t pretend that pink doesn’t have power - or limitations in society.
5-year-old Riley went viral on YouTube after sounding off about “pinkifying” toy stores.
Riley’s point, “girls want superheroes and boys want superheroes too,” applies here. Yes, Poppet is inclusive and popular online, and yes, we acknowledge that her friends- all featured in the magazine ARE multicolored, but the fact that she is pink and being used to advocate girls into coding feels very similar to the multiple campaigns used over the years to suggest the the “laydezzzz” might like technology. Cos women CAN turn on a laptop.
The color pink might have connotations it can’t escape from, however the Poppet character is beloved by many and the Mindcandy team are hopeful she can be used for change.
“The tech industry has long been seen as a man's world and something that is 'not for girls' but we completely disagree with that notion,” said King. “Girls are just as strong and capable as boys when it comes to coding, or anything for that matter, and we believe that, secretly, girls know this. We just hope that Poppet magazine, and other great initiatives such as Code Club and code.org, will give them the push they need to truly believe it and give coding a go.”
Currently there is a dearth of female coders. Forbes writer Lori Kozlowski analyzed data from Q, an IT and Digital talent firm, and wrote “out of every 100 software developers/engineers in Los Angeles, approximately 10-12 are female.”
While we don’t have figures for every coding job in the world, it’s not a stretch to say that women are underrepresented in this field worldwide. Reasons for this are complex, as they could range from educational opportunities to in-house sexism, to pure choice, but the enormous gap shows us that, for now at least, we do need to target females in a different way to engage their interest in coding.
However, Poppet Magazine might receive criticism for the inclusion of “recipe pages.” Cooking is an activity that is culturally connected with women, and including recipes in a magazine targeted at girls suggests that gender lines are still being drawn.
King disagrees.“It is not something that we see as gender biased in any way. Man or woman, boy or girl, we all might need to rustle up a flapjack or a quiche at some point! YumYum Kitchen is one of the most popular pages in Moshi Monsters Magazine, our gender-neutral best selling magazine for the brand, therefore, it was a no-brainer for us to include this in Poppet. Cooking can be an extremely useful creative outlet for children, and recipe pages give us the chance to encourage readers to spend time with their friends and family and, ultimately, learn a life skill. “
It’s still going to be a challenge to the magazine successful. Even with a legion of online fans and a growing userbase, the transition from online game to physical magazine can be difficult especially in a market where magazine sales are down. If Poppet Magazine achieves popularity though it will suggest that the younger generation is rapidly changing and evolving, and if accepted by little girls it could well be a step to inclusivity and equal footing in the coding world when they grow up. We’ll be watching this space.. and so will the world.