All across my facebook friends list, people have been raving about the new GoldieBlox commercial. “Look! FINALLY a toy designed to encourage girls to be good at math and engineering!” they say. “Put these girls in Harvard.”
And GoldieBlox does look pretty cool, assuming its technical aspects actually work. Girls go through a storybook and learn how to build some sort of spinning machine with a (flimsy-looking pink) ribbon. I have my doubts about this because the game/toy itself looks a bit Mouse Trap-ish in design and the game Mouse Trap never actually worked.
Assuming it DOES work, yes, it’s a cool engineering toy and it’s very nice that it’s “for girls.” As the mother of three girls, one of which shows very strong engineering tendencies, I’m glad for any toy that encourages girls to develop their engineering skills.
But what I can’t stand about this toy is how it’s developed this huge social media following based on its contradictory marketing claims and everyone is following it blindly saying “YAY! Finally a building toy that’s not pink!” Here’s the first commercial that came out for this toy last year.
Oh no! All the toys are pink! They turned Legos pink for girls and that’s condescending! Look! I finally made a toy that’s not about princesses! It just focuses on engineering!
And… IT’S PINK! And not just pink! It tells a story about a ribbon, because girls like ribbons! And fairy tale allusions!
You can’t bash other companies for making building toys pink for girls when your toy is PINK. It’s such a contradiction. “We’re better than pink Legos! We’d never condescend to girls, but we’re using the exact color we’re bashing!”
I mean, WHAT?
Additionally, it complains about stereotyping women out of becoming engineers, yet uses stereotypes that girls like reading and boys like building to promote itself. The creator claims she can get girls to build if they read a book. Guess what? That’s a stereotype. My girls spend huge amounts of time building over here WITHOUT books. (They also spend a lot of time reading, but that’s not the point.)
And now the commercial with the three girls is going around with nothing but praise from everyone. No one is questioning any part of this toy. Now I admit, what the girls do in the commercial is pretty cool, but again we have some contradictions.
The newer commercial bashes princesses and dolls, but the name of the toy itself is based on the fairy tale Goldie Locks. It seems contradictory to bash princesses when your toy name is based on a fairy tale (about a girl who steals things from forest animals).
And check out this lyric:
“You like to buy us pink toys
And everything else is for boys”
And again the pink ribbon. You don’t get to bash other toys for being pink when your toy is pink! I really hate this smear campaign against other toys. Why can’t we say “we need to encourage our girls to build so they might become engineers” without saying that all these other toys promoting pretend play and other things many children (not just girls) really do like are terrible things? Is there really so little interest in your toy that you have to resort to name-calling with the other toys? I’m not saying girl toys are perfect, but clearly you can sell building toys to girls without shaming parents for buying their kids princess toys. Lego Friends hasn’t employed any of this crap and their sales seem to be going very well. And if you point out the alleged anti-feminist stuff with Lego Friends, I again point to GoldieBlox including a pink ribbon. Doesn’t work.
Also, the song for the commercial is based on Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” which is a really sexist anthem. Consider the original lyrics:
“Girls – to do the dishes
Girls – to clean up my room
Girls – to do the laundry
Girls – and in the bathroom
Girls, that’s all I really want is girls
Two at a time I want girls
With new wave hairdos I want girls
I ought to whip out my girls, girls, girls, girls, girls!”
(I have to credit my cousin-in-law Greg for pointing that out.) Now I love Beastie Boys, but this is the song we’re using to promote a toy that’s allegedly going to empower girls?
GoldieBlox may very well be a great toy. I might even buy it for my kids. But let’s not pretend like these commercials are anything more than they are: Commercials. This is not the key to a life of engineering, it’s a toy. A PINK toy that’s pretending like it hates pink toys. Come on.