I was left as unimpressed as these girls after watching a much-hyped commercial for Goldie Blox, an “engineering toy” for the young female set.
The video begins with little girls scowling at a girly TV show. Bored, they decide to repurpose the stereotypical pink girly toys that have been forced upon them into an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that eventually changes the channel to a commercial for Goldie Blox.
Meanwhile, a rewrite of the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls” contains lyrics such as “You like to buy us pink toys and everything else is for boys” and “…you always buy us dolls. And we’ll grow up like them…false.”
So, I found it supremely ironic at the end when a Disney-esque blonde cartoon girl introduces the product that is supposed to make everything all better: an “engineering” toy made from pastel colors, pink ribbon and cute little animal figures, including a pink dolphin in a tutu.
You have got to be kidding me.
Now, I don’t have a problem with girly building toys in general. I didn’t join other voices rebuking Lego when they first introduced their pink and purple “Friends” collection geared toward girls. But presenting such products as an altruistic solution to a problem is laughable, and pretty transparent.
When I was born 32 years ago, things like GoldieBlox and pink Legos didn’t exist. My parents were not college educated, they had met while both working at McDonald’s, and I was their first child. Yet, somehow, they knew how to choose classic toys that would appeal to a boy or a girl and help me use my imagination. When my particular interests became apparent, they encouraged them.
I grew up with Lego, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toy, building blocks, electronic circuitry kits and more. But I know that even without those toys, I’d have designed anyway. I created buildings from dominoes or stacked books, forts from blankets, and I once tried to fashion a teeter-totter from two picnic table benches. Every Saturday while my siblings were off doing normal kid things, I sat glued to the TV watching HomeTime and This Old House. Design was my thing.
No pastel colored beribboned toy inspired me, and the lack thereof did not discourage me. Toys didn’t make me who I am; the toys I chose to play with were a reflection of who I was.
Eventually, through school, I learned what architecture was and decided that it was the career path which best combined all my interests. Yes, it was daunting as a girl. And I was not a confident, out-going girl, I was a very shy kid. But I loved what I did, and I was determined to see it through.
I was the only female in my high school drafting and computer-aided design classes, and I ran circles around most of the boys. The ratio of men to women improved once I reached college, but it was still very lop-sided. Would it have been easier in some ways if the numbers were more even? Sure. But I appreciate the valuable lessons I learned. I had to plow through with courage and conviction, and the few other women who were there were equally determined. It made me stronger, and I was there because I wanted to be, not because I was under any delusions (those people dropped out after the first semester).
Decades ago, girls didn’t need their own special pink girl versions of gender-neutral toys. Building toys, like Lego were marketed to boys and girls.
The Little People dollhouse that I played with along with my sister and brothers was decorated like a real house. My Easy Bake Oven had orange and yellow stickers. What happened?
In discussions about the video, the people who liked it seemed to fall into two camps. First, there were those who thought it was geared toward parents who, apparently, head straight for “the pink aisle” to choose stereotypical toys for their little girls and don’t consider anything else. Sure, there are plenty of gender-neutral kids’ construction toys that parents have been buying for generations, but today’s parents have tunnel vision. By strategically placing “smart” toys like this in the pink aisle, maybe their poor daughters will have a chance to use their brains!
Have you ever met a parent like that? I haven’t. I don’t know a single parent who shops strictly “the pink aisle” for her daughter. By contrast, all of the parents I know are kind of proud when their kids break from the supposed “norms” made up by marketers. The little girls I know play with dolls…and train sets, cars, Legos and more (if they want to). And some girls don’t want to. They’re happy with their dolls and tea parties and dress up. So? I think these “pink aisle parents” are just a strawman created by the same marketers who try to profit from dividing girls and boys in the first place.
Then there are the people who believe Goldie Blox toys are designed for the girls themselves, whose parents really do care, and are concerned because engineering isn’t pretty enough to interest them. Engineering is so not-pink, and girls are so easily brainwashed by TV or their friends, that they don’t realize that maybe they could be interested in engineering! We need to “get” more girls into engineering!
Why? Why should we prod girls, or anyone, toward a career field they don’t find interesting for what it actually is? Maybe they aren’t as numerous as the boys, but there are and have been girls interested in engineering without it being made into a princess story.
You buy us pink gears. And we’ll grow up to be engineers. False.
Here’s the thing: you cannot make a child into something she’s not, and you shouldn’t try. If you’re buying toys for your kids to guide them toward a specific career or to make a statement, you’re doing it wrong. Parents: Use your brains, choose quality, and above all pay attention to your individual kids. Don’t let a marketer do the thinking for you. It’s that simple.
Goldie Blox are not a bad idea, don’t get me wrong. It’s just the way they are being marketed that drives me crazy. The product completely contradicts the message in its own commercial, and the “us vs. them” mentality isn’t constructive. It seems to me that Goldie Blox are as much about forcing ideals onto girls as any of the stereotypical toys they sneer at in the video.
DISCLOSURE: This website is monetized with affiliate links. I earn a small percentage of the sales price when visitors make purchases through affiliate links. Thank you for your support!