Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Goldie Blox are Worse than Barbies

A few months ago, I found out about this new toy.  It's like knex and legos met and made a baby franchise specifically aimed at girls.  I read about it, I got disgruntled, but then I let it drop.  This past week, though, a few different sources have posted an ad by Goldie Blox, and my facebook wall has been overflowing with interest in the product.

The commercial really demonstrates everything I find wrong with the product.  For about a minute and a half, in a parody of The Beastie Boys, three cute girls sing about how they're smart and creative and don't like that all the toys marketed to them are pink and frilly dolls and kitchen sets that imply that they have now future in STEM fields.  They're just as smart as boys and can do anything boys can do.  Great, right?  But then, we actually see the product.  These blocks and building parts are in pastel colors and have smooth, rounded edges.  If you look around the website, the girls all have long, flowing hair, and one is even wearing a tiara for a "parade float" set. 

What the product is saying is that girls might be interested in what boys are doing, but only if they can do it in a hyper-feminized way.  They claim to want women in men's fields, but what this toy is communicating is that the way to do this is to feminize these traditionally masculine fields.

This product is also overlooking something far more feminist that girls have been doing for decades: playing with boy's toys.  Smart girls love playing with hard edged, boldly colored lego blocks.  They love knex.  Basically, if a girl has a a brain to do it, she doesn't need pink and purple blocks to help her do it.  She needs to be told that it doesn't matter if toys are "girls" or "boys" toys--she can play with whatever she wants.

The answer to the poor options for boy and girls toys is not to make a masculine baby doll or feminine nerf gun.  The answer is to address the fact that we think that boys and girls need separate toys at all.

3 comments:

  1. GOOD POINTS. What really confuses me is the idea that LEGOs are boy's toys. They are blue and red and green and yellow and...that is masculine?? They seemed so unisex to me until a feminized version existed, and that version just feels so reductionistic to me. I don't like LEGOs because they're masculine. They just ARE, and let me play with them.

    That said, I led a LEGO play group at the library, and it was overwhelmingly attended by boys. A few times when girls came, they rarely returned the next week. How to fix this? Maybe "girl" versions are an answer. I don't know.

    But yes, that commercial sounds dumb. Way to have your cake and eat it too, thereby negating any positive messages.

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    1. I'm glad you brought up your experience at the library, Tricia, because I think that it highlights lots of important stuff (that I mostly didn't mention). First, many girls do want girly toys. Secondly, those girls who like boy-oriented toys at home often conform to cultural norms out in public. Your story breaks my heart as it reminds me of all the girls out there who have grown up liking all sorts of toys only to go to school or a playdate and realize that they're not meeting gender expectations. I think it's a big and complicated issue, but I think that making girl-oriented STEM-related toys simply complicates it more because it reinforces the same problem it tries to correct. It's one of those quick fixes, I think, that will likely make things more difficult in the long run. I'd much rather see investment in long-term strategies for breaking down the gendering of toys. It probably won't see instant results, but I think that it will set a better example for children now and in future generations.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I like the way your brain works :-)

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  2. After watching the commercial, and looking at the products some, I don't think it is terrible. Her (Debbie, CEO) concern is that there are not enough women in Engineering and other scientific fields. So she is making a toy that will hopefully appeal to girls and also help develop their interest in science and stuff.

    Tricia and Nellene, you are correct, LEGO, K*nex, and such are not really "boy" toys by nature. But they do tend to be marketed to boys more than to girls. And let's be honest, a lot of girls like princessy, frilly, things. Now, not all girls are into frilly stuff. But Debbie wants to connect with the girls that are into "girly" toys. Because let's be honest about that: most "girly" toys are vacuous soul vacuums (like Barbie and Disney princess merchandise). So she is marketing a mentally engaging toys to the girls that are not already interested in LEGO and stuff.

    That is my 32 cents.

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