OK, my first post about GoldieBlox, I wrote when I was riled up.
I am glad I did, because the reactions are giving me a lot to respond to. Also, I did not think too many would read it. My blog, which at most had 35 hits on a post, is at 5000 and counting! So, instead of answering each comment on my blog, I decided a second post was warranted.
First, let’s address the “but girlie girls can be engineers too’. Of course they can. This is not tomboys vs. girlie girls. This is marketing vs. children. How did pink and princesses become the defining factor of being a girl? It was when Disney started marketing the Disney Princesses as a package.
I am 38 years old. This was not happening when I was a kid. Yes, there was always a bit of “boy” and “girl” stuff, but not everything was glaringly pink. Back then, we had choices of red, blue, pink, green, orange and yellow. Now anything that is not pink or pastel is considered “boy colours”.
My doll stroller was blue and red. You likely could not even find such a thing today. I am not saying “let’s make everything gender neutral”, but that that girls deserve more choice.
My daughter, at age 2, came home from daycare one day announcing “My favourite colour is pink!” I said “Oh, why did you choose that?” “I’m a girl, so I like pink.”
This is not natural. This is marketing.
Second, let’s address the Beastie Boys song. I don’t think reappropriation works. Yes, there are a handful of terms that have been “taken back”, like queer. But the last time someone called you a “b*tch”, a “sl*t”, a “c*nt”, a f*gg*t”, a “n*gg*r”, how did you feel? Did you feel like those words have been reappropriated? I have not seen that yet in this society.
I am not ragging on the Beastie Boys. They are an amazing band and I have listened to them since the release of their first album. I know that “Girls” was not their best decision as a band. But it’s like putting a compromising picture of yourself out on the internet. You can’t ever really, fully take it back
Third: GoldieBlox themselves stated that they were going to break out of the pink/princess mold:
“We’re GoldieBlox, a toy company out to show the world that girls deserve more choices than dolls and princesses. We believe that femininity is strong and girls will build the future — literally.
Our founder, Debbie Sterling, is a Stanford engineer who decided last year that girls need more choices than the pink aisle has to offer. She developed GoldieBlox, an interactive book series + construction set starring Goldie, the kid inventor who loves to build.
This year, we wondered what we could do to showcase the amazing inventive power that girls have. So…we might have recruited three young girls and that guy who made OK Go’s famous Rube Goldberg machine to turn an average home into a massive, magical contraption.”
The ad with the Beastie Boys song is misleading. People will see the ad, the blurb from the company and think “Yay! Finally something that is NOT princess!” And go to the store to purchase it (with their excited daughter) only to find yet another princess toy.
Contrary to the comments I have received on my blog, I am not anti-pink. But I want my daughters to have choices. When you go to the store and over 80% of the toys geared toward girls are pink, of course they will “like” pink. What else are they going to like? It’s kind of like if the only meat you ever eat is chicken, then when people ask you your favourite meat, your answer will be “chicken”.
I am also not anti-feminine. Indeed, I wear a dress or skirt 90% of the time, if not more. People are always shocked when I am wearing pants. I just prefer dresses. But I have a choice. I can choose to wear pants or a dress. My daughters choose what to wear. Although I will say, it is almost impossible to find a bright green, a blue or a red shirt in the girl’s section of the store, unless it is emblazoned with words like “cute” or “sexy”. There is mostly pink. And some purple.
That is not choice.
And yes I am a feminist. I believe that women should have a right to choose everything in their life. And I believe it should start when they are young girls. I chose to leave my career job to go have babies and a garden. It was a conscious decision I made in my 30’s. I want my girls to have choices, even at their young age.
My daughters have play food, dolls, animals, cars, tools, Lego (regular), and tons of outside toys, from skates, to bikes to scooters to hula hoops. They wear dresses, skirts, pants and shorts. They wear pink, brown, blue, green, yellow, red and purple. In fact, as I was writing this post, they were building with Lego together. Not once did they throw down the primary coloured Lego and scream “We can’t do this, Mama! We need PINK Lego!”
My daughters love science. I don’t need to go out and find them pink princess stuff to teach them science. I take what they are interested in and run with it. Right now it is space. I make sure that they know that there are female astronauts, female scientists, female engineers. I follow their lead in what they want to learn. And wow, do they ever want to learn! So I teach them.
They know Mae Jemison, Karen Nyberg, Kalpana Chawla, Eileen Collins. Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride, Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette. They already know, at ages 3 and 4 that they can be and do whatever they want. I follow their interests and encourage them.
Maybe they will lose interest in science. I don’t know. If they do, I can guarantee that it will not happen because it did not come wrapped up with a pretty pink bow in a princess package. It will be because they have made a decision that they want to pursue something else. And when they make that decision, I will be there to support them.
I don’t think that if “the system is broken” that we should just sit back quietly and do nothing about it. If you want to be progressive, and you have a great opportunity to, then do it. Why do things half way?
Bottom line. GoldieBlox sold out from their original ideal for the almighty dollar. (Read their aforementioned statement again if you have any doubt.)
I am a fighter. I stand up for what I think is right. I do this in every aspect of my life, from environmental issues to gender stereotypes.
I would encourage you to do some research about how companies market to children. I would suggest the documentary “Consuming Kids” as well as “CBC Doc Zone: Sext Up Kids”.
I would also encourage you to read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” as well as “The Achilles Effect”.
Gender stereotypes hurt our children. What are you going to tell your daughter when she grows up and realizes “princess” is not an attainable goal? And before you jump down my throat about boys playing “pirates” and “ninjas”, there is a huge difference. Pretend play is great for childhood development. But how many times have you said to a boy “Hey little ninja! You are so handsome!” And said it to them every day? Repetition is a large part of how children learn. And if every day, your little girl hears that she is a pretty princess, but hears nothing else, or an occasional “good girl” or “how smart”, and is constantly bombarded by unachievable body images, that is what she will think she needs to be. So why not give her more tools and choices than that?
This blog at https://www.facebook.com/PigtailPals sums it all up quite well:
“Stop believing the hype, “Well, if it gets girls building that is all I care about.” No. Just no. Have more faith in girls that they don’t need products dripping in the pink syrup and exhausted princess stories. Be brave enough to tell new, more daring stories. If you go there, the girls will come. They don’t need pink bread crumbs leading the way. Have the strength of your convictions.”
And the New Statesman has this to say.
“Yet what I find most odd is that while Lego are condemned for pinking and shrinking a gender neutral toy, Goldie Box are praised because there’s no gender neutral version with which to make a comparison. This doesn’t seem fair when ultimately the message is the same: there is real life and then there’s the girls’ version.”