Have you seen the commercial going around about the three girls who build an epic Rube Goldberg machine in their house? If you haven’t, here it is:
It’s from the makers of GoldieBlox, a company founded by Debbie Sterling, an Engineering major from Stanford who decided that she wanted to create something that is “disrupting the pink aisle” with products that encourage girls to get interested in engineering at an early age.
While I love the notion behind getting girls interested in fields that are predominately done by men, I have a problem with the way GoldieBlox goes about this.
My first gripe, pitting “girly girls” against “tomboys”. As a mother of a girl whose favorite colors are pink and purple, I want to encourage my daughter to not see liking “girly” things as a bad thing. She loves princess and mermaids. For Halloween this year she chose to be a pink unicorn. But you know what else she likes? Dinosaurs, legos and pirates. I don’t try to push her one way or the other. She likes what she likes. If she wants to dress up as a princess while building the tallest tower she can with legos, awesome. Go her.
When my son is old enough to pick out what he wants to play with, I’ll do the same with him as I do with my daughter. Exposing them to everything and letting them decide which direction they want to take it. I will not say that one thing is better than the other or that one is more girly or one is more boyish. I will not put down one choice and say that another is better or worse. By telling girls that they should be more than a princess or like things other than pink, we’re telling them that those things aren’t good enough. But what if that’s what they like? We don’t tell boys that they should be more than a pirate or like things other than blue. So why are we telling girls that they should be more? Why is wanting to be a princess at a young age such a bad thing?
Is it unrealistic to want to be a princess? Totally. But isn’t it also unrealistic to be Superman, a pirate, or even a dinosaur [that's what I wanted to be when I grew up]. There are plenty of positive princess role models out there, both fictional and real. I don’t see anything wrong with my daughter wanting to be one. The only way that it would be wrong is if that was the only choice I gave her and I was forcing her to choose pink because she is a girl. But I’m not. I’m letting her choose. When we walk around the toy store we don’t just go in the “pink aisle”, we go to all the aisles. It just so happens that when given the choice, she’s going to pick that purple and pink unicorn toy over anything else.
My second gripe is this, GoldieBlox wants to encourage girls to do “boy things” and get away from the “pink aisle” by creating a toy that is pretty pastel colors with princess and ballerinas on it? So you’re telling me that girls can do engineering but only if it’s watered down with princess and other things that are commonly marketed to girls? There are plenty of products out there that are gender neutral and don’t tell girls that if they have an interest in science or engineering then it needs to be “pretty”. I’d rather get my daughter an Erector set or GEARS! GEARS! GEARS! as a present to encourage building and engineering. Yes, the stories that go along with the GoldieBlox building projects are good but can’t the colors just be normal colors?
And now for my last gripe, there are only girls in the commercial. I get it, marketing to girls in a world that is dominated by boys, but you know what I would love to see? A commercial where boys and girls are playing together. I want to see a toy that is marketed to both genders. Sure most building and engineer type toys are already marketed to boys but how are you breaking stereotypes by telling kids that this toy is for girls?
For Christmas this year we got our son and daughter a train set. One that they will play with together. I want to teach my kids that there aren’t toys for boys and toys for girls but rather a toy is an everyone toy, not just one gender. How can we teach our girls to get out of the “pink aisle” if we’re still telling them that they need special toys that are different from the boy toys? If we want boys and girls to be equal then I think it makes a lot more sense to teach them that they are equal. That boys can play with dolls just as much as girls can play with Lincoln Logs.
In the end, I get what GoldieBlox is trying to do. I really do. Encouraging girls to be interested in engineering and science is awesome. The thing is GoldieBlox is doing it the same way every other gender specific toy out there does it. Marketing a product to girls using things that everyone else is telling girls they should like. Instead we should just read books like Rosie Revere, Engineer or How a House is Built to get our daughters interested in engineering and then buy them a Tinkertoy set and build something with them. That being said, I wouldn’t throw away a GoldieBlox toy if my daughter received one as a gift nor would I say she couldn’t have one if she asked because it definitely is a step above a lot of toys marketed to girls these days.