GoldieBlox & the Three Blog Posts, Pt. 3
If you find yourself addicted to reading Gap Junction Science coverage of Science! Toys! for! Girls!, check out our older post about Lego Lady Scientist.
However you feel, GoldieBlox is a fascinating cultural phenomenon. First there was the fundraising campaign on Kickstarter that raised almost twice it’s goal. Now there is the actual toy for sale, with a Rube Goldberg-y Beastie Boys-y advertising campaign. And, now, there is apparently a legal suit pending FROM GOLDIEBLOX (!) to preemptively make the legal case that the song can be used (as parody, since the new version is so clearly pro-girl, but the original version was clearly sexist) (and there are more complications since Adam Yauch, one of the original Beastie Boys who died recently, willed that none of his artistic output could be used for advertising). Anyway, many of love GoldieBlox (and the ads) and many of feel conflicted. Our first two posts (here and here) show the differences of viewpoints. So, because I’m like that, I asked some friends and colleagues who are feminist scientists and science-y feminists what they thought. I gave them no more than 1-5 min to craft their responses. Here they are!
Jodi Pawluski, Behavioral Neuroscientist:
I love the song and the obstacle course thing (mind blanking for proper term), and idea BUT I really wish toys were just gender neutral. This could also go for a lot of kids clothes. Why on earth are there boot cut fleece pants for 18m old girls and truck shirts only in the `boy`section? Seriously!
Meredith Chivers, Sex Researcher and Psychophysiologist:
Ok so I just watched the GoldieBlox vid again. My thoughts: it’s an improvement but the packaging still features a skinny Aryan girl (blonde & blue eyed — yes there’s is irony in that coming from a blonde & blue eyed woman) and the toy is still in pastel colours. So it bugs me.
Ok — the toy. So I like the idea in theory but then there’s the packaging & colour. And that this experience of creating machines is being marketed instead of kids discovering engineering on their own. But maybe this is a step in between — bridging between the pink-princess-frill-o-thon tiresomeness and girls creating their own stuff without the goldiblox seal of approval?
And the BBs — well that’s just hilarious because it’s the BBs. I like the song reinvention more than the toy actually but that’s the magic of marketing. GoldieBlox is about purchasing a dose of feminism but perhaps not about cultivating STEM from an early age. But maybe, just maybe, it might give girls like me another choice in the toy aisle. But still, and perhaps this is me just romanticizing my childhood, there was something even cooler about making kinetic machines and building stuff on my own…about making mazes for my hamsters out of shoe boxes, building stuff in my dad’s workshop. I had an engineer for a dad who believed that girls could do anything so I never felt gender stereotyped boundaries. Will a toy like GoldieBlox change the minds of parents who hold more gender stereotyped ideas? I don’t know.
So, in summary, it’s an improvement but I would be even more exited if it weren’t pastel colours and didn’t feature a white blonde bombshell kid on the packaging.
(Editor’s Note: The advertising campaign only shows the blonde girl. I should point out that a follow-up GoldieBlox toy has an African American princess girl on the cover alongside the blonde blue-eyed girl.)
Alyson Ford, Astronomer:
about GoldieBlox… my initial reaction was “those toys look awesome but why do they have to be those horrendous colours?” I don’t like how those colours make them a “girl” toy but I suppose at least some parents may buy them for their daughters because it is a “girl” toy. I never got Legos as presents; perhaps I would have had they been available in purples and pinks (like the new Lego friends series… shudder)
Jennifer Cummings, Behavioral Neuroscientist:
I love it! I saw the original video for GoldieBlox and loved the idea. Fingers crossed it gets out there for others to see, too!
I love the idea of encouraging girls to explore and play with what are typically considered to be ‘male’ toys, that they aren’t limited by their sex to play with ‘girl’ toys (although I do understand sex diffs in children’s play and that they gravitate towards dolls and stuffed animal anyway). I just want girls to know that they can do whatever they want to, that they can excel in any field, as long as they work hard. Does that begin with building toys? Who knows, but I’m willing to try!
Jacinta Beehner, Biological Anthropologist:
I think it depends on what “world” we are in. Maybe gender-neutral engineering toys would work in some places, but something like this might actually work better in other places where parents (and kids!) may already be so gendered they won’t think to buy (or play with) an engineering toy unless the box is pink. It could be a start in the right direction if the goal is developing skills in physics (or engineering or whatever).
Ryan Burns, Electrical Engineer:
I thought the commercial was great, then the art on the box seemed concerning, and finally the contraption itself left me with the question: wtf are these toys and what do they do exactly?
Also, didn’t the lyrics say all their stuff is pink, and then they’re selling a pink product at the end?
Carolyn Phillips, Computational Scientist:
I agree with Jodi (Rube Goldberg Device, Jodi), that I also wish that the toys were more gender neutral. I feel like I grew up with a number of gender neutral toys (Legos, Playmobil) although they weren’t, as they only had a single, if any, female characters. (As an aside, I tended to like creating stories. My brother tended to like building contraptions. We played together wonderfully.) When I got older I had a number of gender neutral toys that I requested, such as robot toys, science kits, etc. Young kids however, seem developmentally very into investigating gender and defining what goes with each gender. So maybe a targeted toy and campaign toward children at that age to say “this is also for girls” is developmentally appropriate?
I feel like I should add that while, I never felt like I was not my biological sex, I did not feel comfortable with the expectations on my gender ever and actively chose against them. Which may be why I became a woman in the STEM fields. Which is to say, I am not/was not the target audience for this sort of campaign, and that is okay.
Editor’s Note: You KNOW you have an opinion about GoldieBlox. The toy and campaign are like anchovies: no one is neutral. Give us your thoughts! Not on anchovies because they are objectively delicious!