Friday, November 16, 2012

Please Don't Buy My Daughter This Toy

Every day one or more of my friends re-posts the link to this GoldieBlox video on Facebook. My friends tend to be highly intelligent and typically very highly educated folks, which is why this affinity for girly blocks with ribbons puzzles me. This toy really bugs me.

GoldieBlox appears to be a fancy building toy with polka-dot pink ribbons and small *clothed* animal figures atop yellow pylons. More about the pylons later. Apart from the girly colors (pastels: pink and purple, yellow and blue) and girly trappings (ribbons, tiny cute animals), what makes this girl-friendly? It comes with a book, because, as the designer informs us, girls like to read! Unsurprisingly, the heroine of the book is a slender white girl with long blonde hair. Little girls are supposed to read the book(s) to learn how to play with the toy. That would seem to delimit what the kids can actually do or "build" with the toy, wouldn't it? Building toys are about stimulating the imagination: "hey kid! I challenge you to make something you haven't even dreamt up yet!" I honestly think the designer had more fun creating the prototype than any child will have playing with the toy. And that leads me to the pylons.

Photo credit: Susan Burdick Photography

They were originally spools of thread. Look at this prototype! Doesn't it look like it was super-fun to put together? The designer got to make something out of wood, paper, markers, and other mundane  things found in most homes. I used to do stuff like this when I was little--make shit out of the shit that was just lying around. I made dolls out of rocks, and houses for them out of macaroni boxes. (Because even as a child I was interested in domesticity.) I'm pretty sure Mathilde will end up making stuff like that, too. When she's not inventing potions with the chemistry sets her father will inevitably give her.

I just don't believe that girls need special building toys any more than Ellen thinks women need special pens. If the point is to get little girls interested in the STEM fields, then give them regular building toys, more often, and play with them together. Girls of my generation were frequently told that we weren't good at math because we were girls. We need to change the messages that little girls hear (at school, at home, in the media), not change the toys.

One of my biggest beefs with this toy--and with the inane video being used to spread the good news about it--is that this commendable motive to introduce girls to engineering is obliterated by the stunningly pretty femme designer's heart-felt "more than just a princess" slogan. This clever marketing ploy is precisely why all my educated feministy friends are buying the message (if not the product). People, listen up: even though the toy's designer claims it's an anti-princess project (not her exact words, OK), it's still a very gendered gender-specific building toy. Pink! Ribbons! Pretty blonde girl heroine! Tiny animals wearing tiny clothes! I will buy Mathilde REGULAR Legos, blocks, Lincoln Logs, and K'Nex instead. My girl can read the awesome books she already has, and use her *imagination* to build things with non-gender-specific toys. She may choose to build dollhouses, or treat the smallest Lincoln Logs as babies. But she doesn't need a special girl-only product to do this. (And she is, by the way, up to a 4-block tower these days!)


Rachael said...

I agree 100%. It's all over my facebook page, too, and I haven't (yet) been bold enough to leave a comment to point out that this toy is completely anti-feminist, no matter how quaint the intentions of the designer.

Yes, we need to empower girls to build and create, but not in a separate pink ghetto with pretty ribbons. Ugh.

Patti Auburn said...

You know I gonna buy that toy for her, right?