Random header image... Refresh for more!

Traitor

I was fairly nervous to post what I wrote about GoldieBlox.  I had no problem with people disagreeing with me — believe me, if we didn’t already own toys that were similar and much more versatile than GoldieBlox, I could have seen myself considering it.  I knew I would be annoyed if people didn’t give it a close read and skipped down to the comment section to start stating their own thoughts before they finished the post.  But mostly, I wondered if not supporting another woman made me a traitor.

It’s an idea that came up a lot with the 2008 election: were you a traitor to women if you chose Barack Obama as the nominee over Hillary Clinton?  It’s something that Josh and I discuss every so often: are you a traitor towards other Jews if you speak critically about other Jews?  There are enough outsiders speaking ill of both groups — women and Jews.  (The list is much bigger in terms of groups that are shat upon.  I’m just listing these two because they’re my example.)  Isn’t it worse if it comes from the inside, from someone who is part of the group?

I know there are some women who will say yes, to not support the work of another woman is to be a traitor towards women.  But by that definition, I should support the work of Michelle Bachmann.  Anyone who has spent any time on this blog is probably snorting over the idea of me lending my support to Michelle Bachmann.  But that is what it means to blindly give your support to another in the group.  It means to ignore the message itself and to only consider the messenger.

And while I can do that when it comes to close friends and family — to stand by them in support regardless of how I feel about what they are saying or doing — I can’t say that it’s healthy to extend the same to strangers.  It would mean extending support to 50% of the world’s population.  I understand the sentiment that there are enough men holding back women that we don’t need women holding back women too.  But I’m uncomfortable with the idea of giving someone support simply due to their sexual organs.

And yet, at the end of the day there is the other side of the truth: all things being equal, I tend to support those within my group over those outside my group.  If there were two toys, both equally good, and one was made by a woman and one was made by a man, I’d probably lean towards buying the toy by the woman.  Just because.  If all things were equal and there were two candidates, one a Christian man and one a Jewish man, I’d probably choose the Jewish man.  Just because.  Why are we so keen to support complete strangers who happen to share one defining quality?  It’s a natural instinct to want something good for a member of your group, especially if we believe that good begets good.  If I have your back, you’ll have mine.

Hopefully it was understood that I was critical not of Debbie Sterling nor GoldieBlox itself but of the idea of blindly saying, “this rocks!” without actually knowing anything about the toy.  Because I still haven’t actually found anyone in the mainstream media discussing the toy, only how awesome the kids were in the video or the fun song or the amazing Rube Goldberg machine or the message behind the product.  I keep waiting to find someone writing about the toy itself.  But none of the mainstream coverage contained a review of the GoldieBlox.  Whether it’s a well-made toy.  Whether it has value.  For instance, why should I spend $29 on GoldieBlox when I can spend $49 on Lego and get 50 set activities and limitless creative ones?  There could be a very good reason for why I should buy GoldieBlox over Legos, but I’ve yet to hear it.

I’ve only been told that I should support it because we need to be supportive of smart women who step forward with good ideas.

And that’s my problem with the coverage; and I understand that this is partially because things move so quickly on the Internet that we need to react quickly because the next viral video or bit of news is coming down the conveyor belt like chocolates in an I Love Lucy episode.  We need to watch, post to Facebook, and move on. And maybe this product is worth supporting, or maybe it’s not.  But I don’t want to support a project just because it was created by a woman.  I want to support a project because it’s a sound product that fills a niche missing in the toy industry that also happens to be made by a woman.

And maybe that makes me a traitor.

24 comments

1 Nicoleandmaggie { 11.21.13 at 7:44 am }

Like one of the people in the last post said, it is important to think about why you’re not supporting something. Sometimes we are more affected by our implicit biases that we realize. Especially (research shows) when we don’t think we have implicit biases.

It is fine not to buy a product–we probably won’t be buying goldilocks. But why is it causing a backlash? What are our priors? Is there any way they could have introduced a toy for girls that isn’t pink or princessy without getting shut down? Remember that Lego went the other direction with its friends kits and got an equally large backlash for being too girly.

2 a { 11.21.13 at 8:15 am }

I read the amazon reviews before I decided not to buy. But I am part of a subset of women who work in STEM, and I’ve already got plenty of ideas on how to entice my daughter into those fields. She’ll be cooking/doing chemistry once I backpedal on the dangers of being near the stove. She builds structures now with boy/girl Lego sets. She treats her stuffed animals with the Pet Vet set my mom bought for her. We’re not limited by the marker but by our own natural inclinations. If we prefer dressing up dolls, we’ll never venture into the science toy aisles. If we don’t game, our kids have to pick that up from elsewhere. If we don’t enjoy reading fiction, our kids will probably prefer to watch the movie rather than read the book. So, the Goldieblox concept is excellent for people who don’t have the interest for themselves, but want their daughters to have more varied interests and aren’t sure where to start.

I support the company – I went and voted for the charmimg commercial to be shown during the Superbowl. I think it’s great…for other people. I hope she’s very successful. And if there is further product development, I may end up buying it.

3 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 11.21.13 at 8:19 am }

So first of all, someone passed me this defence of Bachman, which I thought was interesting:
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2013-11-19-in-defence-of-a-lion-killer/#.Uo4FKKX_Tx5

Although I’m not entirely sure I trust the writer’s agenda – I’d want someone more neutral to verify the data for me – but it’s definitely a perspective to consider. The guy does bring a gender-politics angle into it as well, so there’s more crossover between this post and that than may first appear.

Back to your point. One thing that struck me at the end of the video was that I’m still not sure exactly what the toy is (never mind how good it is). And one half of me wanted to find out and the other half was put off because it seemed a tad “girls can do anything” campaign (and I have issues see: my childhood memories of school). (Still working through them.)

Here’s where I think Goldieblox fits in: your Grandma (actually not your Grandma because your Grandma grew up during the Depression and between the wars and she darn well learnt to be every bit as self-reliant as a man and maybe even had a career in politics not long after the suffragette era and/or went around in shirt sleeves at her factory job so let’s say your baby-boomer maiden Aunt instead) your *baby-boomer maiden Aunt* wants to be all modern and gender equality and everything but she just can’t shake the idea that girls inherently like pink.

Enter Goldieblox. Because she firmly believes that girls can be engineers *despite* being girls!

Very clever marketing and I support that. But if you’re more modern and gender-equality comfortable than your maiden Aunt, and you believe that girls can be engineers *full stop*, then the toy should pass or fail on its merits alone, regardless of packaging. (Hey! Just like women themselves!)

And at the moment, like you, I’m not 100% sure whether or not it does.

So. Let’s calm down and address that and until then you’re not really impressing me (which is a shame, because it looks like you went to a lot of trouble with your hair and makeup and cleavage when all I really wanted to see was your resume).

4 Pepper { 11.21.13 at 8:20 am }

I don’t think you’re a traitor, I think you just give things more thought than the average person. I do tend to support women simply because they are women with good ideas, but I really try not to do so blindly. It’s a tough position – your analogy to the 2008 election was spot on.

5 a { 11.21.13 at 9:11 am }

Aerotropolitan Comitissa – different Bachmann. Michelle Bachmann is a politician who is ultraconservative and kind of nutty with it. I was unaware of the dust-up with your Melissa Bachman. Sure, people oppose hunting, but given the presence of several extremely successful major hunting outfitters (Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s, probably more) in the US, I think they’re in a minority. Although, I would suppose that Mel would not support Melissa Bachman either, since she doesn’t seem like the hunting type. 🙂

6 MeAndBaby { 11.21.13 at 9:11 am }

Hmm. Now I feel a bit of a traitor too because while I like the GoldieBlox idea, I’ve always thought pink tools targeting women were dumb. Why do they have to be girly? Why can’t women use a hammer, drill and screwdriver that is not pastel? I mean I guess if they prefer the color of a tool but women using regular tools to me show more strength. I mean it’s a tool. Not a purse.

That being said, I like the idea that for kids there are toys targeted to girls that are not princess-y. If they gravitate towards that instead of a tiara, and that’s what it takes for people to buy it for them, and it introduces more than a fairy tale, I’m all for it. And I like supporting women. And I only have sons. Go figure.

7 MeAndBaby { 11.21.13 at 9:15 am }

I should also add that one of my twins went through a “everything pink” phase. And I supported that fully. He’s over it for some reason and part of me is a little sad about it.

8 FKADL { 11.21.13 at 9:24 am }

I don’t know why there is such an aversion to pink. It’s just a color. I can resell a blue bike to 100% of the population but pink to only 51% (statistically speaking).

I do buy some things that are girl oriented and some that are gender neutral. I work in STEM so I expect my daughter will be more interested as a result of leading by example and not because I bought her a toy and expected her to play with it by herself.

9 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 11.21.13 at 9:33 am }

The reason you should like and support GoldieBlox is because they aren’t just pink Legos. They’re open-ended building toys that engage girls by using a storyline to encourage building. They aren’t toys intended to be building sets a la Legos for girls who are *already into* that sort of thing– they’re intended to attract girls who otherwise might *not* think that they could or should be into building stuff. Whether we like it or not, gender-typical girls are more socially-driven than boys. And despite encouragement to the contrary, they get the message from society that they should read and be quiet and sweet and clean and not bother with all that science-y stuff. While I think this toy has merit for *any* kid, I think it is intended as the perfect gift for the girl in your life who maybe *isn’t* as excited about Legos or tinker toys or other building sets. It’s perfect for a girl who loves to read, as it engages the child by using a story, and slowly draws them into problem-solving using the parts included. And there are plenty of stories coming that use these parts as well, and the toy also encourages children to use the set in ways that *aren’t* dictated in the book.

So, no. This is not a Lego replacement. And if your girl is already bent in that direction, more power to her, and you probably won’t find as much value in this set as you would in another set of Legos. But for the girl who’d rather get lost in a story, this can be a toy that might open her to an experience that she otherwise wouldn’t pursue. And hey, maybe she tries it and it’s still not for her, and she’d still rather sit in her reading nook and dream of Galadriel. But maybe she tries it and realizes that, hey, she’s pretty good at this building stuff, and that hey, this building stuff is fun, and hey, maybe next year, I’ll ask for some K’nex for my birthday, and hey, maybe I *will* go ahead and take pre-algebra instead of regular math because I discovered that I’m pretty good at problem solving.

I don’t know. I just can’t see how this toy could be a bad thing, and if I had girls, it would definitely be on my list this year. (And sure, the commercial is awesome and I love the Beasties, but even if their commercial didn’t rock my socks off, I’d probably still have the toy on their list.)

10 Kasey { 11.21.13 at 9:55 am }

I love that you make me think about these things.

11 Tigger { 11.21.13 at 10:20 am }

There are people who do bad things, have sucky ideas, and generally shouldn’t be supported in all walks of life – heritage, race, gender, sex, age. We should not just blindly support someone because they happen to fall in our particular group. You are choosing not to support this product simply because you already have something like it and having redundant toys is worthless…not because you hate the product. It’s a very valid reason not to support a thing. I do not believe you to be a traitor. 🙂

12 LC { 11.21.13 at 10:40 am }

I don’t think you’re a traitor, but this post helped clarify for me why I wanted to respond to the previous post. You thought the video was cool (even if the probability of any child around the age of those girls creating such a complex Rube Goldberg machine is very small), but didn’t understand what the product was that was being sold.

As Kate eloquently put it above, this isn’t a Lego replacement. It’s sort of a cross between Tinker Toys, K’nex and the American Girl books. You get this box with some sticks, blocks, spools, little characters and a book. As you read the book, you’re prompted to build along with the protagonist. At the end, you’ve actually built a thingy that has parts that move. The last few pages of the book are pictures of things that you can make with the parts in the box. The first generation of the first box had a book that was spiral bound. That way you could stand the book up and have it open to a particular page to work through the activities. So awesome. The current version is just a paperback book. It’s harder to keep open to a particular page, but probably costs less to produce.

The stories are short and each page is a rhyming couplet. They’re definitely aimed toward early readers. But the pictures are awesome and the addition of the building instructions doesn’t detract or distract from the story.

13 FurrowedFox { 11.21.13 at 12:26 pm }

I love that you stopped to think about the actual product and didn’t allow yourself to be swayed by the hype alone. I confess…as soon as I saw the ad I went looking to buy some for my niece. I had heard about this long ago when it was just a prototype and was excited to see it had finally come to market. But you’re right. The toy should succeed or fail on its merits alone. Ultimately I would really like to see toys marketed to kids. Not girl toys. Not boy toys. Not even girl themed boy toys like GoldieBlox. Just toys. For kids. Of all ages.

14 Ana { 11.21.13 at 12:29 pm }

Hmmm. The more I read about this the more I’m considering buying it for my son, who also prefers to get lost in a story (and by the by really really really loves pink). The idea for the toy (connecting stories with building) is clever, and I agree with those that said the audience of the marketing campaign is not you, but the girls/mothers/grandmothers that go down the “girl” aisle and pick out the gifts and would never consider a traditional Lego set or building toy. Similarly, I hope they make “boy” baking sets and dolls soon, because 90% of our toys come from grandparents and other older relatives that never think outside the traditional gender box. Thus, with 2 boys, our house is full of cars, balls, Legos and trains and our sons are clothed in dinosaur/monster/vehicle covered clothing.

15 Ana { 11.21.13 at 12:33 pm }

Oops sorry. That comment was meant for the last post.
Re: this post. No of course you are not a traitor. I agree completely with your method of “everything else being equal”. In this situation everything is certainly not equal. You think other toys are better and better-suited to your family. There you go. Spinning it around, if you chose to NOT buy the better-suited toy because it was created by a man (or a Christian, or whatever)…what would that be considered?

16 Mia { 11.21.13 at 12:59 pm }

Right now, my only problem with it is that it is marketed to girls specifically. I am all for toys that appeal to everyone. Is it possible to have this type of building toy for everyone? Or can it only be for girls? Yes, I have a son as well, and am always interested in gender neutral, non-stereotyped sets and toys for him. He loved his pink stroller that he used to use to push his stuffed animals around, now he is more aware of color choices and as much as I tell him colors are for everyone, he gets mixed messages from the world around him. Aren’t toys for every kid, too? I’m all in favor of increasing the number of females who are working in STEM careers. But I’m also in favor of nurturing creativity and problem solving skills for all children. We need great thinkers! Of all kinds! No, Melissa, I don’t think you’re a traitor. You’re an educated, thoughtful consumer.

17 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.21.13 at 1:46 pm }

Toy aside, I’ve done a lot of thinking about Truth vs Loyalty. I found myself pulled in two one time between a woman who made my work life easier (she had the power to make it easier or harder) and the costs of my loyalty to her, namely overlooking certain things that tugged at my integrity (vague? why, yes.). It was excruciatingly painful to be caught between the two.

I wanted to choose Truth but disloyalty was unthinkable (“Traitor!” — ugh). I couldn’t choose Loyalty because it tied my stomach in knots.

So that’s my problem with loyalty. Now that some time has passed, I hope to structure my interactions so that I never slide into that chasm again.

Question: If you were to choose between two candidates, a Christian woman and a Jewish man, other things being equal, which loyalty would prevail?

Finally, of course you’re not a traitor.

18 Rebecca { 11.21.13 at 1:53 pm }

Thinking I’m glad to be blissfully unaware right now and not able to give an opinion. Oh and Hi from ICLW.

19 Alexicographer { 11.21.13 at 2:50 pm }

Hmmm. I probably won’t be buying these for my (boy)child, and maybe I should, though I don’t buy many toys for my child, anyway, so I’d more have to be convinced that I should-go-out-and-buy-these-things-of-a-type-I-don’t-usually-buy-at-all rather than debate-whether-this-example-of-a-thing-I-buy-regularly-is-one-example-I-should[n’t]-buy.

Sort of like a distinction how if I saw ostrich meat on sale at my market and bought it it would just be replacing one sort of meat with another whereas if you (Mel) bought it, it would be buying an item that’s part of a category of items (meat) that I don’t think you buy, ever (or am I misremembering that you are vegetarian?). Except in this case I’m more like the vegetarian (maybe) and you’re more like the person considering whether to try a new type of meat, or not.

As for the in-group, out-group thing, I think the research is pretty clear that pretty much all humans do this pretty extensively (even) without intending to or realizing it and I don’t really imagine that I’m too different from average. But personally, philosophically, I’m more inclined to want to seek to increase diversity, so if I saw a woman running for Senate, that would (other things equal) be in her favor, but not so if I saw a Caucasian, though both attributes would put me in the same group as them. And honestly in those cases neither attribute would (come close to) trump party/platform, which I take as the more useful predictor of behavior in that case, but sure, for other things I’d engage in “affirmative action.” Though I don’t, honestly, have enough data to know who designs/sells most mass-produced toys (white Christian men? I’m guessing?) or care enough to find out (see above about not buying toys!).

(The only things *I* have put on my son’s gift list so far this year are books (though I keep meaning to add thermal underwear!), and the only thing I’ve bought for him so far for the impending gift season is an alarm clock, and I’ve literally never bought him Legos — he plays with my childhood Legos that my mother brilliantly saved, plus a few kits friends have given him. So. My claim that I don’t buy toys has some data to support it!)

20 It Is What It Is { 11.21.13 at 5:15 pm }

I am surprised that it is weighing on you. I was also surprised that you felt that the original post on the subject was going to be so controversial. I simply didn’t read it that way, didn’t think that way and don’t think you are a traitor.

Gosh, I hope as women we can see through the fallacy of blindly supporting either other women, or women designed products or women owned business just for the sake of it. We MUST use our power for better than that. Not everything conceived of by a woman and certainly not the things marketed to women (pink BIC pens come to mind or hammers with pink rubber handles) are better than the original product.

I don’t have girls but I have always been concerned with Disney’s princessification of them.

21 RookieMom Whitney { 11.21.13 at 5:43 pm }

I relate to this post 100% without having read your previous one about GoldieBlox. I have GoldieBlox and I don’t love it. I do love that video, simply because it’s fun to watch and I love the spirit of it. Would I recommend GoldieBlox to a friend? No, I would — and have — invited them to borrow ours because we won’t miss it. The pieces don’t stay together and so it’s an exercise in frustration to use it. Do I want to leverage my social media platform to let the world know that this toy is frustrating to play with? No, because I hate to publicly criticize the female entrepreneur who has a really awesome idea. I get pitched lots of products for kids and babies, most of which I snort and roll my eyes at, but I hesitate to do it publicly because I don’t want to stomp on someone’s dream. Especially not another mom who saw a need in the market, just like I did for my mom-centric content 8 years ago. Maybe those folks will find their audience, and it’s just not me.

22 Queenie { 11.21.13 at 8:29 pm }

I’m with Kate. The toy is fun for kids who maybe aren’t super into Legos, but aren’t quite old enough for K’nex (I think it’s marketed to too high an age range, by the way). My almost four year old loves to tinker with EVERYTHING, but she’s really into things that move. Legos are a bit too static for her…she bores of them. She likes the Goldieblox because you can build things that move (it’s a simple belt drive in the first set, with ribbon and wheels), and there are little rubber figurines that can be put on top of the wheels and spun around. She likes to see how she can configure the ribbon and wheels to make as many spin at the same time as possible, for example.

And then there’s the story that is included, which adds another layer. It not only draws children in by telling the story, but it teaches the skill (ie, how to build a belt drive) along the way.

Also, I don’t think you are the target audience for this toy, because you own similar toys. You think outside the box. you avoid stereotyping your kids. but not everyone does. Consider this: In 2011, only 9% of Lego sets sold in the US were for girls. 2011!!!! The next year, after they introduced Lego Friends (which also launched a gender-related backlash) 27% of their US sales were for girls. That’s a pretty big jump. The point is, kids don’t buy their own toys. It all starts with toy buyers’ attitudes. With attitudes the way they still clearly are, in order for many, many girls to have access to these types of toys, gender-focused toys may need to exist (see Ana’s comment for one example).

Which is a long way of getting to saying that ou are not a traitor–you are en educated consumer, and while the marketing is slick, it also does a poor job of product description. But it IS a toy we like in our house. Unlike Whitney, our pieces stay together just fine.

Ooh, I like Lori’s question. What’s the answer?!

23 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 11.22.13 at 1:16 am }

@a thanks for the clarification- not a good week for Bachman(n)s then! I guess not having heard the other story I leapt to conclusions.

I think Kate (Bee in Bonnet) has a good point. And for girls who’ve been taught that boy-marketed toys are “not for them”.

But really I don’t think you’re a traitor for judging things/people based on their overall value rather than the packaging.

24 KeAnne { 11.22.13 at 9:56 am }

I definitely don’t think you are a traitor. This is a bizarre example, but I kind of felt the same way when Sarah Palin was selected as McCain’s running mate. My knee-jerk reaction was to dislike her b/c of her stance, but then I felt weird about it, like should I try to support her because she is a working mom, even though she’s on the wrong (to me) ticket? This was the first few days after her selection, so before she started to reveal her craziness.

I’m so confused about toys. So, if we want girls to play with tools, is it better to make it in pink so it might appeal to them or do they need a brand new type of toy that acknowledges they think differently and have different interests? Or should we give them the toy hammer in the orange color it comes in?

It seems like all of these toys are trying to do the same thing – get girls to play with them – but everything has become so political, it’s difficult for me to figure out what the correct approach is.

Leave a Comment

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author