Yes, I Saw the GoldieBlox Video
This may be one of the most unpopular posts I write, but I’m going to say it anyway because… well… this is how I feel on the topic.
A lot of people sent me this Beastie Boys-inspired, GoldieBlox YouTube video yesterday, and it’s super cute. Three girls, bored by the pink-drenched toys they’ve been sold by the toy industry, set up an epic Rube Goldberg machine through their house that shoots them outside and toward a toy they really want: GoldieBlox.
I have every reason to be interested in GoldieBlox. It’s a toy created by a smart woman whose sole aim (beyond selling toys) is to introduce girls to STEM early in life based on realizing her own limitations in adulthood due to the toys she was given as a child. Rather than using those formative years playing out narratives while they wait for their prince to come, she wants girls understanding concepts in engineering because it will build life skills that will carry them well into adulthood. Sounds good.
I’m not getting my daughter GoldieBlox.
I’m not saying that if someone else gets my daughter GoldieBlox that we’ll return them or throw a fit, but I’m not going to spend my money on more toys that are gender-labeled. If the ChickieNob wants an engineering toy, she can play with the Quadrilla marble run we already own. She can engineer a marble monstrosity that will shoot marbles around the room that we won’t find for years to come. Or play with our Lego Mechanics set. It’s a non-motorized, non-programmable version of Lego WeDo. One box, dozens of projects with gears and pulleys and levers.
What I can’t do — and perhaps this is more a reality when you have boy-girl twins with similar interests, a small toy budget, and limited space — is buy gender-specific toys simply because a marketing team told my kids that something is for their sex. I feel that way about all toy companies, not GoldieBlox specifically. But I don’t want the ChickieNob (or myself) to get sucked into clever marketing. I don’t want her to have a knee-jerk, girl power reaction. I don’t want her to buy something just because the company is telling her that girls can do anything! They can, by the way. But the point is that it’s too easy to get sucked into the message and miss whether or not it’s actually a good toy. I have no clue if it’s a good toy, and I suspect that a lot of people who were drawn into the video also have no clue if it’s a good toy insofar as quality and value. But until I know that, I really don’t want to buy my kid something just because they have made a catchy, viral YouTube video.
Of course I want to punch the air and say, “hells yeah!” to those cool kids in the video, but I don’t believe for a second they actually set up that course on their own. I think it illustrates the point: that this is still a bunch of adults telling kids what they should like. Sure, it’s educational and reinforces ideas I’d like my daughter to hear (that it’s not only a good idea for her to strongly consider the STEM fields, but that STEM can be fun). But it’s still a product. They’re still being sold something. They’re still telling my kid what to think. What she should like. What she shouldn’t like. How she should spend her time.
They spend two straight minutes crapping on girls who like princesses and pink in order to make their point. There are girls out there who like princesses and pink. And that’s okay. It’s also okay if a girl completely rejects that toy narrative and writes her own story. And it’s also okay if she wants to be a princess scientist. If she wants to mix all of her interests into one non-gender-specific salad.
I want the ChickieNob to choose her own interests, and I want the rest of the world to respect her interests, whatever they may be. She will always be swayed by marketing — we all are. But just as my first instinct was “ooooh, me want” (I can’t even use correct grammar when I covet) when I saw the GoldieBlox video, I’m glad I have a second instinct that kicks in and says, “hey, we have toys that not only accomplish the same thing, but both my kids are welcome to play them.”
Because sometimes my daughter plays with other girls. And sometimes my daughter plays with boys. And I just want her to feel as if all the toys can be dumped in front of all people with the message “let’s play!”
I’m glad Debbie Sterling made her toy and got it out there on the market. I wish her a lot of luck in getting this toy into the right hands. Based on the reaction on Facebook, it seems very popular. I would encourage those excited parents to really look at the quality of the toy: how many hours of play will your child get from this set? Is there another toy on the market that accomplishes the same thing that costs less or contains more value per dollar? As I said, I know nothing about this product except what I saw in the YouTube video and her original TED talk. (Remember, I’m on a tight toy budget. Our motto is repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Or, “everything old is new again!” Or, “you’re not getting another toy. Play with what you own.”)
Sterling’s heart is in the right place. I’m just a cranky woman who is tired of people marketing to my daughter. The ChickieNob is asked by toy manufacturers to navigate a gender minefield, to make enormous statements with her toy choice, and to align herself with either the Princess-embracers or the Princess-rejectors. And she’s a little too complicated for that. She contains interest multitudes.
Plus that is too much pressure to put on a damn kid.
Please don’t miss my point: I want girls to use engineering toys. If GoldieBlox is what makes that happen, then I’ll be stepping up and cheering on GoldieBlox. But until I know more about this product, I can only comment on the presentation. And that YouTube video was a piece of really slick marketing. I almost forgot I was being sold something as I watched the obstacle course unfold.