Goldie Blox: Enabling Stereotypes in the Name of Marketing

A new company, Goldie Blox, is taking the internet by storm with its new ad campaign marketing their STEM products to girls. With a disproportionately low number of women in STEM fields (making up only 11%), the campaign, with its girl power attitude and video set to Beastie Boys music seems applaudable….on the surface. I heard about the ad campaign from several friends who were claiming the product was a must have for anyone with daughters. I beg to disagree.

I set out to watch the video, excited about the prospect of a campaign to promote more women in STEM fields. As a woman, as a scientist, as a feminist, as a mother, this was something I could get behind. As I watched the ad, my excitement quickly faded and was replaced with, I will just say it, disgust. The ad was nothing more than a well done marketing campaign which managed not to fight stereotypes, but reinforce them.

Let’s look at some of the key points:

Finally! STEM kits for girls! All of the previous products on the market (there are a lot; we own quite a few of them), shouldn’t be played with by girls (heavy sarcasm). Does Goldie Blox believe they have managed to produce the one STEM product that girls can play with, discounting the fact that girls, and boys, can play with anything regardless of color? It isn’t the color of STEM kits that is limiting girls. It is the attitude from society, from consumers, and from….marketers who target ad campaigns for gender specificity.

“You think you know what we want” screams the ad campaign. How could marketers possibly know what girls want? Just wait. The marketers at Goldie Blox want to tell girls what they want…or more importantly, the people spending money on these girls – those important people in a girl’s life who generally hold the most influence over them.

Pink and Pretty is out. I’ll admit, I have never been a fan of the pink and pretty campaign set out by society to limit girls and women. That doesn’t mean that pink and purple, or even pretty, are evil. Telling girls that they shouldn’t like something is just as debilitating as telling them they should like something. It is even possible for a girl to like math, science and pink. Or, on the flip side, for a boy to like pink and purple (which is even less acceptable than a woman in a STEM field).

Setting Girls up for the Future. Goldie Blox claims their goal is to get every girl building and that they are going to “level the playing field.” They then go on to explain that because girls have strong verbal skills, it is necessary to go about getting them interested in math in science in a different way. This leaves me wanting to hit my head against a wall, one which I am fully capable of designing and building myself and then writing about, thank you very much. The company seems to really believe that girls and women are at a disadvantage in the STEM world because they think differently, and therefore lose interest quickly. Despite admitting that “for over a hundred years [building toys have] been considered boys’ toys.” I really don’t understand how they can miss the point. It isn’t that girls aren’t capable of thinking in terms of math and science without special help. It isn’t that colors of products are not appealing. It is the societal presuure on girls to only do what others tell them.

Goldie Blox is selling you something, and it is more than their pastel colored toys (did anyone else catch that after their spiel about girls not liking pink, they sell products that are pastel with a large percentage of pink and lavender?). Goldie Blox is selling consumers pseudo-feminism in the guise of marketing.

 

Hitting Out of Fear

 Today is National Spank Out Day, I’m sad to say. In a society where we speak out against the hitting of women, against the hitting of racial minorities, against the hitting of animals, against the hitting and bullying of anyone, there are still a large number of people who think hitting children is perfectly acceptable or even necessary. It boggles my mind.

The thing is, parenting can be scary. We go through pregnancy with the child secure inside its mother’s womb, and then suddenly this little person is on the outside, completely dependent upon….us. Children depend on us for food, shelter, warmth, guidance, and love. It’s a lot to take on. The fact is that while some people who hit their kids really don’t care, most of the parents hitting their children actually love them and do so because they are afraid.

They are afraid….

  • that by not hitting their kids, society will deem them unfit parents.
  • that their children won’t respect them.
  • that their children will be hurt even worse.
  • of losing control.
  • of the pressures of life.
  • of not knowing what to do.
It’s a scary world out there, full of unknowns, but when it comes to parenting, you don’t have to be afraid! Your children come into this world knowing only you. You are everything to them. They look up to you. They love you. They just want to spend time with you and learn with and from you.
Forget about what other people might think. The only people who matter are your kids. Besides, haven’t you heard that you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because your friends did?
You won’t gain respect by hitting someone. In fact, you will lose it. Hitting a person, especially a smaller person, in order to control them is called bullying.
Hurting your child will not protect them in the future. Helping them navigate life and giving them tools and techniques to deal with life’s situations will.
There are a lot of things in life you can’t control, and that includes other people. Accept it. Deal with it if you need to, and then help your children to learn to control themselves.
Life can be rough, but that idea that your kids are born loving you? Still there. Come home to your kids and remember that no matter how bad life gets, they love you.
If you don’t know what to do, don’t resort to violence. Learn a new way. Learn how to help your children navigate that allowing your hurt to rule your actions.
In the end, no matter why some parents hit, they still make that choice. With every day and every situation, you have the opportunity to choose not  to hit. Your children love you. Live up to that love. Be deserving of the respect they want to show you. Be deserving of the love they freely give.

 photo credit: dhammza via photopin cc

Strong Female Characters – Not Just for Girls

Tome Reader

Photo by QQ Li

Children’s  literature abounds with books full of strong males, so much so that I actually get excited when a new book comes out showcasing a strong female just for the fact that there s a strong female in the book. It shouldn’t be that way. Our species has a general 1:1 gender ratio, changing a bit through various ages. In the old adage that art imitates life (or life imitates art), we should see a much larger number of female characters in books. We don’t. Of those female characters we do meet, most are secondary at best or portrayed as a weak character.

The idea of reading books with our daughters that showcase some of the stronger female characters isn’t new. I’m happy to say that most of the parents I know seek out books with strong female leads to share with their daughters. It’s an exciting thing to share good literature with someone you love, and while I would love to cheer this fact on, I’m left with an incomplete feeling: Why are they only sharing these books with their daughters?

Reality shows me that those parents of daughters looking for strong female leads for their daughters aren’t looking for those same books for their sons. The parents of only sons or of children whose daughters aren’t old enough for the more involved chapter books aren’t even looking (generalization, yes, but you see my point). There is a giant disparity here.

Books with strong female characters are not just for our daughters; they are also for our sons. Good books are good books, and given the opportunity, our sons enjoy books with strong female leads just as much as our daughters. Some of my ten year old son’s favorite books have strong female characters and female leads. A good book is a good book.

So why do parents search out to equalize the characters in books for their daughters but not their sons?  Those books with strong female characters show strength for our daughters but seem to be lacking for our sons. In other words, it is fine for girls to identify with male characters, but female characters are lacking when it comes to boys. It’s sexism in literature, and the majority of parents are unintentionally  perpetuating this concept with their children.

What can be done about it? Share good books, including those with strong female leads with your children, regardless of gender. Discuss books with your kids. Point out disparities, listen to their ideas, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

Georgia Bottoms

Georgia Bottoms

Georgia Bottoms is your typical Southern Belle – poised and confidant, a regular church goer, and great at organizing. In fact, she has all of her secret lives methodically hidden away from the others. 9/11 changes that and her carefully juggled details begin to collide with one another.

Mark Childress has reached a new level with Georgia Bottoms: A Novel. It isn’t a simple book about a stereotypical southern belle. Just like Georgia’s gentleman friends stand to point a finger against her, Childress throws the spotlight on racism, sex, drugs, religion, sexism, and the hands that throw the stones.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

My Son Wears Girls’ Shoes

As we were looking for sandals for this year, I grabbed a couple of pairs of blue sandals and showed them to my three year old. My only thoughts in the process were that they were the same brand that he had worn last year and liked and that they were various shades of blue – his favorite color. The sandals above are the ones he chose, as the other pair was exactly like his last pair except for being one size larger.

Not until after I was asking him which pair he liked did I glance at the rest of the sandals in the section and realize that these lovely shoes were actually girls’ shoes, as evidenced by the pinks and purples these were buried in between, whereas the cobalt blue shoes were in the midst of tan, black, and camo variations.

While they are a little bright for my taste, he loves them. There is no way I would tell him he couldn’t have a pair of shoes because they were for the opposite gender. He likes them. They fit. They are comfortable. They were affordable. What more matters?

Foreskins are Functional

Foreskins are functional. Most parents wouldn’t knowingly cut off a functional part of their infant’s body. In fact, it’s illegal to cut off the majority of infant body parts, excluding foreskins. However, most people aren’t quite aware of the function of the foreskin, assuming that it’s just a piece of skin. What they don’t realize is that piece of skin is there for a reason.

Photo by Yuri Samoilov

The male prepuce, commonly referred to as the foreskin, has a high concentration of blood vessels, nerves, nerve endings, muscle layers, and skin.

Muscle layers protect the urinary tract from contaminants, thereby decreasing urinary tract infections. At the same time, the foreskin covers the glans of the penis, protecting it from abrasion and irritation, and keeping it moist, making it more sensitive to stimulation. The foreskin also contains glands in the skin which work to keep the penis clean. Similarly, there are glands which produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins which protect against infection. The pH of the foreskin also cultivates beneficial bacteria; without beneficial bacteria, men are at a higher risk for UTIs.

The foreskin contains approximately 240 feet of nerves and 20,000 nerve endings. Logically speaking, the loss of such can have a dramatic effect on sexual pleasure later in life. Three feet of veins are included in the foreskin, along with up to 80% of the penis’s skin. Altered blood flow due to scar tissue can affect urinary tract flow and result in more UTIs.

Removal of skin and veins affects erections. When a penis becomes erect, it grows in size due to blood flow. Removal of the foreskin does not allow the erect penis to become fully erect outside the body, effectively shortening the penis and at times causing pain or discomfort for the man. During intercourse, a man’s foreskin allows the penis to move in and out without abrasion, making intercourse much more comfortable and pleasant for his partner.

Foreskins serve many roles. Say no to circumcision and protect a healthy body part.

The Care of Newborn Babies

Newborn babies are wonderful. They are snuggly and tiny, elliciting kisses and cuddles from their parents. Surprisingly enough for such tiny little people, they also are capable of making remarkable messes. Parents gingerly hand over these new little bundles to eagerly awaiting relatives with the warning to watch out for spit up. Many is the person who has had to go change shirts after holding  a baby.

Photo by Nina Matthews

The there are the diaper changes. If you are a parent, you’ve been there. All of my children have managed to pee on me at least once during the early days of changing diapers. The dirty diapers are even worse. Those first few days of meconium diapers have the consistency of tar. My husband once referred to it as toxic sludge. Good luck getting it off your hands without copious amounts of soap and water. Once that is past, those early breastmilk poos begin. The only times we have ever dealt with diaper blow-outs have been in those first few months, when the poo just tends to go everywhere. My husband only changes boy poo diapers. He’ll quietly whisper that “The poo goes everywhere. You’re a girl. You know how to deal with it.”

 The poo does seem to find it’s way everywhere. It’s manageable. You just have to keep wiping and hope that another round isn’t on it’s way in the mean time. Extra towels underneath help. However, for those parents that have chosen to have their male infants circumcised, they also have to deal with bleeding and open wounds. Just as poo goes everywhere, it will also end up on the circumcision wounds.
 
Any open wound is a possible infection site. Because circumcision wounds are located in a diaper which is continually being soiled, infections are quite common, including staph infections with the ever rising rates of staph in hospital settings, where most babies in the States are born. The new immune systems of newborn infants are less equipped to deal with infections. Antibiotics which are often used to treat infections have their own issues, killing good bacteria along the way and often resulting in thrush for the baby and nursing mother.
 
The truth is that any body part can become infected. However, choosing to cause an open wound in an area which is routinely in contact with feces doesn’t seem a prudent decision, especially when the alternative is to not do anything except wipe the area, intact penis included, with a wet wipe.

To Cover or Not to Cover: A Choice

Last year I wrote a blog post entitled a matter of choice… I had originally written it after a question from my then 5 year old daughter about a woman we saw who wore a head covering. Since I knew that Nursing Freedom was gearing up for the Carnival of Nursing in Public, I saved the post and it was initially published there.

I’m not the only one to write about the topic. Many have. Most recently, Annie at PhD in Parenting has produced a fantastic video on the topic.

Tearing Others Down

Photo by Mark Probst

A woman struggled with finding balance for her family, not easily fitting her desires with her reality. Posting to a group of other mothers looking for support about how to make the reality of her situation work for her, she was given many insightful responses. Inevitably though, the finger pointing began from someone.

It wasn’t finger pointing at the woman who origiially framed the question and asked for support. Instead, it was finger pointing at others whom this other person deemed to be uppity or fake. How could/dare they post about their wonderful life when she, herself, couldn’t manage everything in her world perfectly? Because her life wasn’t like that, obviously these other woman had to be lieing in their blogs, their books, their sharing…

No one is perfect and no one person can do everything, let alone everything perfectly. However, I’ve never once seen someone who claimed to be able to do just that. Personally, I’m on my own path, striving toward my beliefs and my own personal growth. I suppose someone could tear me down for writing this blog and sharing our parenting beliefs and practices, for sharing with others about my beliefs, for my goal of a peaceful life. The truth is, someone has. I’ve had my share of attacks because I live my life, or rather work hard in my attempts, the way I believe I should. I always wonder why someone who supposedly does not share my ideals would bother themself with my parenting when it has no impact on their supposed values or beliefs or cause any harm to others.

It seems to be a trait of our society to attempt to build ourselves up by tearing others down. We see it in the the so called mommy wars. The truth is, we can’t build one thing up by tearing down another. Physics will tell you that the first object won’t be any higher just because another object is lower. Destruction doesn’t result in construction.

That simple statement is important for parents to remember, as children learn this behavior from those who model it. Tearing our children down doesn’t help them to be better people. It isn’t constructive. Working together and finding amiable solutions which work for everyone allow our children to grow as people and to be the best that they can. Disparaging remarks about others does not equate encouragement.

The Wedding was Short

Photo by Kathryn Decker-Krauth

The wedding was short.

Ultimately, the bride, dressed in white playsilks, was unwilling. She repeatedly signed all done while saying “ah duh.”

The groom was unfazed by her lack of commitment, seemingly self-absorbed in his LEGO constructions.

The officiator tried to hurry the process along, in the vein of The Princess Bride, quickly saying “Man and wife.” This prompted a small historical overview of the premise behind those words from his mother, seated in the audience. He emphatically agreed that women are not property and vowed to change the words to “husband and wife,” henceforth.

The coordinator was not phased. Despite the fact that she had spent time paying attention to all of the little details, she took it in stride, declaring that they would try again, with a shuffling of characters, after the reception.

Then followed a delightful reception of gluten free vegan carrot cake with almond milk. Not to be thwarted in her next attempt at a wedding, the coordinator then declared herself to be the bride, and another wedding ensued.

The mother, who happened to be the mother of all parties involved, quietly left the room to hide her inoppourtune chuckling.