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.


Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Peggy Orenstein, an award-winning writer, author, and speaker concerning issues affecting girls and women, is set to come out with a new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, this week. As an author with reportedly over 20 years of writing about women’s issues, I expected more from the book. Written in a blog-like manner, it tends to be more fluff, containing more anecdotal evidence than scientific research.  The concepts, while not new, still hold merit. However, I believe Orenstein would have been better off condensing the topics to the pertinent matter and writing a series of articles rather than compiling them into a book.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

After the first few chapters, I began to think I never wanted to read nor hear the word pink again. More depressing is the fact that she is correct in her descriptions of our consumerist run society. Market campaigns play a much larger role in our daughters’ self-views than ever before. As the author states, rather than giving girls freedom from the traditional stereotyped constraints, companies are merely packaging those constraints in a way that is geared to convince girls to chose them.

In a world where every little girl is expected to idolize packages princesses and where our home, free of the typical character royalty, is unique even among more progressive thinkers, the concepts are thought provoking for some and old hat to others. The book had potential but fell short. Readers would be better off checking out Packaging Girlhood

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Cinderella Ate My Daughter from Harper Collins Publishers.

I’m a little teapot…

As a small child, I was dragged to dance lessons by my grandmother, decked out in head to toe pink. I hadn’t asked for dance lessons. My grandmother was always trying to turn me into something else, and apparently I wasn’t girly enough for her tastes. Since she was paying, she could dictate the pink. I don’t remember a lot about dance lessons. I didn’t particularly enjoy any of it: the pink, the emphasis on performing for others (always big with my grandmother), or ballet. When a new teacher started and had us doing more tap and jazz, which I enjoyed much more, my grandmother yanked me out and switched me to a different dance school. I do, however, remember being forced to sing and dance to a song I felt was horrible even then.  

I’m a little teapot, short and stout.

Here is my handle, and here is my spout.

When I get all steamed up, here me shout,

“Tip me over and pour me out.”

After learning this in class, I was forced to perform the rendition for my grandmother’s friends, decked out in pink, naturally – the perfect, demure little girl. At the time, the entire ordeal bothered me, although I hadn’t yet connected what it was teaching young girls. Wear pink – be sweet, innocent, and demure; do what others tell you to. Be the teapot – small and dependable, always there for her husband. Don’t show emotion; hold it inside, where it will inevitably build up. Offer your handle and allow others to use you.

That may be a little extreme for some, but you can’t deny that emotion is discouraged in our society. Women, while sometimes allowed to show fear or to cry, should never be angry about anything. That wouldn’t be sweet, innocent, and demure.

I spent my chilhood like that, pretending that nothing bothered me. I carried that into my relationships when I began dating, letting boyfriends walk over me and pretending that it didn’t bother me. I ended up marrying a great man, but even then, I didn’t show that I was bothered by anything. I stored the little things that bothered me until I was so full it erupted. When that happened, we would argue and I would spout a list of things that had been bothering me for months.

We went through that cycle until I learned to air my grievances as they happened. It was okay for me to have emotion and by acknowledging my emotions as they came, they didn’t turn to anger, festering until they erupted. It took me a long time to learn that. It’s something I hope to help my children know from the beginning. Emotions are good and acceptable, no matter what they are. They are the litmus as to whether or not our needs are being met. They are part of our humanity. I hope my daughters have a healthier view of relationships than I started with. I won’t be teaching them to sing, I’m a Little Teapot.

pretty in pink…

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Walk into any baby section of a clothing store and one will notice two distinct sections – the blue section, rift with sports themes, cars, and puppy dogs – and the pink section, with flowers. Companies have been marketing gender differences for years, although they’ve raised the bar. It doesn’t end with clothing anymore. Large ticket items are now included in this marketers’ dream. As a mother of four recently told me, she had difficulty finding a gender neutral infant only carseat for her last child.

While engendering everything is great from the company’s viewpoint (compelling parents to buy new when they have a second child of opposite gender rather than reusing an item), from a societal stance, it’s disturbing. No longer are babies free from genderism. Forget even buying gender neutral clothing for little ones. While one might luck out and find a few newborn items in yellow or green, after that the challenge is greater. When I recently went to purchase some new onsies for my new daughter, I was hard pressed to even find purple in the sea of pink.

When I was pregnant with our first child, I was bound and determined that our children would not fall prey to this forced genderization. We bought green and yellow clothing with a few blues (after all, I’m a girl and blue is my favorite color). When our son was born and then outgrew the 0-3 month sized clothes, we quickly realized how hard it was to find clothes without sports or trucks, or even dogs. We didn’t give up, though. He looked smashing in oranges and bright colors. When strangers would comment on how beautiful my daughter was, I would just nod and smile and accept it as a compliment (although I would prefer to avoid such compliments).

A couple of years later, we had our first daughter and were bombarded with pink outfits from relatives; she looked like a little pixie in them. I was beginning to embrace what I so strongly believed against. When I received a few compliments about my handsome new son, it bothered me. The fact that it bothered me shook me even more. Why was it easier to shrug off compliments when my son was referred to as a girl than when my daughter was referred to as a boy? I still eschewed the pink, but I found myself purchasing more feminine outfits in yellows, lavenders, and greens (the few I could find) for my little pixie more so than I would have imagined. Sometimes our psyches absorb more of what is pressed upon us than we realize.

I inwardly cringed when my daughter was a little older and went through a pink phase, although I reminded myself it was just a color. She really does look good in pink. However, I’ve made a point to make certain that my children know that colors shouldn’t be gendered, anyone can play dolls, trucks, or any other toy, dirt and worms are great fun for all, and you shouldn’t allow anyone to limit what you can do.