My heart grew three sizes and exploded when I saw the latest and BRILLIANT GoldieBlox spot to go viral. You know, the one that sees three (racially diverse!) girls absolutely smash the PINK FOR GIRLS! stereotype by engineering a Rube Goldberg machine entirely out of princess toys whilst singing a righteous re-imagining of the Beastie Boys’ 1987 hit Girls.
I can’t even handle how good the revised lyrics are. Honestly, I may have even teared up a little bit watching the video because it made me so happy.
Here on the island of gendered toys, GoldieBlox — a start-up that makes engineering toys for girls — is a giant breath of fresh air. The company is the brainchild of Debbie Sterling, herself a Stanford engineer. She understands that the toys kids play with now have an incredible impact on who they will turn out to be later.
Gender roles are introduced right out of the baby cave, and they are most certainly enforced by toys.
The pink/blue binary is deeply entrenched in our society; that’s why people FREAK THE FUCK OUT if they’re attending the baby shower of someone who has decided not to learn the sex of their spawn. What colour onesie do I buy!? WHAT COLOUR!?
As the GoldieBlox version of Girls incisively points out, little girls are not all ‘princess maids.’ Overwhelmingly, educational toys are crowded out by princesses and Barbies, but also pink grocery carts and pink laundry sets and baby dolls that cry and shit themselves — you know, because buying groceries, doing dishes and wiping asses is so fun. Assigning this type of ‘play’ to a little girl sends a pretty crystal clear message about the roles she’ll be expected to fill later in life.
TELLING ANECDOTE: When I was a child in the late ’80s, I received a pink and blonde doll called Oopsie Daisy for Christmas. She’d crawl in her disturbing, stilted mechanical way (not unlike the baby from Trainspotting, actually), trip somehow and cry. When she cried, you were supposed to help her up and then she’d happily crawl again — until the next time she took a spill.
Why yes, it IS exactly as frustrating/annoying as it sounds. I’ve never been an overly patient person, and there’s a pretty spectacular photo out there of four-year-old me looking down at my collapsed Oopsie Daisy with a face of sheer contempt. (Also, sometimes I would flip her on her back — you know, like a turtle — and let her cry on purpose because I am a bad person.)
Let me be clear: being a mom is a wonderful thing and I have nothing against a little girl wanting to rock a plastic baby to sleep. But there is lots of room for toys that show girls they are capable of other things, great things — things that, in childhood and adulthood, are too often reserved for boys/men.
GoldieBlox isn’t perfect; Goldie, GoldieBlox’s mascot who appears on a lot of its marketing / packaging, is a thin blonde white girl (because of course she is). But hey, even this feminist killjoy can agree that it’s a wonderful start.
UPDATE: WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?
The Beastie Boys — who, FWIW, have long ago apologized for the original version of the song and have essentially disowned it — issued an open letter clarifying reports that came in over the weekend that the band was suing the start-up for copyright infringement when, in fact, GoldieBlox made the first move arguing that its ad fell under Fair Use.
The Beastie Boys, meanwhile, argue that the video GoldieBlox made isn’t a feel-good public service announcement, it’s a commercial designed to sell a product.
It’s important to note that the late Adam Yauch (aka MCA), who passed away last year, expressly banned usage of his music in advertisements in his will.
The GoldieBlox ad, while awesome, is still an ad. I thought maybe the band made some kind of exception due to the awesomeness of the parody. Turns out THEY WERE NEVER EVEN ASKED FOR PERMISSION.
I’m so disappointed, GoldieBlox. What a shitty example to set.
Here’s the full text open letter. Source: New York Times.
Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering. As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.