GoldieBlox released a video ad introducing their new action figure for girls (video below). I was thrilled to read in the press release of their intention to “show girls more options and lead them to a world full of possibilities.” As a feminist, I absolutely get where GoldieBlox is coming from. Creating toys to encourage and promote girls in a pursuit of STEM interests is noble indeed.
I, too, want to promote alternative thoughts and actions in young girls in our seemingly institutionalized cultural obsession with princesses and being perfect. I’m also a strong advocate of change. Though the process of change is frequently messy and the disruption and disruptors aren’t always welcome, everyone loves rooting for a rebel and a rebellion? Right?
But a funny thing happened as I watched the video, I got frustrated and mad instead. How did GoldieBlox undo so many good intentions in one video? With all the wrong messages they are sending to girls.
Big Sister = Dark Underbelly
"Set to the music of Metric's "Help I'm Alive," the video portrays the dark underbelly of 'Big Sister's' influence."
Being an adult and having viewed the video, I get the reference as a feminine counterpart to our ever watching, ever controlling “big brother” institutions. While this ad maybe targeted to parents, we live in the internet age. You have to assume kids see all. Especially when a video is about a new product made specifically for them.
So how many young girls would understand the context of “Big Sister” as a social institution? Wouldn’t they more naturally think of their “Big (aka older) Sister” or even themselves as the bad thing, the dark underbelly to rebel against? And what about any involved in the “Big Sister” mentoring organization? Wouldn’t those “Big Sisters” get tarred with the dark underbelly tag in the mind of these young girls too?
Girls who Love Pink, Princesses & Glitter = Clones
I’m not sure why anyone wanting a positive response to their product would characterize their target consumer, “girls,” as a monolithic production line of high-heeled wanna-be adults identically dressed in pink, walking in step and passively waiting for their “Barbie” like doll to be offered up by a giant machine.
Isn’t that degrading of young girls? Isn’t that creating a mega stereotype?
Even a non-princess obsessed like me knows there are a lot of different princesses who look different, do different things and live different lives (I’ve watched and loved all the princess movies).
Boy Behavior (Aggression and Disruption) = Leader
"Enter Little Sister - a hightop wearing, hammer-wielding disruptor out to break the monotony, show girls more options and lead them to a world full of possibilities."
Leading requires presenting a vision of the future and a path to get there. Destruction can be positive when it is followed by the construction of something better in its place. But destruction for the sake of monotony usually creates chaos in its wake and isn’t worried about what comes afterward. But apparently relieving monotony is leader-like, because …well, Little Sister shows she is disruptor and not princess like?
Girl Behavior (Passive and Accepting) = Bad
The underlying message of the video to young girls seems to be saying — if you don’t join the rebellion, if you don’t become a disruptor with us, you are just another wimpy girl. Yes, apparently, it is still an either/or world. So girls need to be on the right side — the non-princess side.
Where is the appeal to the “Every Girl?” Where is the presentation of that “world full of opportunities” for a girl to be a romantic book-worm, a skateboarding geek, a beribboned basketball player, a music loving math genius… Where is the acceptance of the full spectrum of what a girl can be — including a princess?
To me this is the biggest sin of this ad.
Pink Dressed Girls = The Problem
The road to math and science isn’t through a take down of young girls wearing pink. If you want to change girl/women culture, don’t take aim at girls for accepting something they didn’t create. Your target should be the adults, the media, the advertisers, the Disney movie makers — those who created and perpetuate such a narrow view. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell girls what they can and can’t be!
(*Update: Here is a reaction from a 13 & 16 year old.)
Here’s the video. What do you think? Did the good intentions of GoldieBlox get lost in bad messaging?