Aaron linked to this ad for toys called Goldie Blox.
Unlike Aaron, I’m not quite so dismissive. I like the commercial, but I’ve always had a fondness for Rube Goldberg machines.
I also think the toys are a theoretically good idea. While most women don’t like math and won’t go into non-biology STEM, a few do and will. Why not make toys for those atypical girls?
My sisters had pastel-coloured Legos and they played war with them with my brother and me as we used our primary-coloured blocks. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with girl versions of boys’ toys.
On the other hand, there is something wrong with these toys.
THere is an interesting incongruity between the toys themselves and the purported feminist message. Whatever Goldie Blox’ intentions and advertisements and despite all the hype the toys are getting from the feminist-types, when you actually observe the toys you can’t help but notice the makers don’t really buy the message they’re selling.
These toys are essentially Tinkertoys and Tinkertoys have always been fairly gender-neutral, which makes them an odd target to feminize. Rather than being a leap forward for gender-neutral toys or equalism, these Goldie Blox are actually gendering toys and promoting inequality.
The toy makers are banking on the fact that girls don’t want to play with gender-neutral Tinkertoys, but would instead prefer these gendered, feminine-themed Goldie Blox. That seems to be putting little girls even further into the gender box rather than moving them out of it.
Second, despite their anti-pink attitude, the colours of the toy are simply changed to other feminine colours, particularly a golden-yellow and a pastel purple. There’s not the primary colours of Legos and browns of (old, real) Tinkertoys. I don’t see how changing the gendered pink to gendered pastels is a particular “leap-forward” for getting girls out of the “pink ghetto”. Merely painting the ghetto a different colour is not going to change anything.
Third, look at the toys themselves. Tinkertoys are just Tinkertoys, they have no themes, while Lego’s are occasionally without theme but usually something boyishly cool like rockets, planes, or pirates. The Goldie Blox sets available are a parade float and a girly ribbon “spinning machine”.
The joy of Tinkertoys was simply building whatever came to your mind at the time. The imagination and the ability to build was the lure. Even with Legos sets, how many kids actually concentrated on the sets themselves, rather than tearing them apart as soon as they were built to build something else or play war?
These toys have been dumbed down. Look at how few pieces you get and how limited they are. And a parade float, really? You makes toys that can be used to build anything the imagination can conceive and a parade float is the best you can come up with? Is that the best you think young girls can aspire to?
How much of an “improvement” for gender neutrality in toys or for getting girls out of of the pink ghetto is it for little girls to simply be building girly things?
How much engineering/building skills and imagination will such simple, limited sets instill in young girls?
Finally, look at the sets, what do you see?
Cute little animals. There’s a dolphin in a tutu, a bear in a pastel suit, and a cute little doggy with big floppy ears.
What do you see in Tinkertoys? Nothing but blocks and sticks (or plastic in the new and crappy form; that annoys more more than it should. At least I’m not the only one).
What do you see in Legos? Articulated figures capable of action (with guns and swords).
The girl-oriented engineering product is not enough of a draw in itself; it needs something cute, something personal to draw the little girls in. To increase the narrative and personalization, each even comes with it’s own storybook.
How much do you want to bet that most little girls who receive this toy will spend more time playing house or tea with the little animal figures rather than building, destroying, and re-building weird contraptions?
Here we can see the complete intellectual bankruptcy of the whole ‘girls and boys are equal meme’ displayed in one little children’s toy.
Even the equalists who specifically created a feminist-vaunted engineering toy to get girls into engineering know that most little girls don’t want to build and destroy for the sake of building and destroying like little boys do. They know full well they can’t just market Tinkertoys to girl straight-up; they know they can’t simply tell girls build this and make a profit.
So, to convince most girls to give an engineering toy a try they have to regender a gender-neutral toy, make the toys as girly as possible (while avoiding the dreaded pink), dumb the toy down while destroy the creativity of the toy, and introduce cute little animal figures in tutus simply to make them palatable to little girls.
I’m an evil supporter of the patriarchy and I would be hard-pressed to think up a toy that is more patronizing to little girls than this.
If you want pastels and dollies for your daughter buy some My Little Pony toys; there’s nothing wrong or inferior with young girls liking pink, pastels, and relationally-based toys.
But if you want an engineering toy by some Tinkertoys or Legos.
Avoid this drek; it’s insulting. “Hey little girl, you can’t handle 65 pieces of Tinkertoys ($16.40), so here’s 35 pieces to build a parade float ($20) because that’s all we expect you to be able to imagine and create. The boys will go over their and play with their underwater base.”
When even the gender-warriors implicitly state their cause is lost whenever it comes to something that actually effects reality, you know there’s something flawed with their ideology.
I must say though, I do admire the business acumen of the creator. What an idea:
I’ll take a classic toy, make it worse, colour it in pastels, attach some feminist ideology to it, and sell less of it at a higher price, then have the feminist press rave about my awesome new toy providing scads of free publicity.
That’s a pretty good business plan.