“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.”
And why didn’t Goldie Blox ask permission before making the parody? I know it’s easy to look back and see mistakes, but you would’ve thought the GB lawyers, who have already taken steps to file a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys now, would have advised them earlier: ask first.
If this ad were a public service message, it would be extraordinary. But instead, it looks like a song has been “borrowed” to make money by selling a product which IMO contradicts the ad’s message. This is all feeling more and more unethical to me.
“And here is GoldieBlox’s response to the backlash: “Yes, we’ve seen this blog post, and the author raises a lot of great points. We’re sorry she feels that Goldie’s a waste of money, but totally understand where she’s coming from.We don’t have a problem with princesses being AN option, as long as they aren’t the ONLY option. Many girls really enjoy princesses, ballet, and pink, and there’s nothing wrong with that! STEM fields denigrate femininity enough as is; girls who enjoy girly stuff are just as capable of building a catapult and launching their younger siblings into the next yard as girls who don’t enjoy girly stuff.As for the toy itself, sure, it’s a “princess toy” in that there is a princess in it. In Goldieblox and the Parade Float, Ruby, Goldie’s best friend, teaches her friends that creativity and friendship matter more than any pageant. We think that’s a pretty good lesson for any kid.”
*STEM FIELDS DENIGRATE FEMININITY ENOUGH AS IS*”
First of all, who says pink and princess is feminine? Do you realize how many assumptions you have to buy into to even make that argument? Pink wasn’t even a “girl” color until the last century. It was a boy color, a version of red. Blue, in honor of the Virgin Mary, was considered a girl color. Children weren’t even color-coded before the early twentieth century. Before that, babies wore white, because to get clothing clean, it had to be boiled. Take a look at President Roosevelt.
The fact that we all think, including our poor kids, that pink is coded in female genes and a “girl” color shows the incredible influence of marketing in 2013.
Because we live in a strongly male-identified society the idea of a Pac-Woman as the “unmarked” default and a Mr. Pac-Woman as the deviation “marked” with masculinizing gender signifiers feels strange and downright absurd. Meanwhile Pac-man and the deviation Ms. Pac-Man seems completely normal in our current cultural context.
Here’s how the game might look if male characters were always on the periphery.
As far as a princess friend being “an option,” I did think when I saw and supported the Kickstarter campaign, and again, maybe I was wrong in my assumption, but I believed that Goldie Blox, itself, was providing the other options. I thought Goldie Blox was the other option! Goldie Blox sells itself as “disrupting the pink aisle,” not to mention the message in the viral ad. The market is completely saturated with princesses who wear puffy dresses and compete in pageants, to the point that toys who were not princesses, like Dora or Strawberry Shortcake, get princessy makeovers.
Here’s another comment on Reel Girl’s Facebook page from the same person as the one above.
It’s a real pity that it has come to this, but I can’t stand for this aggression that you are exhibiting to Goldieblox and anyone who dare to utter “princess”. Princesses are Queens in training – getting ready to one day rule the world.
It is sad that you are using your influence to attack people and products who are technically on your side of the girl empowerment movement. The only way change can be made is through co-operation and support. You are not an example of that. I would wish you “good luck”, but really I don’t. Divisive people are not good people to have in the Feminist movement. I hope one day you will learn the tolerance you so vehemently demand.
The issue is not that I condemn anyone “who dare utter princess.” I recommend princess narratives on Reel Girl including “Brave” and “A Little Princess.” The Middle Grade book I am writing has a princess protagonist in that she is heir to the throne. Here’s a princess narrative, “Child of Light” by Ubisoft, a role playing game due for release in 2014, that gives me chills,.
The Goldie Blox princess, her image and story, leave me cold.
Other commenters write Goldie, herself, is not the princess, she’s just friends with the princess who she is trying to help to win the pageant. Again, that narrative doesn’t excite my imagination or appeal to me. If it appeals to you, go ahead and buy the toy.
So here’s my question for you: If there were no “Star Wars” double trilogy (is there a better word for the length of this epic?) would a kid covet a stormtrooper? If toy makers filled the shelves of Target with these white, faceless figures, would kids want them without Hollywood blockbusters providing a context?
The answer is no. To sell a toy, having a story helps a lot. It’s all about the narrative. Next question: Where are the narratives where girls get to be heroes? Where are the narratives, the epic trilogies, the Hollywood blockbusters, where girls get to star? If you think of a female character who is shown, front and center, again and again, who is she? What image comes to mind? Is she, perhaps, a princess?
The gendered toys marketed to children are a symptom. The disease is that girls have gone missing from narratives, sidelined and marginalized, in literature, religion, art, and politics, for thousands of years. In 2013, the consistent narrative where girls get to exist is, still, as the princess.
Yesterday, when I wrote about Goldie Blox selling stereotypes, people told me, if I don’t want pink and princess I should just go to the “boy” aisle. But the problem with the “boy” aisle is that there no female protagonists to be found there. Whether it’s LEGO or a coloring book, whether the product is from the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or the Justice League, female characters are in the minority if they exist at all.
My seven year old daughter wanted a LEGO set. We went to three stores, and found no LEGO where girl figures or girls’ stories were the basis of the game except for LEGO Friends, which we found in the “girl” aisle. What epic, magical adventure were these girl figures engaged in? They were at a cafe. My daughter also completed a set where they were at a bakery. I just bought her a third set where the girls are at a high school.
My older daughter, after getting frustrated with the LEGO choices, opted for The Hobbit set which includes a male Hobbit, a male wizard, and 5 male dwarfs. No females at all.
Toymakers claim when they put “alternative” toys on the shelf, they just don’t sell. This is why I ask: If a stormtrooper had no “Star Wars,” would he exist? Where are the narratives where girls are seen having epic adventures? Until we fix that problem, we’re going to keep seeing gendered aisles at Target.
This is how fucked up kidworld has become. Finally, parents are catching on that gender stereotyping children limits potential. So what do we get? An anti-everything pink and princess themed ad, which is great, selling a princess themed toy. WTF?
Here’s the ad.
Here’s the toy, which isn’t so great. “In this much-anticipated sequel, Goldie’s friends Ruby and Katinka compete in a princess pageant with the hopes of riding in the town parade. When Katinka loses the crown, Goldie and Ruby team up to build her a parade float as well as other fun rolling, spinning, and whirling designs.”
Read this blog by Rebecca Hains to learn more. “I have been rooting for GoldieBlox since their Kickstarter days, and I love their mission to break stereotypes and spark a love of STEM in girls. But by pandering to princess culture, this new offering just isn’t living up to the promise.”
Another good one here (though I think it’s fine to change sexist lyrics and make them your own.) Goldie Blox, no thanks. “It’s the same dumb-downed princess bullshit as the rest of the stuff they are shoving down the throats of our daughters.”
I am pretty sure I gave money to Goldie Blox’s Kickstarter campaign. I know I intended to, but I’m not positive I followed through. I certainly promoted the toy in its earliest days on Reel Girl’s blog, Facebook page, an my Twitter feed.
Once again, I like the Goldie Blox ad. I understand the product is supposed to be a step towards getting girls interested in engineering, but this doublespeak makes me feel like I’m being taken for a ride on a big, old float right down Main Street. I would not have given money or promoted a toy like the one above. I don’t know if Goldie Blox’s “success” made it become this or if this was this always the intention. Maybe, like someone on Reel Girl’s Facebook page writes, Goldie Blox is trying to “straddle the market.” If so, that kind of risk-free, inauthentic approach appeals to me even less than the product.
The toy box shown at the end of the ad is Goldie Blox and the spinning machine. You could argue that the Goldie Blox princess is just one image, or one character, of many. But what I thought is that this brand was going to be different. In a market saturated with princess/ pageant narratives, Goldie Blox was going to stand out as moving beyond stereotypes, not just in some products, some of the time. Maybe I misunderstood the message, but aren’t parents seeing this ad misunderstanding it as well?
Here are 4 previous blogs I’ve written about Goldie Blox where you can see how I progressively begin to question what is being created and sold to kids. One of the lines in the adoring media that really creeps me out states that those sweet, caring girls have “an inclination to help.” In boyspeak, we call that same impulse something more heroic: “a rescue fantasy.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if toys, and the language used to market them, was created for humans, not stereotypes?
My 4 year old daughter got this Hallmark card yesterday for Halloween in the mail:
The good news is, right away, she said, “Oh no, only two girls. Eight boys.” She gets it. But the bad news, of course, is the repetitive message in kidworld, whether from Hallmark or Target, boys can be so many things– pirates, superheroes, cowboys, monsters, skateboarders, clowns, or aliens. Girls, however, get limited choices.
My daughter will be Wonder Woman tonight, and I’m off to go see if, at this last minute, I can find her a golden lasso….
In music, we love the idea of the screwed-up, shooting-up. fucked-up artist. The one bleeding in the garret having cut his own ear off. Jay-Z is a new kind of 21st-century artist where the canvas is not just the 12 notes, the wicked beats, and a rhyming dictionary in his head. It’s commerce, it’s politics, the fabric of the real as well as the imagined life.
Stephen Mitchell in Can Love Last, the Fate of Romance Over Time
It is the hallmark of the shift in basic psychoanalytic sensibility that the prototype of mental health for many contemporary psychoanalyitc authors is not the scientist but the artist. A continual objective take on reality is regarded as neither possible nor valuable in contrast to the ability to develop and move in and out of different perspectives of reality.
New York Times, October:
Public narratives about a career make a difference. The most common career aspiration named on Girls Who Code applications is forensic science. Like Allen, few if any of the girls have ever met anyone in that field, but they’ve all watched “CSI,” “Bones” or some other show in which a cool chick with great hair in a lab coat gets to use her scientific know-how to solve a crime. This so-called “CSI” effect has been credited for helping turn forensic science from a primarily male occupation into a primarily female one.
Jezebel reacting to New York Times piece:
The New York Times today would like to suggest that storytelling is powerful, that, in the whole art/life dynamic, it’s life that imitates art, not the other way around, at least not when it comes to kids imagining viable career paths for themselves.
Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.
In the fantasy world, anything is possible, so why do little kids see so few female heroes and female protagonists on TV and in the movies? While boy “buddy stories” are everywhere you look, why is it so hard to see two females working together to save the world? Why are females, half of the kid population, presented as a minority in fantasy world? Why are TV shows, movies, and books about boys “for everyone” while shows and movies about girls “just for girls?” When we pass on stories to our kids, what are we teaching them about gender, about who they are right now and who they will become?
One more quote for you from neuroscientist, Lise Eliot:
“Babies are born ready to absorb the sounds, grammar, and intonation of any language, but then the brain wires it up only to perceive and produce a specific language. After puberty, its possible to learn another language but far more difficult. I think of gender differences similarly. The ones that exist become amplified by the two different cultures that boys and girls are immersed in from birth. This contributes to the way their emotional and cognitive circuits get wired.”
Eliot believes: “Simply put, your brain is what you do with it.”So let’s all use our brains to imagine gender equality in the fantasy world, take actions to manifest that vision, and see what happens next. I bet it’ll be amazing.
Today, during a soccer game, a kid on the opposing team made fun of my four year old daughter’s ‘boy’ shoes. I am so sick of this shit I could scream. It is crazy to me that people actually say, actually believe it’s “natural” for girls “want” pink stuff. My God, I’m honestly surprised my daughter has stuck with her Star Wars shoes for this long. As I’ve blogged, she isn’t even a big Star Wars fan, fighting for her passion with these shoes. She just bought a pair of shoes. I really feel like she could go either way, or one of many ways, pink and sparkly or action hero or something else, but everything out there is telling her which limited “choice” to make.
So after my daughter leaves the field, crying, which, by the way, I was totally bummed about. We’d rehearsed other responses, “I like my shoes” “There is no such thing as boy shoes,” so many times, but still, of course, I comforted her. I said I would talk to the girl. Her father, a nice guy, happened to be sitting right next to me. First, he called another kid over, asking her if she’d made fun of my daughter’s shoes. Both that kid and my daughter denied she was the one. Then the guy calls over his daughter who admits it was her, and my daughter seconds that. “I’m so sorry,” he said to me, after making his kid apologize. “I don’t know where she gets it.” I told him preschool, probably. And then he looks at his daughter and tells her: “Star Wars is cool. Star Wars has Princess Leia and she’s beautiful!”
Is that a bummer of a response or what? Here is a dad trying but totally missing the point. So I said, “And Leia is smart and brave and powerful, too.”
“Yeah,” says the dad.
How many times, do you think, in one day– from people telling them how pretty their dresses are or their hair or their shoes, to TV shows and books and movies and toys— little girls are shown that what they look like is the most important thing of all? What do you think they are learning to value most, their actions or their appearance? Where do you think they are learning to focus their efforts, concerns, and ambitions?
Here’s the video of my daughter talking about being bullied for ‘boy shoes made a couple months ago. Please share your stories so parents start to understand the epidemic that gender bullying has become, in preschool and beyond.
No one is saying DaSilvo doesn’t care about his art. No one is even saying that “Frozen” isn’t a good movie. “Ratatouille” is a great movie, and it also follows the same sexist pattern of most children’s movies where females can’t be heroes. Unfortunately, this sexism is entrenched in our culture, the stories we tell, and the heroes we create. Abnoba makes a great comment about all this on Reel Girl:
And female characters are even more difficult to differentiate because, as he says, they have to be pretty. And pretty, for Disney and other companies, has a very narrow definition. I think that we all know how Disney tried to change Merida. Disney is not only selling a movie. The Disney princess are used to sell clothes, toys, party supplies, make up…and that’s not based in how adventurous or smart they are, their beauty is a big selling point…Maybe Lino DiSalvo is not sexist, maybe he is just too frank for his own good about what that industry require from him, but I think that the comment is pointing to a very big problem in the female representation of women in animation.
You can be frank and sexist at the same time. As I blogged, I don’t think DaSilvo intended to be sexist. He thought he was stating a fact. And he actually is, but the fact is not about real differences between females and males, but about how they are represented in narratives for children in 2013.
Here’s something I wrote a while ago on the differences between drawing females and males:
Whenever I blog about the exaggerated breasts or ass of a female cartoon character, commenters respond that I have nothing to complain about: all cartoons are caricatures.
Wonder Woman with no pants was created by (and for?) grown-ups but it leads to Wonder Woman with no pants showing up as a LEGO minifig.
Females are half of the population, yet because they are presented as a sexualized minority in so many movies for adults, they are also presented as a sexualized minority in movies for kids. Those roles are then replicated in kids’ toys and most tragically, in kids’ imaginary play.
Here are some more stories from parents of little kids to Reel Girl about gender stereotyping and bullying.
A 10-year old son of my friend war wearing his fuchsia shorts all summer long and loved it. But, in September, he refused to wear it at school arguing the other boys would laugh at him…
This is so sad and the thing is, my 4 yr old daughter is not a huge Star Wars fan. She could go either way with her shoes, pink and princessy or ‘boy’ shoes. It’s not like she is passionate about her choice and totally committed. And that’s why this is so frustrating, or part of the reason why. Our children’s “choices” are so limited and shaping who they are and who they become.
Please keep telling your stories to Reel Girl. No videos yet, but I’d love to see them! Watch my daughter talking about getting bullied for ‘boy’ shoes here.
Yesterday, I posted this video of my 4 year old daughter talking about getting bullied at preschool for wearing ‘boy’ shoes.
I’ve gotten so many comments on Reel Girl’s Facebook page about kids being bullied by their peers when they step out of these gender norms that surround them like shrink rap, I’ve started asking parents if they would video their children telling their stories. Meanwhile, I Googled ‘bullied for wearing boy shoes’ and found some stuff that is making me cringe and want to scream, so I’m going to blog about it instead.
Yesterday my 4 year old wore her waterproof slip-on shoes for boy or girl to school (they are black Timberland moccasins) and she told me this morning, “The girls would not play with me yesterdays because they said I was wearing boys shoes, can you please put sparkly shoes on me ???”
I was in shock. Are you serious? Is this something I should address with the school??? BULLYING starting THIS YOUNG??? I don’t know what to think– my daughter loves those shoes and her sparkly shoes are not comfortable or for winter weather but she wants to wear them to appease the bullies in her classroom.
What would you do?????
Here’s some advice she got from 8 different fans of hers, without irony, each confirmed with multiple likes:
Cover them in glitter. Change the shoelaces to a girlie style.
Bedazzle her moccasins
Add something to moccasins to make it more “girly”
This is so sad – I’d talk to the teacher for sure. I also like the ideas of “girling up” her boots with shoe laces, etc. Good luck CouponClipinista
put sparkles on the shoes…that should do it.
Yep. I would bedazzel the crap out of em. I can tell you from experience, the school wont do anything!!
I agree. Bedazzle them. glue on a few rhinestones or a bow.
Bedazzle her shoes )
Note to parents: Gender stereotyping CAUSES bullying. Bedazzling shoes? Not a solution here. What is that teaching your kid? To do whatever the bullies say to do. And what is it teaching the other kids? Keep bullying. Is that the lesson we want to be teaching here? I honestly don’t even think these 4 year olds know they are bullying, because not enough parents and teachers are telling them that. I think these kids believe that they are stating a fact.
At 4 my daughter LOVED Spiderman. There was no talking her out of getting the Spiderman tennis shoes. She wore them to school and was told they were “boy shoes” (They were.) When she came home telling me about it, I told her, “do you like them?” “yes.” I told her to tell the kids when they said that again that anyone can wear Spiderman shoes. She had the same situation about the same age about wearing the color blue (still her favorite color 6 years later.) Her PreK4 classmates told her blue was for boys. We talked again and I told her that she can wear ant color she wants. And if the other kids don’t like it, too bad for them…they are going to miss out on wearing lots of cool colors. She went to school confidently and told them you can wear whatever color if you are a boy or a girl. I liked the idea of teaching her to be confident about her ideas even if they were not always “girly”
Another mom/ teacher:
As a teacher, sad to say, yes, bullying starts this young. My son, at 4 loved his pink t-shirt. Wore it to preschool once, and will not wear it out of the house (so sad) due to peer’s comments – at 4!!!! Yes, speak to the teacher, so he/she knows what is going on in their classroom and can address it. Then talk to you daughter. Don’t let her give in to peers. Point out how to be an individual and to take pride in that. When all is said and done, I woud let her wear the shoes of her choice. Unfortunately, it will be the choice peers, unless she is strong and willing to be her own person.
Yesterday my mom posted a picture on Facebook of my 5-year-old brother … wearing a pair of shoes he picked out for his first day of preschool. She explained to him in the store that they were really made for girls. [The boy] then told her that he didn’t care and that ‘ninjas can wear pink shoes too.’
However, my mom received about 20 comments on the photo from various family members saying how ‘wrong’ it is and how ‘things like this will affect him socially’ and, put most eloquently by my great aunt, ‘that sh*t will turn him gay.’
From that story come links about “gender non-conforming camp.” Seriously? We’re talking about shoes here. Shoes. Preschoolers. Bullying epidemic. The solution is not sending the kids off to some camp. The solution is to stop buying into the gender segregated marketing that is so aggressively targeted at kids and parents from multinational companies.
My daughter, fresh from day one of a much-loved and progressive preschool, announces her sporty blue Toy Story sneakers — once adored — are for boys
and no one at her school likes girls who wear boys’ shoes.
I heard from your mom that someone at school said your shoes were for boys. Maybe because they were blue or maybe because Buzz Lightyear was on them. At our house, we say, “Colors are for everyone.” Sometimes people get mixed up about that because they don’t think about it very hard. That makes me feel frustrated. All you have to do is look around the world and know that colors are for everyone.
But Bella, isn’t that silly! How could your blue Buzz Lightyear shoes be for boys if colors are for everyone and Buzz Lightyear is from a movie made for all kids and you are a girl standing in those shoes! I think people get confused about that, because they think something is only for boys because they never took the time to consider girls. I think people should consider girls.
Since you are four years old, you know a lot of stuff, and you know that girls can like or do anything boys can. And boys can like or do anything girls can. Things are kind of silly right now because grown ups keep getting in the way of kids, and some grown ups who are in charge of the companies that make stuff for kids like toys and clothes, they don’t have good imaginations like you and I do. These grown ups try to fit kids into little boxes that are labeled “Boy” or “Girl”, and then they only let certain colors or ideas into each box. They do that because it makes it easier for them to sell their stuff. Since boys and girls don’t grow in boxes, you can see how really goofy this is. But I have to be honest with you, there are a lot of grown ups who don’t question these pink and blue boxes, and then they teach that thinking to their kids, and then their kids lose their imaginations.
I couldn’t agree more. Here’s an ad I saw in a window of a Stride Rite in the neighborhood where my kids go to school. I also speak about one of the times my daughter was teased for her shoes.
Here’s me on Fox and Friends talking about the gender stereotyping in this ad and what kinds of damaging messages that’s sending to kids. I also speak about one of the times my daughter was teased.
The retailer today confirmed that they would draw up a set of principles for in-store signage meaning that, in the long-term, explicit references to gender will be removed and images will show boys and girls enjoying the same toys. They promised to start by looking at the way toys are represented in their upcoming Christmas catalogue.
But what are we doing in America? Been to a Toys R Us lately? Or a Target? Or a Stride Rite?
If your kids have stories about being bullied for not conforming to these caricature gender stereotypes, please share them. I’d love to see the videos of your kids telling their stories if you would like to post them here.