Ever heard of a prince with ‘an inclination to help’ a maiden in distress?

And now for my third blog on GoldieBlox…

The more I think about this one line describing the building toy created to appeal to girls, the more it gets to me. The Atlantic reports:

“Sterling’s basic conceit — that by playing to girls’ inclination to help and imbuing their designs with practical purpose she can get them designing and building.”

So the stereotype here is that girls are kind and sweet and just want to help people, or lambs, whatever; there is something uniquely feminine about “helping.” By the way, I would have absolutely no problem with this view of girls if it were true. My issue here, and my obsession with feminism in general, isn’t driven by a need for justice or even compassion for women. It’s that these stereotypes are bullshit. They are not true. And, personally, I don’t think basing entire civilizations on bullshit is, ultimately, good for anyone.

An “inclination to help” is a rescue fantasy. Different words, same thing. There is no gender split.

Rescue fantasies have existed in stories since the beginning of time. When stories are mostly written by males, it is often the case that females become the subject (or one could say, no doubt, object) to be rescued. What is brilliant about GoldieBlox is that instead of creating the story so that the female identifies with the little lambs who need saving, she gets to be the rescuer.

Ever heard of a prince with “an inclination to help” a maiden in distress? It sounds ridiculous, right?

There is no need, except for a sexist one, to use tamer words for narratives starring girls. All humans want to be actors, people who act, the main actors in our own lives; all humans have fantasies about being heroes. The gender difference is that far more often, males get to express and act on those fantasies.

‘The thing is, 89% of engineers are male, so we literally live in a man’s world’

Stanford educated engineer, Debbie Sterling, was always bothered by how few women were in her program. (Of 181 students in her program, she was the lone female.) It’s not that she didn’t understand why the gender gap existed. She related. As a child, her parents didn’t play LEGO or Lincoln Logs with her. It never occurred to them– or to her– to encourage exploration in building toys. Sterling didn’t get interested in engineering until high school. Now, she’s found a way to get more girls into building earlier. And guess what? Her tactic doesn’t involve turning  a toy pink.

Sterling created Goldieblox. She describes it as “a book and a construction toy combined. It stars Goldie, the girl inventor and her motley crew of friends who go on adventures and solve problems by building simple machines.”

One thing I LOVE about this toy is that Sterling created a narrative with a female protagonist around the activity of building. While I don’t necessarily agree with her reason for this tactic (“Boys like to build, girls like to read”) I do think that there are not enough stories starring females that revolve around action, adventure, and building. Most action toys– Batman, Star Wars figures, Superman on and on– have stories that go with them. If you gave a kid a Darth Vader figure without a billion dollar marketing movie machine, let’s just say that toy wouldn’t sell so well. While there is no Goldieblox blockbuster in theaters, helping children to create a story around a character is key to inciting interest and play. I create stories in order to get my kids dressed in the morning or into the bath. Narratives are the most powerful tools we have. Sterling uses narrative brilliantly to sell her toy, not only in the product itself but in the video she created to raise the money she needed to get it in production.

Here’s the video she made for Kickstarter. Please watch, it’s so inspiring.

After this went around the web, Sterling surpassed her goal of 5,000 orders. Goldieblox is in production. Not only that, the company has already started receiving orders from toystores. Goldieblox.com was just launched and you can order your toys there.

Sterling says, “The thing is 89% of engineers are male, so we literally live in a man’s world. Yet 50% of the population is female. So if we want to live in a better world, we need girls building these things too, We need girls solving these problems.”

I started Reel Girl just after Christmas almost three years ago, so freaked out by the pile of pink toys my three daughters received, most involving some form of dressing dolls: paper, wooden, plastic, magnetic, tiny, large, soft, and hard. I have to say, this year, with sites like A Mighty Girl’s and Toward the Stars, new toys like Goldieblox, books and DVDs I’ve sought out (Reel Girl recommends) this is the first year since I had children that I am actually excited about Christmas shopping.