Goldieblox: Making Engineering Girly
Goldieblox: Making Engineering Girly
By: LB Chambers
At long last, the Kickstartered Goldieblox toys are available for purchase.
Delivering in mid-December, these engineering toys are meant to encourage girls development of building and math skills.
Their website touts the products as “toys for future inventors,” and each set includes a building set and storybook that details the goal of the set. So far there are two, one to create a pageant float (for Goldie’s pageant losing friend) and one to create a machine that helps Goldie’s dog catch his tail.
Starting with a successful and heart-warming kickstarter last year, the Goldieblox campaign has launched some delightful videos depicting girls embracing their creative and constructive sides and eschewing traditional constricting gender norms.
If you haven’t seen them yet, you should check them out here.
But Goldieblox is already hitting some resistance. Deciding to repurpose the Beastie Boy’s famously misogynistic song, “Girls” with new lyrics (“girls to build the spaceship, girls to code the new app…”) Goldiblox has filed a preemptive suit against Beastie Boys, who have a history of not allowing their music to be used in advertisements (one member even specifying so in their will).
Waiting to see how that pans out, this writer also has hesitations about Goldiblox now that the entire product has launched. While the advertisements seems vigilant in expressing that Goldiblox toys are “different” and everything else is “just like the fifties” (directly quoted from from their repurposed Girls song) it’s hard to see any real difference between Goldiblox and a lot of other traditionally feminine toys available today.
The packaging, toys, and characters are all in pink, purple, and other gentle and feminine pastel colors (this is especially strange considering their advertisement wants to “disrupt the pink aisle”- but these toys would fit right in!)
The main character is a thin, white, blonde girl with freckles and green eyes (very much resembling one of Disney’s most recent princesses, Rapunzel). Goldie’s overalls even match Rapunzel’s dress color and pattern (purple, pink, and green with stripes) and the similarities between the two can’t be coincidence.
Rather it seems a calculated choice to align Goldie with the most well known Disney princesses of the time on one hand, while playing the “more than just a princess” card with the other. It’s using feminine stereotypes to promote a product while simultaneously claiming to shed feminine stereotypes.
And while the commercials feature girls creatively constructing, the toy sets themselves are very straight-forward and have an established goal. There seems to be very little room for creative thought or construction.
Even the goal of the toy sets themselves, to create a spinning machine for a dog and a pageant float for a friend, are submissive and cutesy. Goldie herself isn’t trying to help herself or accomplish anything of any real means. Rather than encouraging creative exploration or self-empowerment, Goldieblox’s stories appear to focus on helping friends and helping everyone have fun (which are both feminine responsibilities that are already heavily emphasized in girls toys and games).
Is it helpful to present building, construction, and engineering in such a step-by-step cutesy fashion? Wouldn’t it be better to give creative control to a child and see what they build, rather then give them a simple and cute goal that more so resembles a homework assignment to be completed (made fun by pretty colors, kittens, and bears in adorable suits)?
As a gateway product encouraging young girls who are perhaps obsessed with Disney or traditionally very girly play things, I can definitely see how this would be a helpful toy to encourage problem-solving skills.
However, for already creative constructors (like those featured in Goldiblox’s commercials) I don’t see how these toy sets would captivate or even satisfy.
For someone who was hoping for a K’nex type toy set, but created and advertised with girls in mind, I am somewhat disappointed in how Goldieblox has chosen to style and present themselves. As of right now Goldiblox does offer a Blox and Bits expansion pack, and I hope that the company grows to focus more on this free creation and engineering and less on selling cute stories featuring traditionally feminine goals.
It feels a little too little, too late; not to mention a little disingenuous considering it’s extreme anti-girly advertising juxtaposed with it’s fairly girly product.
If Goldieblox came out fifteen years ago it would have been fairly radical. But now, in a world where a girl eschewing dolls for baseball isn’t that unusual, a pastel colored building set featuring girly goals and a princess looking main character isn’t really a big step (no matter what color her overalls).
I was very much rooting for Goldieblox, and was actually a Kickstarter funder.
But until Goldieblox ditches it’s super girly vibe and incorporates more gender neutral, creativity encouraging products (some that maybe my nephew and my neices male friends wouldn’t label too girly) I’ll have to search for a new toy set for my three young nieces.
Considering their favorite past times are basketball, snow machine racing, and martial arts (ages 5-12) I don’t think any of them would prefer pastel colored blocks about spinning dogs and friendship over freestyle construction with my old k’nexs and legos.
Of course, I am biased. I tend to dislike it when a regular product is suddenly made lady appropriate by making it pink or purple, and am wary of trying to persuade young girls to like engineering and math by making it more frilly and cute. Rather I prefer when we try to keep gendering out of inanimate objects, like toys, and wish Goldieblox had made toy sets boys could and would want to play too.
By simply featuring an associable girl character and making an engineering game that was gender-neutral, Goldieblox could have attracted both boys and girls, while simultaneously encouraging girls to enjoy math and science and teaching boys that girls in math and science (and positions of power) was normal.
What do you think? Explore the Goldiblox website and let us know!