Thursday, November 21, 2013

GoldieBlox, Pink Lego...What's the Diff?

We’ve all seen this ad for GoldieBlox, right?  It’s making its way around social media these days and seems to pop up on my Facebook feed a couple times a day.  Everyone is mad for it and I can definitely see why.  It looks to me like a pretty good product with an amazingly spectacular ad.  It’s empowering young girls to stop playing with princess toys and start becoming the engineers we’ve always known they could become.  And all while a bunch of girls sing their rendition of Girls by the Beastie Boys.  As an advertisement, it’s genius.  As a product, I’m not so sure.

My problem with it is this:  How is this any different than the pink Lego everyone was enraged about a few years ago?  Why are the same parents that were rightfully complaining about the pink Lego now promoting GoldieBlox on their social media pages? Why do building blocks and tool kits have to be given a cutesie name and have pink and purple packaging for parents to buy them for their daughters?  And let’s not kid ourselves, as catchy and cool as the commercial is, the packaging is still super girlie and you will absolutely find this product in the “girl aisle” at the toy store, right next to all the princess gear.  You want to empower your daughter?  Let her watch Star Wars, read comic books and encourage her to choose toys from the "boy aisle" once in a while.
And while I’m at it, why is this product just for girls?  According to the GoldieBlox site, they are “tapping into girls’ strong verbal skills” by including a book with every kit, allowing girls to build according to the story line.  Brilliant!  My five year old son would LOVE that!  Thankfully, we have raised him to know that he is not too good to play with pink things or to read books about parades and puppies so he would absolutely play with this toy, purple packaging and all.  The thing is, I don’t need to be tricked by a catchy ad in order to encourage my kids (specifically my daughter) to play with construction kits.  We already have lots of blocks and building toys (in all colours) that both kids love to play with when they’re not already setting up dinosaur land, playing dress-up (both dressing up as fairies, princesses, pirates and superheros!) or having dance parties in our kitchen.  I’m all for empowering young girls but I don’t think GoldieBlocks is the product to do it and they will definitely not be under our Christmas tree this year. 
I’ll likely still watch the ad every time it pops up on my Facebook feed though, but that’s just because it’s awesome.


  1. Agreed on so many points. I love this product, and I see where they're coming from, but I think the bigger problem isn't making engineering toys more appealing to girls, it's making the world understand that we shouldn't have "girl toys" and "boy toys" in the first place. I see this as a good step toward addressing that first problem, specifically, but they could be using it to address the second, and so far they're not.

    I would LOVE to see this marketed to boys as well as girls. I remember the Kickstarter video, and it looks like a really innovative engineering toy, something that works differently from Lego and K'nex and all of that (though I think they're all wonderful toys). Working a story and engineering problems together to form those connections in kids' minds? GENIUS.

    In a perfect world, I think this would be marketed to everyone... and it would still be pink.

    You are absolutely right that the reason parents often don't let boys play with pink/"girl" toys is that they're seen as inferior to boy stuff. It's like how girls are expected to empathize with male protagonists in books because male is the "default human experience," but boys are told not to read The Hunger Games because having a female protagonist makes it for girls, and therefore not relatable to or good enough for them. (This REALLY pisses me off, can you tell?). I love that you aren't letting that attitude into your house.

    I vote for more pink toys that are amazing and appeal to everyone. I want to see so many of them that people realize that "girl stuff" is just "people stuff," as much as "boy stuff" is. And I want to see products like this presented as being for everyone, not just girls. Who says boys don't benefit from linking language and physics just as much as girls do? True, girls need the boost to help them know that this stuff is for them as much as it is for boys. But I can definitely see this product ending up under my Christmas tree for the boys, because I'd love to play with it with them. :)

    PS- To me, the difference between this and pink Lego is that this isn't a dumbing down to make it "appealing to girls." I agree that parents should just buy their girls regular Lego, or if girls really do like pink (and marketing research shows they do, apparently), pink lego sets should be just as exciting and challenging as boys' sets. If they are, I certainly don't have a problem with them. Whatever it takes to get kids exercising their brains...

    Great post!

    tl;dr: I love the product, but I agree that it's not helping the gender divide

    1. Thanks, Kathleen! I'm with you - it should have been marketed to boys as well as girls. Are parents supposed to wait for the blue boxed set to come out so we can buy it for our sons? I'm sure it's a great product, I just wish it could have been more gender neutral. Or if its going to be a girl-specific product (which it clearly is), they should just call it like it is, like all the princess stuff - it's obnoxiously pink and girlie but it doesn't hide that fact behind a smart commercial that claims that little girls should play with more than that.

      Thanks for reading! xo