Thursday, November 21, 2013

GoldieBlox Is Changing The World

*I feel like I need a disclaimer to say I'm not affiliated with GoldieBlox and no one's paying me to get all giddy about these toys - I just am.

Have you guys seen the new ad for GoldieBlox, a company whose line of engineering toys are aimed towards girls? Their slogan is "disrupting the pink aisle" and their ad which features three racially diverse (and totally adorable) little girls building a Rube Goldberg machine set to a feminist version of The Beastie Boys "Girls" is divine.

They build their toys mindfully for girls, and no, that doesn't just mean making them pink so they land in the "girl" aisle at the toy store. The company takes into account cognitive differences between boys and girls, and uses girls' strong verbal skills and inclination toward storytelling to create products that are better suited to engage girls. While researching to create their product line the founder of GoldieBlox discovered "[Girls] love stories and characters. They aren't as interested in building for the sake of building; they want to know why." So their toys have books and characters to go with the building sets, and I'm pretty in love with it all.

If you're feeling the love too, vote for GoldieBlox to get an ad in the Superbowl. They are one of only 4 finalists!

However, even when faced with this awesome step forward there are people ready to dismiss the company as "not enough." When you get into anything easily labeled "feminist," and these products certainly fall into that category, the scrutiny begins. The plucky main character Goldie is too blonde and too beautiful. The stories are too heavy in their traditional gender roles - too deep in princess territory - to promote any real good.

But isn't that the whole point? Isn't it better to build a bridge for the girls who love pink and princesses than setting them at the edge of the ravine between boy and girl toys and telling them to jump to the other side? 

I see it a lot in feminist blog posts. A step in the right direction isn't enough. If you aren't breaking down gender barriers with a sledgehammer you aren't creating any real progress. What's the point in celebrating valiant efforts when gender inequality still exists? When the dust settles we're still living in a patriarchal world riddled with rape culture and domestic violence, stop acting like this is the best thing ever.

And I get the frustration with the overall lack of progress. Really, I do. I see the long road ahead and how much territory there still is to cover. I understand the gap between where we are and where we should be is overwhelming. I get that pink engineering toys aren't going to tip the scales of the STEM fields towards women overnight.

The thing is though, any step forward is a step worth celebrating. Every effort is inspiring. If my girl can grow up in a world where there is a princess loving mechanical engineering toy to help develop her passions wherever they may land, I support that wholeheartedly. I don't need her toys to be stripped of femininity in order for them to be "good enough."

When valiant efforts are made, we need to stop tearing each other down.We need to be okay with the imperfection, to leave aside petty differences for the sake of a greater good. For progress, however small, is still better than nothing.

Yes, when the dust settles the world will look much the same. But it will be changed - it will be better - than it was the day before.


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