Monday, November 25, 2013

The Trouble With "Girls" - Starring Goldie Blox

Toymaker Goldie Blox has created a viral video sensation with their new internet commercial, in which three little girls use toys marketed at them to build a complex Rube Goldberg machine, while singing a song mocking these toys and demanding better to the tune of the Beastie Boys decidedly chauvanistic "Girls".  
The lyrics are as follows (transcript courtesy of Skepchick)
Girls. You think you know what we want, girls
Pink and pretty it’s girls.
Just like the 50’s it’s girls.
You like to buy us pink toys
And everything else is for boys
And you can always get us dolls
And we’ll grow up like them… false.
It’s time to change.
We deserve to see a range.
‘Cause all our toys look just the same
And we would like to use our brains.
We are all more than princess maids.
Girls to build the spaceship,
Girls to code the new app,
Girls to grow up knowing
That they can engineer that.
Girls. That’s all we really need is Girls.
To bring us up to speed it’s
Girls.
Our opportunity is
Girls.Don’t underestimate
Girls.
As the father of an incredibly charming, funny, talented, and above all smart, girl, I wanted to love it.   And yet, I don't.  Why?  

It's an ad.  When I first heard about the commercial, I assumed it was a public service announcement, or perhaps an ad for an educational non-profit aimed at young women.   But it's an ad, using positioning to market a product in a crowded field.  The magic of any message of empowerment loses its edge for me when it's simply made to sell a product, no matter what the product's intentions.  

It's the creation of men.  From the contraption flowing through the advertisement to the production team behind it to the song that drives it, the commercial is primarily the production of men, according to Adweek.   Certainly the ad has gathered a lot of attention, but the message could have been driven home a lot more authentically if they'd have relied on the ingenuity of actual women and girls in the creation of the commercial.      
Is the problem pink toys, or parental choices for kids?  My daughter LOVED Disney Princesses, Dora, Barbies, dress-up, and other toys marketed to girls.   She also loved Legos, computers, sketchbooks, iPads, riding her bike, playing sports, science toys, and more.    While there are many toys marketed directly to girls in feminine colors, there also are a ton of toys that are gender neutral, including the ones mentioned above.    My daughter enjoying Ariel didn't keep me from encouraging her interest in science and math.  I want her to find her own path, confident and comfortable in her love of vocation and self, be it wearing pink or plaid, teaching school or building a building.    
Using "Girls" Without Permission  While I admit that taking an outrageously sexist song by the Beastie Boys and turning it on its head was brilliant, not seeking permission to use the song in an advertisement is outright stupid.   My daughter is a budding artist and writer.   The last message I want to send to her is that it is appropriate to take a copyrighted work as your own without proper attribution or reimbursement.    
Certainly we need to empower our daughters to do and be anything they want to be, without any limits put on them because of their gender. I applaud Goldie Blox for starting the discussion.   Here's hoping their message is even stronger and more consistent for the next commercial