That GoldieBlox Ad: How It Shows the Importance of Media Representation

An ad for GoldieBlox, which makes “toys for future inventors,” burned up the internet yesterday. I clicked on it casually, thinking I’d watch a second or two to get the drift, and then move onto other Internet shiny things. But I watched the whole thing. Not only that, but I felt physically inspired — giddy, a little choked up — by the time it ended. The rejection of pink-princess culture, the three badass (and wonderfully diverse) little girls in the ad, the very punk-rock revamp of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” and even, as it happens, the very cool toys that the ad’s actually highlighting … it’s nothing short of brilliant:

One of my journalism students is writing a piece about the importance of racial and gender diversity in media. (Actually, it’s more specific and interesting than that, but I don’t want to give away too much.) She came to our meeting last week a little worried after one of her white, male classmates “joked”: “You have your tokens now. What’s the big deal?” She wondered how to make sure her piece speaks to people like him, who don’t get why diverse representations are important. It’s hard to explain to white men, who have had their pick of role models, villains, heroes, and flawed-but-relatable characters since Biblical times. But seeing this ad, even as a 38-year-old woman, fills a hole inside me that I didn’t know I had: The fact is, I would have loved this as a kid. I was pretty girly at times, but I also loved mechanical toys, sports, video games, chess, astronomy, weather forecasting, and geology — all considered pretty boyish, especially in the ’80s. Maybe I would be better at mounting curtain rods and assembling my own furniture now if I’d had these things then. It’s hard to explain to white men, who haven’t ever felt their heart quicken at the site of someone like them (finally!) doing something inspiring in a media depiction. In a way, I almost feel sorry for them (but not really) — it is a special feeling.

But it shouldn’t be special, it should be commonplace.

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One comment

  1. You’re absolutely right. Representation is key–and it’s hard for students of privileged backgrounds to understand that. The GoldieBlox video excited me, too: it’s so terrific to see girls depicted rejecting stereotypes and *building* things! How marvelous.

    There’s something disappointing, though: The product GoldieBlox is advertising is actually princess-themed. You’d think from the advertisement that it wouldn’t be; as you point out, the ad rejects pink princess culture! Surely the toy wouldn’t be about princesses. And yet it is. The new GoldieBlox toy asks girls to build a princess parade float, accompanied by a story about a princess pageant and competition.

    Sigh.

    If you’re interested, I elaborated on my thoughts about this here: http://rebeccahains.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/anti-princess-marketing-and-girls-education-mercy-academy-vs-goldieblox/

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