“Toys for Future Engineers”

My friend, who was in engineering here, recently posted this ad on Facebook praising it because it offers girls toys that don’t have to do with baking or dolls but instead promote science. The ad shows three girls first staring at a TV screen in complete boredom before creating an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine to shut it off. The ad finishes with the tagline “Toys for Future Engineers,” as the three girls pose with a tool belt, hardhat and goggles.

The ad is great in several ways. It promotes a toy which is very dissimilar to the majority marketed to girls. Most toys “for girls” are dolls, easy bake ovens, play home sets and jewelry making kits. This is of course fine for the girls who are interested in these things, but often girls that are interested in building and inventing find themselves drawn towards the toys for boys because they cannot find anything in the items marketed for their gender. The toy also pushes for girls who will grow up to be scientists and engineers, which are male-dominated professions. Yet the ad falls short in one aspect as it continues to further the gender binary in marketing to girls alone, as if boys and girls must have separate toys because they are fundamentally different. So while the ad does a lot, it still has a little way to go. But I’ll take this as an accomplishment for girl’s toys, and hopefully in the future we can just call them toys.

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2 thoughts on ““Toys for Future Engineers”

  1. ngrabowski

    When this ad came out about 2 weeks ago, I rewatched it religiously. Maybe it was due to the catchy parody of Beastie Boys’s, “Girls”. Maybe it was the captivating Rube Goldberg contraption made by the young ladies, which I was obsessed with trying to make as a child. Or maybe it was the hope that there is finally a company that can create some positive change in the toy industry.

    I agree that the most advantageous component of the advertisement, and implicitly it’s product, is that it provides a much desired diversification in female toys. It’s a shame that our girls can only amount to mothers, bakers, and princesses given the toys they can select. This continuously reinforces the domestic roles that are expected of women, and is harmful to future domestic labor divisions and employment opportunities.

    However, although I agree that providing girls with toys that inspire building and problem solving will keep the interest in STEM fields alive when they have previously been squandered, I think solely relying on toys to ignite a higher concentration of women in STEM careers is a bit ludicrous. Again. this is a very important step in the process, but it is not a be-all-ends-all for getting women into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These toys should be coupled with other initiatives that spark interest in STEM, like school programs sponsored by their local Science Centers, etc.

    Finally, although it’s a shame that GoldieBlox is only marketed towards girls, I don’t think it’s a problem of the company but the industry itself. Feminist Frequency, a vlog that sparks conversations between feminism and popular culture, provides an analysis on how Lego, a supposedly gender-neutral company, has solely marketed its products towards boys in the last two decades. When the most popular, and gender-neutral in origin toys have become a playground for masculinity, it’s hard not to play into the gender binary, since girls are so far behind when it comes to toys that engage them spatially. The second point is that although providing separate toys may enforce fundamental differences, based on GoldieBlox’s research, there are differences in the ways that girls and boys learn. Now, I’m not advocating for this theory as I’m not knowledgable in child development and I believe that the differences argument can grow into a superior biological debate, but she does provide some interesting points. The reason that GoldieBlox is marketed to girls is because the combination reading and building is designed for what girls like (supposedly, based on her research). So although it does call in some fundamental gender differences, is it that problematic if it sparks interest in STEM fields for women?

    Works:
    Feminist Frequency “The LEGO Boys Club – Lego & Gender Part 2”. http://www.feministfrequency.com/2012/02/lego-gender-part-2-the-boys-club/

    GoldieBlox “About”. http://www.goldieblox.com/pages/about

    Reply
  2. denizertan

    This is a great ad and I completely agree with what Bamoako said about this toy taking the first step but still being heteronormative. However, it immediately reminded me of “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” and how freeing a child from society’s expectations of his/her biological sex can create a very healthy and extraordinarily talented individual. Similarly, this toy allows girls to enhance their scope of interests and talents, if not free them from the expectations. Even in X’s case, X created discomfort among the parents while X was an unusually talented kid and loved by all of the classmates. Thus, in an ideal society we would have same toys and clothes for boys, girls and children with any sex; yet it is almost impossible in today’s world considering the market for it would be very little due to the insignificant number of parents who openly follow gender-neutral parenting.

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