With a Pretty Pink Bow
The video for Goldieblocks has been getting a ton of buzz on the internet. It came up in my Facebook feed too many times to count as people kept sharing it and sharing it, usually including a comment that was some version of “I’d love it if girls did this to my house!”
My first reaction when I watched it was “huh?” because the music in the commercial completed contradicted the actual toy. The lyrics to the song, that has since been removed due to a little legal issue with the Beastie Boys, are as follows:
“Girls, you think you know what we want
Girls, pink and pretty’s it’s girls
Just like the fifties 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 a spaceship
Girls, to code a new app
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
Girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls”
But…these are essentially pastel-colored Tinker Toys. Isn’t the song about rejecting the notion that girls only like pink things?
I realize that this might have come up before, specifically with the LEGO Friends line that came out last year. There are 2 divergent schools of thought related to this – get girls into building toys by appealing to their girly nature, ie. pink/pastels, or create toys that are more gender-neutral. Personally, I think that we need to leave gender roles out of toys. Make things in all colors. Put pictures of both boys and girls on the box. Let the kids naturally develop interests and preferences without businesses trying to influence them for a profit.
What’s the harm in pink toys? Many people are saying they don’t care, as long as it gets the girls building things and using their brains. My husband likes the LEGO Friends because my daughter likes to play with LEGOS more now that she has a few of those sets. I suspect, though, that my daughter is actually more drawn to the fun people and animals that are included in the sets.
That is my issue. I am not anti-pink. I am anti-categorizing. Why aren’t there pink LEGOs in the non-Friends sets? Why aren’t there less pastels in the Goldieblox? Why can’t there be both girl heroes AND boy heroes? Why don’t the regular LEGO sets include the fun animals and accessories that the Friends sets have?
My son is not a stereotypical boy. While not effeminate, he is not how we expect most boys to be – athletic, boisterous, messy. He is unathletic, low-energy, and very emotional. He hates scary movies, violence, sports, and tight pants. By the way, I never knew these expectations existed until I had a son who didn’t fit them. “Boy” toys have never held much appeal for him, other than LEGOs and Nerf guns.
My daughter, though, she is a different case entirely. She is into many typical “girl” things. Her number one request at every gift-receiving opportunity for the last 3-4 years has been make-up. MAKE-UP!! She’d rather wear a skirt than anything else. She wants to let her hair get really long, because she thinks long hair is beautiful. However, she also likes bugs, and science, and getting messy. She loves being active. She likes watching Asian cinema with my husband. She is much more balanced.
Yet, the scales are getting tipped. More and more, she is expressing a preference for pink things. The fact that she never had a strong attachment to any one color before now concerns me. It reminds me of the behavior theory I studied in graduate school. Conditioning. If you pair something that brings pleasure with something neutral, eventually an association is made between pleasure and the neutral thing so it is no longer neutral. For example, let’s say I take a fun toy, and put it in a pink box, and give it to my daughter, and she is thrilled with the toy. Then if every toy I give her is in a pink box, she begins to associate pink with fun toy. Soon, pink = pleasure. Eventually she wants anything pink.
Has anyone else noticed that “boy” toys do not have a unifying color that signals “hey, this is for boys?”
There is an increasing focus on the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) in education, with a specific concern that girls do not do as well in these fields as boys. These building toys are being billed as a way to get girls more interested in these fields. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the pink parade is actually part of the problem. In the “real world,” where is anything pink and pastel? Have you ever come across a house with a pink roof? Their whole childhoods are spent playing with things that are pretty and pink – yet those colors are highly lacking in the STEM fields. Where else in the world are things pink? Flowers, sunsets, ice cream. And maybe Miami beach houses. Check out one of the “boy” aisles in the toy section and see how many items accurately reflect real things. Weapons, tools, LEGOs, vehicles, heck even the wrestling toys look about right. I wonder how badly girls’ perceptions get skewed by playing with dolls who have heads 3 times the size of their bodies – kinda makes sense that math and engineering are puzzling. We raise them on fantasy – fairies and princesses and talking pastel ponies and glitter – but then wonder why they have no interest in or aptitude for real-world subjects.
Many toys that are marketed towards girls are heavily focused on friendship, nurturing, and relationships. Does this reflect the way women are, or are we that way because it is what we were taught was important? Chicken, or egg? I don’t know. Toys that are marketed towards boys are usually about fixing things, conflicts, and building stuff. Otherwise known as science, technology, engineering, and math. Is painting a bunch of building toys pink the only answer here?
Shouldn’t we maybe stop trying to gear toys towards specific genders and just get back to making toys for all kids to enjoy?
The best toys for kids are ones that allow them to creatively explore their environment, to express themselves, and to practice real-world skills. Unless we are going to start manufacturing pastel shingles to sell at Home Depot, and breeding purple horses, we should probably limit the pink to cotton candy and bubble gum.