When Girl-Power Marketing Accidentally Does the Opposite


A few weeks ago, start-up toy company GoldieBlox posted this
and the interwebz exploded, as they say.

And at first, all caught up in the cuteness of the three
little actresses and the cleverness of the way the brand altered the lyrics to
Beastie Boys’ song “Girls” to accompany this spot (apparently without the Boys’
permission, but that’s not the point), I got excited watching it.

And then like a mosquito bite on my brain that annoys and
itches and won’t go away, I kept thinking about the implications of this spot,
its messages, and the fact that it keeps popping up in my Facebook feed as my
parent-friends share it. 

And here’s why I am now quite annoyed by this awesome,
viral, girl-power video, as a female myself, the mother of a little girl, and a
marketer to moms. 

I want my daughter to use her brain and her talents and
interests in whatever way suits her, whether that’s in creating elaborate
relationship storytelling in fantasy worlds that may or may not have something
to do with castles and princesses, or in engineering a new bridge alongside her
male counterparts to solve elaborate mechanical, mathematical and civil

Whether her favorite color is pink or black… 

Whether she likes theater or science… 

Whether she’d like to be a cheerleader or a football

Whether she is a girly girl or a tomboy…  or neither, but just a human being with
something to contribute. 

The problem I have with this current hoopla around the GoldieBlox
video isn’t that it’s got an awesome girl power theme or that it challenges
antiquated stereotypes of what little girls “should” be interested in. I’m a fan
of that. And I’m really glad that parents all over are so excited by its “don’t
put Baby in a corner” message that they’re compelled to share it with each
other in their social media platforms. I have seen friends on Facebook announce
that they will be buying GoldieBlox for all the little girls in their lives
this Christmas. I have friends who purchased the product specifically because
of the way this video made them feel. And with that, the brand’s objective with
this video is met. Hook, line, sinker. Good for that marketing team.

No, my problem is that this spot actually does the
opposite, in my opinion. 

It conveys that if you are a little girl who likes pink,
you are less than. If you like to play pretend princesses, perhaps you are not
be smart enough to be an engineer. If you like girly toys like dolls and tea
party, then “boy” toys like blocks are not for you. So in order for girls to
bash the glass ceiling over the toy aisle, they should subsequently bash these
types of girly toys. 


Granted, when hearing the company’s founder explain her
vision for GoldieBlox in her Kickstarter video, she clearly has nothing against
the girly girl. She just wants her personal interest in stereotypically male
professions and toys to be expanded to not just include girls but to target them. Unfortunately, I think that
vision is lost in the marketing video. 

Since when in this age of the mean-girl bullying epidemic
did we decide that it’s empowering to pit one type of girl as superior to
another? And when did we agree that message should be not only be celebrated
and shared, but in fact reinforced by our consumer spending? 

Don’t get me wrong – in college, I spent two years in an
independent research project studying the effects of advertisements aimed at
children in perpetuating gender and racial stereotypes. And the headline was
that ads targeting our most vulnerable little minds did indeed perpetuate
stereotypes that we are all disgusted by. So this is a huge step forward,

 Wrong. A huge step forward would be to show girls who
like pink and dolls AND blocks and building. Girls who can dance and sing AND
run and score. Girls who are not striving to be boys, or to scoff at other
types of girls, but to be self-aware, assured and confident in their own
interests.  This is what I want for my
daughter. I want her to play with blocks if she wants to, not because we’re all
trying to prove a point. I want her to do science experiments in the kitchen
while wearing a ballerina tutu if she wants to. I want my sons to play with
dolls if they want to. I want that type of childhood to be celebrated in
marketing messages. 

I will never make my girl feel that if she likes to play
with Barbies or princesses or tea party or dance and sing that she can’t be CEO
or President or engineer or solve the world’s problems. Just like I would never
make my sons feel that way if they liked to do any of the same things.

I believe that we owe our daughters more than a message
of “you can do what boys do.” I believe we owe them the message “you can do
what YOU want to do.” I hope GoldieBlox and LEGO Friends and all their gender-stereotype-debunking
counterpart brands – pink or not – will continue to evolve their marketing
messages to that level of true “just be you” girl empowerment. 



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