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Gendered Advertising

When I first watched this commercial, I thought it was awesome. Telling girls they don’t need to play with the pink princess toys? Great message! Showing girls engineering a Rube Goldberg machine with household items? Fantastic! But then turning around and selling a “just for girls” engineering set that’s basically Tinkertoys repackaged according to assumptions about what will appeal to girls? Hm.

Compare that to this commercial for the Nerf Rebelle series, a set of Nerf toys made just for girls — complete with pink decorations and names like “Pink Crush” and “Heartbreaker Bow”:

I definitely like the GoldieBlox commercial better. It’s at least explicitly trying to solve a larger gender problem — the lack of women in engineering — by encouraging girls to play with engineering-focused toys. But it still misses the mark by taking a potentially gender-neutral toy and making it girly, just like the Nerf products. It still sends the message that girls should play with the toys made for girls. Rather than breaking girls out of the “pink aisle,” both companies are just bringing more diverse toys into that aisle.

The Nerf toys are more cringe-worthy to me, but GoldieBlox also plays into a problem with gender in our society: the persistent idea that boys and girls are different and thus need different toys.  But why can’t boys and girls just play with the same toys, together?

Edit: I updated the video at the top of the post. GoldieBlox pulled the original video and has since settled a lawsuit with the Beastie Boys over unsanctioned use of their song “Girls” in the commercial.

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Happiness Engineer for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. Linguaphile and Translator. Tester.

2 Comments

  1. I have mixed feelings on the marketing of this. The toy actually looks fairly cool though, seems like there’s a bit more to it than just being a set of tinkertoys.

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    • Yeah, I have mixed feelings, too. I think I still like the idea/goal and the toy enough that I’d get it as a gift for someone. 🙂

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