I’ve watched the commercials for GoldieBlox that I’ve seen floating around Facebook, and I’m going to be the first to say that I find them offensive to women. Oh yes, I think they look like really fun toys, and I’m sure I would have loved them as a child (and probably still would!) But I think the premise behind them is flawed. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a highly educated woman myself: I have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and I’m only 12 credit hours shy of a second master’s degree. I agree that women can and do make successful doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, just about any stereotypically intellectual/academic/male career.
But here’s the thing: the advertisements imply that girls who play with toys such as dolls, tea sets, dress-up clothes, and/or anything that is pink are somehow not using their brains.
I think that women’s liberation/empowerment/whatever-you-want-to-call-it has reacted so strongly against so-called “traditional” role models that it has gone in a complete circle. Instead of women being disparaged for wanting to go to college and have a career, they’re now disparaged for wanting to make a home and care for a family. You see, I love books and science. I like dissecting things, and I know how to use a number of power tools. I own my own drill (thanks, Dad!) I’m not afraid to try to do my own home repairs. But I also love kittens and flowers. I love to wear dresses, jewelry, makeup, and high heels. I made my bridesmaids wear pink satin gowns and carry roses. I was the little girl that played with dolls and tea sets and had my bedroom walls painted pink. And I think I learned a lot from it. That little girl playing with dolls, who supposedly isn’t using her brain? As she pretends to hear her baby crying, she’s probably also figuring out why she’s crying—is she wet? Hungry? Cutting another tooth? Sick? Does she need to be burped? Does she need another blanket? It’s more than just imagination. If that little girl is blessed enough to have her own children someday, she’ll probably already know how to hold a baby. The little girl who carefully sets the coffee table with her play dishes and serves tea to her stuffed animals will probably one day serve beautiful meals to her family and her guests. The little girl who played dress-up for hours on end with her mother’s cast-offs might be the one who can assemble a runway-worthy outfit with $20 and a trip to the Salvation Army. And I won’t even digress about wives who manage a tight grocery budget and home-schooling moms. Not using their brains?
While we’re on the subject of the ills of gender-segregated toy aisles, has anyone seen sewing kits marketed to little boys? Are any of you mothers teaching your sons tack up a fallen hem, or fold a cloth diaper? Do they know which side of the plate the fork goes on? Will they be able to do their own laundry in college? Maybe the desegregation should go both ways. If a girl needs to know how to change a tire, a boy should at least know how to sew on a button.
I would encourage all girls to get as much education as they can—and if they are called to be an architect, a geneticist, or a history professor, then by all means, that’s what they should be. But if they would rather care for a family of teddy bears, or prefer the pink Legos to the spaceship sets, then that’s fine.
Let girls be girls.