No matter what you think of GoldieBlox's mission (shattering gender stereotypes by creating better toys for girls), there's no denying that the brand's marketing game is strong. In November of 2013, its first video ad — which featured three little girls devising a delightfully implausible Mouse-Trap-like device — went viral, and now, the company is back in the spotlight with a video advertisement for their new action figure for girls.
In the ad, a line of girls clad in identical sparkly, pink outfits and heels shuffles single-file through a factory, collecting similarly dressed dolls from a conveyor belt — until one young iconoclast in overalls and Converse breaks free of the pack. She smashes the doll-manufacturing machinery with a hammer, and out comes a new and improved doll, the GoldieBlox action figure — which, as it happens, looks a lot like the young actress who shunned conformity in the video: pale and slender, with long, blonde hair. "In 2014, GoldieBlox breaks the mold with an action figure for girls," the screen reads.
The thing is, we've always had action figures for girls. They're called action figures. There are as many brain-building, creative, constructive (literally) toys available to girls as there are to boys. This particular writer adored train sets and Legos as a kid, as did many, many women. The problem isn't necessarily the toys; it's the marketing. Like it or not, advertising does influence desire, and if this video leads girls to replace the Bratz or Barbie dolls on their Christmas lists with a figurine that can "do" more than model different outfits, then great. And, it's undeniably important that a greater share of the action figures on shelves represent women (we're not talking about Lara Croft here). That said, in this case we'd love to have seen, oh, I don't know, a non-"perfect"-looking iteration of young (hammer-wielding) womanhood than that modeled by the GoldieBlox commercial's lead actress and doll itself. A pair of overalls does not diversity make.
The flip side of this coin, though, is that some girls do genuinely enjoy pink, sparkles, and trying on heels — those interests that the GoldieBlox ad dismisses. And, guess what? Being "girly" is okay, too — as long as it's a choice, and as long as a range of options (toys and identities alike) is available to and celebrated among boys and girls trying to figure themselves out. In an ideal world, girls who want to play with Nerf guns play with Nerf guns, while boys who are into pink feather boas can be into pink feather boas — all without fear of harassment or ridicule. My 12-year-old self would have taken both the Nerf gun and the boa, thank you very much.