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Modern Parenthood

'Princess Machine' video reclaims construction toys for girls

Toymaker GoldiBlox's 'Princess Machine' video challenges the status quo for girls' toys that tend to foster stereotypical gender roles steeped in princess culture.

By Contributing blogger / November 20, 2013


Upworthy is featuring one of those rare advertisements that is, by itself, a clear declaration of social change: a brash request, by way of a clever music video, that it's time to start giving girls toys that help them think and treat them like people (rather than stereotypical "princess" prizes to be won and kept by men.)

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The video is a promotion of GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox is a company founded by Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling; it's focused on making construction toys for girls, with an eye toward developing future engineers, mathematicians, and scientists.

But the bulk of the video's content is a rejection of the idea that girls' toys need to be little pink nothings, while boys have all the fun building and exploring.

"Princess Machine" is a witty re-appropriation of the jaw-dropping OK Go video for This Too Shall Pass - a mammoth, real-life Rube Goldberg machine that uses a host of objects that fall, climb, roll, soar through the air, and otherwise transform potential energy into kinetic energy. Just running the math on this video would keep an advanced physics student happily occupied for weeks or months, depending on how precise she wanted to be.

But if the visual action is clever, the musical choice – a re-appropriation and rewrite of the classic, misogynistic Beastie Boys anthem "Girls" – is downright brilliant. The original track views girls as objects of conquest who should occupy their time cooking and cleaning; the GoldieBlox re-write puts them in the driver's seat. It's a charming update.

For parents doing some holiday shopping, it's worth noting that while GoldieBlox is a pioneer in its field, there are some other good toys out there serving a similar mission: check out Roominate (the dollhouse with working circuits that you build) or the telescopes that come in teal, for example. Or just buy them construction and science toys for boys, and don't make a big deal out of it. That'll work, too.

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