This article was updated on 12/6/13 to include news about GoldieBlox's lawsuit against the Beastie Boys and other developments.
Proving that little girls are more than willing to tackle STEM fields, an online ad for a construction kit for girls has garnered nearly 7 million views and generated a chorus of cheers from parents who have long wished for more variety in the so-called "pink aisle" of toy stores.
The ad for GoldieBlox opens with three kids looking bored while watching a princess-themed commercial on TV. They grab a tool belt, hard hat and goggles and, a moment later, are setting off an enormous Rube Goldberg-type machine constructed entirely out of castoff baby dolls, tea sets and other traditionally girly toys.
"You like to buy us pink toys, and everything else is for boys," a chorus of kids sings, revamping the Beastie Boys' anti-feminist tune "Girls." "Girls can build a spaceship. Girls can code a new app. Girls can grow up knowing that they can engineer that."
And that is exactly the point that GoldieBlox inventor and CEO Debbie Sterling is trying to make. Her toy set went into production in 2012 with a hefty boost from 5,519 backers who contributed more than $285,000 via Kickstarter.
The video quickly sparked controversy as well. A few days after it went viral, GoldieBlox filed a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys, saying that the rap group was threatening them with copyright infringement. The toy company scrubbed the song from their original video (an updated version is above) and, in spite of the fact that it was a finalist for a Super Bowl commercial contest at the time, posted an open letter to the band reframing the ad as "a parody video."
"Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously," reads the letter addressed to the band's remaining members, Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Adrock). "We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours."
A spokesperson for the Beastie Boys told The Hollywood Reporter that "there was no complaint filed, no demand letter -- no demand, for that matter -- when they sued the Beastie Boys." The band followed up a few days later with a statement of their own.
“Make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads," they said in their statement. "When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US."
GoldieBlox is intended "to inspire girls the way Legos and Erector sets have inspired boys, for over 100 years, to develop an early interest and skill set in engineering," Sterling, a Stanford University mechanical engineering grad, explained on her company's Kickstarter campaign page.
"I thought back to my childhood with the princesses and the ponies and wondered why construction toys and math and science kits are for boys," she told The New York Times. "We wanted to create a cultural shift and close the gender gap and fill some of these jobs that are growing at the speed of light."
After a year of research into child development and gender differences, she noted that while boys often have excellent spatial skills, girls "have superior verbal skills" and are drawn to stories and characters.
"GoldieBlox is the best of both worlds: reading + building," Sterling explained on her Kickstarter page. "It appeals to girls because they aren't just interested in 'what' they're building. They want to know 'why.'"
The construction materials are packaged with books starring a girl named Goldie who loves to solve problems and build.The book-and-blocks sets cost $29.99 each online and are inter-connectable. But the product isn't gender-neutral: The pieces are pink and pastel, with plenty of cute little animals.
Corrected on : This article was updated on 12/6/13 to include news about GoldieBlox's lawsuit against the Beastie Boys and other developments.