The first of two videos circulating on the internet, “Girls Who Read” by UK poet and “Rogue Teacher” Mark Grist (above) hits back at the lad culture that objectifies women according to certain “bits” named above in some mildly NSFW language. In his video performance piece above, Grist, asked which bits he prefers by a lad in a pub, and faced with a looming cadre of both male and female peers putting on the pressure, answers haltingly, “I like a girl… who … reads.” Then, his confidence up, he elaborates:
I like a girl who reads,
Who needs the written word
And who uses the added vocabulary
She gleans from novels and poetry
To hold lively conversation
In a range of social situations
The ideal girl close to Grist’s heart “ties back her hair as she’s reading Jane Eyre” and “feeds her addiction for fiction with unusual poems and plays.” In his infectious slam cadences, Grist’s impassioned paean to female readers offers a charming alternative to the ladmag gaze, though one might argue that he still does a little bit of projecting his fantasies onto an unsuspecting lone female at the bar (who turns out to be not so alone). Maybe “Girl Who Reads” is a trope, like “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” an idealization that says more about Grist’s desires than about any particular, actual girl, but it’s still a refreshing challenge to the leering of his pubmates, one that communicates to girls that there are men out there, even in the pubs, who value women for their minds.
The video above, for a new line of toys called GoldiBlox, designed by Stanford-educated engineer Debbie Sterling, upends another adolescent male cultural touchstone—this time a by-now classic American one—the Beastie Boys gleefully misogynistic anthem “Girls.” While the original still likely scores many a frat party, it now must compete with the rewrite performed by “Raven.” The re-appropriated “Girls” plays over video of a trio of young girls, bored to death with stereotypical pink tea sets and the like, who build a complicated Rube Goldberg machine from Goldiblox, which resemble plastic tinker toys. I foresee snippets of the updated lyrics (below) making their way onto playgrounds around the country. Hear the original Beastie Boys song, with lyrics, below.
You think you know what we want, girls.
Pink and pretty it’s girls.
Just like the 50’s it’s girls.
You like to buy us pink toys
and everything else is for boys
and you can always get us dolls
and we’ll grow up like them… false.
It’s time to change.
We deserve to see a range.
‘Cause all our toys look just the same
and we would like to use our brains.
We are all more than princess maids.
Girls to build the spaceship,
Girls to code the new app,
Girls to grow up knowing
they can engineer that.
That’s all we really need is Girls.
To bring us up to speed it’s Girls.
Our opportunity is Girls.
Don’t underestimate Girls.
As with all kids advertising, this is aimed as much at parents—who remember the Beastie Boys’ song—as their kids, who couldn’t possibly. And unlike Grist’s video, which only sells, perhaps, himself, the Goldiblox video aims to get kids hooked on plastic toys as much as any of the ads for products it displaces. Nonetheless, I’ll play it for my daughter in a few years, because lines like “we are all more than princess maids” constitute the perfect retort to the seemingly endless cultural slotting of girls into ridiculously subservient and fantasy roles.