Two Viral Videos Push Against Stereotypical Messages Girls Get From the Media (Mildly NSFW)

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“Sci­ence: It’s a Girl Thing!” OMG, Seri­ous­ly?! The Botched Video by the EU

Christo­pher Hitchens Cre­ates a Read­ing List for Eight-Year-Old Girl

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Gives Teenage Girls Endear­ing Advice About Boys (And Much More)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (5)
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  • Sophia_B says:

    My crit­i­cism is a gen­er­al one and not just about the first video: “Girls who read,” “boys who read,” these two com­mon talk give a very spe­cif­ic and unfair descrip­tion of “intelligent/interesting (or alike) per­son.” Espe­cial­ly when you also lim­it it even more like, “Girls/boys who read *books*.” In the old times, before we had tech­nol­o­gy, read­ing was one of the cou­ple sources for infor­ma­tion and to improve your­self. It’s not like that any­more. We have muse­ums, we trav­el and do research, we watch doc­u­men­taries, sci­ence pro­grams, the news…etc I know plen­ty of very intel­li­gent peo­ple who don’t read a lot. It’s just a ridicu­lous argu­ment to say some­one who reads books is bet­ter, more intel­li­gent, more inter­est­ing than a per­son who does­n’t.

    • Jay says:

      How many intel­li­gent peo­ple do you know who don’t read at all? All of those intel­lec­tu­al pur­suits you rat­tled off require read­ing for com­pre­hen­sion- you read bios and guides when you go to a muse­um, you read trav­el­ogues when you trav­el, you read a lot in most doc­u­men­taries, sci­ence pro­grams tend to have explana­to­ry inter­sti­tials, as do the news. The orig­i­nal video stat­ed that he likes a woman who “reads,” and then pro­vid­ed a long list of things that she could poten­tial­ly be read­ing. Maybe *you* don’t like to read and you felt crit­i­cized?

      • Sophia_B says:

        Did I write, “…who don’t read AT ALL,” or did I write, “…who don’t read A LOT.”? It’s the lat­ter. And I know quite a few intel­li­gent peo­ple who bare­ly ever read books if ever. I also specif­i­cal­ly said that my crit­i­cism was­n’t just about or relat­ed to the first video but was a response to the gen­er­al saying/belief that peo­ple who read books are more intel­li­gent than the peo­ple who don’t. The rest of your com­ment does­n’t even make any sense, read­ing two sen­tences while watch­ing a sci­ence pro­gram is not the read­ing we are—or the man in the video—talking about here. (I don’t even know what kind of doc­u­men­taries you watch that you do “A LOT of read­ing” while watch­ing them.)nnI hap­pen to love read­ing actu­al­ly. I always have. I don’t think it nec­es­sar­i­ly makes me more intel­li­gent than every­one or most peo­ple who don’t.

  • Chris says:

    I think it’s valid. I think we can con­sid­er “a girl who reads” to be one of sev­er­al kinds of auto didact, both male or female. It’s rather obtuse to take it lit­er­al­ly, though even if you did, a girl who reads will often be more inter­est­ing than one who does­n’t.

  • Daniel says:

    While I agree with the val­ue of intel­li­gence (or rather being smart and able to com­mu­ni­cate well; apt­ly put by “Sher­lock“ ‘s “Smart is the new sexy.”), it would be nice if the con­ver­sa­tion would not be so one sided. After all, there are plen­ty of smart guys around who are, e.g., more intro­vert­ed, and who don’t get videos to cel­e­brate them (or are rec­og­nized for being smart). And in con­trast to women, when men com­plain about these issues they usu­al­ly get neg­a­tive reac­tions. After all, men and boy’s don’t complain.nnAnother aspect — while impor­tant, being smart is appar­ent­ly not the only thing (here “a girl who reads” — hope­ful­ly some­thing bet­ter than “Twi­light” or “50 shades”). It’s iron­ic that the girl in the video is (also) strik­ing­ly beau­ti­ful. On the one hand it improves the mes­sage — it’s not a case of “well, there’s noth­ing else to like, so I go with the brain”. On the oth­er hand it is per­haps admit­ting that yes, phys­i­cal attrac­tion does play a role. And I would­n’t call rec­og­niz­ing this as “leer­ing” — I’d call it sex­u­al attrac­tion, and that’s a good thing. As Michael Mar­shall Smith put it nicely:nn“Men of all shapes and sizes, ages and creeds, and states of mar­i­tal or rela­tion­ship bliss enjoy, every now and then, the sight of a woman with no clothes on. It’s just as well we do, you know, oth­er­wise there’d be no new lit­tle earth­lings, would there? If you want to call that oppres­sion or sex­ism or the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the female body then go right ahead, but don’t expect me to talk to you at din­ner par­ties. I pre­fer to call it sex­u­al attrac­tion, but then I’m a sad fuck who spends half his life in front of com­put­er, so what the hell do I know?“nMichael Mar­shall Smith, “More Tomorrow“nnBut yup, although read­ing is nei­ther the only way nor a guar­an­teed way, being smart is impor­tant. And if you exclude basic hygiene, it is more impor­tant (for me) than phys­i­cal characteristics.nnnAnd per­haps one day we see some smart women mak­ing a video in the same vein — pre­fer­ring char­ac­ter and smarts, not only over his appear­ance, but also over his resources like mon­ey and oth­er pos­ses­sion, and over his sta­tus and prestige.nnnThat would be nice.

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