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12/20/11

"Lego" of Gender Stereotypes

Lego, I've loved you for as long as I can remember.

From the days of creating simplistic towers and faux weapons with your larger blocks, to graduating to the smaller blocks and building intricate spaceships and cityscapes, you gave me endless amounts of entertainment and creative development as a child. You taught me spatial relations. You taught me the basics of physics. You helped me learn to stretch the creative portion of my brain to realize that with a set of basic blocks, the potential end results were limitless. I even posted about my excitement when it was announced that Legoland would be coming to town.

But I have to admit..you've disappointed me recently. When the news broke that you decided to create a specific line of Legos for girls, I was baffled. Since when did Lego need to have gender-specific subsets? Why, all of a sudden, did a perfectly gender-neutral and universal toy need to be made into something that segregated and dissected its products into 'boy Legos' and 'girl Legos'?

No. Just no.

I don't get it. Sure, you pin it on 'research'. You say that girls 'play differently'. But did you ever think that girls 'play differently' because companies like you try to pigeonhole them into a specific way of playing?

You refer to your own product as 'masculine'. I suggest you come over and tell my 2-year-old daughter that she's playing wrong, because she absolutely loves her set of Legos. It's nothing fancy. It's the same tub I played with when I was a kid, in fact.

Sure, you've created playsets for movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. You have sets with rocketships and astronauts. Newsflash: girls can like those things too.

Girls don't need a Lego house with a pink roof where they can pretend to be Susie Homemaker. They don't need a playset where they pretend to be a pop singer diva. Will some of them want this stuff? Sure. But what girls don't need is you telling them 'Hey, THESE Legos are for you! Ignore all of those others!' And from what I can tell via screenshots, your new 'Legos for girls' take away the one aspect of your toy that made it special: BUILDING. My daughter loves to build things with her Legos. She doesn't need a miniskirted figurine to prance around with, and she certainly doesn't need you telling her that's how she should be using your products.

I won't be buying any of your Legos for Girls products. As far as I'm concerned, my daughter will continue playing with my old Lego sets until they get lost or destroyed in a fire. She doesn't need you telling her how to play or what it means to 'play like a girl'. Instead, I'll let her use Legos like they should always be intended: an open-ended tool for her to create whatever her heart desires without instruction.

12 comments:

I feel the same way about all toys that have been "feminized." I mean seriously, when was the last time you saw a pink dump truck driving down the street? It just makes no sense.

And it's funny that you mention dump trucks, because my daughter also plays with my old Tonka truck and loves it. We haven't forced anything on to her; she chooses what toys she wants to play with and how she does it. She doesn't need a guide from toy manufacturers.

I agree and disagree.

I disagree with you in that over the last few years, there has been a serious uptick in branding and specialization of lego kits. With extreme sports and goo-factor type legos directly targeted at boys, I think girl-targeted legos as a balance are appropriate.

BUT I have serious reservations on the trend in legos for more and more specialization. I remember making x-wing fighters from odd blocks of many colors, and as long as it was 30% white or grey it was great. However when my 18 year old son got the Lego Naboo fighter ten years ago, it was built once and stayed on his shelf. Never played with, never rebuilt. And for that reason I agree with you. Simple toys that encourage personal creative play are what legos should be about.

Whilst I agree that Lego is a gender neutral you have to admit that most of the 'kits' are aimed at boys, with trains, trucks, fire engines, cranes, helicopters, racing cars etc.. (okay I know those things could be described as not being specifically for boys) but as I a girl (well rather mature woman!) I think they are.

Now I have a 2 year old nephew who loves lego, I got my sons old lego set out and created a lego table for him which he uses when he visits under close supervision (until he is older). As soon as he comes into the house he makes a bee line for it and spends hours (and I mean that literally) playing with it. He knows how to put the bricks together etc and we are often building new houses, cars and other such items. This Christmas I purchased some additional bricks so we can be more creative.

My 8 year old niece also visits occasionally and likewise forgets about the Wii and heads straight for the Lego. Today I have been out and purchased two packs of the 'girls' Lego as they call it. My reasons are that my nephew is always trying to build a bath for the shark that came with I think the pirate ship years ago and one set has one of these, also he had no 'girl' Lego people so now he has two, and finally one set had a laptop and camera in it, I have only let him see the little bits such as hair brushes in this last week due to his age, I showed him a hair brush which he then used to brush his hair. He also found a shovel but as the bits are so small I had been holding them back.

So even though they are designed for girls in a sense, the items in them are for both and I know my niece will have just as much fun with the new additions as my nephew. As far as I can see the only 'girl' element is that they are a bit pink and there are female characters.

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I don't disagree with you 100% but what I am 100% about is that you have been misinformed. Lego has been making sets geared towards girls since 1979, see Scalar, also there is the Paradisa sets that were made from 1991 to 1997, and the Belville sets that were made from 1997 to 2009, all of which were primarily marketed towards girls. So yeah, it's nothing new and just because they put the word "girls" on the packaging changes nothing.

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