Posts Tagged ‘Lego’
My husband and I are some of those “hypervigilant parents” as described in the article from the New York Times. You know, we encourage our daughter to play with toys that help her develop as a whole person, and this includes math and science skills. Neither my husband nor I deem math and science to be “boy subjects”. We have not bought into the gender stereotypes being sold to our girl, and she is a better person for it. Her interests are diverse and her imagination knows no bounds. She is a science and mermaid loving, glitter-sparkle shoe wearing, mud puddle jumping first grader who likes to walk through grave yards and never met a lip gloss she didn’t like.
During these six years of her childhood, I’ve never had to prod or plead with my husband to play with her. He just does it. Why? Because he is her father. He doesn’t find her dolls or tubs of plastic whales or tea sets or art projects or dinosaur towns or puzzles or Legos boring. She is his daughter. She is his world.
Most of the dads I know are engaged, hands-on papas who share responsibilities around the house, share in the care of the children, run errands, and are generally great with their kids. My husband doesn’t get a ticker tape parade when he bathes the children, makes dinner, or washes the dishes. He is my partner, I expect his involvement in these things.
While my husband may not sit down to a fancy tea and little cakes on his own, when Amelia asks him to play he happily obliges. Benny is fast to be in on the action, too. And I’ve never had an issue playing blocks or Legos or pirates or cars with Benny. I’m not sure when we started thinking of the sexes and separate species, but somehow I’ve found a way to make excellent fake explosion noises and I am one fierce pirate, let me tell you.
During the discussion on the PPBB facebook page the NYT article was described several times over as a “steaming pile of crap”. I agree. It was unclear from the article what the Mattel psychologist and the NYT writer deemed “man territory”, but my husband sees the whole world as open to his children. I think someone from our community (waves to Julie Smith) said it perfectly, “Clearly, they are jumping on the ‘girl power’ bandwagon without really understanding what it is really all about.”
My husband gets what it is all about. This is what it looks like when fathers play with their daughters, no Pantone 219 or marketing gimmicks needed.
Last year I blogged several times about my issues with the new LEGO Friends line aimed at girls. If you are new to this discussion, the problem is that for most of the 1990′s and early 2000′s, LEGO marketed girls right out of their brand. They have made several attempts to win them back, most recently with feminine-colored bricks (pale pinks, purples, greens, and turquoise blues) and the Friends line, complete with the lady figs that do not fit with the rest of the Lego world. During the giant discussion that ensued last winter, many parents argued that their kids would just mix up all the sets and bricks and not have a problem integrating the lady figs with the more traditional mini figs. On a case by case, family by family basis, that is probably correct. The LEGO table in my home looks like a LEGO explosion.
But when we look at the big picture, we get a different story. The LEGO Friends sets for girls are often stocked in a different aisle from the other LEGO sets, presumably for boys. This gives the message that girl LEGO builders are different from or outsiders to the rest of the LEGO world. This also gives the message that kids have to cross the gendered lines in the toy store should a boy want Olivia’s treehouse or a girl want the Pirates of the Caribbean, as is the case with my boy and girl.
I visited three LEGO stores this weekend and at each location the Friends line was stocked in its own corner in the store, not mixed in with the other sets. Every time the Friends line was stocked next to the Duplo products, which is LEGO’s line for preschoolers. This sends the message that the building required for the Friends set is simple in nature, restricted to girls and maybe little kids. What if the Friends line was stocked next to the Harry Potter or Creator series? The Friends products were clearly separate from the rest of LEGO world, both in physical location and in physical appearance, as nowhere else in LEGO does so much pink and purple exist. There are precious few bold or primary colors seen in the Friends line.
I also visited Legoland Discovery Center Chicago this weekend with my husband and two children (ages 6 and 4). In fact, it was our first trip to a LEGO store and to Legoland. Both of my kids were in heaven, and we had a really great visit. The staff was super friendly, and there were enough activities to keep the kids entertained for hours. There is a jungle exhibit that leads into a somewhat empty hall, which that day featured a large project area under a banner that said “Help Build Heart Lake City” (where the Friends line is based). Benny didn’t hesitate to dive right in to the girly colored bricks and begin to build a bridge for cats, and Amelia was hard at work building a skyscraper that later became a sea side cafe for sea plane pilots. The staff member there was awesome with the kids, encouraging them to reconsider their design if it seemed wobbly, or telling them their creation was a great idea as they handed over a little tower of plastic bricks to add to the city scape. It was great to see boy and girls working together on this project, especially when boys who are LEGO fans were using bricks in colors they would know are marketed to the girls.
Upstairs is a different picture altogether. There is a brick factory tour and a 4D movie experience that featured a predominantly male mini fig cast. There were several statues made of LEGO (all male): Barak Obama, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Indian Jones, Harry Potter and a big furry thing, and Batman. The second story also offers a play center with several activity stations and……you guessed it, a separate corner to promote the Friends line, build cupcakes, and play with pastel colored bricks. The toddler section is also located within the Friends corner. The rest of the upstairs activity room featured an Earthquake Table, City Construction Site climb and play, Racers Build & Test, and a Technicycle Ride.
When you walk into the activity room upstairs, the Cafe is off to your right, the Earthquake Table and Racers project areas are in front of you and behind them is the climb and play area. The far side of the room features a project-of-the-day area and the Technicycle ride. And to your immediate left is the walled-off, only-space-the-requires-a-separate-entrance, pink and purple LEGO Friends area and Duplo Village. On the brochure, the Duplo Village looks like a tiny preschool uptopia, in real life it consists of girly colored Duplo cupcakes on short tables and life-size LEGO bricks for castle or fort building inside a play pen-like area.
It was painfully obvious that the girl LEGO builders belonged in their separate area, and that area would include the little kids. There were girls sitting in the other project areas, unless they were with a birthday party, in which case all of the girls would file into the Friends section, play for a bit, and then file out. I was in the room for over two hours, and not once did I see a girl attempt to build a car at the Racers table and send it down the racetrack. Aside from Benny, not once did I see a boy venture into the Friends section to sit down and build.
And that is my issue with LEGO. Yet another company that trains the message into boys and girls that they are different from each other.
The room was crowded when Benny and I entered, and the only seat we could find was inside the Friends area. We sat down, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Why are these the girl LEGOs?” I reminded him that colors are for everyone and asked what we were going to build. We happily worked at our spot for about 30-40 minutes when my daughter and husband walked in. Amelia wanted no part of the Friends section, and took off for the climb and play, where she remained for over an hour playing some dramatic chase/rescue game she created with some boys she introduced herself to. Benny finished his project in the Friends section, and then said he wanted to go out into the main part of the room so that he could build with different colors. After lunch both kids worked together to build a fort from the life size Duplo soft bricks, and then scampered back into the climb and play. Mr. Pigtail Pals and I stood there people watching: observing how the boys and girls were building, how parents were reacting to them, and if any boys ventured into the Friends section (none did). It should also be noted that I never saw bricks (and colors) from the Friends section be carried or sought out by a little builder to intermingle with the primary colored bricks. In every way, the pastel world for girls was segregated from the bolder and brighter LEGO world.
I think LEGO is a wonderful toy. I loved them as a child, and still enjoy building with my kids. My daughter and son make incredible structures with the LEGOs we have at home. I will continue to be a LEGO customer.
I just wish LEGO would treat my daughter as an equal builder to my son. She does not need separate colors or spaces to be a part of LEGO. History has taught us that separate is not equal.
Remember my little pal Callie, the young girl who wrote the amazing letter to Lego regarding their sexist Lego Friends line?
I’m hoping when members of SPARK meet with Lego next month, they show the execs the contrast in these images.
Apparently awesome runs in Callie’s family….check out the birthday cake made of Duplo blocks that Callie, her grandma, and her cousin built for their great aunt’s birthday.
Not quite the same building experience you’d find, say….. at Lego Friends “Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery”.
I think Lego needs to change the way it thinks about our girls. I think Lego needs to Redefine Girly.
This just in from a Pigtail Pals Parent after a weekend trip to Legoland:
“After being there I realized the problem is far bigger than their friends line. The shows we saw have not one respectable female character (they manage to portray even cleopat…ra like a kardashian sister). Their kids meals and collectible cups come in pink or blue. The blue ones have several lego characters (ninjas, pirates, etc) on one side and a huge pirate ship scene on the other. The pink ones have 3 “sassy” looking girls (not lego figures) on both sides. They’re not doing anything, or supposed to be anything. They’re just standing there with big doey eyes being,……I don’t know……..”cool” girls, I guess? And then there’s still this. In fun town (which was pretty fun before I saw this), there are two life size characters built entirely from legos. there’s a male police officer and a female firefighter. Cool, right? Except the man is talking into his walkie talkie, while the woman is………wait for it…….not putting out a fire, but……….putting on lipstick!!! WTH???” -Sarah L.
Next, check out the second installment of this fantastic video series by our colleague Feminist Frequency.
(Skip to 8:30 if you are short on time, but the whole thing is well worth it!)
I’ve just heard from my colleagues at SPARK that Lego has not responded to our petition with 51,600 signatures from Lego customers upset over the gender stereotypes represented in the new Lego Friends line. They’ve issued press releases battling our talking points, but they have not responded to 51,600 voices. Nor has Lego responded to the two certified letters SPARK and sister orgs have sent requesting a meeting. Maybe Lego is unaware of how a brand’s identity can become easily and quickly tarnished by people on the internet (see: JC Penney, Chap Stick, and Komen).
As I sit here in my family room watching my kids play with their Legos (they are building a house for whales with an art room), I find myself wondering how big Pigtail Pals would have to get where I wouldn’t care about 51,600 people being upset with my product and feeling no sense of responsibility to answer them. Maybe “meet in the middle” is lost in translation on the Danes.
Let’s heat things up. Let Lego hear what you have to say. Give your kids a voice, and let them write a letter or color a picture expressing their feelings. This is far from over, especially as I’m getting numerous reports from parents that they bought the a piece from the Friends line with an open mind, and were discouraged when their daughter lost interest in about 20 minutes. I don’t think that has anything to do with girls and their interest or ability in building as it does more reflect the lameness of these Friends sets.
Lego could have done have hit one out of the park with this line. Instead we have a wall of purple boxes representing what I think are an outsider’s stereotypes of what American girls are like. I think girls worldwide deserve better.
Let Lego hear your voice, and if you would like your letter published here, please send me a copy at email@example.com. Children’s letters and pictures are most welcome as well!
orLEGO Systems, Inc. 555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138
*the formatting on the blog is acting up today, please just ignore and enjoy the content!*
Lily and Noah’s mom emailed the following correspondence to me. The kids had asked her if she was going to write a letter to Lego regarding the new Friends line that their family was unhappy with. She suggested they do it. And so they did.To Lego, I’m writing about the Friends sets. Can you add powerful girls? I would like you to make the girls go in outer space and meet aliens, or be fire fighters, or architects. I also think you should have a set where girls make cars. Please make real mini-figs and not all girly clothes. I like to wear a Duke t-shirt and my brother’s old sweatpants. Also, could there be more real building in the Friends sets? Here’s what I’ve made recently out of Legos: a robot, a deserted island, and a log cabin. I think the inventor’s lab and treehouse look cool. From, Lily H. 7 Year Old Lego Builder and Powerful Girl ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dear LEGO Fan, Thanks for your interest in our products. I think your More Powerful Friends Themes idea would make a brilliant LEGO® set, but for legal reasons we can’t use it! We have a team of experts in Denmark whose job it is to dream up new LEGO sets, themes and toys. They tell me it actually takes years to plan everything. They need to test all the new ideas, talk to the factory about how to make them, work out what sort of box is needed and then deliver the new sets to all the shops in 130 countries! This means that there’s a good chance they’re already working on something similar to your idea. We are working on lots of other themes for the Friends line. I think that you will be very please where this story goes and what happens to the friends. We are very aware that girls are very powerful and need to be represented as such. We’re really sorry but since you’re under 13 years of age we’re going to have to delete your email address and comments from our LEGO database after we’ve sent you this email. We’re not being mean, there’s a law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and it’s been set up to keep you safe when you’re on the Internet. One of COPPA’s rules is that it’s against the law for us to save your emails. Remember you can still find out all about our cool events and new LEGO products at www.LEGO.com
Thank you again for contacting us. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call one of our friendly Customer Care Advisors at 1-800-835-4386 (from within the US or Canada) or 1-860-749-0706 (from outside the US or Canada). We are available Monday through Friday from 8AM – 10PM EST and Saturday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM EST.
LEGO Direct Consumer Services
I would like the girls going to the moon and making friends with aliens, or crawling through creepy underground tunnels, or exploring ancient Mayan temples, or traveling the world.
Noah H. (Brother of Lily H.)
9 Year Old Lego Builder
Thanks for your interest in our products.
We’re really sorry to hear that you’re disappointed with your new LEGO Friends line. We try really hard to give LEGO fans what they want an we are glad you let us know when you feel we are not getting it right.
We have a team of experts in Denmark whose job it is to invent and test new LEGO sets, themes and toys. They tell me it takes years to check everything. They need to test all the new ideas, talk to the factory about how to make them, work out what sort of box it needs to go in and then deliver the new sets to all the shops in 130 countries!
As you can see, a lot of thought goes into your toys and although LEGO toys aren’t the cheapest in the shop, I hope you understand we invent and make LEGO sets to last a lifetime, or even longer!
We’re really sorry but since you’re under 13 years of age we’re going to have to delete your email address and comments from our LEGO database after we’ve sent you this email.
We’re not being mean, there’s a law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and it’s been set up to keep you safe when you’re on the Internet. One of COPPA’s rules is that it’s against the law for us to save your emails.
Remember you can still find out all about our cool events and new LEGO products at www.LEGO.com
Thank you again for contacting us. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reply to this email or call one of our friendly Customer Care Advisors at 1-800-835-4386 (from within the US or Canada) or 1-860-749-0706 (from outside the US or Canada). We are available Monday through Friday from 8AM – 10PM EST and Saturday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM EST. Please have your reference number handy if you need to get in touch with us: 030232427A
LEGO Direct Consumer Services
I am again left with several questions for Lego:1) Why do you not address the specific concerns expressed by children and consumers when they take the time to communicate with your company? 2) Is it too much to ask that you address children by their name when you reply to them? Respect their personhood. 3) It took a team in Denmark years to dream up a beauty shop and outdoor cupcake bakery and a puppy washing station? Why does the team in Denmark have such a stereotyped image of American girls? Why is the sexist Friends line not sold to Danish girls? 4) If you are “very aware girls are very powerful and need to be represented as such”….why does the Friends line, completely dedicated to girls, show none of the five new characters doing anything powerful? With the exception of Olivia’s invention lab, why is the majority of the line and marketing focused on aesthetic appel and chilling with friends and not positions of power? You don’t seem to have a problem representing power for the boys. 5) May I suggest you come up with a couple different versions of canned form letters with which you respond to your customers? That way, when you send a nearly identical email to members of the same household, you don’t make the childen feel like they’ve been brushed off.
Interestingly enough, Noah has had some practice corresponding with a company when he didn’t like something. Noah’s mom told me this story: “Noah wrote a letter to the publisher Usborne a few years ago about a mistake/oversimplification he found in a book about Egypt. It turned out to be a really wonderful letter exchange involving a publisher and one of their Egyptologists. The whole thing was very gratifying experience and we are to this day big Usborne supporters and encourage all of our friends to check them out. Lego seems very shortsighted in their responses to these kids.”
I’d now like to ask for ten minutes of your time to watch this incredible break down of Lego, the Friends line, and the marketing around it. The video is kid-friendly and from our friend Anita and Feminist Frequency.
A letter from Callie, age 10, to Lego Company. Dated January 5, 2012:
Dear Lego Company,
Rosalind Elsie Franklin, Lise Meitner, and Grace Murray Hopper. Do you think those great women scientists spent time playing with vintage style dressing rooms when they were girls? Do you think they decided to sit and look at a girl brushing her hair? No. They would be walking in museums, reading, conducting experiments, researching, and doing creative thinking. Legos are a great way to do the latter and I congratulate you on that. Legos are amazing and a great idea. They’re fun, brain building and easy to use. But when you turn them into a stereotypical toy, that’s just destroying the individuality so many people have been working for. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for blacks and whites to be equal. Today people are fighting for the equality of gay people. Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem were fighting for women’s equality. And when I walk into a toy store and an attendant leads me to an aisle plastered with putrid pink I think you just swept all those people fighting for equality out of the way and ignored what they said.
Generalizing is saying any group of people is all one way, or likes one thing. Even if it’s complimentary, saying a group of people is all the same is just not true. Every person is unique and has a spark, different likes and dislikes, and faults of their own. You must respect that.
There are plenty of smart and creative girls out there eager to play with Legos. Do you want that to be ruined, by giving them only a beauty salon to create? Please don’t. But I’m not proclaiming you should stop making those products, because they make generalizations about girls. But why just give us one option? There are plenty of girls ready to play with your ‘girl’s’ Legos. Plenty eager to pretend to comb hair and such. But then the girls who want superhero toys or adventure toys or dinosaurs or space toys or Harry Potter toys or Egyptian toys are forced to go to the boy’s aisle. They shouldn’t have to do that. Are you saying toys they want are for boys only? It’s not right to make a girl feel like she’s not acting like a girl should or is different. Are boys the only people who can do constructive things? No! But forcing a girl to go to the boy’s aisle, making her feel like she shouldn’t use Legos that aren’t pink and girly is just plain stupid. Why don’t you even have a boy’s category on your website? Are you saying boys can play with everything they want, unlike girls who have pink beauty salons? You have a girl science lab Lego set, yet it’s still pink and calls the things included “accessories”. The other themes, such as Ninjago call them staffs, or weapons. So even girl science lab appliances are called the same girly thing as jewelry. Why do that? To make money? That really makes me feel so much better about the world I live in.
And there’s another thing that makes me more secure about today’s lifestyle. If the girl does go to the boy’s aisle what meets her eyes is the sight of war. Legos you can use that create a war scene, or spies shooting at each other or a spaceship with guns to shoot aliens. Does this seem right? Do we need more war in our bloodstained world? It gives kids the idea that war is funny or nothing to be worried about. Movies surround us with people fighting each other with powers and guns. Little boys like my cousin see people getting blown up, but then just singed or bouncing. Getting hit with lasers and just looking wounded but then reviving quickly or pretending to be dead than sneaking up on the bad guy because they missed. This isn’t real life. Many people have died in war, families torn apart, torturings of innocent people and betrayal driven by fear. This is war. Children need to understand that.
You say, ‘I’m just making a living. The kids like it, it’s not your fault the world isn’t perfect and they don’t understand it. Or that some girls feel like they’re weird or that they should be making beauty salons instead of whatever they feel like.’ But it is in a way. You’re just a piece of the fault. You are a part of that thought growing in a kid’s mind about how they should be and what to think. Make it be the right idea. Please. Make a kid’s world a little less narrow-minded and stereotypical. Make some of it right.
Callie W., age 10
Lego’s response, about two weeks following Callie’s Letter:
Thank you for writing to us with your concerns about the design of our LEGO (R) Friends product line.
We listened very carefully to what girls around the world told us in four years of concept development for LEGO Friends: and we’ve used their input to create a theme that invites girl who appreciate these qualities to the LEGO building experience.
Many girls told us they had trouble identifying with the LEGO minifigure’s unrealistic appearance. As role play is central to the LEGO Friends experience we designed a figure with a more realistic appearance. While we understand that this theme is out of the norm for LEGO as, like you said, we are a gender neutral company. We feel it’s a step in the right direction to get girls more involved with LEGO products. Sadly, over the year, many of our girl fans have diminished and moved onto toys that appeal to them. For this reason, we decided to conduct studies with children in this age group. We found that little girls really enjoyed having male and female minifigures in their sets, while the little boys would take the girl minifigure out before playing. Boys tend to like to create “good guy versus bay guy” types of scenes, while girls enjoy role play, such as going shopping with their minifigures.
If you would like, Callie, you can take a look at our recent official press release in regards to our new Friends line. It may be something that you’re interested in. If you visit Aboutus.LEGO.com and click on Press Room and then Corporate News, you will be able to view our recent press release. I hope that this is of interest to you.
We appreciate you taking the time to share you thoughts and concerns with us. Listening to what our fans have to say helps us improve our current and future products, so I’ve passed your comments on to our design team.
Thank you again for contacting us………
Lego – Girls left your company because you stopped making gender neutral toys, and focused on boys and movies licenses. You pushed girls out. Girls didn’t lost an interest in building, they lost in interest in a boy-centric company. You gendered your toy, not little girls.
Lego – Little girls don’t go shopping with their friends. They are little girls with wild imaginations and a sense of adventure. You gave them beauty shops and cupcake bakeries. Science laboratories do not come with accessories, they come with science equipment and tools.
Lego – You are correct, Friends is out of the norm for Lego. Why do girls need out of the norm Lego? Why do girls need a different version?
I know we’ve been talking about Lego quite a bit.
What I find so fascinating about this story is how it is the perfect microcosm of all things girlhood these days. Corporate pink-washing, relegating girls to all things pretty and sweet, beauty over brains, using sexism to defend sexism, make-up on 8 year olds in a Lego tv commercial, and the list goes on.
So while this is about Lego, this is about so much more. Lego is just a symptom of ginormous problems staring down our girls. I just hope we are raising them to be tough enough to take it on and squash it.
Lowest Common Denominator
To be fair, the new Lego Friends isn’t all bad. It is just that it isn’t all that good, from a brand parents go to as an amazing brain-boosting toy. This new line leaves many parents wondering how Lego sees their girls’ brains, as the girl’s line is heavy on the cute, light on construction (I don’t count putting flower petals on stems or bows on dogs as building). I do like the science lab and tree house, and even the cafe (a little bit) and vet clinic. Olivia’s big house looks like it would be fun to build. Amelia, my almost-6-year-old would like them, but we would both be left wishing the majority of the sets required more actual construction. And challenging construction at that. There are so few building pieces, it would be hard to take them apart and build your own creation. That is the kind of stuff that breaks my Lego-loving heart.
The other part that breaks my heart is how segregated by gender Lego has become. Amelia received and loved the Lego City Marina for Christmas. For her birthday next week, my mom and dad got her another section of Lego City. I bought her a tub of primary colored bricks and a green and blue building board. But I wonder in a couple of years how my kids will view Lego, with the boy-dominated licensed sets and the all-girl Heartlake City. Lego has drawn a rather thick pink and blue line in the sand. Try as I might, I don’t know how much longer I will be able to keep Lego gender-equal in my home. As it stands, Lego seems to have some pretty sexist messages jumping off their boxes at kids, and I’m not a huge fan of teaching my kids sexist messages. Lyn Mikel Brown says,“The human brain is “fantastically plastic” and the best thing we can do for our children is to give them a full range of opportunities and experiences, especially in the early years. We don’t know at five how little Tierra’s or Tommy’s passions and talents will surface, so why pay good money to limit their options to the pink and blue aisles of toy stores?”
Lego is in the spot they are in not because girls changed, but because Lego changed on girls. To boost sales in the early 2000′s they focused on licensing deals with boys square in their sights. Girls stopped playing with Lego because Leg0 stopped including them. You’ve all seen the 1981 “What it is, is beautiful” ad circulating….1981 was 31 years ago. 31 years is a long time, Lego. Lego’s own marketing told girls that Lego wasn’t for girls. You can kinda see how girls went they way they did on this one.
Lego used the lowest common denominator in girlhood to design their line. Lego says the end result is after four years of $4 million in global research and this is what girls and moms want. For reals, Lego? I guess they didn’t interview the several thousands of moms (and dads and aunts and uncles and grandmas and caring adults) who voiced their opinion on the Lego Facebook page, several thousand more from the Pigtail Pals Facebook page (and other rad groups like Powered By Girl, SPARK, New Moon Girls, Princess Free Zone, Reel Girl; and the formidable girl culture expert, one Peggy Orenstein). A change.org petition calling for Lego to try harder for our girls has a couple thousand signatures. Lego says their research revealed girls play in the first person, are interested in beauty, and want to get to their role playing more quickly than boys. This fascinates me, as I have spent the past two weeks watching my female child play HOURS of Lego and not once tell herself to hurry it up so her Lego self can get her plastic hair done at the beauty salon.
Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth asks, “How (and why) are we missing profound opportunities to leverage neuroscience breakthroughs for positive change, wellness and play? How can we finally be tossing aside ‘hardwired corpus calossum theories’ on differences in boys/girls, acknowledging brain plasticity and realizing this play pattern/edu deficit stuff is NOT ‘set in stone’ and yet simultaneously standby to see Lego spend $40 million in mega-marketing bucks to proceed to SET it in stone.” Read the entire amazing post HERE.
You know how I always say, “I’m not anti-pink. I’m not anti-princess. I am anti-limitation. When we limit our children, we limit our children.”? Well, that pithy Amy Jussel says it this way and I like it:
I AM against stacking the deck of ‘learned behavior’ with pervasively marketed signals of stereotyped imagery embedding into the brain with stiflingly narrowcast assembly-line rote mimickry. I far prefer pure, imaginative, problem-solving free form fun.
I encourage you to watch the Lego Friends tv commercials, with the make-up clad third graders in the opener making a heart with their hands (awww, somewhere Taylor Swift just did one back) and the music sparkles and we are introduced to Heartlake City, the pinky-purple enclave where the Lego Friends live. With hearts on sky scrapers not a male in sight. Weird.
Watch as the saccharine-sweet narrator talks about the Friends partying at the cafe with the girls (only after they’ve been styled at the salon) because they need to chill after decorating their houses. It is important to note the commercial doesn’t show the girls finishing up a surgery at the clinic and then heading over to the science lab to help Lego Friend Olivia with her latest experiment. Lego shows the girls get coiffed at the salon and then go party. I think Lego needs to Redefine Girly just a tish.
I think the commercial speaks loudly as to how Lego sees girls, what Lego thinks girls are interested in, and how highly Lego holds girls’ capacity for spacial reasoning and construction play. Will this attract our girly-girls out there who think Lego is only for boys, or will only play with pink and pretty things? Maybe. I am yet unconvinced the ends justify the means. Being a girly-girl doesn’t make one incapable of building and planning and designing and reasoning, but Lego doesn’t seem to see it that way. Lego has a very clear idea of what “girly” means to them.
I am left wondering, in the age of childhood obesity, why Lego could not have created a juice bar/farmer’s stand with fresh produce and flowers? The all-female residents of Heartlake City are shown in the commercials rolling down to the cafe for burgers, shakes, and cupcakes. Instead of a cupcake baker, couldn’t Lego Friend Andrea be an organic farmer and we could build her a barn and big Chevy farm truck? And she could have a little laptop where she tracks weather systems and soil conditions and Skypes with other organic farmers around the world? No? Too much?
I also wonder, why can’t a single one of the girls work in downtown Heartlake in one of those skyscrapers? Maybe as, oh I don’t know…an engineer or architect? Is that just crazy talk? Why are they in the burbs decorating houses and cupcakes? Did I miss the Lego Friends Time Machine that zapped us back to 1952? Were you to lay a track of the Lego Friends commercial over one for Barbie Charm School or Lelli Kelly sparkle toe shoes or anything Disney Princess, they all sound exactly the same. Somehow Lego and other marketers decided the way to attract XX-chromosome customers you need a syrupy-sweet female voice with blue birds singing in the background to sell girls on the notion their role in this world is to be pretty and sweet. Way to STEM it up, Lego.
As Daniel Sinker says in his post, “Legos are still held up as a gateway to engineering and science, and despite my misgivings about the current state of their kits, I still believe they are. But if they’ve become toys marketed to a single gender, then we’re just reproducing the already awful gender imbalance in STEM education and employment.”
If girls are playing in the first person, as Lego says their research found, why is Lego not making people that are amazing role models for girls? Why is Lego not taking this opportunity to promote STEM to girls? In addition to a cafe owner, where is the calculus teacher or surgeon or CEO or scientific explorer or rescue worker or geologist or…..anything but what they gave us that sells girls short. Mireya Mayor is a famous National Geographic wildlife explorer, author, and a total girly-girl, even when treking across the world discovering new animal species. Lego, the king of licensing, couldn’t send her an email? I’d buy Mireya Mayor or Bindi Irwin Lego by the bucket. I like the vet (short skirt-wearing vet, this was questioned by a vet on our Facebook page) and the invention lab, but instead Lego morphed Polly Pockets and Barbie into brick form. Lego had such an amazing opportunity here to break away from the pack at the quarter pole and be a champion for girls. They didn’t take it. It is still out there, Mega Bloks, in case your listening.
Somebody please have the guts to show our girls how strong and smart and incredible and powerful they can be. I do it with my shirts and I sell them by the thousands. Let’s put that into a little plastic toy form. I’ve got ideas, who wants to listen? Mattel, wanna talk? Manhattan Toy Company? Is there ANYONE out there who has not drank the pink Kool-Aid?? I think I’m going to make myself cry.
Let’s move on…..
NBC’s TODAY Show Uses Sexism and Stereotypes to Promote Sexism and Stereotypes
On Tuesday morning many of us watched incredulously (jump to 5:01 in the video) as Matt Lauer interviewed Star Jones, Donny Deutsch, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman. One of the topics discussed was Lego Friends, and the two minute discussion was a master’s class in using ingrained cultural sexism to defend sexism. The interview left many of us furious and offended. As was brilliantly said on the Pigtail Facebook page: “Having people with such a reach not GET IT is overwhelming.”
Margot Magowan of Reel Girl transcribed the segment:
Matt Lauer:Star Jones: And they give you little electric mixers and brushes and combs and purses.
Donnie Deutsch: Perfect, perfect.
Matt Lauer: You’re sounding down on this.
Jones: When you’re a little girl, you want to build bridges also. You want to put them on top of each other. You don’t want–
Lauer: So go out and buy the architectural Lego.
(Nancy Snyderman laughs.)
Jones: Which is exactly the way my three year old goddaughter does. She has the architectural one. The big yellow ones.
Nancy Snyderman: These are perfectly okay. The reality is there is a gender difference. Girls like playing with girl’s things, and you’re still constructing things. If the cupcake girl can still do calculus, I have no issue.
Then there’s this part, Italics mine because there was so much interupting at this point it is hard to follow:
Deutsch: You’re teaching them to build! (Not really, the sets require precious little challenging building.)
Snyderman: It gets girls into architecture and math and design, I’m all for it!
Jones: Give them some alternatives for goodness sake. (Visibly frustrated.)
Lauer: There’s no law that says they can’t go to the store and buy the Frank Lloyd Wright line. (No law, but a hell of a lot of marketing.)
Jones: They (don’t) put the Legos in the girls sections. (Star was interupted here and not able to finish her sentence.)
Deutsch: Little Girls do like princesses and things like that. I like princesses. (Categorical stereotype presented as fact. My little girl does not like princess. I know many others like her.)
Snyderman: And will parents buy this for boys? (Laughs loudly)
Deutsch: No they won’t. (Laughs loudly, with an “Oh my God, that’d be so gay” look on his face.)
Lauer: That’s probably not going to happen. (Gives Nancy a “Are you crazy” side glance because everyone knows boys don’t touch girls’ things.)
(Matt, Donny, and Nancy all laugh loudly as Star sits slumped and defeated in her chair.)
Well then. If that isn’t offensive, I don’t know what is. First, for a segment on marketing, no one but Star Jones seemed to understand marketing. How a product is packaged, and who is shown playing with it, matters. Where the product is placed in the store, specifically the pink and blue toy aisles, matters. The images and messages and color coding our kids see over and over and over again, matters. This is called marketing, and marketers know all of this matters. That is why they spend so much money doing it. Keep in mind, Donny Deutsch is an ad guy. A famous one. And he uses a cupcake and princess analogy presented as fact, when what he is doing is missing the point that girls are programmed and conditioned to like those things because so often, they have no other choices. They like what they have to choose from. It is like Henry Ford saying, “You can have any color you want so long as it is black.” Girls who are given a wider range to choose from demonstrate a variety of interests. If from that wide range they choose cupcakes and tutus, bless their little hearts. But sweet baby jeebus give them choices. Choices! 2012 could be the year of choices!!
Second, the bigger issue is the laughter over the idea of boys playing with this Lego Friends line. And not just a chuckle. Three of the four “professional” panelists had cracked themselves up over the idea of a boy playing with a toy so feminine. Clearly the panelists feel there is a definite distinction over what girls and boys should be playing with, and the idea of a boy being interested in Heartlake City is hilarious.
The Sanford Harmony Program said it best on the Pigtail Facebook page: “This was a tremendous missed opportunity for bringing boys and girls TOGETHER. If children are given more chances to establish some common ground, and work and play with one another, they will be more inclined to engage more often – learning from and about each other along the way. The messages and images polarizing our girls and boys contribute tremendously to the notion that boys and girls grow-up in “separate worlds.” In these single-gender peer groups, kids are honing their communication and problem solving skills in isolation of one another and socializing each other in different ways. The world is co-ed – let’s do something to help bring our kids together.”
Side by Side Gender Apartheid: A Visual Reference
I headed to YouTube to catch some Lego tv commercials, and see if maybe this all wasn’t just in my head. So I watched two Lego Friends commercials, and then created a wordle from the words in the used by the narrator in the commercial, and the colors most represented by the brick colors in the sets. I then did the same for a Lego Dino and Lego City commercial.
You be the judge.
Apartheid (n): From the Afrikaans word for “apartness”, a system of segregation.
December 20, 2011LEGO Systems, Inc. 555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138
This is a big Christmas for my family. With our children being almost six years old and three years old, we have graduated into the world of “big kid” toys. This was the first year our children were going to get real Legos from Santa. Not Mega Blocks, we’re giving our big tub of those to the little girls across the street. Not Duplos, because we’re big kids now. Legos. Real, bona fide, build-em-up but don’t-step-on-them-in-the-middle-of-the-night Legos. We were going to take the kids to Legoland in Chicago. I was so excited.
And then you broke my heart just a little bit. You sold out. You sold my daughter out. You shortchanged my son and now contribute to the skewed and narrow way girls are portrayed in media and toys. You became like every other toy maker and drank the pink Kool Aid. You stated some research about girls needing girly Legos to build and create. Something about needing to project themselves onto their toys. Most little girls I know want to be doctors, teachers, vets, scientists, explorers, and moms when they grow up. I suppose I was a little foolish to think you’d make the Ladyfig Space Station, Ladyfig Emergency Room, Ladyfig Trek Explorer Caravan, and the special edition Ladyfig Doctors Without Borders Field Hospital and UN ambulance. But your busty Ladyfigs in their short skirts and the gender-coded pink, turquoise, and purple bricks come as a pop star, a socialite (seriously?), and a beautician. Because nothing tells our girls to dream big like a Ladyfig in a hot tub with a fruity cocktail.
Your research showed girls like to project themselves onto the toys they are playing with, so instead of giving them Dr. Sally Ride or Hilary Clinton or Dian Fossey or Septima Clark or Margaret Mead or Amelia Earhart or Dr. Hattie Alexander, you gave them Kim Kardashian.
How is my almost six year supposed to project herself onto a socialite or pop star, when the women in our family and friends she knows closely are university deans, international humanitarian workers, teachers, nurses, business owners, and writers? I suppose I could get her Olivia’s Workshop for her January birthday, as the power tools and microscope and equations on the blackboard are more congruent with how I am raising her than the beautician sitting poolside with a Orange Mojito in her giant Ladyfig hand.
I think it is very important for little girls to build, compute, and problem solve. To actually construct things, mind you, not just move their Ladyfig vet around the vet clinic that doesn’t require much building. For spatial aptitude and mathematical skills, Legos are superb. But when I look at your “girl” sets, I see that you don’t expect much from girls. Maybe pink bricks will draw in girls who wouldn’t normally build/play with Legos, but they are still getting the short straw once they arrive to Lego in comparison to what you offer boys.
About boys, for a minute. They are raised from birth to be little masters of the universe. Girls are, by and large, told to be sweet and pretty. Your advertisements don’t show girls playing with Legos. The Legos for girls you will soon offer reinforce these gender stereotypes that boys are picking up from our culture about what to expect from girls, and what girls are capable of. I know the selection of Legos is huge, and I know that I have other Lego set options to purchase for my home. As the mother to a son and a daughter, the stereotypes found within the Lego world for girls bother me greatly. I can still hear the whooosh sound that the tub of Legos I had growing up made with my brothers and I would dump it out all over a bedroom floor and sit for hours and build. I wanted this for my children.
I was so excited to bring Legos into our home. Now, my feeling at most can be described as “meh”. Maybe we’ll give Lego a second chance. Or maybe I’ll just get the kids Bristle Blocks instead. I don’t think those come with boobs and mini-skirts.