So the LEGO Friends debate has gotten a bit bigger. In case you missed our last post on this issue, some folks are hopping mad that LEGO is marketing a specific line of blocks to girls. In fact, recently a petition was launched at Change.org asking LEGO to stop selling out girls with this new collection. I agree with the petition statement, “Raising healthy girls and boys is all about creating a wide range of possibilities and options for our children.” That said, I won’t be signing the petition. Honestly, I can’t believe some 30,000+ people have signed it already. I think the petition, as written, is sending out some strange stereotyped messages to kids and their parents.
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Petition Message 1: Only Take Action Against Pink Toys
One of my problems with this petition is that it reads as if the old sets are gender-neutral across the board, while only the new LEGO Friend sets promote stereotypes. The petition states, “Go back to advertising and offering all LEGO to boys and girls!” My son is LEGO obsessed and gets the darn LEGO catalogs sent to him, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a LEGO catalog that marketed fairly to both kids who like pink and kids who don’t. To be sure though, I gathered them up to look through them. You can’t tell from the picture above, unless you have very good eyesight, but the last three issues feature, in total, 5 girl minifigs on the cover – and one is an angry mermaid (does that count)? Contrarily, there are 21 male minifigs featured within the three covers.
Open the latest catalog and there are a few city and architecture sets featured, but the majority are ships, vehicles, trains, ninjas fighting, dragon battles, aliens and monsters galore and an almost insane amount of Star Wars sets. Most sets come with a slew of male minifigs and a couple of token girls. That’s fine for some kids. But I know plenty of kids who also would rather have a pretend stage or a treehouse than a flipping Star Wars set. How come there hasn’t been a major uproar that LEGO hasn’t had anything pink or beauty related for years, even though many kids like that sort of thing? No one is mad that LEGO puts out set after set of all-gray Star Wars bricks? Where’s the petition asking LEGO to stop all sales of brown Harry Potter sets or the all green alien sets? People only get mad enough to create a petition when pink bricks debut?
Petition Message 2: Not All Girls Like “Girl” Toys (We Get it Already)
Petition creator, Stephanie Cole, writes in her LEGO blog post, “I can speak from personal experience and assure you, LEGO, that girls do like minifigs. They also like Star Wars and Harry Potter, and they like being creative and making up stories that involve adventures and good and evil and things blowing up. But if you keep on excluding them from your marketing vision, soon they will start to believe that they would rather have hot tubs and little plastic boobs.” Bailey Shoemaker Richards confirms, “These kinds of toys aren’t what girls want, they’re what girls are told they should want: feminine, frilly activities with little need for building.”
They’re not entirely wrong either. Some girls do like the current collection of LEGO blocks. Some kids could give a damn what color their toys are. However, that’s just one side of the story, because some girls, and I’d wager some boys, are drawn to feminine, frilly, pink toys. And not because someone is forcing them down a kid’s throat either. As noted in my last post about this issue, I was raised by a huge woman’s rights advocate and I fully believe in equal rights, but as a kid, I also really loved pink Barbies and lavender ponies. Some kids simply like this sort of toy.
Petition Message 3: Beauty Shops Are for Girls
The petition says, “LEGO has come to the conclusion that girls want LadyFigs, a pink Barbielicious product line for girls, so 5 year-olds can imagine themselves at the café, lounging at the pool with drinks, brushing their hair in front of a vanity mirror, singing in a club, or shopping with their girlfriends.” The petition ignores the fact that the new LEGO Friends line isn’t all shopping and beauty. The new line also includes an awesome treehouse, a vet clinic, an inventor studio and a neat (not pink) pet patrol dune buggy.
Also, it’s a little lame that the petition has made out these activities to be purely “girl” in nature. I hate shopping with a fiery passion, but my boyfriend can spend hours and hours happily at the mall. I won’t step foot inside a hair salon, but I have male friends who go to fancy hair places once a month. I refuse to sing in public, but most of my male pals love karaoke. In this respect, I do think LEGO should have included some new male minifigs in the LEGO Friends sets. However, to be fair, the petition has divided “girl” and “boy” activities up just as unfairly as they claim LEGO has.
Petition Message 4: Girls Who Like Pink and Frilly Toys Aren’t Powerful or Smart
The most harmful message this petition sends out is that if you’re a little girl who likes pink and feminine stuff, more so than say, a Pirate LEGO set or a basic LEGO set, you must be some sort of brainless idiot who will probably grow up only liking hot tubs and plastic boobs. The petition makes it abundantly clear that liking lavender and brushing your hair are not the sorts of personal characteristics you should have. Why does liking a girl-minded LEGO set make you less of a person than a girl who is happy with an alien LEGO set?
It’s extremely demeaning to be told that if you do like “girl” things you’re a sell-out, non-creative, non-imaginative, dumb human. I like my local cafe, baking cupcakes and lip gloss. I also like books, hiking, music and have a math and science degree. Go figure, considering I’m stupid enough to like the color pink. My partner’s two pre-teen daughters sing all the time, wear make-up, brush their hair and one of them has explored becoming a vet. We’re not wimpy, stupid or non-opinionated, even though we like many of the colors and activities represented by LEGO Friends.
This sort of petition singles out kids, girls in particular, who like feminine toys. This petition is telling kids that it’s powerful and good to like certain things and not others, which can be just as damaging as a petition that claims girls shouldn’t play with pirates or do math or a petition that says boys can’t cook or sew. A better petition might suggest parents spend more time making sure kids know that they can be powerful, creative and smart, no matter what toys and activities they like, be it trucks, baking, books, hair salons or even the color pink.
But I’m just one human with one opinion. Tell us what you think in the comments below. Will you be signing the anti-LEGO Friends petition?