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Tony Grist

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Gender [Aug. 14th, 2013|10:04 am]
Tony Grist
This probably isn't news to you but I discovered yesterday that Lego has a new line of box sets aimed specifically at little girls. It's called Lego Friends. I was gong to write a moany piece about gender stereotyping, but after a couple of sentences realized I was being insincere and what I really think is that it's nice that Lego is no longer just about pirates and spaceships and big diggers. Besides some of the sets are quite aspirational.  If I had the money and the face I'd be tempted to buy Olivia's Invention Workshop and Mia's Magic Tricks for myself. (Mia is a stage magician, how cool is that!)  As it is, I guess I'll wait a few years and buy them for my grand-daughters (who are both currently at the stage where Lego bricks are for eating).
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2013-08-14 10:09 am (UTC)
I think you've missed the point. Back in the day, Lego wasn't "just about pirates and spaceships and big diggers". It was about whatever you wanted it to be about - the bricks were just bricks, and both girls and boys played with them.

Some time in the 1990s (certainly by the time my son was old enough to be interested) Lego decided two things: a) they wanted to diversify and create more specialist building sets; but also b) these specialized sets would aimed squarely and exclusively at boys, with the advertising featuring an overwhelmingly male "cast", explosions etc. - but also slighting (and sexualized) references to girls and women - e.g. this recent example, but I've seen others.

More recently still, they decided to open a line for girls, with bricks in pink and purple. This is not a return to the unisex toy of the past - it's simply the feminized reflection of the uber-macho Lego of recent times. See the Lego remake of the earlier ad for an eloquent demonstration of this.

I've no objection to the diversifying - and the sexism is obviously odious - but the gender policing is more insidious. What if a boy wants to play with the stage magician or cookery sets? What if a girl wants to play with diggers? Lego is sending out pretty clear messages that they can't - messages backed up by the layout of many toyshops (visited a ToysRUs recently?) and of course by children themselves, who are only too happy to point out when one of their peers is playing with the "wrong" toy.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-08-14 10:46 am (UTC)
I have a big bag of old style Lego in the attic. It's what my kids used to play with. I remember when Lego was just bricks. I also remember the big, themed play sets coming in. Mixed up in all that old style Lego are the remains of a pirate ship that never got fully assembled.

What you're saying here is what I nearly wrote- or the gist of it- though I was unaware of the "Hey Babe" advert. I've been annoyed to see Lego turning more and more boyish and sexually exclusive. I miss the old days when Lego was just bricks and you could make what you wanted out of it.

But, given that Lego has turned itself into a boy's toy over the past 20 years, I'm happy to see girls getting a look in once again. Happy too that the Friends sets aren't all puppies and ponies and pink stuff (though they're that as well). I'd love to see a return to the ungendered, dungaree-wearing 80s, but, since that isn't going to happen (at least not yet) I think Olivia's Invention Workshop is a step or half-step in the right direction.
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[User Picture]From: wlotusopenid
2013-08-14 01:09 pm (UTC)
I was going to say all of this, but you said it better, and with references.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2013-08-14 02:45 pm (UTC)
The thing is, it's usually considered OK if girls want to play with "boys' stuff", but not the other way around. Whatever happened to gender neutral? :(

Thank heavens for the Scandinavians! My little grandson had an Ikea toy kitchen for Christmas which is pleasingly neutral in colour.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-08-14 02:54 pm (UTC)
Another good reason for liking Ikea!

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