Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Girl Lego" rant by Renae Kaye

I have to admit, that before I had children, I had this belief that boys played with “boys toys” and girls played with “girls toys” because that's what they were given to play with.  I thought that the gender-fixation on particular items wouldn’t happen until later in their childhood – around 12 years of age.

Boy was I wrong!

I was blessed with a son, and then two years later a daughter.  And yes, we gave the boy cars to play with, and the girl received dolls.  BUT I also gave my son dolls, and my daughter (by virtue of being the second-born) was exposed to cars very early on.  However, I noticed a very definite preference in their playing.

My son has always been fascinated with any object with wheels – toy cars and trucks, wagons and trailers, trains and bikes.  His highlight of the week was rubbish collection day when he could go out and see the rubbish truck.  One of his first words was “brrmm!”

I remember the day I bought my son a doll.  I carefully picked out one that was not wearing pink (for daddy’s sake) and not wearing a dress.  I handed it over to my son.  He took it, looked at it, poked its eyes, then threw it on the floor.  The doll sat in the toy box for the next year and he bypassed it every day.

My daughter however, was given her first doll on her first birthday.  I remember my sister pulling it out of the box and passing it over.  My daughter grabbed it with both arms and immediately hugged it.  She showed so much empathy to the “baby.”

It became clear that my children preferred the gender specific toys.  Even when playing with the same toys, my children play in different manners.  My son creates large cities and traffic jams.  The cars have important places to go – like an accident that needs to be attended to by the ambulance, a landslide that the construction crew need to clear, or all the cars stopping to watch a race.  My daughter uses the same cars, but creates houses for them all.  Boxes, bags, blankets and parking garages become their homes.  Cars are given a designation in the family – dad, mum, baby, best friend – and they talk and have conversations.

I know that all children don’t prefer the toys designed for their gender, but I will tell you, my children certainly do.

So what do I think of “Girl Lego”?

Oh yeah – that term gets my hackles raised.  Lego, of course, hasn’t given it that name.  It has a more general name of “Lego Friends.”  But it immediately gets called Girl Lego. It’s sold in the “girl” aisle of the shop and all the pictures show girls playing with it.

It’s very obviously designed to appeal to the more feminine of our children.  The colours are pink, white, light green, purple and teal – “girl” colours.  The figurines are all girls.  The boxes are pink.  And the scenarios are designed to appeal to the more social-based brain of our girls.  The Lego designed for boys are vehicles and buildings such as police stations and farms.  The Lego designed for girls are scenario based – a pet shop where people can come and buy animals, a cafĂ© where the people can gather and chat, a poolside where you can have a party.

So what has my blood boiling?

Firstly I hate “Girl Lego” because it discourages my son to want anything to do with it.  Bad marketing Lego – you just turned away 50% of your customers.  Why?  Because it is obviously designed for girls.  Even a child can tell.  And my son, no matter how many times I’ve reassured him that there's nothing wrong with a boy liking pink, or a boy playing with dolls, or even a boy liking boys, he has already imprinted the message that he’s not allowed to be girly.

But then this picture popped up on a promotion of Lego Friends, masquerading as a blog post/news article.  Very pretty, right?

Now let’s compare it to the more traditional Lego figurines?

The first things I noticed were:
  - the girl stuff is more realistic
  - the girl stuff is all girls, the boy stuff all boys (although I’m not sure about the far left figure)
  - the girl stuff is pink/purple/green, the boy stuff blue/red/black

Then I took a second look at the Girl Lego.  The “article” (ie promotion) made pains to tell us that the Lego Friends figurines are encouraging our daughters to be whatever they like.  I’m frowning – now is that second figure in the Girl Lego picture supposed to be a doctor/nurse?  THIS is Lego’s idea of a professional, well-educated role-model for our daughters to follow?


I mean – really?  She’s wearing shorts, a sleeveless top and thongs (ie flip flops) and THIS is what we want our girls to aspire to be?  All of them are wearing brief clothing – singlets, mini-skirts, sandals. 

And the boys stuff?  Well, all of them are wearing long sleeved shirts and are professionally covered.  Oh, apart from the figure on the far left, who —hang on – may or may not be a female?  Why is the ONLY figure that has long hair suggestive of a girl, also the only figure not wearing long sleeves?

Okay – maybe it’s just this picture.  After all, all of the figures are either construction workers or in uniform.  Maybe other male figurines are dressed scantily even though they are doctors?

Oh.  Then again.  Maybe not.  It seems that all females in Lego are portrayed with minimal clothing, and males completely covered.

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive?  Surely the “older” Lego has female figurines?  I will look.

So these “women” torsos from Lego are encouraging my daughter to be what exactly?  Really?  The majority of these female torsos are scantily clad.

So, I went searching for a Lego Friends figure that had long trousers on and/or modestly dressed and/or professionally dressed.  Perhaps the Lego Friends ads have the scantily clad figures, but there are others?  So I went looking.  (It was a long search).  I found four.

And their professions?  A teacher, a mother, a magician and a baker (as per their Lego Friends' description).  I must’ve looked at 500 images and could find four.  (ONLY FOUR!)

So four role-models who are not dressed in mini-skirts or skimpy halterneck tops or singlets.  (And I’m not even sure about this second mother-figure above.  She looks… vampish?)  So it's telling my daughter that she either needs to dress in a mini-skirt, or become a magician?

Do you know what?  Maybe my daughter doesn’t need Lego after all…

1 comment:

  1. I also found it interesting that the majority of the female figures also wore makeup (lipstick) but the other thing I noted was their slanted not-amused eyebrows. The chemist looks like she plotting to poison the world...maybe she has bad PMS and the astronomer also has a lopsided smirk. At least the astrophysicist has a pretty pink scarf.

    And, they are talking about bringing out a Golden Girls set...W.T.F!!!