Part 1: What a Girl Wants…Maybe

When the female-skewing Lego Friends series launched, it was met with incredible backlash. Many consumers thought the company was gender stereotyping with the pink and purple bricks often depicting more domestic scenes than what Lego had been manufacturing, what with their rescue sets and Star Wars tableaus (as if girls weren’t invited to play with those somehow). Funny, but as a child I don’t recall wishing that I had pastel-colored Legos or dreamhouse-specific accessories that were brick-shaped. If I wanted to build a dreamhouse out of Legos, I did. Using the Legos I had. It’s called…creativity.

But, let’s take a look at the numbers. Turns out, these Lego Friends sets SOLD.

At least 3 were sold this month, for my daughter’s birthday.

So many friends. All of them girls.

So many friends. All of them girls.

Do I love that the sets dictate you must put the pieces together in a certain way to get your cafe or ice cream parlor built? No. Do I like that they come with no male characters, furthering the gender stereotype of females left to serve food and drink to others? No. Does my kid seem interested in building these pre-fab scenes? Not at the moment. She and her brother prefer to collaborate on Lego projects and since he’s 3, these littler bricks are harder to handle. I’ll keep watching to see if he chooses to play with them when HE turns 6.

This year, we’ve got a new toy for girls. Marketed to girls. GoldieBlox is an erector sets of sorts that weave in aspects of reading and characters. It’s also very pink and purple.

The ad campaign is awesome. Please watch. Now. Over here. ESPECIALLY if you’re a Beastie Boys fan.

Awesome right? Did you catch they used the Ok Go video Rube Goldberg builder person? So good!

But I’m still having a tough time with these “girl versions” of what I SUPPOSE had been male-oriented types of toys: WERE Legos and Erector sets truly intended for boys, just because they didn’t have pastel-colored components or scenes with baby horses and vanity sets?

My main complaint about the Lego Friends sets is that there seem to be very few creative opportunities. Each set is a…set…meant to be put together in a certain way to yield the what the box shows you. Ok, so that’s like a model airplane. I get it. But where’s the innovation. That is where I’m hoping GoldieBlox will swoop in, with their promise of “unlimited building possibilities.” I like it.

So I think I see GoldieBlox taking off. Here’s the thing, those Lego Friends sets? HUGE uptick in sales for Lego. But I wonder – was it because girls didn’t want to play with Legos in their previous incarnations? Or was it because those with the purchasing power (um, adults, unless you know any 6-year-olds who control the purse strings in the family) THOUGHT girls would like these new ice cream colored building sets?

Hands down, I am glad to see toy developers considering what may be unique aspects of how SOME girls play. I am. I just don’t think it should become the new norm. Segregating toys whose aims are for kids to grow their motor, collaborative and engineering skills I see as counter-productive. Shouldn’t we be valuing an all-inclusive scenario? I mean, I don’t work with all females. I don’t interact with just women. I live in a co-ed world.

And…what if some boys want to play with GoldieBlox? Will they be made to feel like these toys really aren’t for them? That, I can’t get with. So what’s the message we’re sending with these candy-colored versions of playsets marketed to and for girls?

What is YOUR take on painting it all pink?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Part 1: What a Girl Wants…Maybe

  1. NotMyRealName

    Gender stereotyping with colors starts from the womb! I had a pink chair on my baby registry for my son and a friend purchased it but “changed the color to blue” and hoped I didn’t “mind”… Recently I was on a video shoot with my baby boy asked a crew member to pass me a pacifier – his choices were pink or blue and he insisted on the blue…

    • Craziness! It’s all our own adult perceptions reflecting back on these kids. I didn’t find out the sex of either of my kids; all their newborn stuff was green and yellow. But once everyone knew I had a girl, and then a boy – the color choices got VERY specific.

  2. i agree that the “if it’s for girls it must be pink” thing is irksome. can’t they have blue and pink and yellow and green and purple legos all in one set (so poor parents with more than 1 gender of child can buy sets both kids can use?). i understand it’s targeting girls, and so the appearance has to signify that, but isn’t it possible to do that with something other than pink? especially since the ad is showing all the boring pink girl toys the girls are allegedly rejecting or rejiggering?

    • Eileen, I totally agree! The division is what irks me. I have a daughter and a son and I hate the idea of them dividing their toys because some marketer indicated they should. Siblings play together and toys companies seem to be turning a blind eye to co-ed play.

  3. My daughter got the pink/purple Lego Friends for her birthday too, and although she hasn’t opened it up yet, I’m curious to see whether she’ll respond to it any differently than her other building toys of primary colors, some of which she really loves. I have noticed over the last year and a half that she has grown very aware of coding. She loves playing Angry Birds with her male cousin, but considers the AB with a hairbow on it the one that she is… *allowed* to like? She recently loaned her pink/purple scooter helmet to her male playmate, and they were both fine with it until two other kids in the park pointed out to him how funny it was for a boy to wear purple, so he immediately demanded that his mom take it off his head. It’s definitely a social mechanism. I think of how my sisters and I were tomboys growing up, building things that could travel down our staircases in different ways, and wonder how differently we would have perceived what we considered fun if we either had brothers, or spent more time playing with boys and picking up gender-segregating cues from parents or peers.

    Great post 🙂

    • Thanks Gail! As someone who grew up with a brother, and as a mom with a kid of each sex, it frustrates me that co-ed play isn’t being embraced by advertisers. Look, my daughter does gravitate towards her female friends and her games of choice mostly involve playing family or princesses. But that doesn’t mean she also doesn’t love to build and play with trains, which are marketed as more masculine activities. We have to remember that toy companies are in the business of advertising and finding their niche to make them unique. But I have to wonder – how does this help young boys in their perception of girls and the females in their lives? I don’t think the “paint it pink” solution is helping with that.

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