So if you don’t know, I’m a stay at home mom, married to a web developer who works at the startup Treehouse. We’ve been married for nine years and have three kids. L is an eight-year -old girl in second grade, M is a 5-year-old boy in kindergarten, and B is a four-year-old girl in K3 preschool.
As you might guess, my house is FILLED with toys. Some we buy from stores, some we are given, and others we stumble across at yard sales and the like. I love toys. They can be such a wonderful catalyst for pretend play. They can help build spatial and fine motor skills.
I also happen to HATE toys. They find the furthest corners and apparently fling themselves there. Although they are not considered living things, they seem capable of reproduction.
Some toys are brought into our home and are quickly forgotten (I’m looking at you, Zoobles). Some are played with constantly. In our family, one of our constant toys is Legos. Quick aside: There seems to be a debate about what the plural form of Lego is. Maybe it is simply Lego. But I can’t bring myself to type it. Maybe it’s not proper, but in South Carolina, we say “Legos.” For our purposes, when I mention more than one Lego brick, I will call them Legos.
M has a huge bucket of Legos and received his first BIG Lego set for Christmas. My husband, Alan, got Legos for Christmas as well (the midi Star Destroyer, if you must know). Little B saw how much joy Legos can bring and specifically asked me for “girl Legos” for Christmas. This was in November, so I thought to myself, “No problem! We’ll just stop at the Lego store on the way back from Thanksgiving.”
PROBLEM. After battling the hordes at the mega MEGA mall the weekend after Thanksgiving, we straggled into the Lego store. I figured I could just pick up a little bucket and fill it with purple pieces since it’s B’s favorite color. And that’s when I discovered that our Lego store didn’t carry purple bricks. There were only a few flowers that were pink. Seriously? But maybe, I thought, the reason is that our Lego store is just too small. I thought that I might be able to order purple bricks from Lego’s online store. SURELY, I thought, they would have purple bricks. I mean, come on, it’s part of the spectrum of light. ROY G BIV and all of that stuff. It turns out that I could only get purple bricks if I bought the girls brick set in the bright pink bin. So later on, I did. I picked it up for less than the MSRP at Target in December. Because that’s what a mother will do for happy Christmas mornings.
After all that, imagine my delight when I found out from npr.org that Lego was trying again with a line marketed toward girls. It was like Lego had read my mind! There was too little out there that appealed to girls. I couldn’t wait to see them in January.
And then I was brought back down to earth when I started reading the comments about the new Lego Friends line. Some people were really riled up that Lego would make the Friends have careers like hairdresser, veterinarian, or fashion designer, not to mention that the Friends looked closer to Polly Pocket than the traditional mini-figs. They were irked because it put girls in a box. And questioned what was wrong with the other Lego sets that were obviously gender neutral.
Gender neutral? You’ve GOT to be kidding me. What is gender neutral about having red, orange, yellow, green, and blue but not purple? What is gender neutral about houses that come with one little solitary male mini-fig? What is gender neutral about basic Duplo sets that come with a little boy in a baseball cap? Face it. Traditional Lego sets are geared toward boys. And it’s noticeable enough that when a four year old sees her big brother playing with them, she asks for girl Legos.
Yes, B is a girly girl. But if boys can have their own macho men sets, why can’t she have the female equivalent? M’s Lego sets include weapons like light sabers, pistols, cannons, and booby traps. Why shouldn’t B be able to play with four shades of lipstick, a hand mirror, and a tiny blow dryer if she wants to?
Go ahead and say that Lego Friends promote female stereotypes. They do. Just don’t call the existing sets gender neutral. They are far from neutral. And I for one, am happy to see Lego move to balance the equation.