Lego: reinforcing gender stereotypes. Wait, what?!
September 13, 2012
By: Rhianna Campbell
Lego. A staple childhood toy, turning children’s imaginations into reality in the form of brightly coloured plastic houses and ceiling-scraping towers.
Lego has been around for years and has sold excellently, but is its recent release, Lego Friends, as sexist as people are suggesting? Feminists everywhere have been angrily scribbling down their names on a petition to stop the supposedly sexist playsets, but is it really reinforcing gender stereotypes to children?
Lego Star Wars remains Lego’s biggest seller, and previously, the privately-owned company only sold playsets of scenarios such as policemen and their cars, dinosaur adventures, or menacing miniature pirates. Boys have always been Lego’s biggest buyers. With Lego Friends, Lego evolves into the girl-oriented land of cafes, pooch parlours and pretty pink houses. The Danish company have even veered away from the time-revered square-set characters, in favour of softer, more rounded figures.
Pink Stinks, a campaign group, believes that girlhood is ‘pinkified’, which has detrimental effects on the young and old, male and female alike. But whilst they’re kicking up a stink about pink, Lego’s profits have risen by 35%, to a massive £213m, which to me, suggests they must have done something right.
Abi Moore, co-founder of Pink Stinks, said: “It’s not surprising that profits are up, but they probably are for toy makers who are gender-stereotyping everything in sight.” She added: “We want toys that offer all sorts of opportunities to all children. We think that cupcakes, parties and having everything revolve around leisure is just tiresome and heavily stereotyped.”
Lego argued that girls like construction toys, but want it to be relevant to them. As a girl growing up in a male-dominated house, I played with dolls with my sister, then scampered off to play-fight with my brother’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures. I understood that they were considered boys’ toys, but I didn’t care. I wanted to play with whatever was fun, because that’s all children care about, not whether or not it’s socially acceptable to be seen playing with it.
Gender-neutral toys are, for the most part, a silly idea, as children choose toys based on whatever appeals to them, not what their gender dictates they should play with. Therefore, if little girls want to play with plastic pooches or have a coffee with their friends in a rosy-roofed restaurant, who are we to stop them? Would you really stop your young daughter and say: “No dear, you can’t play with that, because you’re a girl and you’re giving into stereotypes.”?
Whilst I disagree with sexism of any sort, and disagree with the fact that the new Lego sets are said to be easier to construct, I don’t see the problem with the concept of Lego aimed at girls specifically. If the feminists are so bothered, why don’t they boycott Baby Born, or ban Barbie? Surely the early acceptance of becoming a mother, or a perfectly made-up bimbo focussed only on hair, clothes and meticulously groomed men is much worse? And whilst on the subject, isn’t it equally gender-stereotype-reinforcing to only feature boys in the adverts for Nerf Guns and Hot Wheels sets? I don’t see feminists protesting that young girls should be featured in those adverts.
I say let the kids have their fun. I grew up playing Mum to baby dolls and playing make-believe with plastic fairy cakes and ovens, but I don’t think it reinforced gender stereotypes and made me feel obliged to behave a certain way. All it did was let me have my fun, and in time, I grew up and discarded whatever I didn’t find interesting. I still bake, and hope one day to be a mother. I own items that are pink, not because it’s considered girly, but because I like the colour. I also own items that are blue, play video games, watch action movies and read comic books. Toys didn’t shape me. Toys are merely a stepping stone in a child’s development, before they grow up and find what truly defines them.