Deborah Tolman, professor of social welfare and psychology at Hunter College School of Social Work, discusses why she thinks LEGO is selling out girls with it's new collection aimed at them.
I applaud Ms. Tolman for supporting the SPARK initiative and voicing a concern over how Legos are marketed to girls. I wish, however, that there was some acknowledgement in the story that the same is true for boys. I'd like to hear a broader conversation about how Legos are marketed to both boys and girls. Lego marketing to boys is abominable, dangerous, and limiting. It has become impossible to dissociate the Lego name from the weapons, monsters, and aggressive vehicles designed to hunt, capture, and shoot any manner of beings that are so pervasive in their materials. Their sets are designed to be put together in one particular fashion, encouraging the important skill of following step-by-step instruction, but devaluing the vital role of creativity. Although the finished product can be played with creatively, there are limits even in this play as the bits fall off and the design of each piece is for such a specific purpose, it becomes a challenge to inject creativity into their currently marketed products. As for pink? Hooray! My son's favorite color is pink, and we would welcome pink colored building blocks. As for the building sets, whether marketed to girls or boys, we say "No thank you," but it's more than that. We would like gender neutral choices, AND we wish not to be bombarded by marketing that insists girls and boys play, think, build and dream differently. I support SPARK's movement and wish there was a comparable effort supporting the diversity of interests and challenging stereotypes limiting boys - or better yet, children.
I was a girly girl, and my favorite color was and still is pink. But it really bothers me now to see the way girls are bombarded with pink, to the exclusion of other colors and other possibilities. There is a narrowing of girls' horizons in this relentless pink-coded message that only certain toys are for girls, and only certain ways of playing are for girls, and the bigger world of colors and toys out there is not for you if you are a girl. Both boys and girls lose out with this marketed and artificial message.
When I started on this parenthood journey, I thought my attitude about gender coding and other such things would determine my daughter's play habits-- i assumed I'd have a scrappy kid in jeans, hands in the dirt, etc. Not the case. I have a girly girl, a costume fanatic, who has not put on a pair of pants for THREE years, (she's five) and we gave in on the princess issue ages ago. She has had many opportunities to play with Legos, at school, at playmates, and never shown much interest. I took her to the toy store last week with a gift card, and the Legos Friends display got her attention immediately. We took home the treehouse set, and she focused intensely as we went through the fifty+ steps together, a great intellectual challenge for her age. She learned a lot from it, and I hope she will continue to experiment with them now that she has followed the schematic instructions.I try to take the long view on parenting. I get very concerned about making things forbidden, because it heightens the allure of exactly what we want to steer her away from. I know that as she grows up, we will be talking about all the issues these different toys, companies, the culture, etc, raise, and in time, she will understand the things that influenced her as a child, for better or worse.
My kids, son (older) and daughter both played with the same legos, which were just plain legos. Legos has changed since my kids were young. For sometime, the company has produced sets for specific projects. it is much more difficult to find big, general sets of just Legos. It is a disservice to both genders to focus on sets that are not open ended construction and design toys.
Lego missed an opportunity - they should do exactly what they do for boys, and tie into a media phenom - for boys, Star Wars, Dinosaurs, etc. They could've marketed Harry Potter better for girls (Hermione should have her own set!) but also see what TV / movie girls are popular and buy in - my kids (boys and girls) love iCarly on Nickelodeon - she has a great creative apartment that would provide lots of lego fun.
it's funny. i used to play legos with my brother when we were little. we used the exact same sets and he would build all sorts of structures and all i seemed to want to do was put flowers on the grass. That was without any influence or marketing. I don't agree with marketing to girls and limiting their creative options, but I would have probably chosen pink legos over the others as a child by choice.
I bought my son a doll house when he was 2, he never looked at it. He went to a "progressive" pre-school where they weren't allowed to play with weapons. He took a dog and turned it into a gun, then lied when confronted by the teacher and said he made it into a car. The legos sets that are "marketed" to boys are also "gender specific" - robots, warships etc. I think it works both ways
What about the Lego Friends Inventor's Workshop set?
Wow - this woman has really run out of things to complain about.
Can you ask Ms. Tolman if she is aware of the Monster High doll series? These are FAR worst than the Lego friend series; the dolls look like strippers. I learned of them because my sister bought them for her 6 year-old daughter, which horrified myself and my other sibling. Please add this series to your petition! http://monsterhighdolls.net/
Pink legos? What are you supposed to build with pink legos? Pink buildings? Pink ships? Pink robots? The whole point of legos was that there were a lot of different colors that you could build stuff with. Plus, pink would clash with all those great primary colors. It would be gross. I know I'd have hate pink legos when I was a kid. The only thing I'd have built with it is a bottle of Pepto-Bismol!
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