Free to Be
I have been amused to see that many of my friends have noticed the forthcoming Lego Friends line in the past few days, and not a one has been terribly impressed. In fact, there’s been a lovely little harvest of thoughts and opinions that are worth passing on!
Should the World of Toys Be Gender-Free?
While the author, Peggy Ortensein, is noted for her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter and therefore could be said to be biased, I think it’s a fine and fair piece. She concedes that yes, there are gender differences, but that the pressure to conform from an early age isn’t exactly ideal. Sure, many boys will want to be rough and tumble, and many girls will be interested in beauty and dolls, it does neither sex any good to be pushed into boxes.
The Great Big Glorious (Sexist) Book for Girls
This is an older piece, but worth noting. The male counterpart of the book was nothing short of revolutionary in this health and safety-obsessed modern Britain. That this is full of tired old stereotypes (I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about
horses ; my sisters are the same. No, we’re not man-hating dykes; we’re all in long-term heterosexual relationships), and apparently even accusations that feminism killed womanhood ’cause people don’t sew anymore. Come to my house bucko, and see my thread box and bags of yarn. Talk to my friends who have received gifts of cross-stitch and crochet, and then try to tell me how feminism is bad; I assure you will fail. The worst thing (and not specific to this article) is that I’ve even seen it claimed that it’s merely nostalgia to shove these stereotypes on children! How the frack is it nostalgia; are they time travellers from the 1950s? No? Then try again, and let’s try to be honest about it this time.
When Hollywood excludes girls, how can Lego market to them?
A line that stands out in the piece:
‘These movies predominantly star males, feature multiple males in the cast, and often highlight the names of males in their titles. This kind of blatant sexism repeatedly teaches kids that males are more important than females, and that’s a horrible lesson for both genders to learn.’
‘As long as Hollywood restricts female characters to a tiny minority in its films, it’s going to be challenging to convince toy companies to represent heroic females in their toys. It’s asking them to use a lot more imagination.’
The article’s main target is, of course, Lego, and how their missing their own remit of creative play by pushing gender stereotypes. But then I think my last and final piece of the day says it best:
Beauty and the New Lego Line For Girls
In short, when a company spends a decade ignoring their remit and pushing out ‘for boys!’ toys… well, I still don’t buy that it alienates girls from what I’ve seen. I think that the Friends line is already alienating the girls of my generation who grew up loving Lego; we don’t want to see our old stalwart selling out to become Barbie or Polly Pocket. And even putting aside the pink and purples found in the new its (which would be awesome to have mixed in with the rest of the brick colours), these newk its seem rather lacking in normal brick pieces. I’ve looked at lots of pictures of the kits, and I’m not convinced they provide room for imagination. That was the best part of Lego for me – you could make whatever squared-off thing your heart could dream up. Nor do I see the need for molded Ladyfigs; I love the square minifig shape with muscles and boobs and other things drawn on. It took the pressure off; it was play, not another message to worry about conforming to a particular shape/imagine of femininity. Plus, of course, the fun of mix and matching -I’m not sure the new Ladyfigs are going to work that way.
I guess, for now, we’ll just have to see what Lego chooses to do. I hope they take my suggestion – ditch the Ladyfigs, and roll the Friends kits into the Lego City range. That keeps it free for all kids (boys like pink and purple too!), and takes it back to the remit of creative play. Or they could lose previously loyal customers because they’re intent on sticking to what ‘market research’ claims is trufax (true facts). All I know is that I cannot name a single friend or acquaintance of mine (who come from all walks of life and creeds and whatnot) who is impressed by this new Lego line, and that speaks volumes for itself.
What about you folks out there on the Internet – is Lego doing the right thing with things Friends range? Do you think it likely that it will bring the girly girls into playing with all the goodness that is Lego, or that it’s just a desperate bid to get more money by copying the likes of Disney, Polly Pocket, etc? Am, perhaps, I actually a terrible dour feminist with no soul or spirit of fun? *laughs* It’s food for thought, nonetheless, and definitely not easy with all the screaming different opinions!
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