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Posts Tagged ‘Friends Lego’

Ann Garth sent Reel Girl a copy of her excellent letter. Here it is:

Dear Lego,
My name is Ann Garth, I am 14 years old, and I love Legos. Some of my fondest memories of preschool are of the giant “Lego pit,” which was basically a container the size of a small table completely filled with Legos. Whenever we had free time I would rush over to the table and start constructing something, usually a spaceship or some sort of vessel, because you had all those little ladders and hoods and flippy things that I didn’t quite know what to do with but could make into windows, doors, and windshields. I would carefully construct walls, making sure to stagger the edges like real bricks so they wouldn’t fall apart, and when I was done I would set my creation carefully aside, making sure that no one else touched the masterpiece. Legos inspired me, helped me become more creative, and gave me something fun to do on countless long afternoons.

This is why I was so disappointed when I recently heard of Lego’s horrible, totally misguided decision to make and market a line of (very pink) Legos for girls, complete with a girl brushing her hair in the mirror, a bottle of perfume, and more. This is problematic for only two or three MILLION reasons, but let me pick the first, broadest, and most obvious: the idea that if you want to market a line to girls, it cannot involve any movement, adventure, or activity.

Quite honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with you painting your new Legos pink. Lots of girls like pink, and while that fact is an inditement of our popular culture in itself, it’s not your fault. In addition, adding pink might encourage some girls to try Legos. My problem is with the theme of the collection, and the ideas it enshrines. You are telling girls that they can do, or should do, nothing more than sit and prink. You are telling girls that the boys get to have all the fun, while they have to stay home and be bored. You are saying that all girls care about is makeup and how they look, when in reality there is so much more.

I promise you, girls are do more. Girls ARE more. As a kid, my favorite things to do were read and write (incidentally, I’m not seeing any library Lego sets coming out lately), but what I loved almost as much were building forts and climbing trees. There is nothing as nice as sitting in the crook of a big green tree with your book and listening as the leaves flutter in the passing breeze on a quieter day, or scaling the heights and climbing out far past what your parents would be okay with on an an adventurous one. And, of course, there is always the fun of piling up the pillows for a fort, figuring out a way to hold the sheets up (I devised a complicated system involving three of my dad’s spring clips, our yard stick, and the space between the headboard and the wall, which worked fantastically), and then settling down with a book, bowl of popcorn, or even a set of Legos to relax after my labors.

And I am not the only one. Ask your daughter(s), Mr. Knudstorp. Or, if you’ve raised her (them) to play with only girly toys, as any one of the girls subscribing to New Moon Girls magazine. Ask those affiliated with Pigtail Pals or Reel Girl, be they parents or kids. Ask Lise Elliot, whose research has shown almost no differential in the play styles of boys and girls when they are young, but a substantial difference as they get older- a result of your company and others playing up stereotypes. Ask Peggy Orenstein, who wrote an incredible book about the “girly-girl culture,” Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Ask Jennifer Shewmaker, Amy Siskind, or any of the other incredible mothers, fathers, scientists, and doctors who are helping shape the movement to take back our girls.

I am sure that by now others have shown you your own company’s 1981 ad, the one with the adorable little girl in the overalls with the red braids holding up something she has made all herself, no pre-fab mirrors and perfume bottles needed, with the slogan “What it is is beautiful.” I am sure that someone (likely millions of someones) have brought your attention to the sick, horrible irony of what you gave that girl back then- the same as the boys, the same as everyone- and what you are giving her today- six new shades of lavender and pink; dolls who do nothing but sit by the pool; bottles of perfume and beauty parlors. More telling to me, though, is what you are not giving her today- tools, weapons, trees to climb, or spaceships, boats, and houses to make. Back when your first ad was made all of those things had to be made with blocks; there were endless opportunities. Now, there is nothing to do except climb in the pre-made tree house, shop in the store that is already there, and drive around in the car built by machine.

Please, Mr. Knudstorp. Please bring back real Legos. If you want to appeal to girls, create more sets. Expand your horizons. But instead of expanding into stereotypical girl territory, try hooking a bunch of boys as well by creating a library set, a computer room set, or a boat set. What about one with a soccer field, or a pool? Or- and I know that this may be shocking- what about simply giving kids the same old blocks in the same old colors and letting us make beautiful?

I think you might be surprised at the results.

Sincerely,
Ann Garth

P.S. If you take your current sexist set off the market, or even just market your new sets to boys and girls, I promise I will go buy some of your regular Legos.

Update: See this letter to LEGO from a 10 yr old girl and read LEGO’s dimwitted response.

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You’ve probably heard about Lego’s sexist new Friends sets just for girls that hits stores next week. But do you know about the other new Legos coming out in 2012? The Journal Inquirer reports: “The Lego Group has inked a deal with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to create building sets based on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy and two new films based on ‘The Hobbit,’ scheduled for release in 2012.”

Check out this link to the Journal Inquirer that pictures Lego’s new toy. It won’t let me copy the photo, but the Lego figs pictured look so much cooler than the Friends for girls and guess what: they’re all male.

Of course they are. That makes sense right? Think about “Lord of the Rings.” How many females were in that high grossing, Academy Award-winning series?

Other best-selling Lego sets are based on the “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” movie series.

Do you see the sexism chain reaction here? (Serial reaction?) When girl characters are excluded from movies, they’re left out of the toys and branding on all kinds of kids clothing and products as well. Please take a look at Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Kids’ Movies in 2011. 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.

Of course The Hobbit was a book long before it was a movie. J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic came out in 1937. But it’s Hollywood’s appropriation of the story that makes it massively popular with a new generation, grounding it in pop culture and inciting the creation of a slew of toys timed to hit stores around the same time the movie hits theaters.

Hollywood shows our kids animals who talk, rats who cook, toys who come to life, and singing lions who befriend warthogs. Is it too much to ask to see imaginary worlds where girls and boys get equal representation? How long do we have to wait?

Anyone see “Arthur Christmas” this year?

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.

Of course, toy companies should be imaginative. Lego markets itself as a learning toy, one that is good for “fostering creative play.” It’s unfortunate that Lego chose to spend its time (4 years) and money “researching” the best way to copy Disney, finally coming out with a product that turns its once special toy into princess clones. Maybe Lego should do some real research on how to encourage girls to “foster creative play.” How?

Here’s one great idea from Nancy Gruver of New Moon Girls:

Here’s a suggestion, Lego:  Take the four girls from the 4th Motor Team of Wisconsin who won the 2011 First Lego League North American open robotics challenge (the 1st all-girl team to win)! Here’s some video of them winning the N.A. competition. All this, and a little herstory about the first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, show how easy it is to encourage girls to do creative problem-solving with Legos – inspiration, pure and simple.

This winning team of girls should lead development of Lego’s next set for girls. I’m more than glad to help Lego learn how to share power with girls in developing great products for them without reducing to lowest-common-denominator stereotypes.  It can be done and sustained, as we’ve done at New Moon Girls for nearly 20 years now.

What do you think, Lego?

PBG has started a petition against the Lego for girls sets that has over 2,000 signatures. Go to Change.org to sign.

People upset about the sexist sets are also going to Lego’s Facebook page and posting the 1981 pic shown below, asking Lego to bring beautiful back.

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