When you think of girls playing with Legos, do you think of them building robots and competing internationally?
Or do you think of a girl sitting in front of a 1960s era vanity brushing her hair?
It’s probably no surprise that I like the first image better! I wish I could say the same for Lego executives. Soon, Lego will roll out brand-new sets designed for girls ages 5 and up, with the theme “Friends.” The sets were developed with four years (!) of company research into what girls want from Legos.
A group of girl-supporting bloggers are trying to raise Lego’s consciousness and I’m one of them. Powered by Girl – PBG started the ball rolling. Supporters include Pigtail Pals, Reel Girl, Spark Summit, Shaping Youth, Princess-Free Zone, Peggy Orenstein, Jennifer Shewmaker, Amy Siskind and more every day.
My early research on what girls want from Lego was admittedly done with a smaller sample. My daughters loved and played with Legos constantly back in the days before any “sets.” They built their own people from the basic red, green, blue and yellow pieces because those were all the colors there were and we didn’t have any people in our tub of pieces. This led to people with wheels for feet and people of all shapes and sizes.
My point isn’t to be nostalgic. I welcome Legos of all colors and love the new pieces that make functioning Lego robots possible. But I’m not happy with Legos that disappointingly mimic other “girl toys” that already line the aisles with worn-out gender stereotypes.
Let’s ask Lego to expand their vision of girls and their interests in the next round of sets they design for 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 (1st all-girl team to win)! One of the team members shared some of their experiences and hard work in New Moon Girls’ March-April 2011 magazine and on newmoon.com. 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 them 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 say Lego? I and many girls and women are longtime fans of yours I’d love to see you step up and work with us to make things better for girls.
If you want to share this idea with Lego, write to them and also post your letter here or on Facebook:
LEGO Systems, Inc.
555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138
Here’s a letter two Lego-loving NMG members wrote themselves and shared with Lego and me:
We are two girls ages nine and ten and we would like to give our opinions about your new girl Legos. What the heck are you thinking? Your new campaign is so sexist! Yes, it’s true that some girls like this but we’re just regular people and we’re not all obsessed with beauty. We care about our education and our life and just that we have faith in ourselves, not that we have to only think about combing our hair every day and looking in the mirror!
This makes us very mad. Girls like different things. When we think of Legos, we think of building architecture and building cool things, not building something to make our hair look better. We built a whole city, with our brothers, that had restaurants and boats and an ocean surrounding it. We used to build these structures with slides and pools and not once did we think about making a bathroom with hair accessories and a mirror, with perfume next to it!
You’re probably not going to make much money from this because no one is going to buy it because it’s not really what girls like, in our opinion. We’re writing this to help you! We are just giving you constructive criticism. Thanks for your time.
Aliyah Newman (9) & Rusha Bartlett (10)
PS You might want to check your research!