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Mad at Lego? So Is This 14-Year-Old Girl

Mad at Lego?  So Is This 14-Year-Old Girl

NOTE: This letter came to us from its 14 year old author.  It has appeared on Reel Girl as well.  You will be proud.

Dear Lego,
My name is Ann*, 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 indictment 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.

Ask your daughter(s)

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 ShewmakerAmy Siskind or any of the other incredible mothers, fathers, scientists, and doctors who are helping shape the movement to take back our girls.

LEGO ad, 1981

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*

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.

*I redacted her last name even though it has appeared elsewhere because she is so young.

 

Related stories:

Girls to Lego: What the Heck Are You Thinking?

Girls Can Do Math Just Fine, Thanks

Sexism in the Toy Store Aisles

Are Women and Girls Groomed to Choose Oppression?

The Myth of the “Girl Brain”

 

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Photos by wworks via flickr

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184 comments

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10:19AM PDT on Sep 4, 2012

Looks like a very boring toy to me. Why play with a premade car if you can build one yourself, from other Lego sets? I don't care if they make Legos in pink and lavender, but these prefab sets don't encourage much in the way of creativity. But then, I think the same thing about a lot of other toys, whether for boys or girls, that are bound to end up in the "Take to Goodwill" box within a year or two because they can't hold a child's attention for longer than it takes to lose some of the pieces.

When I was a child, my mother couldn't afford a lot of toys for me, but I had endless hours of fun with Legos, Lincoln Logs (made of real wood back then!), plastic dinosaurs, and stuff to draw and color with. My brother had a Monster Maker, too, and I loved that thing. Do they make those still? Every kid should have one. If I'd had a Lego Friends playset, I probably would have made the girls ride around on my dinosaurs or something.

Btw, all of those people look alike. It's the same face mold with different paint and hair. Lego makes billions of dollars a year, and they can't afford to make their characters look substantially different from each other? Will we ever see fat Lego Friends, or one in a wheelchair, or a male, or anything other than those Lego Friend Clone Girls?

3:35PM PDT on Sep 3, 2012

Wow - so much controvery over toys. I enjoyed playing with Legos as a child. Can you still get original type legos? If so, buy your kids what you think is appropriate. If the girly Lego sets don't sell, then they won't be on the market very long.

7:19PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Just because "Ann" doesn't wan tto play with a beauty shop doesn't mean that therearen't other boys and girlswho would love to.

9:37PM PST on Feb 4, 2012

Thanks!

6:24AM PST on Jan 24, 2012

next time i am at the mall. I will go into a girly girl store and ask the patrons "what is wrong with you? you can do so much more, be so much more. you don't need glitter spray to be cool or pretty. you don't need to smell like banana cream pies, have frilly scrunchies or tight shirts that tell people how adorable you are. why? why are you here? go to hot topic, they have clip on ties for girls. go buy a vest! why do you allow yourself to be fooled and brain washed by this stuff?"

go into a toystore and go "oh, why do you want this barbie head with hair and not a dinosaur? a dinosaur is cooler. you can make a dress for it if you want, and do so much more than play hair brushing with this dinosaur!"

11:25PM PST on Jan 22, 2012

thank-you!

3:02PM PST on Jan 22, 2012

What a great letter! I see a bright future for this girl Ann. Hope she doesn't screw it up by becoming a politician. LOL
When I was a kid I also played with Lego. No sets of anything, just a bunch of different sized white, blue and red pieces I could make anything I wanted from. Fantasy is a great thing!

7:39AM PST on Jan 21, 2012

Installment 5. Again, I apologize for the broken-up essay. I wrote it separately, and didn't realize there was a character limit for comments:

-Okay, there's lots of pink and purple. Personally I like that, as an increased color palette just opens up more possibilities for me. Also (gasp) my daughter actually likes pink and purple. I know, tie me up and throw me in gender stereotype jail. But if I go to my daughters' school, a great many of the other little girls seem the same. So if they would be more willing to buy LEGO sets with those color schemes, that's hardly saying they have to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

Last thought. What if all of the people complaining went out and bought Olivia's Workshop. This is the inventor/scientist set and it's cheap - just under $10 on Amazon. If millions of people buy this and not the beauty parlor, you can bet that LEGO will make more sets like that. What's more, you'll have a great little set and have some fun.

7:10AM PST on Jan 21, 2012

Installment 4:

BTW, the other arguments I've seen are also largely specious.
-Some say these sets are too simple. I can tell you, these sets are pretty comparable to other sets of similar size and age range. In one article (not this one), the authors was saying how simple these sets are, and making the comparison to the giant Death Star set. Hmm, they were comparing a $15 set with an age range rated for 5 year olds to a $400 set that was built for adult collectors. Seriously?
-I've seen others complain that these sets are made with specialized pieces, and saying that it's awful they're not boxes of basic blocks. Um, welcome to 2012. Go check all of those 'boy' sets out, like the Star Wars theme or the Ninja sets. Same deal. Yes, boxes of basic bricks are also available (this is the 'Creator' line) as well, but in the past 30 years LEGO has created tons of more specialized pieces.
-There's no spaceship! Well, um, this is a town line. You also don't see spaceships in the Castle line.
-One silly complaint is that the figs have boobs. Go look very closely at the man figure. It's the SAME plastic mold. Yes, these figures are more curved like a body than the blocky trapezoidal minifig, and as a LEGO collector I really love the minifig, but it's not like we've got Barbie here by any means.
-Okay, there's lots of pink and purple. Personally I like that, as an increased color palette just opens up more possibilities for me. Also (gasp) my daughter actually li

7:10AM PST on Jan 21, 2012

Continuing on, installment 3:

Yes, girls are shown that possible careers include baker and fashion designer, which I suppose fall into some 'girl' stereotype (though those are certainly honorable professions), but we also see musician, veternarian and inventor/scientist. In some of the smaller impulse sets, we see girls at the beach, skateboarding and working on a computer.

I guess what I'm saying is this. Before you grab onto an internet meme and go off on a rant, why not actually check things out? Pretty much every one of these articles I've seen on the Friends theme has gone on and on about how awful it is that LEGO is rolling out this new line that is all about beauty parlors.

BTW, the other arguments I've seen are also largely specious.
-Some say these sets are too simple. I can tell you, these sets are pretty comparable to other sets of similar size and age range. In one article (not this one), the authors wa

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