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