"Girl" Legos cause a stir

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"Girl" Legos cause a stir

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/15/lego-friends-girls-gender-toy-marketing_n_1206293.html

What do you think? Nothing bad about it at all? Ok, but not done quite right? Or totally the wrong message to be sending to both girls and boys alike?

Debate over gender-based toy marketing has reached a fever pitch. In December, LEGO -- a brand that previously could do no wrong -- came out with a girlified version of their beloved blocks called LEGO Friends, and the marketers behind this switch were greeted with a bellowing, albeit virtual, "Why?" Now, a pair of 22-year-old activists for girls, Bailey Shoemaker Richards and Stephanie Cole, have launched a petition to get LEGO to commit to gender equity in marketing.

The de facto spokeswoman for this campaign, as well as anyone who has ever protested so-called princess culture, seems to be 4-year-old Riley Maida. Her one-minute and 11 second rant about toy marketing took the Internet by storm in December.

"Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses, some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses. So why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different color stuff?" she asked.
Sarah Maida, Riley's mom, told The Huffington Post that this video was actually shot in May of 2011. She and her husband Dennis had shared it with a few friends, who responded positively to Riley's message. But, after Sarah heard about LEGO Friends -- shapely mini-figures that lock into pink, purple and pastel green settings, such as a dream house, a splash pool and a beauty shop -- she posted the video on Facebook fan pages for Princess Free Zone and Pigtail Pals, companies that sell only gender-neutral products and stand up for girl's rights. (Princess Free's tagline is "Come as you are," and they sell apparel featuring designs like a dinosaur on a scooter or a skateboarding octopus.)

"I posted it because both sites were having a conversation about the new toys. I thought what Riley had to say was so perfect and relevant," she said.

According to the LEGO Group, their new line was designed based on four years of research into the ways in which boys and girls play.

Bradley Wieners, executive editor at Bloomberg Businessweek, investigated why LEGO was trying to attract more girls at all. On the surface, he discovered they were responding directly to parents like Peggy Orenstein, author of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" and poster-mom for equal-opportunity play. He quoted Orenstein saying, "The last time I was in a Lego store, there was this little pink ghetto over in one corner. And I thought, really? This is the best you can do?" The goal was to give little girls another option when they reach the "princess phase," at around four-years-old, the time when boys their age enter their "LEGO-phase." Because, as BusinessWeek reported, "Unlike tiaras and pink chiffon, Lego play develops spatial, mathematical, and fine motor skills, and lets kids build almost anything they can imagine, often leading to hours of quiet, independent play."

But, Wieners foresaw backlash to LEGO Friends. "They're definitely running a risk here of reinforcing some stereotypes, even as they try to break down the ones about girls building," he told NPR's Morning Edition.

And, within a few weeks of Wiener's article running and the new LEGOs being announced, a 1981 LEGO ad surfaced -- a photo of an adorable little redheaded girl (pictured below). She is wearing overalls and sneakers. She is holding an elaborate LEGO creation. The ad copy: "What it is is beautiful." Parents and childless adults alike connected with the image, clicked their Like buttons and sent it flying around Facebook. For places like Princess Free Zone and moms like Sarah Maida, the ad was a perfect foil to LEGO's newer, glossier, "sexier" girl-focused ads.

"It would be easy to assume that this is just about LEGO, but [it] is part of a much larger marketing environment that puts the interests of girls and boys into ... limiting boxes," said Cole, one of the women behind the new petition agains LEGO Friends. Indeed, other classic brands including Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony -- and even Troll dolls -- have been transformed. The characters are much more slender, many look like they've gotten hair extensions, the Trolls carry purses. Sociological Images found nine examples which can be seen below.

Still, LEGO Friends touched a nerve that these other brands didn't. More than 45,000 people have signed Cole and Richards' petition, and parents are taking to Twitter, helping to spread word about the campaign with their hashtag #LiberateLEGOs.

To drive their message home, SPARK, the organization Cole and Richards are a part of, and Powered by Girl produced a video including footage of young girls today playing with traditional primary colored LEGO sets; they're building houses, stadiums and "trucker hide-outs." One little girl, wearing a princess dress, says, "I can build anything!" And, Riley Maida herself makes an appearance. She shares her favorite thing about LEGOs: "You can do whatever you want [with them]."

For parents who are concerned about the potential negative impact of gendered marketing, the best solution may be encouraging this kind of creativity at home -- and discussing issues around the dinner table. As Sarah Maida said:

"I have no problem with them making pink LEGOs, but I really hate the message they send. [Riley] doesn't need to be building a hot tub and serving drinks. I want her to build whatever she wants. We want her to be herself."

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I wish there was more gender neutral LEGO, like the basic blocks we had as kids.

My daughter wanted LEGO for Christmas (her brother has some), but there was seriously nothing that would interest her - it is all pretty extreme "boy". My daughter is pretty extreme "girl" and absolutely loves all things pink, princess, and sparkly (I am not like that at all and definitely didn't push her in that direction - it is just her nature). I'm sure she would enjoy the pink LEGO. However, I still wish there was a middle ground and I could get sets they would both enjoy.

So to answer the OP's questions:

I think it is alright and some girls will love it. But, I would like to see more toys (from all companies, not just LEGO) that have fun toys that appeal to both boys and girls.

BTW. That is why I love Playmobil. They have the "boy" stuff like knights, dragons, pirates, construction, etc. And the "girl" stuff like castles, play houses, and fairy gardens. But there is a whole selection of things like schools, farms, hospitals, animal hospitals, etc. I also really like that things are realistic colors, not either blue or pink.

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I think the whole thing is silly. If you don't like the new legos don't buy them. The marketplace will decide. Personally I think the new Lego people are a lot cuter. Its about time they made them look like people instead of just block men. If you don't want your little girl to have a dream house than buy the millions of other lego sets that are out there. Seems like a no brainer to me.

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Usually only lurk on the debate board Smile

My ILs bought DD1 a girl lego kit for Christmas. It makes a stable and a house and hase a horse and flowers... We had some of my lego from when I was a kid and now it is all thrown into 1 big box. While I kind of disagree with the idea of super girly lego in principle, in practice I like it. My daughter doesn't care and is very happy making spaceships out of her new and old lego. My husband hates people buying her "girl" toys but is very happy with the lego set because it isn't another Barbie Smile

To me, lego is a great toy and if making it pink is what it takes for some girls to play with it or some people to buy it for girls, then that is fantastic.

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I hate Legos, but I love Legoland! We haven't been since November, but I remember them having the sets geared toward girls, boys, and both. You can buy the loose bricks by the pound in all different colors so I don't see the need for a separate "line" of Legos. Then again, I know there are children out there who need to see that it is "for girls" before they will play with it. Kind of like Ken and GI Joe.

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"kris_w" wrote:

I wish there was more gender neutral LEGO, like the basic blocks we had as kids.

My daughter wanted LEGO for Christmas (her brother has some), but there was seriously nothing that would interest her - it is all pretty extreme "boy". My daughter is pretty extreme "girl" and absolutely loves all things pink, princess, and sparkly (I am not like that at all and definitely didn't push her in that direction - it is just her nature). I'm sure she would enjoy the pink LEGO. However, I still wish there was a middle ground and I could get sets they would both enjoy.

So to answer the OP's questions:

I think it is alright and some girls will love it. But, I would like to see more toys (from all companies, not just LEGO) that have fun toys that appeal to both boys and girls.

BTW. That is why I love Playmobil. They have the "boy" stuff like knights, dragons, pirates, construction, etc. And the "girl" stuff like castles, play houses, and fairy gardens. But there is a whole selection of things like schools, farms, hospitals, animal hospitals, etc. I also really like that things are realistic colors, not either blue or pink.

Maybe you just haven't looked.

What about these? Or is it not allowed to have any pink at all.
http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Heartlake-Vet-3188;jsessionid=IMn76f4ef7Z-9RlPrLBzqg**.lego-ps-3-1?icmp=SHHomeMain_3188
http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Heartlake-Dog-Show-3942

Even the house though it has a pink roof it has a guy with a BBQ and it has a lawnmower and big screen TV and typical "guy" stuff.
http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Olivia-s-House-3315

I think they are making something out of nothing.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Maybe you just haven't looked.

What about these? Or is it not allowed to have any pink at all.
http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Heartlake-Vet-3188;jsessionid=IMn76f4ef7Z-9RlPrLBzqg**.lego-ps-3-1?icmp=SHHomeMain_3188
http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Heartlake-Dog-Show-3942

Even the house though it has a pink roof it has a guy with a BBQ and it has a lawnmower and big screen TV and typical "guy" stuff.
http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Olivia-s-House-3315

I think they are making something out of nothing.

Those are all great. I've never seen them in stores here.

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I admit to not really understanding the huge issue parents make over toys, especially if you have young children. The parents control the situation...money for the toys, taking the kids to the store, guiding their exposure to television programing and print ads. My kids are around the ages of that girl in the ranty video. They go up and down all the aisles when we look at toys and enjoy selections from whatever area they please. We have regular old Legos. No biggie. Companies exist to make a profit and do so by catering to consumers. If people don't like gender marketing, all they have to do is not buy the products. Maybe I am the only "mean" parent, but I say "no" to things my kids want to purchase allthedamntime. Wink

Now if you want to talk about the insidious, warped body images that are marketed (via Photoshop) to young girls, we will find something that inspires more emotion from me.

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"Khaki" wrote:

I admit to not really understanding the huge issue parents make over toys, especially if you have young children. The parents control the situation...money for the toys, taking the kids to the store, guiding their exposure to television programing and print ads. My kids are around the ages of that girl in the ranty video. They go up and down all the aisles when we look at toys and enjoy selections from whatever area they please. We have regular old Legos. No biggie. Companies exist to make a profit and do so by catering to consumers. If people don't like gender marketing, all they have to do is not buy the products. Maybe I am the only "mean" parent, but I say "no" to things my kids want to purchase allthedamntime. Wink

Now if you want to talk about the insidious, warped body images that are marketed (via Photoshop) to young girls, we will find something that inspires more emotion from me.

Karly has the wise. I agree completely.

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"Khaki" wrote:

I admit to not really understanding the huge issue parents make over toys, especially if you have young children. The parents control the situation...money for the toys, taking the kids to the store, guiding their exposure to television programing and print ads. My kids are around the ages of that girl in the ranty video. They go up and down all the aisles when we look at toys and enjoy selections from whatever area they please. We have regular old Legos. No biggie. Companies exist to make a profit and do so by catering to consumers. If people don't like gender marketing, all they have to do is not buy the products. Maybe I am the only "mean" parent, but I say "no" to things my kids want to purchase allthedamntime. Wink

Now if you want to talk about the insidious, warped body images that are marketed (via Photoshop) to young girls, we will find something that inspires more emotion from me.

Yep, she's got my vote too.

But I'll add, I personally have absolutely NO issue with gender marketing and I think it's silly to try to act like there is no difference between boys and girls. They ARE different. That doesn't mean that girls can't like cars and trucks and building stuff (my daughter LOVES that stuff and is not very girly) and maybe boys love to push a doll around in a stroller or play in their play kitchen or whatever. It doesn't mean we have to ignore the differences between a boy and a girl and act like all kids are exactly the same, because they aren't. God created feminine and masculine for a reason.

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Now that work is over I'll add my rambling thoughts.

First of all, i do think there are differences between boys and girls. However, i think its very hard for the naked eye to tell the difference between those inherent differences...and those that are socially constructed. For example, its my non-professional opinion that "Girls like pink and pastels" is not an inherently female trait.

Now a lot of the time gender marketing doesn't bother me. The fact that there are girl sections in the clothing stores and boy sections is okey dokey with me, just as an example.

I think i am somewhere in the middle. I don't like a lot of what gender marketing does. My son all the time is highly resistant to certain things because he views them as "girl things"...now i didn't teach him that. He used to play makeup with the kids, or play dress up in his older aunts old costumes just for fun. Now, he wont' touch them with a ten foot poll...not because he just isn't interested in the stuff. Its because he thinks they are 'girly' things. And why wouldn't he? Its reinforced everywhere...it mainly started when he went to preschool.

It doesn't bother me so much with my own son, because i don't' *think* he has any genuine interest in that stuff anyway overall. But i feel for kids who might. I don't think our insistence on labeling things as girly or boyish create healthy environments for those who 'cross those lines'

Of course as the parent, i have the ability to control this to some extent. We talk about it, we discuss it, i can control what we do and don't buy in the house. But i find it annoying how often the issue has to come up in some form or another. And i can only control it to some extent. Aodhan is SO resistent to certain things, for no more reason than "Thats a girl thing". Maybe as an adult he will have the right foundation to figure that out since we have never reinforced it at home...at least not purposely.

I think the lego thing bothered me more than a lot of other examples and i'm not entirely sure why. I think it does annoy me how much different they look than other sets. With the pinks and purples, and the different looking people. I think they might have had the opportunity to attract girls to their products more without making them all about flowers and butterflies in those saturated colors.

I think the people could have stayed the same, without the enhanced shaping and choices in styles. I think its disappointing that a beauty shop is specifically marketed towards girls and the helicopters and race cars i guess...are too boyish?

There is a cafe in the Friends line that is all decked out pink and comes with no boys. What was wrong with something like the winter village bakery in the Creator set? Its beautiful...and i much more neutrally made...but i could see appealing to a girl easily. (My niece has it, loves it)

I guess what i'm saying is I really respect companies who try not to play into the gender marketing too much. I do think it has its time and place, but.....i dont' think every place is the right place. I love plan toys for example, their doll houses are not overly girly.

I think legos could have been the same way, so i guess it disappoints me a little.

My point is not a coherent one. I think gender marketing is tricky. I think there is a case for saying there can be too much of it, i'm just not certain how to pinpoint when that is.

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You make some good points, KimPossible (I'm sorry, I don't know your real name) Smile

And, out of curiosity, is "Aodhan" pronounced the same way as "Aidan" or is it different?

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Carrie, it is pronounced the same way as Aidan, its just an old Gaelic spelling of the name.

Smile

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This is ridiculous. Personally, I think that these two that are causing a stir over this are just looking for their own 15 minutes of fame. Honestly, who cares if toy companies make pink toys or blue toys? If you're really going to throw a fit over it, then buy your boy a pink set of legos. I just know that if I did this for my boys, they would throw a fit at me! Give me a break...

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I agree with Kim's concerns, but I'm a bit confused about the sudden issue. I get that they've changed the figures of the girls, but the fact that they use pastels is something they've done since I was a kid as I've played with pastel Legos along with the bold kits. I'm not going to get worked up on this, especially when I see they're selling this: http://friends.lego.com/en-us/Characters/Olivia.aspx. Would I prefer bold colors as well? Yes. Would my daughters like this? Currently, yes as pink and blue are one of their favorite colors, but they would also play with it in bold colors. The girls look somewhat of a Lego version of American Girls to me.

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Tracey, they have some basic block sets that come in other colors than their typical colors, but I am pretty certain that this is the first themed set that is geared specifically to girls. If its not, it doesn't really matter all that much because I know people seem to think its the first...its the first noticeable time its happened. I was introduced to the set because a coworker IM'd me and said "Do you see now they are making lego sets for girls?" To which i raised an eyebrow because I never knew they weren't for girls.

And really for me, its not just the colors, but the the whole package. Beauty salons, puppies, cafes.....more puppies

I like how they threw in an 'invention lab' or whatever it is, to make it look like they weren't dumbing down a girls interests too much. That was nice of them.

The vet is a nice addition, but again, why is it specifically for girls?

Trust me, its not just the colors that bug me.

I think what it comes down to is that there are aspects of gender marketing that will always bug me. I can accept that it is part of life, and sometimes i think its really not a big deal, but it really does rub me the wrong way on occasion. Subtle messages and fabricated social constructs (that are reinforced over and over and over again in all sorts of things marketed to children) that can alienate some kids from exploring genuine interests, in one direction or the other. Sure parents can be parents, I certainly am, but it annoys me when companies put up some totally unnecessary obstacles.

I don't think thats so 'ridiculous', to quote a PP.

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I totally understand the issues of limiting specific themes geared towards girls as if boys should not be interested in them, just as I do when they advertise specific themes geared towards boys as if girls are not interested in them as well. It isn't different than Barbie having these same themes, totally dumbing girls down. Why don't they have lines that Ken is also interested in? Is he only there as a sidekick for Barbie and interested only in what Barbie does or tanning? What message could that be sending for girls and boys? Why doesn't Ken have younger siblings or friends or family? Wait, is Tommy his little brother? His friends haven't been made since the '60's. Sugar Daddy Ken, really? Why is it more acceptable in society for girls to play with "boy" toys but much less acceptable for boys to play with "girl" toys? Why do boys (and some girls) blatantly refuse to play with specific toys after they enter school or exposed to peers who find it unacceptable?

Why isn't there really much of any bold clothing in the infant girls section in most bigger department stores? Why do they have to wear pastels? Finding red outfits at stores in our area is extremely scarce.

This is not the first themed Lego set geared towards girls. In reading their history, they've attempted it for the second time in the '90's and it appears this is their third attempt. When I was younger, it was larger green sheets that one built rooms on for a house or yard. The primary colors were pink and white with accent colors of lilac and light blue and the windows were either yellow or white framed. They had little bouquets of flowers where the flowers were interchangeable. The kitchen was awesome with the little oven door opening and closing. The only workaround my parents did and I did as well with the older kids is that we lumped all of the legos into one big storage container so all the colors and themes were intertwined. They were not separated out to be gender specific. I think these Lego friends do need to have boys included, but I also think American Girl should also have boys included.

These issues are absolutely not ridiculous - for both genders.

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Yes thats what i mean, the gender marketing stuff is pretty intense and everywhere. Its why i said:

"that are reinforced over and over and over again in all sorts of things marketed to children"

Its over done IMO, so coming out with new sets like this are going to meet my criticism. *Especially* since I think legos is such an easy way to incorporate the interest of both genders without going down this road. I think they would have it easier than lots of other toys. Or perhaps manufacturers and retailers have spent so many years convincing little girls not to be interested in stuff that doesn't fit this stereotype that Lego is feeling left like they need to do this to reach them as a market? If thats the case, that really sucks and is pretty sad. But then that goes back to me saying i really respect companies that try to fight that urge in some fashion or another....even if its the harder road.

About having done it before, it doesn't really matter to me if its the first attempt or the third one in several decades, i was just a teenager in the 90s, parenting and the issues of gender marketing weren't on my radar very much. If they do it with such infrequency, its going to be 'new' each time...to the next generation of interested parents. And as an aside, its interesting that it hasn't stuck and been a highly consistent part of their product line.

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I actually think that the manufacturers and retailers do spend this amount in researching to find the gender divide the way they do because of some of societal history. I think the gender stereotypes do still exist more because of family history rather than marketing. Lego's had changed their marketing strategies when they thought less girls were playing with them than what they wanted. How they figured this, I have no idea, but it is not surprising when it's only in the past couple decades when there's been a bigger push for women to enter the science and maths that were deemed more geared towards men's interest and the more that time goes on, the heavier the push, the more acceptable it's becoming. But are we really seeing more men being encouraged follow careers that have been viewed as more typical female jobs? I haven't researched that to know. Nonetheless, comments made by peers or elders who's family follows nontraditional roles, including the media, still impact those who's families roles are very different. Peer pressure or societal innuendos may be what is currently impacting marketing research for kids for Legos to attempt this strategy once again.

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I agree with Kim. And I think it's odd that people thought that the original Legos were "too boyish" to appeal to a girl - they are just primary colored blocks. They seemed pretty neutral to me.

I do agree that if you don't like something, just don't buy it, but I also just don't like the message out there - boys like cool stuff like astronauts, and girls like beauty parlors. Ugh.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I agree with Kim. And I think it's odd that people thought that the original Legos were "too boyish" to appeal to a girl - they are just primary colored blocks. They seemed pretty neutral to me.

I do agree that if you don't like something, just don't buy it, but I also just don't like the message out there - boys like cool stuff like astronauts, and girls like beauty parlors. Ugh.

This is how I feel.

The other day my 3 yr old said to me, "Boys like awesome stuff" I said, "I like awesome stuff too". His response?? "No. Girls like beautiful stuff." How do you combat that message? It is everywhere.