Dumbing down is doing girls a *favour*! Apparently.

So, I just discovered that for some reason I haven’t been getting my comment alerts. Whoops. Anyway, this (from one DDogwood) was languishing in the comments on my Lego post.

Lego marketed towards girls is important. On average, girls take longer to develop spatial and mathematical skills than boys, just as boys, on average, take longer to develop language and social skills. Too often, we don’t encourage kids to develop in the areas where they take longer to develop, and we assume that learning something a little more slowly means not being as good at it. This is what is really offensive – and when people insist that Lego for girls can’t be good because it’s pink, or because the kits are of houses, cars, and robots instead of spaceships, cars and robots, then they are doing girls everywhere a disservice.

Um. Okay. I go along with that to the extent that yes, encouraging girls to use construction toys is important to allow them to develop those spatial skills and so on. But I strongly disagree that “marketing Lego towards girls” is important for anybody except Lego. Yeah, you need to sell more bricks, and the way to sell more bricks is to make more specialised sets. That’s your problem. My problem is raising a happy, confident girl who doesn’t agree to be limited by the options your marketing presents her with.

As Sakthi commented on the same post, this problem isn’t limited to Lego; look in ELC, or pretty much any shop, and you’ll see rows of toys that come in two versions: standard, and pink. Look for baby clothes, and you’ll see a rainbow of colours for boys – green, blue, red – but on the girls’ side? Pink, pink and more pink. Boy motifs: spaceships, dinosaurs, monsters, robots. Girl motifs: fairies, princesses and shopping bags. Shopping bags. And now, what does Lego Friends give us? Pop stars. “Animal lovers”. Swimming pools and cupcakes. Way to dream big.

This makes me angry for two reasons. One is that I really don’t want my daughter internalising this message that “appropriate” things for her to enjoy are shopping and being “Daddy’s little princess”. The other is that making “girl versions” of things that are already perfectly unisex serves to marginalise girls… and even to turn them off using the “boy versions”. You don’t get girls to play with Lego – or anything else – by implying that it’s not for them unless it’s in the special pink box.

That, DDogwood, is what’s “really offensive”.

2 thoughts on “Dumbing down is doing girls a *favour*! Apparently.

  1. On one hand I agree with you and on the other I see the point made by your commenter.

    One one hand, why can’t toys be as unisex now as they were when we were little (mind you, I also remember Lego being fairly basic when I was little, not comprised of all those complicated kits that if you lose the instructions, you’ll never know the purpose of some of the bits – it took three adults, two days to build my nephew’s lego castle one Christmas). Why patronise girls now with gender sterotypical colours and themes? I loved Lego and so did my brother – between us, we had a fair stock of it.

    On the other, now we are where we are (not saying that it’s right, just saying that it is what it is), with Lego kits and series that are probably targeted more at boys than girls, why shouldn’t there be corresponding kits and series for girls? Particularly if it would make Lego appealling to those who, otherwise, might not ever chose to spend hours of their lives imagining, constructing and playing with Lego because they think of Lego as ‘for boys’ rather than ‘for girls’ – I’d rather suffer the ill of pink Lego than have some girls miss out on such a fantastic, developmental toy experience because it won’t go with their Barbies?!

    Mind you, I walked into a toy shop the day before yesterday and was appalled to find it divided into two halves: boys and girls. Shelves apon shelves of bright pink packaging from big brand toy manufacturers down one side of the store, matching rows and rows of blue on the other. I was stunned. I remember thinking, ‘Whatever happened to all of the unisex toys that I remember from my childhood?’

    So I walked around trying to find them. I assumed that they’d be somewhere in the middle of the store – in some kind of no-man’s land between the two sets of gender biased toys but they weren’t. All of the art/’creative’ stuff had been put in the girls’ side of the store and any toys that involved any kind of play through constructing, board games and jigsaws were in the boys’ side of the store.

    At that point, I couldn’t get out of the store fast enough and I don’t plan to take Spud back when he’s older. I don’t want him to object to certain toys because, ‘They are not for boys, they are for girls!’

    On the clothing front. I’ve found that 75% of the clothing in stores here – is for girls. Yes, plenty of pastel and eye burn pink but lots of other bright cheerful colours as well. In my experience so far, choice for boys is poor. Mainly pastel baby boy blue up to 12 months. Then black, sludge, grey, denim and brown for tots onwards (emblazoned with stupid sports logos, edgy aggressive images or gender biased crapola that I don’t enjoy). So my experience of boys’ stuff has been the reverse of yours to date. I was gifted two different outfits from 2 separate people that announce that ‘Boys Rule’ which I feel uncomfortable about dressing him in and I have no intention of putting my 2 mo old in tops with stupid or edgy prints of this, that or the other – I’ll have enough of that to put up with when he’s a teen and I’m a really, really old fart.

    This said, my mum got me some great baby stuff from Mini – Boden in the UK and I bought more – just to get some appropriate clothing in cheerful colours. Expensive but worth it.

    I could rattle on but Spud is down for a sleep (rare) and B wants to watch some tv with me…!


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