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”.