Dear Lego: Stick With Gender-Neutral Toys, Please

The downside to gender-specific Legos

Lego unveiled a new line of toys made specifically for girls. “Lego Friends” feature female figurines and girly sets like “Stephanie’s Cool Convertible,” “Butterfly Beauty Shop” and “Mia’s Puppy House.”

I can’t help but wrestle with one primary question as I look through these new products: since when did Legos need to be gender-specific?

Think about the iconic toys of your childhood—Legos likely rank high on the list. And the beauty of Legos is that, no matter your gender, the plastic bricks are all about imagination. What can you make with the rigid pieces?

A Washington Post blog about the “Lego Friends” line reports that the new products are Lego’s attempt to tap into the girls’ toy market, which is apparently rather lucrative. I have a hard time grasping the fact that Lego needs to make more money than it likely already does, but who knows—perhaps demand for the tactile toys is falling off in favor of computers, tablets and video games?

Regardless of the economic factors that are driving the decision, I want to join those who are against the gender-specific Legos. Not only do the toys draw a dividing line between boys and girls, but they also reinforce negative stereotypes that women and girls are forced to deal with today as a result of a socialized and learned state of being by the public. This is exactly the sort of behavior that’s showcased (and decried) in Miss Representation, a must-see documentary that “exposes how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America,” according to the Miss Representation website.

You might think it’s a stretch to equate a few Lego building sets with the under-representation of women as leaders. Yet it’s these sorts of collective actions that, over time, continue to enforce certain stereotypes of women that, in the long run, can do more harm than good.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with traditional Legos and anything else that encourages a child’s imagination and sense of wonder, rather than limiting his or her explorations. I’m a huge believer in helping kids do what they love, whether it’s building an impossible Lego creation, honing their drawing skills and anything and everything in-between.

What are your thoughts on gender-specific Legos? Do you think it does more harm than good to create toys made specifically for boys or girls? Or do you see the new Lego toys as a natural extension of the product line?

Image by JuditK via Creative Commons

 

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