I might well be the only person alive who hates Legos. Like, I deplore those little plastic demon-infested things. I was the kid who could never get the damn pieces of plastic the right way, the one who was always in search of the big red three-topper that my brother always seemed to be using.
And while Lego’s have a solid (and undoubtedly well-deserved) reputation as good learning toys, my own personal experience was marred by two factors.
First, I have a spatial disability. It was painful for me to attempt to figure out whether the right-bending Lego’s would mesh with the left-benders or vice versa. It gave me a freaking headache and made what was supposed to be playtime absolutely torturous.
I am pretty much textbook ADHD. In other words, I struggled for a long time with finishing anything I started. If I got a Lego kit, I either threw it against the wall or gave it to one of my siblings. The prospect of actually putting together a Lego World … absolutely impossible for me.
But I have not allowed my Lego prejudices to interfere with my children’s enjoyment of them. Both of my daughters went through extensive Lego phases, the younger one in particular (her father is a statistician who is all about everything going in its right place).
They’re a toy. A childhood staple, really, kind of on par with Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls, only not as gender-specific … which was, of course, part of what made them so appealing to me as a parent.
But I guess all things must come to an end.
The classic playtime favorite is typically gender-neutral, but the new Lego Friends line is catered to girls with a Butterfly Beauty Shop and a Fashion Designer Workshop. Promotions for the line showcase stylish and slimmer figures instead of the usual blocky characters.
Carolyn Costin, an eating disorders specialist …
… and founder of the Monte Nido Treatment Center in Malibu, said in a statement that Lego Friends “promotes damaging gender stereotypes and limits creativity and healthy role development.”
Protesters are posting petitions for Lego to pull the line, citing their beliefs that the company is “making and marketing toys filled with stereotypes and promoting body dissatisfaction.”
With Barbie dolls boasting measurements that are physically impossible to achieve and the little girls’ section of department stores looking like cast-offs from Britney Spears’ old wardrobe, people are going to get their panties in a bunch over Lego girls looking less blocky and more girly?
And aren’t there children starving in Africa?
I guess one noteworthy point is that Lego Group has allegedly gone in this direction to meet “consumer demand.”
“We heard very clear requests from moms and girls for more details and interior building, a brighter color palette, a more realistic figure, role play opportunities and a story line that they would find interesting,” said Mads Nipper, executive vice president of Lego Group.
Yeah, that’s a little bit scary … and, sure, it arguably does perpetuate gender stereotypes, at least to some degree.
But I go back to my own childhood, a place where my Barbie Corvette was driven by Star Wars action figures, a time when an expensive Madame Alexander doll purchased for me by my grandmother was thrown out of my tree house on a regular basis, days when I used my EZ Bake Oven to set paper on fire with my brother.
And I guess Lego Group gets that, at least to a degree. Or at least they know the right PC drivel to spin …
Lego Friends should not be misinterpreted as the company’s only offering for girls, Nipper said. “We know that many girls love to build and play with the wide variety of Lego products already available,” Nipper said, noting that Lego Friends is simply another theme option. “We hope that we will engage even more girls in the skill-developing experience of Lego play.”
So, yeah, I think this is a mountain out of a molehill kind of thing. The last Lego kit I bought—topping the Christmas/birthday wish list for a girl, I might add—was Harry Potter-themed.
Am I totally wrong in thinking people need to worry about more important things?