Childrearing

It’s Official! LEGO Is Just Trolling Feminist Mothers Now

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lego cakesWhether you agreed with the criticism or not, I think it’s fair to say that LEGO Friends drew some serious backlash from feminist mothers who expected more from the toy-maker. As Peggy Orenstein wonderfully pointed out when she spoke with our own Koa Beck, the biggest problem with the new line of “blocks for girls” was simply the idea that boys and girls need completely separate toys to play with. Lots of us loved LEGOs as kids specifically because it seemed to work for both sexes. It was something girls and boys alike could play with.

Even with all the negativity surrounding the toys’ release, LEGO Friends ended up doing extremely well. They even made their way into my toy room, and I can admit that my daughter loved them. While the blogosphere was damning these extremely gendered toys, real life parents were snatching them up for their little girls who honestly seemed to enjoy the product. Plenty of women were mad, but the profits rose.

So I suppose if the experiment worked once, LEGO just couldn’t help but try it again. This time, they revamped their DUPLO line for younger kids to include even more gendered sets of blocks. Just a couple years ago when I was buying starter blocks for my daughter, there was a pink and a green set. Yes, the colors varied, but each set contained the same building materials. There were basic blocks, a boy, a girl, and a dog. Normally there were instructions showing little ones (or their parents) how to build a house. It was straight-forward and fun for kids of both sexes.

Now, those pink and green plastic tubs have entirely different sets in them. For girls, there are pink princess set-ups, complete with Disney integration. There’s also a “Creative Cakes” set, because LEGO just couldn’t help but throw in another of the most stereotypical “girl” activities, baking. For the boys, there’s a train set, a fire station, and a Cars cross-over. Bridging the gap are the zoo and safari themed sets, as well as the old basics I remember.

This type of hyper-segmentation between girls and boys toys is the very reason that people got upset about the Friends line. Now they’re beginning to use the same approach for the beginner blocks. I wonder if they were hoping for another huge backlash to keep the toys in the news, or if they were just expecting that everyone had given up the fight by now. Either way, it’s another step to separating the sexes completely from the very beginning.

These new toy lines might be helping LEGO’s bottom line, but I don’t think they’re helping out kids. I miss the time when there was a toy that worked for both boys and girls. I wish that we could step back from the pink vs. blue battle that’s going on in our toy aisles. Unfortunately, one of the gender-neutral toys that we had decided to move us in the opposite direction. And now, they’re just rubbing our faces in it.

(Photo: LEGO)