Boys, Girls, Legos and Gender Stereotypes
Imagine a Lego set. The iconic toy is not hard to imagine. Now imagine a child playing with the aforementioned Lego set. What gender is the child you imagined? Odds are it was probably a boy.
For years, Lego has created a massive market geared towards boys, and now, the plastic-block-based behemoth has decided to try to include girls in its target demographic, complete with a line of toys and play-sets marketed directly at girls.
What should have been proclaimed as a step in the right direction for gender equality has turned into a bitter argument about the stereotypes placed upon girls at a very young age.
The debate centers around the release, by Lego, of a new play-set line called “Lego Friends,” which is being marketed towards young girls. The line includes such titles as “Butterfly Beauty Shop” and “Stephanie’s Cool Convertible.”
The problem is not that they are marketing to girls, according to Bailey Shoemaker Richards, a freelance writer and co-sponsor of an online petition on Change.org. It is the way they are going about it. In an interview recently, Ms. Richards told NPR’s Michel Martin, in reference to Lego’s ad for the new line, “ If you - you know, you just heard this ad and it's very focused on hanging out, on appearance, on beauty shops, and it's a very narrow and limiting sort of idea of what girlhood Lego experience should be.”
This new outreach comes as Lego announces that it has completed four years of research into how to bring girls into the fold. Following recent trends in other toy lines, like Barbie or Bratz, Lego has tried to hone in on the princess or glamor trend that appears to have dominated the young girl marketing eye.
But this was not always the case. According to an article published in Maine’s Public Broadcasting Network, Lego has a long history of producing gender neutral products and marketing them in that manner. Over the last decade, though, in order to capitalize more in the marketplace, Lego has focused more on boy-specific play-sets and lines. It could be argued that Lego is just trying to find balance in their marketing strategy. But the question that parents will have to answer on their own is this: Am I comfortable with toy companies selecting the gender roles for my daughter?