I recently wrote a piece for Ms. Magazine’s blog about a UK toy store that decided to organize their toys via “type” vs boy/girl. While the ultimate reasoning behind the toy store’s decision is still up for debate, the fact that they actually did away with gender codification within their aisles is a win in my book. As I worked on the post, I wondered if others would follow suit, when they realized they didn’t have to divide their store amongst blue and pink lines to sell merchandise.
And then…LEGO happened.
LEGO has recently announced “Ladyfigs” – a new line aimed specifically at girls. This line features a lot of pink and purple, slimmed down, yet still curvaceous figures, and pre-created background settings that include beaches and cafés. A few folks have already written about LEGO’s latest offering, and needless to say, they’re not so thrilled.
My feeling about all of this can be summed up by this tweet:
Lego is launching a product line for girls. Someone should tell them that they already have one; its called legos.
It’s not that I’m anti-pink and purple. I just can’t wrap my head around why LEGO has to go out of its way to target girls with overt stereotypes, when they already have a product that is awesomely gender neutral.
A few weeks ago my family went to to CT to check out the big LEGO expo that was going on at the local convention center. The place was filled with wall to wall kids – boys and girls alike. LEGO blocks of every color were being used to build cars, buildings, planes, boats, and more. There was no “boy section” or “girl section.” This new line of girl-centric LEGOs was nowhere to be found, and the majority of blocks were the primary colored ones we all know and love. (There were a few new colors thrown into the mix…an awesome chartreuse green and a bubble gum pink were some of the highlights for me)
Nobody seemed to have any trouble building something amazing out of the blocks provided…boys or girls. I’m not disappointed with LEGO in trying to build up their female customers. I get that they have a business to run and are trying to find ways to boost sales. But why can’t they attempt to do so in innovative ways that don’t rehash and promote tired stereotypes? Why can’t they remember older ads, where instead of promoting gender codification, they promoted creative, innovative playing (regardless of gender)?
There is currently a petition making the rounds (Spearheaded by Spark Summit) asking LEGO to rethink their decision regarding Ladyfigs. The petition is simple – it is asking LEGO to not underestimate young girls, and their imaginations. It is asking LEGO to not play into the cycle of stereotyping that occurs on a daily basis.
LEGO, we are asking you to:
1. Bring back your “beautiful” campaign;
2. Include girls in your advertising for all LEGOs sets;
3. Include more girl characters in your regular LEGO sets;
4. Market regular LEGOs in the “so-called” girl aisles of toy stores.
5. Release a public statement committing to the above actions and to practices that won’t sell girls out.
I am hopeful that LEGO actually listens to it’s customers and rethinks the way they market to girls. Hopefully they can set a precedent, similar to the one that Hamleys’ toy store has set with their gender neutral aisles – and show that it’s not about marketing ploys that exploit a tired stereotype, but about the integrity of the toy itself.