Color Lines

Imagine a toy store where the aisles are seperated by color. The toys in the different-colored aisles contrast sharply from each other, and send strong messages to the children viewing them about what is and is not accepted and expected from children of the other color. They also send strong messages about which colored child should be in which aisle, and where their interests lay. For the most part, the children accept the color lines and stick to their aisle. Grown ups seem to have no problem with it.

The Black Aisle for African American kids. The White Aisle for Caucasion kids.
Oh, is that offensive? We wouldn’t dream of segregating toys like that, you’re right.
I meant the Purple Aisle for Christians, The Blue Aisle for Jews, and the far Red Aisle for Muslims.
No, wrong again? Still offensive? We don’t seperate children by race or religion. We wouldn’t teach, and certainly not market nor build profits off intolerance, stereotypes, and limitation like that, got it.

Now imagine I’m talking about Pink and Blue.
Still. Offensive.

When we limit our children, we limit our children.

Et tu, Lego?

December 20, 2011

LEGO Systems, Inc.
555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138

Dear Lego,

This is a big Christmas for my family. With our children being almost six years old and three years old, we have graduated into the world of “big kid” toys. This was the first year our children were going to get real Legos from Santa. Not Mega Blocks, we’re giving our big tub of those to the little girls across the street. Not Duplos, because we’re big kids now. Legos. Real, bona fide, build-em-up but don’t-step-on-them-in-the-middle-of-the-night Legos. We were going to take the kids to Legoland in Chicago. I was so excited.

And then you broke my heart just a little bit. You sold out. You sold my daughter out. You shortchanged my son and now contribute to the skewed and narrow way girls are portrayed in media and toys. You became like every other toy maker and drank the pink Kool Aid. You stated some research  about girls needing girly Legos to build and create. Something about needing to project themselves onto their toys. Most little girls I know want to be doctors, teachers, vets, scientists, explorers, and moms when they grow up. I suppose I was a little foolish to think you’d make the Ladyfig Space Station, Ladyfig Emergency Room, Ladyfig Trek Explorer Caravan, and the special edition Ladyfig Doctors Without Borders Field Hospital and UN ambulance.  But your busty Ladyfigs in their short skirts and the gender-coded pink, turquoise, and purple bricks come as a pop star, a socialite (seriously?), and a beautician. Because nothing tells our girls to dream big like a Ladyfig in a hot tub with a fruity cocktail.

Your research showed girls like to project themselves onto the toys they are playing with, so instead of giving them Dr. Sally Ride or Hilary Clinton or Dian Fossey or Septima Clark or Margaret Mead or Amelia Earhart or Dr. Hattie Alexander, you gave them Kim Kardashian.

How is my almost six year supposed to project herself onto a socialite or pop star, when the women in our family and friends she knows closely are university deans, international humanitarian workers, teachers, nurses, business owners, and writers? I suppose I could get her Olivia’s Workshop for her January birthday, as the power tools and microscope and equations on the blackboard are more congruent with how I am raising her than the beautician sitting poolside with a Orange Mojito in her giant Ladyfig hand.

I think it is very important for little girls to build, compute, and problem solve. To actually construct things, mind you, not just move their Ladyfig vet around the vet clinic that doesn’t require much building. For spatial aptitude and mathematical skills, Legos are superb. But when I look at your “girl” sets, I see that you don’t expect much from girls. Maybe pink bricks will draw in girls who wouldn’t normally build/play with Legos, but they are still getting the short straw once they arrive to Lego in comparison to what you offer boys.

About boys, for a minute. They are raised from birth to be little masters of the universe. Girls are, by and large, told to be sweet and pretty. Your advertisements don’t show girls playing with Legos. The Legos for girls you will soon offer reinforce these gender stereotypes that boys are picking up from our culture about what to expect from girls, and what girls are capable of. I know the selection of Legos is huge, and I know that I have other Lego set options to purchase for my home. As the mother to a son and a daughter, the stereotypes found within the Lego world for girls bother me greatly. I can still hear the whooosh sound that the tub of Legos I had growing up made with my brothers and I would dump it out all over a bedroom floor and sit for hours and build. I wanted this for my children.

I was so excited to bring Legos into our home. Now, my feeling at most can be described as “meh”. Maybe we’ll give Lego a second chance. Or maybe I’ll just get the kids Bristle Blocks instead. I don’t think those come with boobs and mini-skirts.

Melissa Wardy


Melissa Wardy, age 7 in 1984, with her Legos.