LEGO Friends: It is the song that never ends.

My kids' LEGO table. I'm told we're looking at a city, a mine, and a science lab.

Bunches of folks are sending me the link to this NPR piece, and I’m not sure it provides any new insights that we have not covered here time and again. In a nutshell, NPR reports that LEGO did market research that it passed off as child psych/development research saying girls played and built differently from boys and therefore needed different LEGO sets instead of being included in the already existing LEGO world.

The market research results were highly gendered and not representative of any girl I know who plays with LEGO, my own 7yo daughter included.
In the article from NPR we see a quote from LEGO blogger David Pickett about the Friends moving differently than a traditional Minifig. “That sort of sends a message about what we expect women being able to do physically,” Pickett said. That said, some critics are reportedly praising “the complexity of their sets and their overall message of empowerment.”

I don’t know how empowered cupcake shops and brushing a poodle leave me feeling, which is why I loved the diversity shown in the Female Minifig Series suggested on the LEGO CUUSOO site, which will go under review this fall.

SIGN THE PETITION for LEGO to consider making more Female Minifigs HERE: http://www.change.org/LEGOwomen

Ironically, in the NPR interview a LEGO brand relations manager says that girls are very detail orientated and that fact was very important in designing the line….which would lead one to think that girls might notice their little LEGO person’s arms don’t actually move correctly to engage with the accessories sold, whether it be a hair dryer or a bike. DOH!

So why does all of this matter, and why am I talking about LEGO again? Because LEGO is the second largest toy manufacturer in the world. That matters.

It matters that millions of boys are playing with LEGO sets that are virtually absent of any female characters, and that the sets offered to the main LEGO customers are created and packaged for boys. Girl LEGO fans are sent several aisles over to the Pink Ghetto to find their Friends sets, ready to great them in inviting pink and purple colors.

Problem is, never the two shall meet and kids pick up on that quickly. Girls are missing. Girls play differently. Boys and girls are separate. For more research on why that is a problem, visit here and here.

After enormous public outcry in 2011 when the Friends line was first introduced, LEGO promised to move away from the beauty salon-let’s bake cupcakes-and comb kittens equation and moved to create some really cool sets that show girls doing things like camping, flying planes, studying nature in a tree house, and working in a science lab. My daughter has numerous sets from the Friends line (so does my son) and really enjoys them. You can see in the photo above, all the bricks and LEGO people intermix.

And that’s the problem. Whether it is my kids, comments from parents from the PPBB Community, or you reading the several hundred comments on the NPR piece, people don’t really understand why LEGO insists on separating boys and girls when boys and girls don’t insist on separating boys and girls. LEGO was a giant in the 1970′s and 80′s, back when they were a unisex brand with free play and imagination as the cornerstone. Now they seem to be about movie licenses and following directions.

My kids love LEGO, and we’ll continue to buy bricks. We like the big boxes of random bricks that come with no instructions, and leave my boy and my girl to sit side by side to create high schools and cities and aquariums and graveyards and monster houses and hedgehog mansions.

I love this comment left on the PPBB facebook page today:
“I just signed the petition for Legos to create better and more female Lego characters. I wanted to acknowledge Melissa Wardy for her well-worded petition letter she wrote at change.org. As a women who has always worked in male-dominated jobs and just graduated with an Associates Degree in Welding Science and Technology (yes, I tooted my own horn), it made me proud to read something like that. Thank you for looking out for the next generation of women.”  -Tara

Thanks Tara!

Here’s the text to my petition. C’mon LEGO, we all know you can do better. We’re ready to buy your “better” like crazy, so get to it!

As the parent of a young son and daughter, I am tired of the gender stereotyped toys marketed to my children. My daughter is oversold pinkwashed redundant themes. Families are looking for multi-layered, diverse and strong media characters to enrich our girls’ imaginations. It hurts my heart to hear my seven year old ask why there are not more girls represented in LEGO, her favorite toy.

Luckily, one of the entries in LEGO’s own public contest (CUUSOO) to design new building sets featured an inspiring and creative new Female Minifigure series including a paleontologist, robotics engineer, geologist, astronomer, chemist, judge and fire fighter. This series, which received the 10,000 votes necessary for it to be considered by LEGO for production, shows smart, adventurous, and strong women with a focus on STEM jobs. We are asking LEGO to produce the entire series so that our girls and boys can play with Minifigs such as female paleontologists studying their dinosaur bones.

My son and daughter both love LEGO and both want every piece of the Female Minifigure series. I would jump at the chance to purchase something like this for my family. During a recent trip to the store both children were looking for these sets and were disappointed they were not for sale.

Currently in all of the sets offered by LEGO, female characters make up only 16% of the Minifigures. (This number drops to 11% when you don’t count the Friends line, marketed only to girls.) LEGO can do better representing females in its building toys, and this proposed Female Minifigure series widely supported by consumers is a positive step in reaching gender balance. Girls can’t be what they can’t see and we demand more examples of girls and women that celebrate our intellect, courage, and creativity.

I am looking forward to being able to buy this series several times over for my own children and as gifts. This is exactly the type of media I want to see for girls, for all children.

Melissa Wardy

Founding Member – Brave Girls Alliance

CEO – Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies

LEGO Minifigs are only 16% female, 11% if you don't count the Friends line.


SIGN THE PETITION for LEGO to consider making more Female Minifigs HERE: http://www.change.org/LEGOwomen

Pinkwashed Preschool

I had some parents share their experiences with me on Facebook, and wanted to share them here.

“My daughter’s pre-school just repainted their rooms this weekend and in the two’s bathroom they had removed the Elmo potty pictures and put a princess (guessing) and Dora over one potty and spiderman and a dinosaur over the other. My daughter asked where’d Elmo go, and then was super excited about the dinosaur. I am worried she will be discouraged from using the toilet with the dinosaur because now it is for boys.” -Natalie

” I picked up my 4 1/2 year old twin daughters from pre-school today & they were both carrying pink plastic firefighter helmets. Their teachers told me that they had had a visit from the local fire dept. & got to check out a firetruck. While I was buckling them in their seatbelts, I casually said, “Cool hats. You both chose pink ones?” The response I got was “Mom, we’re girls so we get pink hats. Th…e boys get black hats.” My heart sank but I mustered up an upbeat tone & said, “Well, you can always choose whichever color you like best. Some girls might like a black hat & some boys might like a pink hat. Its your choice.” One of my daughters said matter of factly, “A boy is not gonna want a pink hat.” I said, “Some boys might & thats perfectly ok. Everyone has his or her own choice, their own likes & dislikes and thats cool.”
Arrrgh, have you ever seen a real firefighter wearing a pink helmet? Would a firefighter in a pink helmet be taken as seriously or viewed to be as competent & experienced or be paid as well as a firefighter in a black helmet? Why the heck do they even make toy fire helmets in pink? Arent actual firefighter helmets either black, red or yellow? I guess I’ll never know whether the girls were given the pink hats or if they chose pink…but sure felt that the pinkification process was bearing down on us hard today.”  -Diane

And on the way to preschool:

“I’m writing you about is your choice of morning commercials. See, we don’t teach about dieting in our house or about when people are “fat” or “skinny”. We try to teach our daughter to respect everyone regardless of what they may look like. We teach her to love and respect her body, eat healthy foods to power her awesome brain, and exercise her strong muscles. We teach her to be proud of the body that she has and remind her of all the amazing things that she does and can do with her body. This morning on the way to her school, after listening to endless commercials about diet pills and filling shakes and ugly fat, she pinched whatever bit of extra she could find on her 4 year old, 30 lb body and said,”Mom, this makes me ugly??”. My stomach dropped. I wanted to cry for the ideas that had just invaded my daughter’s head. For the girl in her class I saw a few weeks ago when I volunteered who pinched her very own precious cheeks and said,”These are just too fat”. I know that your commercials are set to earn money for your show, I am not ignorant to the ways of advertising. But commercializing this constant need for perfection, to be pretty, to fit the norm… it’s doing a great disservice to our children and to ourselves. I pulled the car over in the school parking lot today and reminded my daughter how beautiful she is. How smart and funny and full of awesome. I made sure she understood that she is BEAUTIFUL because of her kindness and her gentle heart and her amazing sense of humor. I reminded her of all the outstanding things that her body is able to do. And I changed the radio station.”  -Stephanie

And around town:

“My going on 5-year-old daughter have an on-going conversation about the colour pink. And the last few months she has been espcially focused on the idea that pink and princesses are for girls, therefore, she loves pink and princesses b/c she is a girl. Today at a playground, in response to me asking, “But aren’t colours for everyone?” she said, “Yes.” (And I silently breathed a sigh a relief for the breakthough.) Then she continued, “Except for boys. Colours aren’t for boys.”   -Laura
 
 
“Today we took our 2yr. old to buy some hiking shoes for our summer camping and the salesperson said “ummmm, this is all we have.” One pair (and yes they had pink on them) . We went straight to the boys section to see a variety. Obviously girls don’t hike. We did pick out a great pair with fish on them ! She was so happy with them she wore them home and for the rest of the day!”  -Marney