All Pinked Up and Nothing to Build: Lego for Girls
We love Lego here at Chaos. There are Star Wars sets and headless minifigs lying all over the house. There are corrupted cars and colourful towers piling up in the corners. And we aren't alone.
What parent hasn't had a nostalgic moment putting together a Lego set? What parent hasn't shouted with frustration after finding a misplaced piece near the end of the instructions? And what parent hasn't screamed with agony after standing on a tiny brick lying on the ground?
And yet, Lego is one of the few toys that kids and parents both love. We feel good about the educational and motor skill development that comes from playing with the little bricks, and experience a moment of parental pride in our sons' obvious brilliance when they complete 87 steps in a short time.
But what about the girls?
Over the last few years, Lego has become more and more boyish -- the themes, the colours and the lack of female characters scream boy toy. And Lego has admitted that they have been focusing on the boy market after some failed forays into the girl market. But all of that is going to change in January 2012.
Lego has devised a whole new line -- Lego Friends -- aimed squarely at the girls. According to an article in Business Week, Lego has spent many hours and dollars on researching the line. They realized that girls like to play differently than boys -- they put themselves in the story more, they aren't as linear. But Lego forgot one thing about girls when they developed Lego friends:
Girls like to build too.
When I read the Business Week article I felt hopeful. Despite the fact that I think toy stores should do away with the pink and blue aisles, I would buy girl Lego for my daughter because she likes to build and she isn't attracted to Star Wars or Alien ships.
In fact, I have already bought her the pink Brick Box which she adores. (Yes, I appreciate that there is some hypocrisy in my attitude towards this.) I was hoping that Lego Friends would be a separate but equal approach to the building toy, filled with cool pink cars, fire trucks with female firefighters and space ships with female touches. But instead it is dumbed down Lego.
The "ladyfigs" are curvier with sparkly clothes and huge mascara'ed eyes. The characters who live in Heartlake city have names and "occupations". They have the super-important jobs of beautician, socialite, inventor and veterinarian. Only one of the characters is described as smart, but, hey, there is an animal lover.
Darth Vader is no socialite and he can't do nails but at least he has some power. As Melissa at PigtailPals says in a mock letter to Lego on her blog:
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.
According to the pictures, the sets themselves are no more than a bricked-up Polly Pocket set with very little building to be done. The sets seem to be lacking the complexity of the sets that are littering my house. Sure, my daughter could play with them but she wouldn't get the same sense of accomplishment that my sons get from putting together a multi-faceted spaceship. The sets also don't look like they can be reformatted into creative play very easily.
I showed the pictures to my six-year-old daughter who is firmly in their demographic. She loves to build and she loves pink which makes her a perfect Lego wannabe. She looked at the curvy Emma sitting in the pool, drink in hand and said there wasn't enough to build.
So it looks like Lego's perfect little builder isn't interested. And she is not the only one, the outcry all over the web and on the Lego Facebook page has been universally negative, there is even a Liberate Lego petition. I wonder if Lego will listen to what girls and women in the real world are telling them.
Will you buy Lego Friends for your girl?