By Samantha White
We should all listen to five-year-old Riley and think about her gender questions. I’m curious as to what she would say about LEGO’s launch of a girl themed line, which has recently been in the news. Many parents are outraged at the new line, called “Friends,” because it continues to reinforce specific gender roles. Here’s my take on it.
First off, kudos to LEGO on the new feminine-focused line of bricks. They know who buys their products most often and are attempting to extend their consumer base. I’m sure they did plenty of research to know what would sell best for their target audience, and the LEGO team is confident it will be a hit. Any product launch is a success (until it’s not) and any press is good press, right?
For those of you who haven’t looked into the Friends LEGO line, here is a breakdown: the brick sets are based on five characters, each of which has their own environment. Emma owns a beauty shop, Andrea owns a café, Stephanie owns an outdoor bakery, etc. The fact that none of the characters are police officers or pirates or construction workers is offensive in its own right. They DID throw in a treehouse and a convertible, but there is no equivalent to the classic male-dominated LEGO sets. Besides the obvious gender role undertones, what makes LEGO think that all little girls want to play with pink and purple blocks in beauty shop sets? Like Riley says, there are little girls who prefer other colors and other roles while playing.
My suggestion for LEGO, you ask? Take a hint from your boy-dominated licensed sets and create equally hip ones for girls featuring strong feminine characters. Add some female ninjas to the “Ninjago” line or a Wonder Woman character to the “Super Heroes” line. For every Star Wars or Prince of Persia line, create a line based on “Mulan” or Disney’s new feature film “Brave.”
Like Riley notes in her now famous Youtube video (3.5 million views), there are plenty of gender specific toys on the market. When will we get to the point where there is more of a middle ground? Instead of making LEGO sets specifically for boys or girls, why not put more gender neutral toys on the market? Riley is right, you know. Some boys want to play with princesses and some girls want to play with superheroes.