Here we go again. Yet another company has determined that the only way to appeal to females—in this case, young girls—is to reduce her to a stereotype. This might not be so surprising if the company were one of the usual suspects—say, American Apparel—but this time around the offender is LEGO, a toy manufacturer we respect and generally love.
LEGO’s new line of Friends, which you’ve surely read about by now, has left us scratching our heads. Friends is a set of LEGO building blocks and figures geared to girls. LEGO created the line because it said it wanted to broaden its appeal to “the reach the other 50 percent of the world’s population,” as CEO Jorgan Vig Knudstorp put it. Presumably all those LEGO Star Wars and fire house play kits are not meant for girls (that, in fact, was the company’s strategy. After it began catering its toys just to boys, revenue grew 105 percent) So what does the new Friends line for girls include? Five figurines who live in “Heartlake City,” a purple and pink hued village that has a beauty shop, a “splash pool,” a cafe. What, no massage parlor?
I’m not one to argue that we should gender neutralize everything—I do believe that there are certain traits that set most males and most females apart (my son has loved trucks from almost the time he exited the womb, through no doing of ours). Sure, women go to the hair salon more often than men, and little boys probably prefer playing with trucks more than girls do. But really, LEGO, is this the best you can do? Girls hanging out at the café and going to a dog show? It makes the “inventor’s studio” you included feel like we’ve been thrown a bone.
LEGO hails from Denmark, arguably the most progressive and open-minded country on the planet (tied perhaps with their neighbor, Sweden, two of whose residents you may remember decided not to reveal the sex of their child in an effort to do away with gender stereotyping). We expect more from them. That’s probably why many moms have taken to the web to register their discontent—to put it mildly—with the company. There are petitions, open letters, and a deluge of comments on the company’s Facebook page.
But whether or not LEGO responds remains to be seen. Already the negative comments have died down on its Facebook page, replaced by fans’ photos of newly constructed LEGO sets. There are train stations, Stormtroopers, airports, etc. So far, no Heartlake City.
(Photo: LEGO Facebook page)