Lego is brilliant stuff, isn’t it? I went to a learning conference this week and there was a Lego stand and they had a huge table-full of Lego for delegates to build with – the idea was to build bits of the school of the future. Brilliant fun. I could have sat there fore ages, but I had to go and listen to some talks and visit some other stands, so I just made a little open-air classroom. Interestingly, there was no pink or purple or Lego Friends bits in among the bricks and figures. There was a fair bit of Star Wars bits, though – for the future theme, I suppose. The delegates building there were male and female – I overheard one woman enthusiastically talk about spending her whole weekends building Lego with her kids and how much she enjoys it – she’s obviously very experienced, too, as she built something far more imaginative than me, and in much less time.
We’re mostly about the Duplo still in this house, though we do have a couple of Lego games (Creationary and Shave a Sheep, both brilliant games) and a small Harry Potter set. (The shop in town that sells Lego and Duplo has the Hogwarts and Hogwarts Express sets and I just stand and stare at them for ten minutes whenever I’m stocking up on Duplo – one day… one day… I will have the Harry Potter Lego!)
For ages, we just had a basic Duplo set, which was fine, though fairly limited in scope. LaLa was getting really in to building very tall towers with it, so we and others gave her Duplo sets for Christmas – the Zoo and the Alphabet sets – and suddenly, both LaLa and RoRo exploded into little Lego construction engineers.
They’ve built zoos, houses, jails, parks, castles, schools, hospitals, space rockets and trees, with the range expanding considerably once we invested some of their Christmas money in some bases. (I have to say that you cannot fully appreciate the versatility of the stuff without some bases to keep your constructions together.) LaLa especially enjoys playing with the three Lego people we have (‘man’, ‘man’ and ‘lady’ as she has imaginatively christened them), while RoRo is getting the most out of coming up with new things to build and working out how to do so. She’ll do things like build walls with striped patterns, or make sure a tree has a yellow and brown trunk and green leaves and the sea has a blue and green base. And she’ll work out how to connect walls together and build stairs and roofs and turrets for castles.
So… why in the name of all that is holy, do we need pink and purple Lego with girly girly sets and interchangeable hair and fashion accessories for the characters? Why? Some of the sets in the Lego Friends range, actually look quite good – a tree house , a vet , an invention workshop , for example – but why do they have to be steeped in this whole Moxie-girlesque 21st century post-feminist girly backlash? Why not just have these sets as generic sets and throw some different coloured blocks into all sets? Differentiating between Lego sets for boys and Lego sets for girls is sad. It is taking away from a toy that has always been reassuring gender-neutral and bowing to the purveyors of pink peer pressure.
Girls have been playing with Lego for many years and have happily been able to build whatever they wanted – be it shops and castles and ironing boards, or rockets and dinosaurs and cannons. Are there really girls out there who refuse to build with Lego because it’s ‘for boys’ or ‘not pink enough’? If so, that’s surely a very worrying thing? A worrying attitude to be bringing up our girls (and our boys) with?
By all means, Lego, throw in some pink and purple blocks to the sets and introduce some new sets that are more wide-ranging in appeal, but please, please, please, leave the sexualisation and gender stereotyping to Barbie.
Other people have already written about this – Sally Whittle wrote about Why she used to love Lego, there’s a Huffington Post piece about the uproar this new range has been creating worldwide and Mum’s the Boss wrote about her anger at the new range as well – and there are plenty more out there (yes, I’m a bit late to the row, sorry).