The Lego Friends Controversy: Why Critics Need to Shut-Up

by stacie on January 10, 2021

I’m not trying to be harsh. Really, I’m not.

I first noticed the Lego Friends line last week when I was at Target, checking in on the annual toy clearance sale. I was immediately smitten. A line of Legos that were geared towards girls…filled with animals, tree houses, and girl friends hanging out.

Was it a little pastel for me? A little. Since we have two girls in the house, we have our share of pink (the toddler who is obsessed with all things Hello Kitty) and purple (the twelve-teen who last year painted her entire room a gorgeous shade and then added a fluorescent splatter paint wall just for good measure). But, was it eye-catching? Certainly.

In fact, not only did it catch my eye, it caught the attention of both the toddler and the tween. In my head, that’s huge, and here’s why: the only type of Legos we’ve been able to get Ella to play with involve Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. And the tween? She’s never been interested. Why? Because why would she want to build with something that was so geared toward boys? Ninjas, pirates, spaceships…she was never interested in that type of stuff. And she wasn’t a girly-girl by any means, but when your friends aren’t building grey castles with moats at the neighborhood play dates, chances are, you’re not going to do it either.

I had no idea that people were upset about this until I opened my newspaper this morning. And there, on the very front page, was an article about a local university professor who is helping to lead a protest against the line. Apparently, many activists feel the line promotes stereotypes in girls. Really? What in the hell do you think Lego has been doing with boys for the last umpteen years?

How many Lego ninja dudes do you see wearing a dress? Or how many fireman Lego sets include long hair…you know, in case the kids playing with the sets want to include girl firefighters?

Are you serious right now?

How about we focus on the good stuff. Like the fact that Lego has introduced a line that might, just might, entice girls to build, developing spatial, mathematical, and fine motor skills? To use the very same skills they will need to succeed in math, science, and a host of other subjects throughout their school career? What about those things?

The argument, as far as I can tell, is that the toys should be more gender neutral—meaning, you can have Suzy Scientist, but her lab coat can’t be pink. And forget about having a mall rat in the pack because girls never go through a phase where they hang out at the mall, right? But are these same activists starting petitions on Change.org every time Disney introduces a new princess? Or what about every time a new toy kitchen set comes out and the advertisement shows a girl cooking while her male playmates sit at a picnic table? Are they going to boycott Toys ‘R Us every summer they start those ads, too?

Lego itself admits that they focused specifically on the boys market in 2005 in an effort to save their fledgling company. Where were the activists then?

In other words, according to these activists, it’s okay for Lego to stereotype boys but not girls.

C’mon people! This is the most ludicrous thing. You’d really rather your girls play with no Legos than pink Legos that include girls that wear skirts, drive convertibles, and have puppies?

It’s important to note that Lego did their homework before creating this line. Four years of research went into the development of the Lego Friends line and involved a large-scale study focused on girls in their target age group. During the study, Lego presented characters with different looks and in different scenes. Girls were then asked to choose their favorites. Says Michael McNally, brand relations director of Lego Systems, Inc. “I don’t know if there’s this assumption that we said this is what girls should be doing…this is what they told us they wanted.” Lego Group CEO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, has said that Lego simply wants to “reach the other 50 percent of the world’s children.”

As a parent, I am thrilled with this addition. I am absolutely psyched that there is a line of Legos that has piqued my kids’ interest. Would I have bought ninja Legos if she wanted them? Yes, of course. But she never did. Was she interested in building anything when she was younger? No. But I’m willing to bet that if this line had been around, she would have been interested.

I realize there will always be people that push for all things to be equal—even some couples that choose to raise their children as gender-neutral, but here’s the deal: boys and girls are inherently different. Emotionally, socially, physically…they are not the same people. They are different as babies; they are different as toddlers; and they are different as adolescents. If little girls are willing to play with Legos that are pink, all the while developing critical skills, who cares??? Shouldn’t it be more about the learning that is going on and less about the color of the tool?

Plus, I’m pretty sure your toy boxes are big enough to accommodate more than just one set of Legos. Why not add a set of ninjas to liven up the pool party?

photo credit: Lego

 

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Penny W. January 10, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Oh my gosh, your post was so serious and then I LOL’d at the end when you mentioned ninjas crashing the pool party! Now THAT is a set I would buy and both my kids would totally play with!

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