Prattle & Jaw

Two blogs about a whole lot of nothing

For Boys and Girls

In my 33 years, I've never met a single girl who didn't like LEGO. Not when I was young and played a lot with the stuff, and certainly not now when LEGO is still played with (I'm the proud owner of the LEGO Star Wars Christmas calendar), and when nostalgia kicks in. Not one single girl. 

Yet, on December 26th in the U.K. and January 1st in the U.S., LEGO will roll out LEGO Friends, aimed at girls 5 and up. 

This article, LEGO is for Girls, from Bloomberg Businessweek discusses how LEGO was saved in 2005 by focusing on boys, and now plans to target girls. However, to do so, they've decided to introduce new colours, and new mini-figures. 

"Encouraged by what it had learned about boys, Lego sent its team back out to scrutinize girls, starting in 2007. The company was surprised to learn that in their eyes, Lego suffered from an aesthetic deficit. “The greatest concern for girls really was beauty,” says Hanne Groth, Lego’s market research manager. Beauty, on the face of it, is an unsurprising virtue for a girl-friendly toy, but based on the ways girls played, Groth says, it came, as “mastery” had for boys, to stand for fairly specific needs: harmony (a pleasing, everything-in-its-right-place sense of order); friendlier colors; and a high level of detail."

"The research techniques and findings have been controversial at Lego from the moment it became clear that if the company were serious about appealing to girls, it would have to do something about its boxy minifigure, its 4-centimeter plastic man with swiveling legs, a yellow jug-head, and a painted-on face. “Let’s be honest: Girls hate him,” says Mads Nipper, the executive vice-president for products and markets, Lego’s equivalent of a chief marketing officer."

The greatest concern for girls was beauty? Girls hate the LEGO guy? Who are these girls?

"Lego play develops spatial, mathematical, and fine motor skills, and lets kids build almost anything they can imagine, often leading to hours of quiet, independent play. Which is why Lego’s focus on boys has left many parents - especially moms - frustrated that their daughters are missing out."

So the reason girls are left out is because LEGO develops spatial, mathematical, and fine motor skills? Probably onen of the most sexist things I've read this year. 

"Lego Friends also introduces six new Lego colors—including Easter-egg-like shades of azure and lavender. (Bright pink was already in the Lego palette.) Then there are the lady figures. Twenty-nine mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012, all 5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard dwarf minifig. There are five main characters. Like American Girl Dolls, which are sold with their own book-length biographies, these five come with names and backstories. Their adventures have a backdrop: Heartlake City, which has a salon, a horse academy, a veterinary clinic, and a café. “We had nine nationalities on the team to make certain the underlying experience would work in many cultures,” says Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director."

So basically, LEGO pinkwashing. I have to admit this leaves me a little stunned. Is it really LEGO's problem with girls, or is it girls' problem with LEGO that we all need to solve? I can't honestly believe that girls don't want to play with LEGO because it develops spatial, mathematical, and fine motor skills. I suspect that it has a little more to do with the crap shoved down children's throats by parents, ads, and toy companies about what boys and girls should play with.

I might very well be wrong, but it's just hard for me to swallow. Call me old fashioned but there's no way I'd have played with this when I was young. Give me bricks and a fat yellow dude any day. 

Copyright © 2014, Lara Mulady. All rights reserved.