TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

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Lemon Merchant
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TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Lemon Merchant » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:37 am

So I just found out that they make LEGO for girls. This differs from the regular type of LEGO by offering girly figurines and playsets that are supposedly geared toward the way that young girls play. You can play house, and have a beauty salon, a tree house, a cafe... arrrgh.

Image

*Bangs head against desk*

Is it just me or is this incredibly sexist? What's wrong with normal LEGO? We should be encouraging young girls to develop their visual acuity, building skills, creativity, and foster (oh, just possibly) an interest in science. How else are we going to get more women involved in STEM fields? Some of the engineers and scientists of tomorrow are going to be women. Why don't we help them along a little bit by getting them to play with creative toys, instead of the usual "girls should play house" tripe.

I realize that some girls are interested in this sort of thing, hence the popularity of Barbie and her ilk, but wow. Clothes and shoes are nice and everything, but lets be encouraged to use our brains a little bit. Not to just be credit card wielding shopping mall drones who are slaves to the latest fashion, and making a happy home for our families (not that there is anything wrong with a happy home, but it's not JUST the woman's responsibility to get dinner on the table on time), and keeping a perfectly clean house to show off to friends.

If I had a daughter, I would want her to play with toys that stretched her mind. I wouldn't want her to play with sexist garbage that tries to train her into accepting some stupid, outdated gender role. I would do the same if I had a son. Sexism in toys in rampant these days. NO wonder our kids are getting conflicting messages.
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Synsensa
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Synsensa » Thu Dec 14, 2017 5:27 am

I don't believe this is sexist. They have similar sets for boys, and what's branded for one demographic doesn't mean it can't be used by another. I feel any railroading of behaviour in this instance is a parental construct and not one that's perceived by a child unless foisted upon them by an adult.

This is really more marketing than anything else. This kind of stuff is typically enjoyed more regularly by girls than it is by boys. This doesn't mean that it's exclusive to girls. This also doesn't mean that parents are incapable of purchasing boy-branded items for their daughters. Do whatever you want.

Timsup2nothin
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Timsup2nothin » Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:32 am

The reality of the problem here is that girls can be, most likely will be, and generally have been for quite a while to 'join the boys' as they build race cars and fire trucks and space ships with Legos, but the odds are very short that boys will be encouraged to build houses and cafes and flower shops with the girls. I think the thing that is really sexist is that we encourage girls to "act like a boy" or "think like a boy" while strongly discouraging the opposite...which presents a de facto position that "boy is superior." I offer no solution to this, but it is my observation.

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endsjustifythememe
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by endsjustifythememe » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:58 pm

I very much agree with your last post, Tim. By encouraging girls to act like a boy (the language is already highly revealing) we create a double-standard, since boys are almost never put in the same situation. Girls that are into maths, the natural sciences, "boyish hobbies" are often encouraged nowadays, the opposite I wouldn't say rings true. Similiarly, it is implied that all things that concern boys are superior, not I think from an angle of patriarchal superiority, but rather because of the way that things are valued in the 21st century: Does playing 'dress up' provide you with useful skills for your later life? No (depending on the def. of useful). Does going camping innawoods provide you with a meaningful skillset? Yes. Does a gender studies graduate invent anything useful? No, of course not. How about an engineer? Definitely!

What we see here however is not simply sexism, that would be reductive, it is a self-reproducing value system that fuels capitalist and progressive ideologies. We have adopted a linear understanding of history: Technologically / Socially / Fiscally progressive is necessarily good, stagnation is necessarily bad. Every society or civilization ranks somewhere on an imaginary scale: 'The Romans were so advanced! They had a proper sewer system!' 'India is so behind! They shit in the streets!' This attitude is reproduced in almost any social dynamic we find today.

If you, for example, look at the refugee debate you will notice that often the refugees are infantilized, marginalized and stripped off of their agency. We make them subjects, talk about them, but hardly ever let them talk. In integration courses they're often treated as children. The idea is that they are inherently inferior on a cognitive or cultural level, hence why they need our help. These thoughts are often not conscious, but they are there imo.

Lastly I just want to say that advertising and targeted marketing is vile and cancerous. Stuff like you posted in the OP is already bad, but what really ticks me off is trying to get kids addicted to fast food, cereal, candy and so forth. Really pains me brains.
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Synsensa
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Synsensa » Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:20 pm

All of the things you've mentioned are acts being perpetuated by the parents. I don't think a parent, or someone with an opinion on parenting, can realistically lament sexism when they are the ones enforcing it.

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Cutlass
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Cutlass » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:27 pm

This is definitely a retrograde step for Lego. Decades ago they were proud of being gender neutral and trying to appeal to boys and girls with the same sets.


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In 1974 LEGO included a letter with some of their toys that encouraged parents to allow both their sons and daughters to express themselves with their building sets. Because of toys like LEGOs I became interested in building, engineering and technology. I think more than ever, we need companies like LEGO to make these types of simple efforts again, to encourage young girls to get more involved with science and technology. Join me and ask LEGO to put the letter back in the box!

My name is Karen Catlin. As a former VP at Adobe Systems I noticed every day the scarcity of women in high tech. Often times I was the only woman at the executive table and over the years noticed fewer and fewer women joining tech companies. I believe this is a problem. We need gender diversity within the industry so that the products that will drive our future are created with everyone in mind, not just men. That’s why I left my executive job to work on projects that supported women within the tech industry.

Engineers like me love making things. Chances are, they grew up tinkering with stuff around the house. They played with toys and games that allowed them to build structures and create. I have fond memories of going to my grandparents' house, where the only toy was a simple box of LEGOs. I’m thankful everyday that my parents and grandparents encouraged me to use my mind and be creative. I loved building houses, cars, and make-believe worlds with those little blocks. As time passed, I replaced LEGOs with software programming. It provided me an outlet to be creative and build solutions, just like I had with that box of LEGOs. But, since then, it seems that many other women have been discouraged from the field.

In 1985, 37% of the computer science degrees in the US were awarded to women. By 2011, this number had dropped by more than half to just 17%. The overall numbers of women getting their computer science degrees also dropped during that period, from over 14,000 in 1985 to under 8000 in 2011.These staggering drops have been directly related to how things like the Commodore 64 and other tech focused toys were advertised wholly to boys in the late 1980’s and early 90’s.

Toy companies can have a huge impact on a child’s interests and thus, their future. I wonder what would be different if LEGO had continued including that letter in all of their boxes. Would more girls, like me, have been encouraged to build things? Would they have been pushed to pursue a career in engineering? Would more women now be computer scientists, working on building solutions to the world's problems? I think the answer is "yes," and that's why I want LEGO to include this powerful letter again, just like they did in 1974 when I was still a young girl. Join me and ask LEGO to inspire us again.

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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Valka D'Ur » Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:04 pm

Lemon Merchant wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:37 am
So I just found out that they make LEGO for girls. This differs from the regular type of LEGO by offering girly figurines and playsets that are supposedly geared toward the way that young girls play. You can play house, and have a beauty salon, a tree house, a cafe... arrrgh.

Image

*Bangs head against desk*

Is it just me or is this incredibly sexist? What's wrong with normal LEGO? We should be encouraging young girls to develop their visual acuity, building skills, creativity, and foster (oh, just possibly) an interest in science. How else are we going to get more women involved in STEM fields? Some of the engineers and scientists of tomorrow are going to be women. Why don't we help them along a little bit by getting them to play with creative toys, instead of the usual "girls should play house" tripe.

I realize that some girls are interested in this sort of thing, hence the popularity of Barbie and her ilk, but wow. Clothes and shoes are nice and everything, but lets be encouraged to use our brains a little bit. Not to just be credit card wielding shopping mall drones who are slaves to the latest fashion, and making a happy home for our families (not that there is anything wrong with a happy home, but it's not JUST the woman's responsibility to get dinner on the table on time), and keeping a perfectly clean house to show off to friends.

If I had a daughter, I would want her to play with toys that stretched her mind. I wouldn't want her to play with sexist garbage that tries to train her into accepting some stupid, outdated gender role. I would do the same if I had a son. Sexism in toys in rampant these days. NO wonder our kids are getting conflicting messages.
My 9-year-old self would have loved this. I did go through a time when playing Barbies meant setting up a house with whatever Barbie furniture I had, or could flange up (an empty thread spool and the lid from a salt shaker makes an acceptable table lamp, for example).

This set has actually been out for awhile, and has garnered lots of angry blog articles, letters to the company, and plenty of discussion on why this stuff exists at all, let alone marketed to girls. Note the pastel and jewel tones of some of it; how many boys are apt to want purple Lego bricks?


I was never given any Lego to play with. I had Tinker Toys and building blocks, a small train set, a few cars and a toy gas station, farm truck and animals... but gradually gravitated toward "girls' toys". I still have my first Barbie (Playtime Fluff, which was a Skipper-like doll), and the furniture. I've got pattern books full of 3D needlepoint Barbie furniture that I actually might make sometime... for the challenge, as some of those patterns aren't easy. But since space is at a premium now, it would be a "make and sell" project. I need my space for books, artwork, penguins, and other knick-knacks. I stopped collecting dolls over 20 years ago, with the exception of a set of Star Trek Barbies (still in their original packaging).

IF a parent wanted to give a daughter this play set - that includes a salon and cafe - they could emphasize the business end of it. Teach the daughter how to run a business, her various dolls and toys could be customers, and the daughter could be taught the rudiments of bookkeeping (assuming she hasn't already learned that in school; I have no idea what kids learn in school these days, or when; I only know that they apparently don't learn handwriting). Knowing the basics of how to run a business is useful, and applicable to pretty much anything from a garage sale to managing a store.


Luckily for me, my dad mostly didn't listen to the female relatives and girlfriends who told him to give me "girl stuff." I got telescopes, a rock polisher, and geologist's hammer (with a book on identifying minerals) for presents. When I took up crafts, he got me knives, storage containers (same type as he used for nuts and bolts, since I had an incredible assortment of eyes, pompoms, buttons, etc.), glue sticks, and so on. He was relieved when I told him it was fine with me if he did his birthday and Christmas shopping in the hardware store.

Sometimes all it takes is a different "spin" on domestic things to get a girl thinking of science. For example, cooking is basically a procedure in which the cook performs a chemistry experiment which, if done correctly, should work. If it's not done correctly, it will either be ruined or some new and wonderful thing might be created. It drove my grandmother nuts at how I approached cooking and baking like I was back in the chemistry lab - assemble the materials (ingredients) and apparatus (everything from pots and cookie sheets to the most minuscule spoon, paint brush, and tooth picks), and measure everything precisely (asking incessant questions of "how much is a pinch or a handful"? - I wanted to know exactly how many grams I needed to measure out).


If I'd ever had kids, they would definitely have been encouraged to go the science route. I got the "girls don't read science fiction" speech in junior high, and eyebrows were raised when I started studying far ahead of my classmates in our astronomy unit in Grade 8. They were talking about the order of the planets and how many moons there were (a lot fewer were known then, of course), and I was reading about supernovae, stellar evolution, and trying to understand the Hertsprung-Russell diagram. It flabbergasted my female classmates that I read Asimov essays for fun, not because they were assigned.

This should not be considered weird.
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Lemon Merchant
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Lemon Merchant » Mon Dec 18, 2017 3:00 am

Synsensa wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:20 pm
All of the things you've mentioned are acts being perpetuated by the parents. I don't think a parent, or someone with an opinion on parenting, can realistically lament sexism when they are the ones enforcing it.
I'm the one lamenting sexism. I'm not a parent, and I don't really have an opinion on parenting.

Personally, I don't care if you let your child play with razor blades, that's entirely up to you as a parent. My gripe is that we, as a society aren't giving young girls enough positive role models. In popular culture we're either shopping obsessed clothes horses, fluffy frilly things that can't manage to do anything for ourselves, or we're power hungry, conniving sluts. Just watch some TV and pick a channel and you'll find all three examples in the course of an evening. (I will admit that I personally enjoy shopping and having lots of clothing and shoes.)

A woman can do anything a man can do (with the exception of some deadlifting, or peeing whilst standing up.) It's time that we started giving our young girls that message on a more regular basis. Personally, I was inspired by a nun from my upper school (what you North Americans would call high school) who encouraged me to follow my dreams and my heart and do something to change the world. This was in direct opposition to my mother's wishes that I be a homemaker, because the Lord put me on this Earth to take care of a man. She was adamant that I not go to college, or become a nurse, and she argued vehemently with me over getting a doctorate. If I had listened to her, I would be a frustrated housewife, sneaking down the lane to Mrs. Johnson's house to ride her upper lip in the afternoons.

The point is that I had a role model. Someone to encourage me to use my brain and talents to make my life better. I try to be a positive role model in RL, having encouraged a few young girls (and boys) to pursue their dreams. I try to set an example when I can and return the favor that that young nun did for me.

We can do anything. We just have to be told we can do it, and hear it above the din of popular culture.
Valka D'Ur wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:04 pm
This should not be considered weird.
Darn right it shouldn't be.
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Valka D'Ur
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Valka D'Ur » Mon Dec 18, 2017 3:32 am

Your mother and I would not get along at all. What mother, in this day and age, actively discourages her daughter getting all the education she can manage? My mother was awful in a lot of ways, but at least she was proud of me for going to college - she herself never finished high school (her choice to drop out and get married, and no, it wasn't a shotgun marriage - it was her only legal way out of her parents' home).
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Re: TOTD 12/13: Is LEGO for girls sexist?

Post by Timsup2nothin » Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:14 am

Once again though, are you sure that it is actually young girls who receive the least encouragement to follow a "different" path? There was that nun encouraging you to follow your dream, to do anything. How many people are telling boys that it would be okay for them to be a homemaker if they want to?

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