I have clearly been beaten down, because my first thought on reading that story is “at least they are going to fix it.” There is a minor brouhaha in the science blogosphere right now over some ridiculously gendered science kits. One company is addressing the concerns. Another basically shrugged its shoulders and said “this is what our customers want, so shove off.” This comes right after a major blow up over an incredibly sexist piece of fiction published in one of the leading science journals, for which the editors refuse to apologize.
I had this exact same conversation with a friend who has a 2 year old daughter (also more about the Duplo level rather than Lego). I queried it and she clarified that all she can find is sets that are heavily construction related, and her daughter is more interested in other stuff. I said that I had seen a Duplo set dealing with fruit and vege markets.
It’s as if she was using “girls” as shorthand for “not construction related”.
Sooooo weird. When I was a kid my brother and I often bought each other Lego for Christmas/birthday presents, and we had the big Duplo blocks when we were little. I had one big ‘girl-themed’ set that my parents bought me (it was a beach house thing), but in the main we had a big tub of mixed blocks and I remember liking all the garden themed stuff best. I loved Lego!!!!!!! ‘Not for girls’ my arse!
I’m only 29 so this was the late 80s and early 90s!!!
My friend is actually pretty conscious of not gender stereotyping her children (her older child is a boy) so I do think it is more about the language she used rather than the differentiation of boys and girls stuff.
As for us, what we need to go with our basic blocks are some basic second level pieces, like windows and roofs. It seems to be hard to get those without getting a specific theme set. I don’t really want a vege market one, too limiting.
@Tamara, we just bought a basic house set for our 4.5 year old for Christmas without any difficulty. It was at our local big box toy store. I wonder if there are regional differences in that?
I used to think that I didn’t want too many sets for my kids, thinking that the “free building” mode was the best way to use Legos, because it is more creative. But then I read an interesting article about how building to the picture and/or instructions is excellent practice for spatial reasoning, which is one of the few skills that girls actually have a truly noticeable performance gap on (although the bell curves for boys and girls are still hugely overlapping). And there is research that indicates that the cause of that gap is lack of practice. I wrote it up here: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2011/11/weekend-reading-parenting-edition.html
Sorry, I’m too tired tonight to pull out the relevant bits, but it isn’t a long post.
I’ve also bought basic house stuff boxes of lego for my son and my nieces – windows, roof bits, general blocks – I got them in a small town toy shop. If you can’t find them locally you should be able to find them online.
@cloud I think it’s important for kids to learn about using the instructions, but also that you can use those bits for your own creative enterprise. That one piece can do multiple jobs is the beauty of lego.
@Aphie- I’ve read the book, and recommend it far and wide, too! It is a really good read, particularly if you don’t mind a little science talk (and I’m a scientist, so I don’t). But I have had friends who aren’t scientists read it, and they have liked it, too.It is a great thing to read to be ready to swat away the pseudoscience “but boys and girls just have different abilities from birth” crap.
Okay well I’ve had a look online and I suppose there is a basic house kit, but it’s really small. What i was hoping for was a kit that give you a heap of stuff like the base plates, windows, doors etc. Not just one house worth.
Anyway, during my search I got even more despondent when I saw the gender stereotyping of the human characters:
policeman – check
female nurse – check
male doctor, female patient – check
postman – check
male car transporter driver – check
female victim to be rescued by helicopter pilot – check.
Tamara we break the lego figures up and switch heads/hair etc on the characters. I also describe the masculine figures as women sometimes just to see the kid’s head explode at the idea of a beared lady fire-fighter.
I can’t imagine seeing such an ad today, here in the U.S., with a girl dressed in jeans and sneakers and not dressed to be feminine and “cute” (think: pink! frills! butterflies! curls!). Which makes me immeasurably sad. I’m going to go quietly cry into a beer now.
I want that Lego ad for a poster. I feel like I was that jeans and sneakers and kinda messy haired little girl who just loved building things during my 1980s childhood. Thankfully, my parents kept the bulk of mine and my brothers Lego – so we have no shortage of all the necessary bits for building (like doors and windows etc). I’m also looking forward to getting out the Lincoln Logs I know they have stored!
As for the modern Lego naming thing, well – that is a bit sad. But not really surprising.
I’m biased. I have two sons. But we love Lego. Isn’t all Lego, by definition, “construction stuff”? I grant you the name thing is a huge blunder, but when I go into our local Lego store, I see a relatively gender neutral oasis — Harry Potter, City, Architecture, Pirates. These are all equally appealing to boys and girls.
The problem isn’t that Lego is dissing girls so much as so many other toy manufacturers are cravenly appealing only to Just Boys or, sadly, Just Princesses.
My girl used to play with duplo and lego (not as long as 4-5 years ago) and we never even bothered to think about such gendered stuff. I bought boxes filled with blocks, and we built pyramids, houses, bridges, whatever and wherever our imagination and foremost her creativity lead us. Simply don’t overhype toys and plays. Enjoy and have fun!
Here, we love LEGO. The new, old, little things, big buildings, everything. Recently, my son went to his grandparents take LEGO’s suitcase from my childhood. Cool! I’m a mom, I’m a girl, and I love LEGO.
I did some promotional work for lego last year… and if i am not mistaken.. they were working on a lot of things for girls.. such as pink lego and things geared toward girls as well. I had seen the lego with my own eyes.. but i dont know if it has come out yet?
Speaking as a Lego-loving lassie of the 80s, the pink Lego I’ve seen is crap.
The pieces are not as versatile and the colours are overly twee (and why pastel?) and limiting in their own way.
Which makes me quite sad, because if I could get standard Lego with some pink and purple pieces in the mix, the Tiny Tyrant would be all over it.
Kids are kids and will play with anything they find interesting and lego has always been interesting. I think that they have more of a market for boys because parents follow society buying other things for girls instead of lego.. so of course lego is goign to gear their products to the consumers they sell to the most. Whats sad is that if most parents gave lego to girls they would love it. its not “construction” stuff. Its building, creativity and fun.
I recently rekindled my love for Lego when I became pregnant – I started buying StarWars sets, and the blind pack minifigs. I have switched as many heads around as I can in order to equalize the gender ratio, but males outnumber females significantly. And after finding out that Baby is a boy, I am somewhat disappointed because I was trying so hard to stay ‘gender neutral’, which of course in practical terms for me meant ‘not pink’ and ‘not guns’… but now I feel that I’m just reinforcing pink=girls by not buying pink stuff for my boy, whilst at the same time I don’t want to buy pinkified toys because it puts money into the companies who sell them.
Having a ‘colour’ problem with minifigs too… apparently the only POC representations are the basketball players.
It’s so hard isn’t it Jess? When I get stuff for the little ones of my friends, I try to be gender neutral by simply not buying blue stuff for boys and pink stuff for girls if I can avoid it. That seems to be about the best I can do.
PSA for any NZers looking for ungendered Lego: my partner and I were amazed to discover The Warehouse (tragic den of imported unethical consumer waste that it is) now stocks big buckets of generic Lego pieces. Really high up, far away from the ridiculously expensive Star Wars merch. But it was THERE and it was REAL.
I have the current Lego catalogue (Mr 8 is a Lego club member). While there is lots of ‘girly pink’ fail there is also some good generic stuff that I wasn’t aware you could still get: building plates in green, blue, and grey; a deluxe brick box which looks like it has lots of generic pieces; a box of windows and doors, a box of wheels, and a box of roof tiles, and a box of Lego basic bricks in red, orange, yellow, white, blue, grey, black and green. Some of these have AU next to them so may only be available in Australia. But good to know that some generic stuff is still available.
NB: I don’t have any affiliations with Lego, just a Lego enjoying husband and children.