Monday, January 23, 2012

Legos and Gender

boingboing, one of my favorite websites, is obsessed with Legos. Recently, they posted an article about Legos' new effort to attract more girls by creating a "more feminine" line of Legos.

The first link in that article details not only the amazing amount of time, effort, and money that Lego is spending on "feminizing" it's toys, but also the insidious, creepy nature of modern advertising. I mean, as this NYTimes article states, there are quite obviously some ingrained gender differences in kids. I saw this first hand with my  boys who, despite my not caring less about vehicles, both became sterotypically obsessed with cars and construction machinery. On the flip side, they both also like to walk around wearing  mommy's shoes, and one of Hunter's favorite toys is a hot pink "princess" phone he insisted we buy him. My point is that while there are differences between boys and girls, each kid is also unique and as such is open to anything.

Initiatives like Legos' are merely trying to take advantage of - and thus reinforce - early gender differences just so they can make a buck. Sure, given the way our society reinforces gender roles, a girl might initially be more attracted to a pastel beauty salon than a Garbage Truck, but doesn't this just reinforce the stereotype? As the article puts it: "How can they develop skills for such collaborations from toys that increasingly emphasize, reinforce, or even create, gender differences?" Who says that a girl might not have been drawn towards a Garbage Truck but just in pink? I mean, just look at the popularity of Pink and Powder Blue NFL jerseys and baseball hats (like the Red Sox "pink hat brigade"). Given the power that Legos hold over many young ones, it would have been nice if they tried to point to a new way. It's hard enough when society already pushes boys towards Legos and car/military vehicles and girls to "American Girl". (And do we honestly really need more toys teaching small girls to wear miniskirts? Or am I just getting old?)

Good questions, but there's not much I can do about it on a large scale. My thinking is that I subvert the dominant paradigm by letting my kids play with whatever they damned well please. So Hunter occasional walks around the house in my wife's red pumps while Trey talks on a princess phone. They're still all boy, but at least their not being limited by any societal guidelines.

Unless they try to wear Patriots gear, of course. A dad's got to draw the line somewhere.

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