Friday, February 22, 2013

Is Friends any more sexist than most Lego? And why it might in fact be better.

Today I saw another article noting the exponential growth in lines of Lego aimed at girls, specifically the Friends sets. And I have read many critiques of these sets as well as some equally valid defenses.

On the one hand they promote gender stereotypes and limited roles for their target audience. (One set includes a beauty salon, not so different to the Hairdresser Lego Set I so adored at seven.) On the positive side, they encourage girls to play with blocks which we all know are fantastic in the development of visual-spatial skills but are often shunned by girls (or their parents) in preference for other sorts of play; additionally, the sets promote pro-social messages with their focus on friendship.

What I find interesting in all of this is the lack of discussion about the problem of 'boys' lines of Lego. The thing is that boys sets may not be marked 'boy' but they are every bit as gendered as the sets aimed at girls. And they are often vile.

These sets (I have three boys and quite possibly own all of them) are colour coded just as explicitly as the girl sets. There is not a hint of pastel, but many shades of orange, green, red and black. The characters (human and otherwise) in these sets carry weapons, with many actually having weaponised body parts. And as my own 5-year-old boy noted, the sets are 'sexist' because they only have boy characters.

There are other lines of Lego that are possibly considered gender neutral, but they seem to me to have the same issue as children's books. Publishers avoid marketing books to a girl audience because they believe that boys will not read books about girls but girls will read books about boys. Similarly, the Creator and City sets are sold in a solid range of primary colours, colours that are safely 'boy' without a hint of anything explicitly 'girl'. So in my view, even these officially 'gender neutral' sets tilt boy.

I continue to have mixed feelings about Friends, but I don't think that they are any more gendered than most Lego, or any more noxious. In fact I think it could safely be argued that 'boy' Lego, with its focus on warfare and aggression, is promoting a version of masculinity that is just as limiting and far more troubling than a range named Friends.









28 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wouldn't buy either of those sets - Friends or sets with weapons. There are other sets marketed as boys only that don't have weapons. You can buy just pieces to make anything you want and they seem aimed at boys. My problem with the Friends sets isn't the themes but the fact that they are much more basic to make than the boy themes. Yes encourage girls to play with blocks but don't dumb it down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you that Friends is probably dumbed down version so I guess that part of the pro side doesn't really hold up! We have some of those much nicer sets you refer to and my oldest loves technical lego - my sister (an engineer too) used to save up all her pocket money for those sets too.
      Michelle

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. We have a few of the Lego Friends sets. My gripe with then is that the pieces are much more fiddly to put together than the 'boy' Lego. We also have a lot of Star Wars Lego which is much more robust and easier to handle, as well as lots of lego that belonged to my hubby when he was a kid. Both my son and daughter play with all of it, but by far the Star Wars lego and the stuff aimed mostly at boys is much more like the original lego.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! So we don't have any Friends because my daughter was past target age when it came out and she has liked 'regular' Lego too. And Star Wars Lego v popular here too. The most obvious example of the sort of extreme sets aimed at boys I was thinking about in my post is Bionicles, which of course my oldest just loved. Thank god he also loved, and at nearly 14 still does, technical lego and more complicated sets.
      The other new series that I didn't mention in my piece but is v positive development is the Architect series. They are very beautiful and truly gender neutral.
      Michelle

      Delete
  5. As a kid, I got a set of Robin Hood lego at 5, and I was happy that there was a girl lego piece. This was a lot of greens, yellows, and browns for the set, and yes, with the weapons you create, but I would steal from my brother's sets and create lamps with the neon single pieces, and play "house" or "school" with my creations.

    I could never be bothered to sort all the pieces and actually build according to the plan - that was inevitably tasked to my younger brother.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It stopped allowing further commenting; I would also like to note that when I was 9 or 10, there was a "beach house" set that was intended for girls that I got. I don't remember pastels, but I do remember a lot of white, lighter green, and even clear plastic pieces intended for something, but I don't recall what. I liked the built in pool for the base of that set - it was my favourite base, even if it was small. I still continued to play school"

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Somebody essentially help to make significantly posts I'd state.
    This is the first time I frequented your web page and so far?
    I surprised with the analysis you made to create this actual post extraordinary.
    Magnificent process!

    Also visit my blog: geometry dash cheat (geometrydashhack.wordpress.com)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have be aware your stuff previous
    to and you are just extremely great. I actually
    like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and
    the best way by which you are saying it. You make it enjoyable and you
    still care for to stay it sensible. I can't wait to read far more from you.
    This is actually a tremendous site.

    Also visit my blog post - subway surfers hack

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi there! I could have sworn I've been to this site before but after browsing through a few of the posts I realized it's
    new to me. Anyhow, I'm certainly happy I came across it
    and I'll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!


    Here is my blog - gas Fires melbourne, http://turtsekh.com,

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you
    using for this website? I'm getting fed up of Wordpress because I've had
    problems with hackers and I'm looking at options for another platform.
    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of
    a good platform.

    My web blog ... celebrity cosmetic plastic surgery ()

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete