Some consumers, led by eating and body disorder specialist Carolyn Costin, are challenging a new line of Legos designed for girls. Costin posted information and a petition on change.org, encouraging parents to contact Lego and tell it to call a halt to its new "Friends" line. But many parents also welcome the new "girl-friendly" Lego design. Here's what the brouhaha is all about:
Is "Friends" Really Girl-Friendly?
The "Friends" concept is to make the building toy more girl-centric. To that end, the company designed character blocks with more human-shaped bodies. It also changed the signature primary color of the building blocks in the "Friends" set to subtler shades including pink and baby blue.
The "Friends" line, which you can see here, includes the type of playsets popular among other toy lines like Polly Pocket. Based on a video game released in 1999, the "Friends" sets focus on five girls with varied interests. The playset varieties include a vet clinic, a home, a pool, a stage with musical instruments, a design studio, a garage with tools and robot construction materials, and a dog show, among others.
Reactions to the Friends Line
The Brick Blogger notes that "for some people it was love at first site for these cuties, for others it was instant suspicion, disappointment, and even hatred."
Costin falls in the latter category. Her petition reads in part: "We are horrified and outraged to see how the "Friends" line for girls promotes damaging gender stereotypes and limits creativity and healthy role development. For starters presenting slimmer, more fashion oriented LEGO people for girls falls right into the pervasive cultural messages for them to focus solely on their appearance and being thin."
But defenders have taken to the Lego message boards, saying the criticism is misplaced. The thrust of the comments is that Lego is reaching out to kids who wouldn't otherwise take an interest in a building toy. Ucbearcatn1348's comments are typical; she said most Lego sets are "boy-oriented," containing characters like firemen and Star Wars figures; as to why girls like the new sets, she said her daughter loves the "Friends" line mainly because the treehouse has a kitty with it.
Are Traditional Legos Boy-Oriented?
Parents on the Lego message board suggest that traditional Lego sets are boy-oriented. Even Costin seems to agree with that, but she says the solution is not to make gender stereotype sets. She points to 1980s-era advertising that proclaimed, "Lego Universal Building Sets will help your children discover something very, very special themselves." She advocates gender neutral sets that allow the kids to use their imagination to create stories, instead of providing stylized props that suggest specific girl and boy interests. As far as the color pink goes, she has no problem with it as one among several options.
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