Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lego Gone Girly

When I was a little girl, I had--what I believe--was an impressive collection of the Lego Castle system. The bricks were gray and black in--what I imagine--was an attempt to make them look realistic. I LOVED spending an afternoon going through the entire process of building one or more sets. Looking back now, it is possible that I exhibited some OCDish tendencies early on: I would never build a castle until I had first sorted all the bricks. The joy of following the directions to ultimately build the structure was second to the elation I felt after successfully sorting all the bricks into nice, neat, little piles.

In addition to my Castle Lego collection,  I also had a giant blue case that had a random assortment of bricks and people. Basically, I kept all my non-castle Lego sets in there. It was just a hodge-podge mess of green base plates and red, yellow, green, blue, and white bricks. And flowers. (Those Lego flowers really added a little je ne sais quoi to my creations.) 

I have to admit that the first time I saw Lego being marketed to girls, I bristled a little. I didn't need Lego bricks in "girly" colors. Then I saw this:

Initially, I was outraged. Decades of gender-coding have resulted in this Frozen Lego set. Does everything have to be gender-coded? If kids won't play with something because of its color, then there is something wrong with that. And yes, I interpret that as an indicator that we are failing as a society. 

Maybe I'm guilty of it too. For a while I was maintaining two gym bags: A pink one that had my pink and purple gym clothes and a blue one that had my black and blue gym clothes. Each one had Nike tennis shoes that would match everything in the respective bag. In my defense, I never thought of them as my girl and boy bags though. It was just always convenient to work out of one bag each week while washing the clothes in the other. The different-colored bags to match the clothes . . . well, there is a saying that goes "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world." I say give that girl a matching bag!

That Lego catalog sat on my dining room table for a while and I just kept thinking about it every time I saw it. The more I thought about it though, the more I began to soften and see it differently. I love pink and purple. I didn't as a little girl, but if the woman I am today were a little girl, she would love to have so many colors to choose from in her giant Lego brick. Yes, kids today get to store their Lego bricks in awesome, giant, Lego-shaped boxes. They are so lucky--not just because of their cute, clever storage options, but because they have more colors to choose from when building. As a classroom teacher, I always wanted my kids to have as many options as possible when it came to building their futures. Sadly, I know there is no correlation between the number of Lego color options available and future success. I know that many kids with big dreams today will grow up and still face limited options as they enter adulthood tomorrow. I also know this is especially true for some girls and that breaks my heart.

Today I applaud Lego for what they are doing. "Girls" is now a category on the Lego website. Maybe some cynics out there will see it as a way to increase sales. If pink and purple bricks thrown into the mix, get more girls playing with Lego sets and building, then I'm for it. Why shouldn't a girl have to build her dream house before she plays house? Why should she have to rely on someone (notice I didn't say "man") to give it to her? If building a hair salon inspires a girl to want to run her own business someday, I'm for it. And the White House comes up under the Girls category too. 


If the Frozen set above is the gateway to future building, then I'm for it. Build on, girls. Build on.

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