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Tags: fighting back, girlie girl culture, pink princess culture camd Posted May 14th, 2011 in Boys and Girls, Equal Parenting, Princesses, Why I Wrote CAMD |
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Here is a Lego ad from 1981. Need I say more?
And now I can’t remember who sent it to me, so if you read this and it was you let me know and I will credit you.
It is beautiful.
The project is pretty good looking as well. Too bad their PR department was unable to envision a girly-girl creating that building.
It was 1981. I don’t think the girlie-girl had been invented. But I appreciate that there was a vision of beauty that didn’t involve tiaras and makeup for 3-year-olds….She’s just a KID.
Also, it seems to me that Legos are now mostly kits–that is, they don’t have as much free construction any more (or am I wrong?). And the “girl” legos are either pink/princessy or their new horse line which has girls who look Bratz-esque.
There are sets that have themes (play themes like Ninjago) and there are buckets of bricks that encourage free construction. There are a number of girls who like to build with some of the sets in the Creator line, and LEGO has some buckets of bricks that include pastel colors that appeal more to girls. There isn’t a line that has a doll that looks anything like Bratz. I think you are thinking of Belville, which is a few years old and being phased out.
I am talking about Belville. I’m glad they’re phasing it out. Aren’t I?
It’s amazing to stare at an ad from the early 80′s and feel like it’s refreshingly progressive. Aside from being completely adorable, what I can’t get over is how delightfully un-gendered the copy is as well. I think that if this ad were from 2011, the designers would have felt the obligation to make some sort of girl power statement about how Legos let girls be whoever they want to be.
Completely agree, Emily. Love it’s calm, unobtrusive ‘just a kid playing/proud of creation’ theme…Natch, the counter-marketing copy crammed down our throats now is due to the OVER-marketing of pink think that got us here to begin with (thus the point of Peggy’s book, Packaging Girlhood.com, So Sexy So Soon, yadayada) (wistful glance in 80s rearview mirror during ad agency days, confirming sigh.)
Honestly, I never thought I’d be wistful about the EIGHTIES. That was such a regressive time. Yet not for girls–took longer to trickle down, perhaps?
They still actually sell the Universal Building Set (what’s pictured in this ad), and it is the focus of their monthly free instructional. There are a lot of kits, yes, but there’s also a LOT of free-build (and the kits can be used to build things other than the planned, anyway).
That’s good. I don’t see that so much at the local toy store. Daisy did a Lego camp/class thing a few years ago. She and her friend with whom she did it were the only two girls in the class. Made me sad. She really loved it, though.
And honestly? I wouldn’t have thought to sign her up for it. Her friend’s dad is a physicist so they are always on the science/engineering stuff. I’m SO grateful to them, because I am hopelessly arts-biased, probably more so with a girl despite my best efforts, but would be with a boy as well.
Oh, wow. This really made me pause. First, as a red-headed child who was of that approx vintage, and who loved Legos … but also because it makes me realize how very, very far we have drifted from that. So sad.
Raisa loved lego. I remember female classmates asking her whether she played with Lego because she had a brother. Very sad.
And what does she say now? Have her chime in!
I sent it you via twitter. I love this pic in part because I have a red haired daughter. Makes me feel a bit teary.
Hooray! Okay, so thank you to fellow journalist Christina Hopkinson, thank you for sending this
I love this image so much that I looked for others like it, and it turns out there was a whole series of them in the late 70s and early 80s. There’s another with a girl (for sale on eBay – long link below) and a few more featuring boys. They’re just beautiful . . . and heartbreaking.
Here’s another, with a girl and boy playing together: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2666/3718434254_c5e2b552b8_z.jpg
Aw, I love that one. And again….sigh.
I have no problems with the sets–we’re veteran builders here and the pieces do indeed migrate into countless other forms and structures. Plus building the sets does indeed teach them new construction techniques and possibilities. I was skeptical at first, but now we have shelves and shelves of original creations. But I sorely lament 1) that they aren’t marketed to girls, and 2) that this girl, who looks like my 9 year old minus the red hair, isn’t in the media more. Gives you pause, huh?
Peggy, we’re a big lego family and both my 7 year old boy and 2 year old girl are addicts. The duplo sets for young kids are pretty gender neutral. BUT for the older kids, everything you see in the stores is designed and marketed for boys, except the one pink bucket. The Lego Club magazine is 100% geared toward boys. If you go to their website and dig you’ll find more of the gender neutral sets, but they rarely show up in the catalogs or the chain stores or even the front pages of their website.
I think Legos are the most wonderful toy ever invented, but the majority of girls are missing out. I know girls who love legos, but no one encourages them. I’ve posted about this often to my friends on facebook (I’ve even posted this picture before because I’m in love with it), and many of my girl friends talk about their memories of playing with legos as kids and never thinking about them as girl or boy toys. A couple of my friends have mentioned they’ve never even thought about buying legos for their daughters.
I think about this all the time, but haven’t figured out what I want to do about it yet. Your post encouraged me to start thinking about it again. Girls need legos too!
Does Lego ever respond? It seems so chicken and the egg: if they don’t encourage girls, they don’t get girls so they say girls aren’t interested….I KNOW they can be because my girl was. Not so much any more, though she and my husband will play Legos. She still likes Citiblocs which are great building toys. And LOVES Playmobil, but that’s not the same thing.
They probably actually need Legos MORE by the way, since their play does not encourage spatial skills or building development and by 4 or 5 they are falling behind in that realm. But if they are encouraged and taught those skills actively the gap closes!
I got wind of a “free subscriptions to the Lego Builder magazine” offer a month or two ago and my ten-year-old daughter came in as I was filling out the form.
There was a blank for the child’s sex and Molly asked me to put down that she was a boy. She was afraid they’d have a different magazine for girls, and if they did, she was quite sure it wouldn’t be as good.
Naomi, that just breaks my heart. Imagine how much she’d seen, absorbed and thought through about gender to get to that conclusion!
Wow. This is incredible. It really makes me think.
I am very impressed with your ten year old. That is a very young age to realize something like this. I think it says a lot about your parenting and about the strength, insight and intelligent of your daughter.
What a stark contrast. How did we so quickly go from celebrating kids as kids to trying to turn them into mini-gender-role-limited-sexualized adults?
Well, in case this wasn’t hypothetical, I think it started in 1985 accelerated in 1990 and was in full swing by 2001 when the Princesses descended (or ascended depending on your perspective0….
Descended. Devolved. Devalued. Destroyed…ahem. Ok, I’ll stop.
On the flip side, we’re in for a market correction; Still say a Reality TV series for productive pursuits like builders, creators, etc (get your sponsorship in now Lego!) has commercial viability. More on that here w/our all-girl eco-Marathon teen team of racecar drivers/builders: “ShopGirls” http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=14567
Peggy…you have any network contacts I can pitch? I’m gonna talk to Jess on this too w/ABC Family etc. Seriously. It’s time to turn this tanker around and get positive.
I wish I did–not my domain AT ALL. But I love the idea. Jess may have ideas….
I just saw this post today and copied the images to post on fb. I have two boys but LOVED playing with Legos when I was a child in the early 80s. This ad reminds me of my childhood but not the little girls I see today. Perhaps, I got to know Legos because of their great marketing? I didn’t have any brothers!
I have asked Lego what is up with their lack of marketing to girls. They have told me that they have tried, but girls just don’t like Legos. Well, of course they don’t like today’s Lego sets. Except for a few very expensive houses in the Creator line they offer very little with lasting appeal to girls. How sad because girls do like Legos. They should bring these ads back!
btw: I came to your blog today because a scantily clad Selena Gomez caught my eye on the web–only because I recently read your book. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known who she was! Thank you for your book!
Thanks, Carrie, but it’s definitely a backhanded compliment to say I’m the person who introduced you to Selena Gomez!!! (I’m joking, in case that doesn’t come through….Thanks for the kind words about the book). Do you have the link to the photo, BTW?
I don’t have a link. It was trending on yahoo. It’s a dress she wore to the Billboard music awards. I can’t believe I am even writing this. I don’t normally keep up with the stars! The dress was called a “revealing” cutout dress.
She’s not quite where Miley and Britney have been before her, but the news today is that she and boyfriend Bieber (isn’t he all of 17?!) are on a vacation in Hawaii with pics of her in a bikini. She is 18 now, so it’s time to be grown up and sexy!
Having grown up loving Madonna and her music and videos, I find these new young stars bizarre. While I may have learned a bit too much about sex at an early age from Madonna, she never claimed purity or that she was a role model for young girls. It was always clear that sex for her was about her wants and needs. I’m not convinced her influence was all bad.
I am intrigued by Lady Gaga who is the new Madonna. She is way out there, but her music and her message are all about her not what men want her to be. Gaga is no role model for young “tween” girls, but I don’t think she is trying to be either. What you see is what you get. Her message about sex is just like Madonna’s. She knows what she wants and she will get what she want. Sex as self satisfaction. It is hard not to admire that.
THanks so much for all your thoughts, Carrie. I have the same loop that goes around in my head. Madonna was a very different icon than these girls, though they may, in an unfortunate way, be her descendants, at least in part. But yes, her sexuality was overt and unapologetic. She was aiming at adults. She never pretended to be pure (except maybe in Like a Virgin, but it was pretty obvious she was not one). And she was also 25. Similarly, Gaga is an adult. And I wouldn’t hold her up to my little girl as any kind of model either, but I’m fine with my nieces liking her–they’re in college. I mean, I feel like she’s kind of Madonna rehashed, but maybe every generation needs a Madonna so this is theirs….
Readers might be interested in my blog post on why I don’t like Madonna. I sort of see her as having heralded the It’s My CHOICE to Be a Slut Age. “After all, isn’t feminism about CHOICE? How can you deny my right to CHOOSE?” I call bs.
[...] Gender and Legos Isn’t this a nice ad from 1981? I saw it on the Peggy Orenstein [...]
[...] twitter via @worstprofever’s RT of @urchinette’s original tweet. I tracked it down to Peggy Orenstein’s post from May 14th, 2011. Before moving into a discussion of this advertisement, I’m curious about [...]
Awesome! I love it!
My siblings and I loved Legos all through our childhood. My sister and brother played with them through the 80′s and I have bought countless sets for my two boys, and my sister has bought sets for her daughter. She will buy her seemingly “boy-oriented” sets, because her daughter (5) will ask for them, undaunted by the fact that they are not pink and princessy. She actually LIKES the fact they have pirates and Star Wars characters. If I had a girl, I would encourage play with whatever toy my child liked, no matter the perceived appropriate gender intention of the toy. Toys are toys!
my friends and i loved to play with legos!!
Thanks for posting this picture. I own a robot building company for kids, Brooklyn Robot Foundry, and we try very hard to market to girls.
We came across this same ad about a month or so ago and wrote a blog post about it.
This ad really inspired us and we printed it out and put it on the wall in our office at the store. I love this ad for having a girl but I also love it for some many other reasons too! It is really brilliant and makes me a bit teary-eyed.
As a female engineer, I always find it so sad that girls aren’t encouraged to build and be creative in this manner. When I was in college (about ten years ago), Purdue said that the percentage of girls in engineering was 20-30%. I always counted the numbers of females in my classes and was saddened that the % was always around 10%.
I was very lucky to have a very supportive family who always said, “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” Part of our goal with our company is to help inspire other children and empower them to also realize they can be whatever they want to be!
[...] a fantastic Op-Ed for the New York Times on this topic and she writes about it frequently on her blog. But lately, my hatred of Lego Friends and all things Barbie and Disney has deepened. I hate that [...]
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