This letter was inspired by Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals. You can read her letter here. Please write to Lego as well.
Here’s an ad for Legos from 1981:
Here’s a photo of the new Friends Legos created in 2011:
LEGO Systems, Inc. 555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138
Legos were special. They were unique and creative and helped kids to build. Legos inspired kids’ imaginations. Boys and girls could play Legos together. But with your new product, Lego Friends created for girls, I can no longer tell the difference between Lego toys and the ubiquitous Disney princess products or Barbies. Is that the point? Because if it is, your copy cat strategy abandons the very qualities that made your toy great.
I have a blog Reel Girl where I rate kids’ media and products. Toys can get 1 – 3 Ss for stereotyping and 1 – 3 Gs for Girlpower. So recently I went to hear women architects talk about the new Architect Barbie. I have three daughters ages 2 – 8, and I asked the architects if I should buy this new Barbie for my kids. They all emphatically said no. Buy them blocks, they said. Buy them Legos. The architects loved Legos as kids. I blogged about their advice and spoke about it, I put it out it on Facebook and Twitter. I am sad and surprised to say that now Reel Girl gives Legos new Friends for girls an SSS rating.
I know Lego didn’t start all this gender stereotyping in kids’ toys. I get that you’re jumping on the bandwagon because you need to sell products. You’re worried because sales are down. But you’re making a mistake.
I know you spent a lot of money on market research. But all you’ve really researched is the effect that mass marketing has on kids. Look at your 1981 girl and your 2011 Kim Kardashian wannabe lounging in her hot tub with a drink. All that you’ve researched is how to help turn our daughters from the beautiful kid into the plastic one. Lego is better than this. That’s why we love your toy. That’s why we buy it. But now, instead of helping kids grow, you’re stunting them.
We’ve all moved beyond the nature versus nurture debate. Now we understand babies brains come into the world full of potential. The experiences they have help to determine how those brains develop. For example, babies are born able to mimic and make all kinds of sounds, but as they learn a particular language, their brains start to wire up to produce particular intonations; they lose their ability to make many other sounds. Kids who learn to speak other languages early retain that ability to make different sounds for a lifetime. Limiting kids’ early experiences limits their brain growth. That’s why gender stereotyping is so dangerous.
Pink is just one color. Girls are not born with a pink gene. Pink used to be a boy color, the pastel version of red. Blue was for girls, the color of the Virgin Mary. Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella wore blue. Sleeping Beauty was switched to pink to differentiate her from Cinderella. This kind of information is what you should be spending your market research budget on because paying experts to ‘observe’ that girls choose pink is only studying the effects of multinational companies. Or maybe that is what you want to know?
The more you split kids and adults into tiny categories, the easier it is to market and sell products. The concept of ‘toddler’ was developed by clothing manufacturers in the 1930s as a stepping stone between infants and older kids to sell clothing. ‘Tween’ was coined in the 1980s.
I know asking you not to mimic what’s out there is challenging. Some of your best selling Lego sets ‘for boys’ like Star Wars and Indiana Jones come from million dollar movies franchises that don’t exactly have many females in them. But I wish you would use your research and marketing money to figure out how to help develop kids brains, the way Lego used to do.
Please consider bringing back the 1981 ad and creating the kinds of toys that the cool kid in the picture would love.
Update: People are going to Lego’s Facebook page and posting the 1981 pic asking them to bring beautiful back. If you agree and want to post it, go to Lego’s FB page, click like, and then you can post the pic.