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August 20, 2013 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I sat her on my lap and went to the official Lego website. She dismissed every Lego City kit that I pointed to. She had her eyes set on a kit that I was pretending not to see.

Previously.
posted by Fleebnork (110 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lego sales to girls has tripled since 2011.

That's pretty awesome.

Great column. Thanks for posting it.
posted by cribcage at 1:09 PM on August 20, 2013


I'm basically in the same boat as the author. I'm frustrated that we seem to need a girl-oriented line of Legos at all. But Olivia's Tree House is a pretty rad set as it goes, and it went over extremely well in our house. I'm hoping it can be a gateway drug.

(I'm bummed they don't seem to be promoting the Harry Potter line anymore. She'd like those even better.)
posted by feckless at 1:12 PM on August 20, 2013


Hah! I feel vindicated in having held a view that went against the Internet zeitgeist.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:13 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've looked at a lot of the Lego Friends kits (I was at Legoland Windsor a few weeks ago) and they look fine (if a little heavy on the pink and purple). Certainly better than all the media tie-in stuff (Star Wars, superheroes etc.) aimed at boys. If anything, I'd like to see Lego move away from reinforcing male stereotypes to the extent that it does. If they could somehow merge the Friends stuff with the City kits, you'd have a nice balance that would work well for both genders.
posted by pipeski at 1:15 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Those green tree branches with the add-on flowers are hella dope though
posted by scose at 1:16 PM on August 20, 2013


Lego Friends is awesome, and the tree house set is super cool. My favorite set remains the robot lab, but to be fair I used paint to make mine even better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've moved on to being puzzled by Lego's new "Legends of Chima" line, which I still can't quite figure whether it's supposed to be "China" or if it's completely unrelated. I mean, of all the random pseudo-words, "Chima"?
posted by GuyZero at 1:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Certainly better than all the media tie-in stuff (Star Wars, superheroes etc.) aimed at boys.

You know, I'm glad that her daughter liked Lego Friends, but the continuing idea that somehow the existing Lego Star Wars or superheros kits are for boys only still bugs me. I own multiple kits from the Bionicles and a handful of other titles. They're not gendered unless somehow half the population hates robots, which I just flat-out refuse to believe. (Because robots are awesome.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


I thought it was interesting, although I was slightly depressed by the writer's motivation for wanting to introduce Lego to her kids - as an "educational toy" to get them into the science track.

I know this is how successful people pass on success to their offspring, but part of me just wants toys to be for open-ended play. This is why I will always fork over money for Spongebob, but never ever for Dora or Diego.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:22 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The author is overlooking two major issues here:

- The kit she's praising, like all of the Lego friends kits, is meant to be less of a building toy than real lego sets. Friends is premised on the idea that girls don't like to build things and prefer narrative play with prebuilt structures. The kits consist mostly of big slabs - put the slabs together and the kit's done. The figures are designed to cater to what Lego assumes girls really want - they have breasts, fashion clothing, and hands specially designed to hold handbags and hairbrushes. (Take a look at the picture of the treehouse set again - all this is visible.)

- The author's daughter is not a typical Friends consumer. The author succeeded in getting her daughter to build because she was doing so with an older brother who already owned a lot of real lego building toys, and she quickly integrated her second-class sets with the real thing that was already in the house. Lego seems to believe that this isn't the normal state of affairs, and in most cases, Friends kits are bought in the girls' section, by girls whose families are looking for girls' toys, and who wont have that opportunity to transition to actual building toys. As the author herself notes, it's the real building toys that make the skills difference.

Agree with scose, though - the flowers are awesome. I think they're also available in some of the real kits, though mostly things like the victorian-type houses for much older kids.
posted by Wylla at 1:23 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Love this essay. Thanks for posting it.

My wife bought one of those lego friends sets for my daughter a couple of weeks ago. It has a little girl in her bedroom, with a tiny drum set, radio and some other musical instruments. My son got a Lego Ninjago robot. These toys are what they asked for when she told them they could buy anything on sale from the dollar aisle at Target. (We're big spenders.)

My five year old daughter is a girly-girl who has been telling us her favorite color was pink since she learned to talk. She's into princesses and fairies and unicorns and every stereotypical girl-gendered toy imaginable despite the fact that we tried (OH HOW WE TRIED) to keep her and her brother clothed in unisex colors as a baby and gave them unisex toys and I tried and failed to ban barbie dolls from the house. She plays with her brother's toys and he plays with hers. But given the choice between a lego ninja robot and a girl's pink and purple bedroom set, she chose the latter.

So she brings this thing home and I must admit I'm kinda horrified and then she says: "Daddy, this girl's name is Sophia and she plays the drums and the guitar. In the car on the way home [my brother] told me that only boys can play the drums but I told him that girls can do anything a boy can do. He said girls can't be astronauts and I told him we can too. He said girls can't be ninjas and I told him yes they can. And he said girls can't be daddies and I said okay but they can be mommies and have babies. So this is Sophia and she plays music and she's a girl, isn't that great?"

I have learned over time that one of the joys of being a parent sometimes means letting go of the deeply-held idea that your kids are going to be the people you expect them to be. And that protecting your child from biased, potentially negative stereotypes about girls and women means letting them enjoy their childhoods while also teaching them to avoid absorbing negative lessons. She is who she is, and that's okay.
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [70 favorites]


"He said girls can't be astronauts and I told him we can too."

and I wonder where he got that idea?
posted by Wylla at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine had to make sure to tell her daughter, when she joined Lego club, that she must not speak ill of the other girls who preferred "girly Legos" -- a habit she'd picked up from her mother (speaking ill of the "girly Legos", not the children); it was quite an eye opening moment of "Oh my God, it my struggles to be a good parent, I have become a slightly different flavor of the bad type of parent I was trying to avoid becoming."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:30 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


hands specially designed to hold handbags and hairbrushes.

Their hands are not specially designed. They're standard Lego clip-size and can hold any minifig accessory.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:30 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


The kit she's praising, like all of the Lego friends kits, is meant to be less of a building toy than real lego sets.

I feel like this is just kind of the trend with the Lego sets I actually see for sale. Tons of stuff that's, like, a pretty cool set of action figures and accessories, but a lot less than I remember in the way of generally reusable pieces.
posted by brennen at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2013


- The kit she's praising, like all of the Lego friends kits, is meant to be less of a building toy than real lego sets. Friends is premised on the idea that girls don't like to build things and prefer narrative play wuth prebuilt structures. The kits consist mostly of big slabs - put the slabs together and the kit's done. The figures are designed to cater to what Lego assumes girls really want - they have breasts, fashion clothing, and hands specially designed to hold handbags and hairbrushes. (Take a look at the picture of the treehouse set again - all this is visible.)

I have several Lego Friends figurines. They do not have breasts and are 100% compatible with more building-oriented lego kits. There's still a fair amount of building in these kits, incidentally. The house particularly is modular but still flexible in terms of layout and design. The dolls themselves are built like ten year old girls and it's pretty creepy how that's been sexualized.

Regardless, dolls are awesome, and narrative play is awesome, and that's pretty much how I used my Legos back when I was ten as well as now--I'd build myself a dollhouse (a dollhouse shaped like a castle, but still a dollhouse), pick a freckle-faced lego to represent myself, and go to town. Now, I paint my figurines to look like characters from books I've written. Storytelling is a powerful thing, and acting out these stories with dolls shouldn't be assumed inferior.

The author notes that the sets appeal to boys she knows, too, and that she wishes there were boy minidolls. That seems an astute observation. Honestly, I don't think this author is overlooking a thing.

And I don't think these legos are any less "real" than the other lines, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


zarq: So she brings this thing home and I must admit I'm kinda horrified and then she says: "Daddy, this girl's name is Sophia and she plays the drums and the guitar. In the car on the way home [my brother] told me that only boys can play the drums but I told him that girls can do anything a boy can do. He said girls can't be astronauts and I told him we can too. He said girls can't be ninjas and I told him yes they can. And he said girls can't be daddies and I said okay but they can be mommies and have babies. So this is Sophia and she plays music and she's a girl, isn't that great?"

This reminds me of an anecdote Kristin Hersh form Throwing Muses used to tell about when her first kid started school. He went about asking all the other kids "So, what kind of music does your mom make?" as if it was the most obvious question in the world, because that's what mothers do.
posted by Len at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


Wylla: " and I wonder where he got that idea?"

Well, that's disgusting. :(
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2013


I just wish we could have Space Lego again. And Castle Lego. That stuff was awesome.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yah, I'm also gonna take issue with Wylla's "The kits consist mostly of big slabs - put the slabs together and the kit's done." comment. I compared it to some of the Lego City sets in the same price and age range, and they generally had the same number of pieces. If you think building a treehouse is less rewarding or fun than building a car I guess that's a different thing though.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Daddy, this girl's name is Sophia and she plays the drums and the guitar. In the car on the way home [my brother] told me that only boys can play the drums but I told him that girls can do anything a boy can do. He said girls can't be astronauts and I told him we can too. He said girls can't be ninjas and I told him yes they can. And he said girls can't be daddies and I said okay but they can be mommies and have babies. So this is Sophia and she plays music and she's a girl, isn't that great?"

Your next step as a father is clearly to help your daughter design and build a Lego recording studio.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:33 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


The kits consist mostly of big slabs - put the slabs together and the kit's done.

Nonsense. This canard seems to get trotted out every time people are taling about new lego kits, and it simply isn't true. If you actually look at the tree house in question, you'll see that, apart from the large base-plate and the tan 6x10 that makes the floor of the tree house (necessary for stability), all the parts are tiny lego parts, bog-standard apart from the color.

And here's the full parts list if you can't see it from that photograph. Most of the parts in this set are 1x2's!
posted by rifflesby at 1:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I know it's probably a stretch to even ask, but what did boys and girls like to play with before the toy industry began and began marketing by gender?
posted by tommasz at 1:34 PM on August 20, 2013


I know it's probably a stretch to even ask, but what did boys and girls like to play with before toy industry began and marketing by gender?

Rocks. Sometimes sticks. You could hit a rock with a stick.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:35 PM on August 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


As a girl, I wasn't allowed to play with sticks. Too dangerous. Too phallic.
posted by mmmbacon at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I just wish we could have Space Lego again. And Castle Lego. That stuff was awesome.

Don't know about Space, but I saw a bunch of Castle sets at Target last time I was there.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:37 PM on August 20, 2013


Fleebnork - look back at the NPR article on the introduction of Friends for confirmation of their priorities with the dolls: it's linked from the earlier thread.

PhobWanKenobi - Lego presents Friends as a special case - they aren't meant to be "real" lego, they're meant to cater to the perception that girls inherently don't like building toys.

Again, none of this is me talking - that's how Lego describes them, as a special-case product launch for girls' special needs.

Zarq - I hope it's clear that the link I posted was meant to draw attention to overall toy marketing practices that give kids the idea girls don't do space...and not to criticize any one parent for somehow failing to buck that massive tide. I think Sofie the lego bedroom-rocker sounds awesome!

"I know it's probably a stretch to even ask, but what did boys and girls like to play with before the toy industry began and began marketing by gender?"

Among other things, they played with real lego.
posted by Wylla at 1:38 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And Castle Lego. That stuff was awesome.

Yellow Castle Set 4 Lyfe!
posted by aramaic at 1:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rocks. Sometimes sticks. You could hit a rock with a stick.

Cave bears, maybe. Nothing like a good round of non-gendered Poke-the-Cave-Bear.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


So we're on an enforced Lego break until the youngest is old enough not to eat the pieces, which sort of coincided with Girls stuff coming around, and I have to admit if that were the case we'd probably have ended up buying a bunch of these by now. Our eldest would certainly be into the theme and color, alongside the Star Wars, Castle, Superhero and Pirate stuff she also loves.

I dunno, maybe I would have abducted and quietly disposed of the nonstandard minifigs, they bug me.
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2013


Metafilter: non-gendered Poke-the-Cave-Bear.
posted by Wylla at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


They are real Lego, though. They have Lego in the brand name, are fully compatible with other lego bricks (my friends occupy a house made from various random lego bricks bought from the website), can use lego hairpieces and accessories not branded "friends."

Looking at my figurines, seems I misspoke when I said they don't have breasts. One does. The mom figure. But seriously, these figurines have a decent number of building components, encourage science and design and adventure play along with more generalized narrative building and I still think much of the way they are discussed reveals a persistent denigrating of traditionally girly stuff, like dolls and animals.

Whatevs, I'll be over here with my Sylvanian families and my tiny lego robots, happy as a clam.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


So last week, my daughter had her birthday party, and she got a Lego Friends kit (that was enormous), and a Goldie-Blox set (which I got her), and Jenga Tetris and Scrabble Boggle (because apparently you have to mash up games now).

She built the Lego thing immediately (her step-brothers help her, because it's Lego, after all, but they don't help too much) and didn't bother with the other stuff. Now, her birthday falls near the end of summer visitation, so she had to go back to my ex's house just a few days after the birthday party, and she often doesn't open the stuff she gets here, because it's easier to transport that way, so I wasn't too worried about the fact that she didn't touch the Goldie-Blox set. And hey, she built the Lego thing, so that was something.

When we packed her stuff Thursday night, she disassembled the Lego thing as little as she can to make it transportable. I pointed at the pile of other things and asked what she wanted to take. She hesitated (she likes having some things that are here and some things that are there), but she put the Goldie-Blox set in the pile of stuff to go back to the other house (without my prompting). Then she hesitated. She ran her hand over the pile, and grabbed Jenga Tetris. And she said, "I guess I should take this, too -- it's kind of engineering."
posted by Etrigan at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Wylla: " Zarq - I hope it's clear that the link I posted was meant to draw attention to overall toy marketing practices that give kids the idea girls don't do space...and not to criticize any one parent for somehow failing to buck that massive tide. I think Sofie the lego bedroom-rocker sounds awesome!"

Totally clear! No worries. I'm glad you pointed it out. Thanks!
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2013


Also, this teaser trailer for The Lego Movie is running before virtually every kids movie this summer.
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2013


I had two daughters so, unlike the author, I learned early that children's differences are because they're different people. Mine were (and are still) very different. My oldest would have loved that "Friends" line, probably just as much as she loved the pirate ship and the very large bucket of thousands of Lego pieces given to her by a family friend. Maybe that Olivia's Tree-house would have gotten the youngest interested in building.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:55 PM on August 20, 2013


The kits consist mostly of big slabs - put the slabs together and the kit's done.

Olivia's Tree House is 191 pieces. That's mid-size - the smaller ones like the bedroom and the beach buggy seem to be around 70 pieces each. Heartlake High is 487 pieces. They don't seem to be holding back on brick count for the Freinds line.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on August 20, 2013


Father of lego obsessed 5 year old boy here.

Lego's insistence on special kits/pieces are exactly what they should do to encourage purchase of more Lego. The problem is they're kinda stealing strategy from comic books at this point. Regular old Lego? Boring. How about officially branded Teenage Mutant Ninja or Avenger or Star Wars Lego instead? Well, what if I want all four Ninja Turtles? You can totally get them - if you're willing to buy the 3 different sets that contain them for around $200 total. No one set contains all four.

Kids (both boys and girls) will create narratives with old generic, unlicensed Lego figurines, but they REALLY want to do that with the licensed characters. Understandable as to why Lego is doing what they're doing, but it just kind of sucks for parents. We're doing our best to stick to Lego City and Lego Education sets, but homemade stories have got a tough time against freaking Iron Man and Batman and Darth Vader.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:56 PM on August 20, 2013


You could hit a rock with a stick.

Or you could put a bonnet on it and make like it was a baby.
posted by glasseyes at 1:56 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


A friend of mine had to make sure to tell her daughter, when she joined Lego club, that she must not speak ill of the other girls who preferred "girly Legos" -- a habit she'd picked up from her mother (speaking ill of the "girly Legos", not the children); it was quite an eye opening moment of "Oh my God, it my struggles to be a good parent, I have become a slightly different flavor of the bad type of parent I was trying to avoid becoming.": MCMikeNamara

That's not an example of bad parenting at all (unless you're leaving out some part where the parents are saying mean things about other people's actual kids or something) - It's what every parent has to do if they set rules or have ideas in their own homes that not everyone in their friendship circle agrees with. It's the equivalent of the "not everyone is an athiest, so don't be mean to little Jenny's churchgoing grandmother" talk or the "Remember that most people eat meat, and that doesn't mean we do" talk or the "remember that not everyone is as obsessed with competitive field hockey as we are, even if we all know that field hockey is awesome in our house!" talk.

There's nothing evil about being different, or about reminding your kids to be different politely!
posted by Wylla at 1:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Friends is premised on the idea that girls don't like to build things and prefer narrative play with prebuilt structures. The kits consist mostly of big slabs - put the slabs together and the kit's done.

I recently had a chance to handle both a typical "boy" set (Ninjago Temple of Light) and a "girl" set (Heartlake Friends City Pool). I think their complexity is comparable. Both sets have a lot of small pieces, the Heartlake has flowers and drinking glasses while the Ninjago has little weapons. Yes, the Ninjago is 565 pieces compared to the 423 for the pool, but there are other LEGO Friends sets that have more pieces, like this 1,112 piece set.

That's not to say LEGO shouldn't do more. Easiest thing is to have their advertising and catalogs show more girls playing with "boy" sets and more boys playing with "girl" sets. The other thing is that the Friends' sets only go up to age 12. They should start pitching Technic, Mindstorms, Architecture, and Creator sets to older girls. Possibly even look into creating an extension of the Friends line for 12+.
posted by FJT at 2:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I learned early that children's differences are because they're different people.

Me too, but it was only the boy that tried to shoot people with his My Little Pony.
posted by glasseyes at 2:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lego Internet Discussion Bingo Card
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think this is one of those classic cases where the feminine was being treated as the other, and the awful other at that..

It's really hard to wrangle, because on the one hand segregation into genders has problems, but the solution to gender segregation is generally to knock the feminine bits off.

But one of the few advantages to the PINK and PRETTY barrage is that while it tends to have some noxious things about gender encoded, it's also an escape from the supposedly gender neutral things that are not really packaged in a way that's supposed to attract girls for fear of scaring off boys. And really, if you want to get out of the dolly ghetto of FASHION, gender parity becomes a bit of a bother.

For example people might argue in good faith that Star Wars is for everyone, because robots, but lets be honest, it's an intellectual property with a paucity of women, princesses notwithstanding. And that's the old AND the new movies. I certainly liked Star Wars as a kid, as a venue for my "battle princess" fantasy, but there's this tendency to dismiss anything that is inherently femme as being less ideal than a view on androgyny that is suspiciously absent of anything that is on the distaff side.

In any case I feel like we end up attacking the symbols of gender rather than the problems. Which, when you get down to it, if you subscribe to gender as being a performance that comes from the culture, is essentially attacking what a girl child may end up identifying with to the point of simply justifying the oppression of the pink and poofy people.
posted by Phalene at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


One of the best things to come out of Lego recently has been the umpeen series of random minifigures. They're about the cheapest bit of Lego you can buy, and the variety of figures is wonderful. My kids love opening them - as a once-in-a-while treat for being especially nice - and I'm as excited as they are to open them. We've probably got 100 or so now. Mostly male, for some reason.
posted by pipeski at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


When my daughter was little she had Thomas trains, Barbies, Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Lego, and a bunch of Marvel action figures and minimates. A little bit of everything. One day we were at the toy store and she didn't want to go over to the action figures because "those are boy's toys." My heart fucking sank. To this day I don't know if that idea came from other kids or the way the store was laid out or whatever. I took a deep breath and said "Honey, there's no such thing as boys toys or girls toys. You can get another Barbie if you want but they're all just toys." We discussed that, yes, boys can play with Barbies if they want and girls can play with the Hulk. I don't remember exactly what we bought that day but she picked something from the action figure aisle and she never mentioned "boy's toys" or "girl's toys" again. It may be the thing I'm most proud of as a parent.

NoRelationToLea, check into minimates. They're overpriced for what they are but they're much cheaper than buying full lego sets. My daughter's collection of heroes had many adventures on top of Indiana Jones and Harry Potter lego sets.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2013


I've decided that the hardest part if parenting is seeing and celebrating the child you have, rather than the one you thought you'd get. It was hard for me, as a self-avowed tomboy and nerd, to adjust to having a doll-obsessed little fashionista who loves all things pink and sparkly. We don't have a tv, so I can't even blame advertising.

My two year old will play with her Duplos, but she loves her dolls and tutus. Which is why I will definitely be getting this for her when she's old enough.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


They do a boy figure in this set: Dolphin Cruiser. He's called Andrew. Apparently.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 2:04 PM on August 20, 2013


Matthew also goes to school in the vicinity.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 2:05 PM on August 20, 2013


Fleebnork - look back at the NPR article on the introduction of Friends for confirmation of their priorities with the dolls: it's linked from the earlier thread.

I was not contesting your issue with the handbags and hairbrushes, only your claim that the figures had "specially designed" hands. As if Lego made special girl hands for these figures. They're standard minifig-size clip hands that are fully compatible with all of the same stuff a standard minifig can hold.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:06 PM on August 20, 2013


They do a boy figure in this set: Dolphin Cruiser. He's called Andrew. Apparently.

I wish you had stopped at that first sentence so I could go on thinking the boy's name was "Dolphin Cruiser".
posted by rifflesby at 2:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


If you tell my girl Star Wars isn't for her she will fight you, and you will lose.
posted by Artw at 2:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


In any case I feel like we end up attacking the symbols of gender rather than the problems. Which, when you get down to it, if you subscribe to gender as being a performance that comes from the culture, is essentially attacking what a girl child may end up identifying with to the point of simply justifying the oppression of the pink and poofy people.

Yeah, and I think these lego conversations are particularly revealing. For example, the minidolls are seen as wearing "fashion clothing," as Wylla put it. But the outfits they're wearing--cargo pants and skirts and t-shirts, in all sorts of colors including pink but often emblazoned with hearts and butterflies . . . well, they look a hell of a lot like the clothes I see totally normal little girls wear at the supermarket on a daily basis. These aren't little fashionistas but normal little girls, and Lego seems to be working hard at creating building toys that normal little girls can identify with. They're doing so without coding a lot of passive princess stuff into it and they're doing a much, much better job of it this time around than with lines for girls of past eras.

I actually gave one of my extra minidolls to an eight year old friend of mine. She had a bunch of regular minifigs she got second hand that she called "the tough guy club." She asked me what the doll's name was and I said that she was Juniper, leader of the tough guys. It was her mom's boyfriend who protested--"What? She can't be leader of the tough guys!" The way the little girl whipped around and said "YEAH SHE CAN!" made me so proud. Because, yea, why not?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


If you guys saw Monster High or some shit like that your heads would explode.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Again - the stuff about what the dolls are supposed to be for and what the priorities were in designing the sets all comes from Lego itself: that's how they describe what they are doing. I think the fact that the 12+ engineering-oriented kits haven't been pinkified (and may now be even more aggressively, stereotypically 'masculine' than the original robots were - check out the striking snake!) also speaks for itself, but that is my inference.

"In any case I feel like we end up attacking the symbols of gender rather than the problems. Which, when you get down to it, if you subscribe to gender as being a performance that comes from the culture, is essentially attacking what a girl child may end up identifying with to the point of simply justifying the oppression of the pink and poofy people."

If you want to embrace the positive things about traditional feminine toys, there are really wonderful toys that can help you do that: kitchen sets and easy-bake ovens that allow for real cooking, beginners' knitting and sewing kits that let kids make real stuff almost right away, mini-looms, historic paper dolls (and historic paper doll apps), babydolls that let kids act out scenarios of parenting and care and also do things like cry or wee, and on and on and on. Little boys, if given the chance, would love to learn things like knitting and sewing (I've had several stop me on the bus and ask to look at my knitting and have it explained) and playing with baby dolls, for many of them, is just acting out the behavior of involved fathers....but there are few or no "special" knitting kits or baby dolls for boys, and even most needlecraft kits are aggressively pink and marketed for girls only.

The solution to the societal devaluing of traditionally female pursuits isn't to make "special" "girl" versions of toys that used to be marketed as universal: it's to universalise all the cool stuff that's been mistakenly perceived as boy- or girl- only for too long.
posted by Wylla at 2:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


These toys are what they asked for when she told them they could buy anything on sale from the dollar aisle at Target. (We're big spenders.)

Wow. I love Lego and I always check out the Lego kits when I am in a toy or department store, for the sake of interest, and I ain't never seen no Lego kits for under about five bucks, and those are the really crummy ones that are like three pieces and you put it together and it's a unicycle.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:08 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know it's probably a stretch to even ask, but what did boys and girls like to play with before the toy industry began and began marketing by gender?

Little girls have had dolls for millennia. (At that link, you can also see a little crocodile on a pull-string -- a nice gender-neutral wooden toy for the conscientious ancient Egyptian parent.) Toys are rare survivals in excavations, but it's probably fair to say that toy swords and bows were common for boys wherever carrying swords and bows made you a man. Balls, dice and boardgames that might have been used by people of all ages are also found the world over.

I expect that wherever people have had children, they've had at least some ideas of what girls and boys ought to play with. The pink-and-macho business that's grown up in the past 75 years or so is based on TV and radio making it possible to market directly to children, the whiniest of whom are in that phase in which they desperately want to identify with one gender and either ignore or beat up the other.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:10 PM on August 20, 2013


The solution to the societal devaluing of traditionally female pursuits isn't to make "special" "girl" versions of toys that used to be marketed as universal: it's to universalise all the cool stuff that's been mistakenly perceived as boy- or girl- only for too long.

The single Lego ad that's often trotted out as proof that Lego was previously gender neutral doesn't change the fact that since the 1980s, at the very least, Lego has largely been explicitly marketed to boys (Zack the Lego Maniac, anyone?)--and previous attempts to reach girls through mainstream Lego lines like Paradisa were hardly any more progressive than Friends--let's not even talk about Belville, Clikits, or Scala.

But also, narrative-building toys which are meant to represent actual children have been popular with kids for years, and I don't see what's wrong with Lego making such toys for little girls if that's what their testing revealed little girls actually want. And again, much of the stuff you're repeating--that the sets have fewer pieces than the "boys'" sets or that the figurines have breasts--are factually untrue if you look at the actual toys.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:15 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


(At that link, you can also see a little crocodile on a pull-string -- a nice gender-neutral wooden toy for the conscientious ancient Egyptian parent.)

Is it just me, or is that doll very explicitly gendered? Or sexed, rather, I suppose.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2013


Wow. I love Lego and I always check out the Lego kits when I am in a toy or department store, for the sake of interest, and I ain't never seen no Lego kits for under about five bucks, and those are the really crummy ones that are like three pieces and you put it together and it's a unicycle.

Check Target's front register impulse areas for the polybagged Lego sets. (Ignore the raised prices--people resell them to European collectors). 2013 polybag assortment (so far).

I particularly enjoyed the 42-piece Atlantis Octopus bagged set. These sets will also often feature holiday themes and will occasionally be significantly marked down afterward.
posted by JDC8 at 3:32 PM on August 20, 2013


> I've moved on to being puzzled by Lego's new "Legends of Chima" line [...]

Obviously just another ploy to promote the Furry Agenda™.

You might as well just get your son or daughter a copy of Disney's Robin Hood and a deviantART account.
posted by sourcequench at 3:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is it just me, or is that doll very explicitly gendered? Or sexed, rather, I suppose.

Yeah, there have always been girls' dolls, but that looks like it might be a fertility thing for adult women (caption doesn't make it clear whether this was buried with a child or an adult?)

"But also, narrative-building toys which are meant to represent actual children have been popular with kids for years, and I don't see what's wrong with Lego making such toys for little girls if that's what their testing revealed little girls actually want. And again, much of the stuff you're repeating--that the sets have fewer pieces than the "boys'" sets or that the figurines have breasts--are factually untrue if you look at the actual toys."

Here's the brickipedia on the Friends' figs, with images of the entire set, showing the dolls' figures and miniskirts and quoting Lego execs on the rationale. Here's Feminist Frequency, putting all this better than I ever could, and agreeing with almost everyone here that half the problem is the marketing of original lego as boys-only. I am happy to hear that at least some of the friends' sets are now as complex as some of the "boy" sets - that wasn't originally presented as the case.

The "research" Lego did wasn't academic research into what girls want or how they play: it was product-development research intended to support the launch of a separate product line for girls. Aside from which, there is nothing preventing this type of play in the original, non-Friends sets, and (as the video points out) many of them allow for more possibilities for this type of play (they have more, and more diverse interiors and activities on offer) than the Friends sets.
posted by Wylla at 3:42 PM on August 20, 2013


Check Target's front register impulse areas for the polybagged Lego sets.

Oh, those are great, but yeah, that's the shit I see on sale for something silly like $6.99 (Australia).
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:51 PM on August 20, 2013


I've seen the feminist frequency video, and I disagree with some of her conclusions--I find she over-esteems the existing minifigs. I don't think there's anything wrong, frankly, with creating a line of legos with more realistic representational dolls. I find the actual Friends sets to allow for diverse play across gender stereotypes, including science, drafting, music, sports, and general adventuring (camping, tree houses, planes, ATVs), and I find the fact that they're including boy dolls heartening (Matthew is especially adorable). She focuses quite a bit on American marketing of the line, when frankly that marketing is designed to appeal to families who already gender segregate play significantly. The actual toys themselves are, in actuality, really progressive.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the dolls' figures. Again, they do not have breasts--they're built like typical prepubescent girls, with the exception of the mother and teacher doll, which are built like adult women--and many actual little girls wear miniskirts.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:54 PM on August 20, 2013


My daughter has a shit ton of lego now. SHIT TON. Including Olivia and Emma, the ninja girl and the tree house girl. They were a LOT harder to put together than anything we've built with our decades old lego sets, a lot more complex in the kinds of structures they can build and they support a different kind of play. Her male cousin also has a shit ton of lego, but his is all the 'boy' line and new - the kind of play they engage in at his house is different because of that.

Yeah, sure, lego-Optimus was a fucking BASTARD to put together and the damn thing is unstable as shit, and that was it. Done. Take it entirely apart and put it together as a truck (again, a bastard of a job). The blocks and minifigs he has are similar to our older gear, and again they don't build things quite as complex and they don't engage with it as playfully as they do with the girly stuff.

Part of that is the bigger minifig of the girly line - they're only three and four so their fine motor skills aren't so great. But mostly? The girls have faces and big bodies and inhabit the space differently. And are pretty much dressed like my kid - when you've only got maybe 20cm of thigh, the difference between 'dangerously long and impeding my climb up the slide' and 'miniskirt' is fairly small.

I was deeply deeply suspicious of the Friends line when it first came out, and first got marketed. I have a little girl - I need to be suspicious of this kind of thing because there's nothing quite like realising that the world is handicapping your kid's learning before she can even speak. But she liked the lego her cousin had (and built stuff) so for her birthday we went and bought a set. She was drawn to the Friends line (pink! purple! she hasn't seen star wars or most of the other licensed crap so she didn't care about those!) and chose the ninja girl because, well, "she has a sword mummy". So we bought it and I was pleasantly surprised at how difficult it was, yet also how much more flexible the kit is. Optimus Prime is either a robot or a truck and the rest of his set is pretty limited. Ninja girl's room and altar? Fairly open ended, comparatively. And much fiddlier than the older stuff we own.

But there are obviously people speaking here who own and play with multiple lego sets - they can probably tell you more about those sets than reviews and news from a few years ago.

(My daughter's latest request is a Wonderwoman set, or a 'lady superhero' set.)
posted by geek anachronism at 4:08 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a good Lex Luthor/Robot/Superman/Wonder Woman set... 19.99 at the Lego store.
posted by Artw at 4:12 PM on August 20, 2013


Kids (both boys and girls) will create narratives with old generic, unlicensed Lego figurines, but they REALLY want to do that with the licensed characters.

Yeah, isn't this kind of the same principle behind slash fiction?
posted by malapropist at 4:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, sure, lego-Optimus was a fucking BASTARD to put together and the damn thing is unstable as shit, and that was it. Done. Take it entirely apart and put it together as a truck (again, a bastard of a job).

Wow, that sounds like a total nightmare! (I am really glad the recent transformers movies were so bad...maybe no one in my family will ever want one of these? Or by mentioning it, am I doing the same thing the article in the OP mentions, and practically inviting Murphy's Law??)
posted by Wylla at 4:21 PM on August 20, 2013


Talking about this on metafilter has led me to look at the current sets, which is pretty much what happens whenever Lego friends comes up on the interwebs. I thought this review was really interesting. The reviewer loves the set, gives it a 10/10 because it's so detailed, has some slightly traditional gender role-ish reactions to the accessories (he likes the basketball hoop because it's "manly" but thinks it's "sad" that the boy figure plays a pink guitar), and then launches into a rant about how the Lego City line doesn't include settings like schools or parks or donut shops and are largely just limited to cops and firefighter sets. This is especially interesting to me because the school seems to be one of the most gender neutral sets in terms of coloring, and it includes a boy figurine (and an owl!) but he's probably right that, for the most part, many boys and male lego fans won't purchase or play with it. Interesting, though, that the friends line contains many sets like these, cupcake shops and park settings and businesses and such.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]



My nephew is a lego fanatic. He's got a couple of dresser drawers full of it.

This post reminds me I need to send him the gift certificate I bought. It's specifically for a lego friends kit. He's got more Ningago and whatagoes then I know. He wants a friends kit because 'holy moly they have different colors! And girls. I don't really have any girl minifigs auntie cause other sets don't seem to make them.'

He doesn't seem to care one whit that they're marketed to girls. Just the different colors then usual and real girls. I was happily surprised.

I'm looking forward to seeing pics of the the Friends/Ningago hybrids he comes up with .
posted by Jalliah at 4:35 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Optimus Prime is either a robot or a truck and the rest of his set is pretty limited.

Optimus Prime is not a Lego product. It is a competing product called "Kreo", made by Hasbro.

Lego tried to fight the "clone" brands in court back in the 80s, but were unsuccessful. So you've got Kreo and Mega Blocks and various other imitators.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I custom ordered a bunch of minifig parts, mostly hair, to even out our minifig gender balance. Cheaper than hunting down sets.
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on August 20, 2013


he's probably right that, for the most part, many boys and male lego fans won't purchase or play with it.

I would totally buy that. I mean, it's no Dolphin Cruiser or anything (that one looks basically like an improved version of a LEGO boat I used to have as a kid which I really liked) but it's pretty sweet. I have a feeling 11-year-old-me would have combined it with my Castle sets to create something that totally owned Hogwarts, but I may not be typical. My first objection to Olivia's treehouse, on seeing the set, was actually that it really, really strongly reminded me of a set that used to come with some Robin Hood type guys and they're basically just repeating themselves, but with added kittens. And a duck.

Who am I kidding, as a kid I would've still wanted it just for the duck piece, then I would've made a twice-as-big treehouse for Olivia to share with the Robin Hood guys.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I custom ordered a bunch of minifig parts, mostly hair, to even out our minifig gender balance. Cheaper than hunting down sets.

How does that work, exactly? Are those 3rd-party producers, or do you order from Lego itself, or are there online stores with huge collections of parts?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:55 PM on August 20, 2013


Oh man, I totally should have bought that Higwarts Castle when I had the chance... That thing was AMAZING.
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on August 20, 2013


We have all of my old Space Lego (including the Galaxy Explorer) and Castle Lego, which I've passed on to my sons. We did manage to build most of the Space Lego sets I had, but the real shame of it is the plastic has degraded over the past 30 years or so, so some of the really nice grey flat pieces, perfect for using as the base of a spaceship, have cracked in two. Same as the nice grey bendy pieces (good for missile launchers). They get brittle and crack.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:57 PM on August 20, 2013


How does that work, exactly? Are those 3rd-party producers, or do you order from Lego itself, or are there online stores with huge collections of parts?

BEHOLD!
posted by Artw at 4:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, Bricklink, if you want to go deeper.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


My first objection to Olivia's treehouse, on seeing the set, was actually that it really, really strongly reminded me of a set that used to come with some Robin Hood type guys and they're basically just repeating themselves, but with added kittens. And a duck.

Who am I kidding, as a kid I would've still wanted it just for the duck piece, then I would've made a twice-as-big treehouse for Olivia to share with the Robin Hood guys.


I'm pretty sure I had that! Plus a similar one with a wizard and a falcon. Man, I loved those old castle sets.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My niece turns five in a month.

I've really wanted to do the same thing my aunt did to me - my aunt did a lot of gender-neutral toys, and even got me a copy of Free To Be You And Me when I was six, and I think that's the catalyst for my becoming fairly feminist and androgynous about many things.

However, my niece is a big-time girly-girl right now - as in, had-to-be-talked-out-of-wearing-her-cinderella-costume-in-winter girly-girl. And her name actually freakin' is Olivia. And, thinking back...I never really was that much a girly-girl. Yeah, I played dress-up in mom's old prom dresses when I was a kid, but I never played house all that much (at least, I never was the mom when we played house and would cheerfully play "daughter' or "little sister" when my friend got dibs on playing "mother" because I didn't see the appeal of pretending to do housework and kept wanting to build things or just be generally silly).

So, maybe my own aunt wasn't so much laying the groundwork for a future me...so much as she was supporting the child she saw I was at that moment in time. And maybe...I should do the same.

Okay, so Olivia's getting an Olivia Lego Friends set for her birthday. I shall content myself with the thought that in Legoland, Olivia is the girl who is into chemistry and inventing shit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 PM on August 20, 2013


But I am still getting her Free to Be You And Me when she turns six, dammit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have boy and girl children, and consequently, boy and girl lego. Or, "lego" as we like to call it. My daughter, who is almost four, is besotted with the Friends line, which as any right thinking modern internet using adult woman, I had a lot of suspicious and critical thoughts about until I saw it, and played with it. I think Lego in general is too directed and branded. We have always tried to buy giant tubs of parts, rather than the themed sets (although I know a couple of my sons have been given gigantic sets from the various themes), and we frequently buy sets because of the cool parts they will add to the collection (various wheels, cool little guys etc). The boys are particularly into the Bionicles, and have to hide them from their sister, who thinks they are all "dragons" and likes to pull off the more dragony parts and use them with her fairy dolls. I just can't bring myself to get all upset about Lego making overtly "girl" themed Lego. I agree with whoever said something up there about it being a thing to sneer at things that are overtly "girly" (see further various conversations about how My Little Pony is stupid, and no-one who isn't a little girl should like it). I think all my kids travelled along a spectrum of "girl" and "boy" play to varying degrees.

I do find it very boring that children's toys are either primary colours (and directed at boys), or pastels (and directed at girls). We have some nice Melissa and Doug stuff that is pretty neutral, and is a mix of light and primaries (the birthday cake comes on a red plate, the animal threading cards are various bright colours, but not pastels).

I'm heading straight off to buy Olivia's tree house, which I will probably keep for a while until my girl is a little bit older. The only thing that's annoying me, is it costs near enough to $40 here, instead of $20 in the US.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 6:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our eldest daughter is 4, and she's been playing with lego for about 2.5 years. First with Duplo, and more recently with classic bricks. This year someone gave her a lego girls kit. It's a woman driving a jeep pulling a trailer with a horse in it. It's hella pink-purple, and my wife and I frowned a bit about it at first, because we are all about the gender-neutral toys, despite the distressing amount of pink and purple slowly creeping onto the girls' wardrobes.

This was her first "grown-up" lego kit, so I helped set it up, figuring out with her each step of the instructions, watching fish out the pieces for that particular step, and giving an extra finger when her patience levels were below her dexterity or strength. It was a very fiddly kit, but I was surprised many of the details on the jeep were made out of general-purpose pieces, not out of "this is a jeep headlight" pieces.

The pieces now live at the bottom of her tub of mixed duplo-and-classic lego, and she builds the same stuff she built before (farms and houses and cars), and role-plays the same way as before.

One datapoint.
posted by kandinski at 7:27 PM on August 20, 2013


My daughter just started kindergarten at a new school with an engineering focus. I told someone at a birthday party about the school and she kept saying, "I wish that would have been around for my son! Boys are the ones that learn by building! Not my daughter, she'll do French immersion, but my son would have liked that!" Aaarrrggghh.

And thanks Artw, I had no idea that there were Wonder Woman Lego. I have to get her some right away. She is very into super heroes.
posted by artychoke at 7:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My daughter just started kindergarten at a new school with an engineering focus.

As an actual engineering graduate, I think this is a terrible idea. vocational kindergarten?
posted by GuyZero at 9:03 PM on August 20, 2013


I was at Wal-Mart fairly recently and noticed that the Lego sets were in different aisles based on gender. Can't say I'm a big fan of that aspect, but there's probably not much Lego can do about that.
posted by ODiV at 9:27 PM on August 20, 2013


Guyzero - it's a charter school with a STEM curriculum, I guess, not like Kindergarten vo-tech or something. Here's a link. It really seems like it will be great.

Post Katrina, most of the public schools in New Orleans have some kind of "thing". Like, there are some art based ones, a music based one, language immersion ones, Montessori, etc. I can only think of a few that are just normal schools. I figured she'll need math and science more than French. We applied to about 8 or 9 schools and got into 4. I surprisingly did not get an ulcer during the process.
posted by artychoke at 9:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I was at Wal-Mart fairly recently and noticed that the Lego sets were in different aisles based on gender. Can't say I'm a big fan of that aspect, but there's probably not much Lego can do about that."

If they wanted to, they could - look at what the Science Museum did in the UK when it found out that its toys were being marketed as boy's only by major UK retailers. With the help of Let Toys Be Toys, they put a stop to it. Let Toys be Toys has accomplished changes with nearly every major UK retailer. If Lego were interested, they could do what the Science Museum did as a toy producer, and request that their toys be shelved where both genders ware likely to see them.

Don't hold your breath - promoting gender segregated, gender-stereotypical play (and associated extra purchases driven by girls and parents insisting on toys for "the right gender') is the point of Friends, and Lego's own shops segregate out the Friends toys from the regular Lego products (though in the ones I've seen, the all-pink Friends shelves are at least separated from one another in the relevant age sections, rather than on special 'Girls' shelves'.)
posted by Wylla at 12:23 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know it's probably a stretch to even ask, but what did boys and girls like to play with before the toy industry began and began marketing by gender?

I grew up in something of a time warp as far as toys were concerned, largely because my parents, children of the 50s, didn't care about me, whereas my paternal grandparents, children of the 1910s and so who had gone through the Great Depression, doted on me. My paternal grandfather was a construction foreman, having started out as a carpenter; his father had been a carpenter, most notably, head of carpentry on a ship that carried him from Norway to Canada (how's that for an awesome immigration story eh). I grew up thinking that everyone had toys made for them. As chance would have it, most of the kids in my boondocks part of the world did, so it took me until middle school in a larger part of Springfield before I discovered plastic on a large scale. As a result (I think), I never really got into mass-manufactured toys. (Though I did have a thing for Hot Wheels for a couple years.)

My grandfather would use scraps of wood and leftover dowels to build me trains, cars, tractors, and when I asked, horse-drawn carts, to scale, for my toy horses that had belonged to my father; they probably dated from the late 1950s. I never got into Legos because my first building toy was Lincoln Logs; when I was introduced to Legos through elementary school friends, I thought they were colorful, but they never caught on for me. You can't saw them or glue them or nail them together without ruining them. My grandfather showed and taught me how he built my toys. I had chairs and tables that I built for my bedroom, beds and rooms and still more chairs and tables for my dolls. All you need is a hammer and nails, knowledge to use them safely, and an adult willing and able to wield the more dangerous cutting stuff, with whom you can then exercise project management skills by saying "I want it THIS big and THIS long cause it should fit together THIS way." Then you get communication and teamwork skills when the adult goes, "honey, if you nail it together like that, the force put on the joint will make it twist and it will fall apart, see? How about we try it with a joint like so, instead? Watch how I cut it, then I'll show you how it goes together."

Meanwhile my twice-maternal great-grandmother was a knitting and crocheting fiend. Seriously, there was nothing that woman could not create with needles and yarn. I had a boatload of dresses, hats, trousers, skirts, blouses, purses, towels, dishrags, carpets, blankets, "sheets", wall hangings... she even crocheted an actual doll, as well as cats and dogs and hamsters (one of the first sewing projects I learned, since a "hamster" is basically three ovals sewed together and stuffed with beans, glue on eyes and sew on whiskers).

My Masters may be in comparative literature, but I actually started university with a scholarship to continue my college-level studies in... mathematics. I took astronomy, chemistry, calculus, physics, finished top of my class in all. But I didn't continue with science/math because I was so gripped by stories. I was able to make that choice, and feel blessed for it.

I've done the vast majority of work on my fixer-upper apartment on my own. An apartment I was able to choose because I knew what to look for – it had been overlooked by buyers for a year because of the crappy surface stuff previous owners had done. But under the crappy chipboard cupboards, behind the obviously-amateur plumbing additions, and the badly-thought-out pergola, as well as unbelievably ugly paint, there was a 1954 late French Art Deco stone building made by people who knew what they were doing. Intelligent, modest, solid as a rock (literally, the stone walls are just over a metre thick on all sides). Learning how to build has definite benefits: you learn to see the bones of structures. They're what counts. Cupboards can be torn out and redone. Plumbing and electric too, but I always call a plumber/electrician, just like my grandfather did. He knew his limits, that and safety were always big for him. (I've never been injured. Neither was he ever. He did always swear off nail guns, since nearly everyone he knew who'd used one, had put a nail through a foot or hand or fingers. "All you need is a goddamned hammer and a proper strike," he'd bellow, half-deaf from a childhood spent getting boxed in the ears – his father had been an excellent carpenter, but a mean parent.)

This Ancient Greek horse on wheels was made using the same design elements as my grandfather's wooden vehicles. Dolls have also been around for millenia. You don't even need woven fabric or thread to make one; I learned to make corn husk dolls as a kid.
posted by fraula at 3:15 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know that LEGO.com sells individual bricks, and I have done the fill-a-tub-with-unusual-pieces-for-$18 at the Mall of America store, but what I really want is an old-fashioned box full of basic bricks in basic colors.

Last month I was again at the MoA store and found one such kit. I was surprised that it was priced at a premium like that of the branded kits -- slightly over a dime per piece, which is a formula that store employee pointed out on a previous visit. So now they want as much money for 2x4 rectangular blocks as they do for, say, the neat flame pieces or a giant clear windshield? *shakes head*
posted by wenestvedt at 5:29 AM on August 21, 2013


I inherited my sister and brother's regular Lego when I was little, so I never had any of the special sets - maybe they weren't as common in the 80s, or maybe I had enough Lego not to want more (although I did want more windows and figs). My brother was ten years older, and had Lego Technic sets that sat in the loft, even after he left home, which I wasn't allowed to play with. Not even when I told my dad that we had Lego Technic at school and everyone built weird cars and I built a working drill.

I'm still incredibly pissed off by this. Not quite enough to buy myself a Technics or Kreo set as an adult, but near enough. I could have been building the Forth Bridge on the kitchen table, goddamnit.
posted by mippy at 6:26 AM on August 21, 2013


Last month I was again at the MoA store and found one such kit. I was surprised that it was priced at a premium like that of the branded kits -- slightly over a dime per piece, which is a formula that store employee pointed out on a previous visit. So now they want as much money for 2x4 rectangular blocks as they do for, say, the neat flame pieces or a giant clear windshield? *shakes head*

The official branded stores are not usually a good place for bargain buys. Their prices are usually full MSRP unless something is on clearance.

There are still basic brick sets available, but not all stores carry the same ones.

This set is about $.05 per piece and this one is a smidge less than that.

The old $.10 per piece value doesn't hold up as well as it used to. ABS plastic prices are affected by petroleum prices.

I never had any of the special sets - maybe they weren't as common in the 80s

Lego didn't produce licensed sets like Star Wars back then, but they had plenty of their own special themes.

Peeron has scans of old catalogs from back in the day. This was the golden age of my childhood. I liked all Lego, but Legoland Space was my favorite. Later in the 80s and early 90s, Lego diversified within their themes even more, so Space had subthemes like Blacktron, Space Police, M-Tron, and more.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't hold your breath - promoting gender segregated, gender-stereotypical play (and associated extra purchases driven by girls and parents insisting on toys for "the right gender') is the point of Friends, and Lego's own shops segregate out the Friends toys from the regular Lego products (though in the ones I've seen, the all-pink Friends shelves are at least separated from one another in the relevant age sections, rather than on special 'Girls' shelves'.)

I wouldn't be so sure about this. After last year's controversy, SPARK met with Lego. If you contrast the most recent line of Friends' dolls with the initial one, you'll see fewer traditionally feminine colors (minimal pink and purple, in fact), boy dolls mixed in, and a continued emphasis on activities that are not particularly gender normative. The Friends commercial for Heart Lake High has character Stephanie exclaiming that she "Just loves Science!" Honestly, I'm not sure why Lego bears the brunt of pressure to be gender progressive here, compared to, say, Mattel, who has continued to package Barbie dolls in bright pink for largely the same purposes (narrative play) fpr decades, or who drastically de-emphasized the historical and storytelling aspects of American Girl Dolls when they acquired that line.

The American Toy Industry is deeply problematic, and has been for a long time; gender segregation of toys in general is a problem but also undoubtedly deeply profitable--I suspect it exists largely for the same reason that super gendered baby clothes are now popular; it reduces hand-me-downs and toy sharing within families. And it has the illusion of convenience for buyers. Don't know anything about a little girl whose birthday party your kid is attending? Get them something from the pink aisle. This isn't anything new. I was pretty mixed in the toys I played with--baby dolls and cabbage patch kids and dollhouse stuff and barbies, hot wheels and lego and TMNT. And I still got mostly Polly Pocket and Quints dolls at my childhood birthday parties.

So I see a company which has, for years, marketed their product largely to boys, trying to increase their market share to include girls in a way that is, in fact, fairly progressive for the industry and I can't help but shake my head. No, they're not bursting down the walls of the American toy industry to market these products, but they're still promoting toys with all the benefit of traditional Lego to little girls, at long last, and without regressive messaging you so often find with girls' toys ("Math is hard!") and that's a good thing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:03 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: oppression of the pink and poofy people.
posted by the latin mouse at 11:55 AM on August 21, 2013


As for the people who are claiming that Lego star wars, and all of the other various Lego kits aren't marketed towards boys, please show me the commercials where boys and girls are shown playing with the toys, together. Or a single commercial that show girls, exclusively, playing with them.
posted by inertia at 1:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My four year old daughter loves the Friends sets. She just bought the karate studio set, along with the Sea Rescue set, with a gift card she got for her birthday. That makes about four sets she has, along with two big boxes of bricks. And the DC - Wonder Woman - Superman - Lexbot kits.

I know I'm not crazy about Lego's current segregation policies--the pink Friends aisle and the blue truck set aisle.

But in the end, you present them with all the things. The pink things and the superhero things. The kitchen and the workbench.

The other day, my daughter said something about how only boys could do something or other. "Listen," I said. "You never let anyone tell you what you can and can't do." I paused for a minute, feeling pretty good about myself. My wife looked up from what she was doing to hear this clearly important (and not a little inspirational) exchange. "You can be a doctor," I said. "Or an astronaut. You can be a cowboy! You can be president!"

My daughter looked at me patiently and said "I want to be a princess."
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:58 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Lego were interested, they could do what the Science Museum did as a toy producer, and request that their toys be shelved where both genders ware likely to see them.

Well, as I said, LEGO could always do a better job and one way to do that is to let them know your concerns. The interesting thing about LEGO is you are not limited to only communicating with them at the store or customer service level. LEGO has a well established community of fans that organize into regional Lego User Groups (LUG) which are free to join. In addition, most LUGs have a LEGO ambassador, who's job role is to communicate feedback from both the public and fans to the LEGO Group.

Oh yeah, disclaimer is that I'm a member of a LUG.
posted by FJT at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you guys saw Monster High or some shit like that your heads would explode.

I like Monster High because it encourages little girls to grow up and be goths.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:33 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've moved on to being puzzled by Lego's new "Legends of Chima" line...
Dude, who doesn't love Thundercats?
posted by Xenophon Fenderson at 6:56 PM on August 22, 2013


I was out shopping with the kid today and the issue I have with this stuff kinda crystallised:

I want her to see herself reflected in the toys she plays with BUT the roles for women in most of these toys (LEGO, superhero stuff) is really really minimal.

So she went from the Brave activity book to a Spiderman book to a princess book to a kitten book but settled on a LEGO book with a few minifigs. Out of those only the princess book had more than two female characters. So do I get her the stereotypically feminine stuff that actually has a decent range of activities with a range of girls, or do I get here the stereotypically masculine stuff where she needs to perform some imaginative magic to have more than two girls to read about/play with. I love Brave but there are still more dudes than women there.

She settled on the minifigs but I'm still struggling myself. I think that's why I converted so heavily to the Friends sets - she gets all the benefits of building toys AND gets something approaching parity for representation of women simply existing, let alone engaging fully with the world. When every bit of media she consumes is SO weighted towards the male experience, the male voice, the male default, simply clawing back to parity takes enormous effort. So I dig the Friends line, and would have bought the book without a second thought if it had been there.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:51 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


(So I've been checking this thread for the past couple of days. Guyzero, if you're going to just go ahead and tell someone that the school they just put their kid in on Monday is a terrible idea, maybe come back and elaborate? It's Kindergarten plus bonus Lego robotics...no,no, it wasn't a decision I've been obsessing about for the past five years or anything...)
posted by artychoke at 10:32 PM on August 23, 2013


Artychoke, as a fellow obsessive, I think your kid's school sounds awesome. Go Kid-of-Artychoke!!
posted by Wylla at 1:52 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just think that kindergarden is kindergarden. A charter school is its own thing which has its pros and cons but is on the balance fine. I had just never heard of an "engineering kindergarden" before which sounded excessively specialized and streamed to me. Kind of Soviet to be honest. I think it was just the way it was phrased. I'm sure that the teachers will be very nice people and your kid will have a nice time. Just stick with letters and animals and don't worry so much about cantilevered bending moments.
posted by GuyZero at 8:04 AM on August 26, 2013


...skipping the bending moments is one thing, but if they neglect to cover the flexural constant We Will Have Words.
posted by aramaic at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


also I did not follow up because I felt a little stupid - a kindergarten in a charter school makes sense, what I pictured clearly did not make sense and I didn't really want to point out that I was being somewhat silly.
posted by GuyZero at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had just never heard of an "engineering kindergarden" before which sounded excessively specialized and streamed to me. Kind of Soviet to be honest.

CHILD MUST TO LEARNING ENGINEER AT EARLY IN ORDER TO BUILD MACHINES FOR TO GLORIFYING THE HOMELAND.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


what I pictured clearly did not make sense
You might be right - they're going to have a furniture maker teach 5 year olds woodworking. So far my daughter doesn't seem to have mastered "lunch". "Yeah, I couldn't really get the fish to stay on my fork so I just ate a carrot." Luckily they covered flexural rigidity the first day so she can get the straw into her juice box.

I'm calmer now that the school has existed a whole 6 days!
posted by artychoke at 8:09 PM on August 26, 2013


Breaking Brick Stereotypes: LEGO Unveils a Female Scientist
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Major UK Toy Stores to Drop Gender-Specific Aisle Categories
posted by Artw at 6:42 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wanted to second that the Lego education sets look pretty good. They are about as gender neutral as you can get, and feature a good mix of male and female minifigs. Unfortunately, they are not really marketed, or available for purchase in retail shops.

Amazon has them though:

City Buildings Set

Space and Airport Set

Vehicles Set

Harbor Set

Community Starter Set
posted by steinwald at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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