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Maybe We Should Let Girls Be Bakers And Ballerinas

There is currently a big controversy over Legos latest offering for girls— a line called Lego Friends which is basically a pink town (pre-built) where girly Lego figures can get their hair done, bake cupcakes and lounge by the pool with their friends.

Lego Friends is in sharp contrast to their usual primary-colored construction sets which involve cops, dinosaurs and spaceships with plenty of opportunity to build, explore and save the day. It kind of feels like the keys to the Lego factory mistakenly got into the hands of the Kardashian sisters and vapidness followed.

One could argue that any of the sets can be purchased by either gender but Lego has officially split their blocks into two categories- boy legos and girl legos, so that says a lot about how they will continue to market them and where they will be placed in-store.

A facebook petition with over 50,000 signatures was started to raise awareness of Lego’s reinforcement of gender stereotypes, claiming girls like products like Lego Friends because of how they have been marketed to in the past and asking Lego to put girls in their advertising across the board.

Initially, after reading the petition, seeing the commercial for Lego Friends and reading a piece by Babble’s Mike Adamick, a father with a young daughter who is disappointed in the company, I was onboard with the Lego wrath.

I want young girls to feel empowered, build whatever they want and I like the idea of gender-neutral marketing.

But then I read the comments under Mike’s post and it got me thinking.

The first comment is from someone who appears to work for Lego. He says they have tried for years to market pirates and cops to girls with no success. Lego Friends was born after focus grouping 100s of girls in front of 100s of toys and then developing what they clearly gravitated to.

In other words, Lego is just giving young girls what they want.

It is very popular amongst my friends to hate the princess phenomenon. I hate it too. I’ve told countless people that I’m going to make sure my daughter bypasses that phase and they’ve told me that it will happen despite everything I do.

They are already right.

Mazzy is barely two. She went to a party where they gave out tutus and paper crowns in the goodie bag. They have since become two of her favorite toys. The paper crown is now held together with tape and Mazzy wears it upside down around the house and god help me, it is beyond adorable.

A few months ago we went to a crafts fair. There was a booth with homemade toys— handknit horse heads on sticks, felt fairytale puppets and hats with animal ears on top. I walked Mazzy around the booth with the intention of buying her a gift. Then I picked up a puppet and she said clear as day, “I want the wand.”

“What?”

“I want the wand.”

“What wand?”

The saleswoman interjected, “This wand”.

It was a stick with a hot pink ribbon wrapped around it and a sparkly star at the top.

Did I say no and buy her the puppet? No, I did not. Why would I buy her something she didn’t want when she had just successfully communicated something to me that she DID want?

“How does she know what a wand is?” The saleswoman asked.

I knew the answer to that one. Abby Cadabby’s Flying Fairy School. It takes up a good fifteen minutes of every episode of Sesame Street.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Mazzy’s unfortunate obsession with the iPad. I talked about how we favorited Sesame Street videos on YouTube so that she can easily access them. But then Mazzy figured out she can use those pre-selected videos to find other videos and soon enough, she was clicking straight through to Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake.

Again, she’s two, has never seen a commercial besides Earth’s Best baby food and this was done with no outside influence whatsoever.

This week, she found a new favorite YouTube genre— baking tutorials of ice cream cone cupcakes. You’d be surprised how many variations there are on this same theme. Do I think this is a sign Mazzy is embodying an old-fashioned gender stereotype? No, I think she probably thinks the cupcakes look delicious.

My point is, my daughter likes what she likes and I don’t believe I should try to change her. I’m not bringing up June Cleaver just because she likes to wear dresses and play with her mini-kitchen set. She visited my office yesterday and when she came home, she whipped out her toy laptop and said “I’m at the office too”.

I loved Barbie when I was little. I also wanted to be a ballerina. But I grew up to be a strong independent career woman who bought her own apartment way before she met the man she wanted to marry.

In today’s society, if a boy likes playing with dolls or dressing up in his mom’s clothes, we are hopefully okay with it. It doesn’t mean the boy is gay and if it does, who cares?

Maybe we should be saying the same thing about girls.

If a girl likes playing with princesses and getting her nails done at a fake beauty parlor, it doesn’t mean she is going to grow up to be a superficial golddigging beauty queen wannabe.

The real question is: Why does everything beauty and homemaking related have to be associated with weakness?

I know a lot of high-powered women. They all like getting their nails done too.

Brands, like Lego, are going to create products that they think will sell. Obviously, it would be great if they included girls in all their advertising efforts instead of just the Peptobismol pink ones.

But it is our job as parents to give our kids choices regardless of how they are being marketed.

Then our kids can figure out who they are for themselves.

And if our daughters like fashion and baking?

Maybe they’ll grow up to be Anna Wintour or Martha Stewart.

Power isn’t just in the hands of cops and pirates.

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Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts.
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Also on Babble: Combating “Princess Syndrome”: How to raise a strong girl and live happily ever after

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