To pink or not to pink

I'm a little bit late since they came out a few months ago so you probably have already heard about Lego's new "girl" line - Lego Friends. Apparently, it's causing a bit of a stir. What's interesting to me is actually how I responded. In general, I'm not a big fan of the crazy genderization that happens with babies and kids. Yes, I'm a fan of distinct societal roles for males and females but corporate america takes it to an extreme level when it comes to the under-13 crowd. I don't like pink and pastels and searched high and low for any (reasonably priced) clothes for Lucy in fun bright colors and I even bought her a couple "boy" diapers because I like brown and blue and though they were cute. Now that we have Jonah, I'm equally annoyed that most of the clothing in his section of the store is navy blue and covered with baseballs and dogs. Not that there is anything wrong with baseballs and dogs, but I'd like a bit of variety please!

And when it comes to toys, I do think there is a crazy level of gender stereotyping going on. It seems like every Little Tykes toy comes in two versions: regular and "girl."


Really, can a girl not swing in a blue seat?

I escape this mostly by choosing toys from smaller online stores and taking a mental inventory of what we have, I'd say 90% of Lucy's toys are gender neutral. She does have a Waldorf baby doll (but even that is theoretically designed to be appealing to both sexes) and one of her kitchen accessories is a pink and purple tea set. (Some might say the kitchen overall is a "girl" toy but I say hogwash. It is just as big a hit with our boy visitors although I will admit they tend to be a bit noisier when they stir things). But her wooden blocks, Montessori materials, puzzles, Melissa and Doug wooden barn and her Duplos are probably going to be used just as much by Jonah in a few years as they currently are with Lucy and I really like that. So you might think I'd be equally aghast at the idea of Lego friends.

But no, I completely understand why they are doing this and I will admit I'm a bit perplexed by the extreme reaction.

First of all, anything is better than Bratz (aka prostitute dolls). Why we are even having petitions over Legos while those things are still available in stores is mind-boggling.

Also, this isn't the first time Lego has had girly-colored sets. I had a few when I was younger. Unlike the friends collection, the people where the same rectangular shape as the original, but my sets were a beach scene and a horse stable and were designed for more dramatic play while the original sets were more about building items - cars, space ships, etc.

Now I don't like the general trend away from generic Lego/Duplo blocks to (often commercialized) sets with limited building options. They are doing the same thing with Duplo. It's hard to find nice sets of just Duplo blocks because most of what the stores sell is scene specific kits but that is really a different issue. And if that is the direction Lego is going, they really do need to have separate boy and girl sets because - NEWS FLASH - boys and girls play differently.

That is one of the reasons I like having the gender neutral open ended toys. Because it allows kids to use them however they want. Lucy makes chairs and tables out of her blocks. She builds houses with her Duplos and acts out scenes. When playing with her barn, she spends most of her time taking the animals out of the barn, feeding them, then tucking them back into the barn for a nap. When we have boys over to play - they build towers and knock them down, they race the animals around the room and when Craig plays Duplos with Lucy, he builds her robots. I've given them the same toys and the same opportunities for play but, young or old, it's just how things work.

Lucy has several sets of Duplo, her most recent being a Disney Princess Cinderella set. She went with my dad to Target where he let her pick out a "big sister present." I'll admit, I cringed a bit when I saw her choice as I would have gone with a more generic kit. This is the first Disney Princess toy we have in our house although Lucy only knows about Cinderella because Craig tells her the original story at bedtime (yes, with bloody feet and everything :-) But it wasn't my choice, she picked it and she loves it!

And unlike the "math is hard" barbie, Lego isn't saying that girls don't like to build or that building is a "boy" thing unless the pieces are pink, they are saying that yes, girls can like Legos and they don't have to want to build a Star Wars starfight to do it. Now, my personal preference would be to buy a big box of generic Legos and let my kids choose whether to build a house or a fighter jet but I don't think it is sexist for Lego to put out sets either.


  1. I think that blue/pink is a scam to get people to buy a whole new wardrobe, toy box, and accessories when they have their second child. I've tried really hard not to buy things that are gender-specific, but it has been hard to convince my family to shop around, especially since they don't think money is an issue. For me, it's partly money but mainly space. I just don't have room for a pink chair and a blue chair!

    I think that the main problem is that these sets set an end goal for play short circuiting the open-ended play that blocks should promote. As cool as I think Olivia's Tree House would be to play with for a while, it has limited creative options. I think the Lego Creator sets might be a good compromise when all of the kids are older.

    We haven't bought any Legos or Duplos yet because I'm overwhelmed by the number of pieces. Zu has several opportunities to play with them throughout the week and my family has sets for when we visit, but until we figure out how to fit 3 kids in one room, I don't feel like we can add any new toys!

  2. I agree. I like the older sets because they require more imagination and have more options - but I think it's a marketing decision and not a gender thing.

    And we've had to limit sets too. Duplo, playmobile and little people are all plastic mainstream toys that I think are good but we can't do them all so we went with Duplo - mostly because I had them as a kid and loved them so I was pretty sure Lucy would too.

  3. Just my $.02: I don't really mind this. My 2nd daughter got a couple sets (including the tree house) for her birthday last month. She loves them. My girls also play with the big bin of Legos their daddy kept. They love those too. They generally end up mixing them all together and no one cares. (Although I do find them hunting out the pinker blocks some times)

    Maybe it's just because I have all girls but I really don't see the controversy of having pink editions of toys. My house is pretty well pink, purple & glitter all the time. Of course, they also love to play outside in the sand and get filthy dirty.

    My girls have Brio train tracks and enjoy playing with them, at least for a while. But some differences are innate. My girls make the trains into families and I have never seen my nephew do that. My baby brother (14 years younger) used to play with some of our toys but in a decidedly more masculine way.

    I'm probably not the best one to judge though: I don't really have a problem with Disney's princess stuff either. We try not to have too many clothes (no use in being free advertising) with Disney (or other) characters but otherwise, my girls love some of the movies and have some of the related toys. Princess stuff = OK by me. Prostitute dolls (or the new "goth" dolls) = absolutely not OK. I tend to be easygoing about this stuff but I do have some standards. ;)

  4. I think Karen has a point. I really lightened up about the pink issue when we found out Eliza was a girl. I didn't feel like I would have to have two of everything. Also, I felt like the hand-me-downs would get good use. However, since we don't know about Shuttlet #3, I'm getting stressed out again about having pink and blue and three children in one room.