Women at Work
I’m not sure I want to admit how long it took me to find the lego figurine pictured (a nurse). I was looking for a lego figurine that was a) obviously a female and b) having some kind of job. There were plenty of dancers, surfers, and women from the various movie brands (i.e., Princess Leia). But it was difficult to find a clearly identifiable female who held some occupation that I actually know people who make money from. I was just complaining about this last January. Via Wandering Scientist I stumbled upon a new Lego initiative. In an effort to appeal to girls they’re starting a new line of sets.
If you, layman who probably doesn’t design children’s toys, were asked for the first ideas you might have for making Lego appeal to girls what do you think you might suggest? What would your sexist grandfather suggest? Add more pink. Make sure there are clothes and fashion and purple and shapely “sexified” girls. That’s right, the new sets are incompatible and less complicated than the typical sets or “boy” sets. Because we all know men are the default humans and women something abnormal. One thing I hated about off brand Legos was how they didn’t work my Lego sets. So I’m not sure this is really fair. This does seem to be pink ghetto of girls toys.
But on the other hand, I’m not anti-princess. Or as Wandering Scientist puts it eloquently in her post: princesses are not the problem. I grew up pro-Disney Princess. My issue is with the independence and opportunities for these princesses. Or to quote Mary Wollstonecraft, “I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”* There was an interesting commentary recently in the Marketplace podcast about the Abbey & Emma toys from Melissa & Doug. A father is writing a letter to the toymaker about his 3 year old daughter. He mentions that they didn’t worry as much about his daughter’s dress-up wooden dolls sending overly gendered messages. They figured placing the clothes would help their toddler’s hand eye coordination. But at some point after that, and as she gets older, it just becomes a fashion toy.
But guess what, Abby and Emma, Melissa & Doug don’t make work clothes for you. They do for these two bigger, girl dolls. But their clothes won’t fit you. And yes, ballerina is technically a profession. I’m less sure about princess. There is one of the larger dolls who does have cool work clothes. His name is Joey. So, Abby and Emma, you can’t be astronauts. And you can’t help our daughter dream about being a scientist or a police officer either.
That sums up how I feel about the new Lego set. I don’t care how pink or princess-y a little girl wants to become. But if she’s taught that society will value her only for her fashion sense, curvy body, slim waist and makeup, while her brothers can imagine themselves as any profession they possibly want to be that’s sending a message. It doesn’t matter how much Mom and Dad tell you you can be anything you want when you grow up. When major toy makers don’t even bother to allow you the toys for your imagination you know very well as a little girl where you stand in society.
*Wollstonecraft quote from the Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792.