I had the wonderful opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with a dear friend and her five children. The five children is the reason that I had not seen her in the Midwest lately (they don't tend to travel much), and the previous distances between her home on the East Coast and the Heartland were too great for me to travel to see her. Now, since a weekend to travel home to Chicago was too much, I gladly accepted an invitation to meet the newborn and gorge myself on food.
Her 9, 8, and 6 year old children appear to be obsessed with Legos. The oldest boys walked us through all the characters of the Lego Star Wars universe. Meanwhile, the oldest girl introduced us to Lego Friends, Legos for girls. Legos for girls? Legos are gender-specific? When did this happen?
I have issues with targeted girl and boy products, especially where there does not appear to be any type of need. Legos can have male figures and female figures, but really... building blocks being targeted to boys and girls differently? I'm still skeptical, but what I could not discount was how a 6-year-old girl had responded to a purple and pink playset. I remember having wanted a Barbie at that age, and the political debate that this caused between my parents about gender stereotypes and which message should be given to me. I didn't care. I wanted the glamour Barbie with the Dream House and the car that my friends all had. Instead, I had Day-to-Night Barbie who had an office and a studio apartment - corporate drone Barbie. None of my friends wanted to play with my Barbie, and I somehow felt left out. It's hard to be six.
With my own personal biases on the back burner, I thought I might get a couple of the Lego Friends figures as part of a holiday care package for the kids. I quick look at what's available at Target left me with a more startling view of the toys. Knowing that this is going to a household where both the boys and girls are taught to dress modestly, I realized that purchasing these toys could be offensive to the household's sensibilities. Every one of the girl figures is wearing a short skirt, low cut tank top, or both. Meanwhile the "Boy" oriented products have fully clothed characters, with the main difference between girls and boys being hair length.
I can understand that having pink and purple colored bricks might be appealing, mainly because you can never have too many different types of bricks. However, to create a specific "girl" line of Legos, dress them provocatively, and then market them to 6-year-olds? That's just not right.