Gender Stereotyping and Toys: Girls Like to Play with LEGOs Too!
A seven-year-old girl made headlines because of her sheer awesomeness. In a letter dated January 25, Charlotte wrote to the LEGO company and asked them why “there are more lego boy people and barely any lego girls.” She goes on to express her disappointment (seriously, this is one articulate and talented seven year old) that the LEGOs are divided into two sections, boys and girls, and “all the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs.”
Talk about a biting indictment.
LEGO has responded to Charlotte’s letter (which has been tweeted and shared on Facebook and generally gone viral) admitting that she’s right, and that they’ll try to do better in the future.
Typecasting gender can be a dangerous thing, especially at a young age, and it’s sad that LEGO is still stuck in the 1950s when it comes to young girls. So many engineers say their interest started with LEGOs and other such toys; what does it say when there aren’t equal offerings for girls?
Goldieblox, a company you might have heard of by now because their Superbowl ad has gone viral (or because they parodied the Beastie Boys song “Girls”), is a toy company that markets towards young girls, but instead of offering dolls or EZ Bake Ovens, they feature engineering toys. “Construction toys develop and early interest in [science, technology, engineering, and math], but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered ‘boys’ toys,’” their website says. Their aim is to get young girls building and designing, inspiring a love for STEM subjects at a young age.
But some wonder if toys directed at girls are really what’s necessary. Instead, why not make gender neutral toys? Toys like SpaceRail Marble Roller Coaster (you can actually design your own roller coaster and build it—where were these awesome toys when we were children??), Snap Circuits (hello, electrical engineering!), and Magna-Tiles aren’t marketed towards boys or girls. Instead, they aim to appeal to all children.
But when girls have had the idea that they should like makeup and princesses, rather than blocks and building toys, drilled into them from a young age, is gender neutral good enough? Girls can like pink and also be electrical engineers. Maybe we need toys like Goldieblox because girls can see that it’s made for them, and it’s okay for them to enjoy these areas that are usually reserved for boys. But by focusing gender neutral toys, rather than toys for girls and toys for boys, you dispel the myth of gendered toys entirely.
It’s not an easy discussion; there are good arguments on both sides. While we know we should do anything and everything to challenge girls as much as possible, are toys specifically for girls necessary? Or should we start accepting that generally, toys need to be gender neutral?