I posted this on Tumblr but considering how often I see this argument being made over gender specific toys I thought it was worthwhile to share the post here. The post was in response to a comic done by an artist named Maritsa Patrinos
. Although I wasn't familiar with their work before seeing the comic, I have since browsed through it and they make absolutely lovely illustrations, and my points made about her comic isn't an attack on her, and it isn't being made for any reason other then respectfully thinking that the point she was making is simply wrong. I think it's worth pointing out as I feel this mentality behind why people jump to conclusions about the implicated negative impact of girly products is gradually growing, and this merely exists as a small example of a larger point.
This comic talks about Lego Friends as this ‘absurd’ concept created by men who simply don't know any better but there IS
a target audience for Lego Friends, some girls do like female targeted products. Just because not all girls like it, doesn’t mean every girl shouldn’t. In the same way that some boys might like female targeted products, it isn’t inherently wrong to like something based in reality rather than fiction. The idea is to allow choice, not to switch it around and outright discourage the target demographic who actually do like these products being made. If this demographic didn't exist then Lego Friends simply wouldn't be in production, nor would it's spin-off content but there are kids who do genuinely enjoy it. Girls who like girly products AREN’T
lesser consumers then girls who don’t, they’re not wrong for doing so and they’re not bad or problematic, they’re just girls.
Equally and quite ironically she says “martial arts!” as a child aspiration she had causing the Lego employee to awkwardly respond. However if that Lego employee knew anything about his product line he’d know that Lego Friends actually has a martial arts enthusiast who just so happens to be one of the five protagonists in the blooming show called Emma who regularly attends karate classes! Along with Olivia a mathematician and scientist that exist among a collection of other varied aspirations and interests.
I kept hearing people talk about Lego Friends setting this bad example several years ago so I actually researched into it before I climbed onto my high horse. What I found out was that these opinions came from everywhere except the actual product line that they were attacking. The girls were actually great characters, that felt like real, varied girls, some into girly things and some not just like real friendship groups. People look at the product and assume it’s wrong but the argument is entirely superficial. I fully understand the issue people have with potential stereotypes that could send wrong messages to kids but context is important and being female targeted isn't inherently bad, it's what that product says about girls, it's the role models it creates. People still to this day will stick their nose up at Lego Friends, yet so few of them have even looked into it to see first hand what Lego Friends says about girls. Something can be female targeted in design and still withhold a good set of characters and aspirations. 'Feminine' isn't a bad word and there's nothing wrong for a child to like feminine things, regardless of who that child is, just like it's not wrong for a child not to like those things too.
As for the figurines? I think they look cute. Lego figures have changed throughout Lego’s history, there’s no right or wrong design, there’s just different ones. If anything I feel like these designs are a callback to the Lego TECHNIC Figures from the 1980′s.
Equally I keep seeing this implication that Lego is deeply routed in sexist ideals but Lego have been advertising gender diverse toys since the 1970’s, and continue to do so this very day. Jumping to rash conclusions helps no one and does more damage by making any girl who likes a relatively safe product feel wrong for doing so just because it’s female targeted. Diversity within gender and toys isn’t removing gender, it’s allowing choice so a child can choose what they like and what they don’t without any forced influence.
In my opinion Lego shops are the perfect place for that, they’re an open space and they allow a child freedom to roam around at their own pace and find what they like and then make their parents cry over the price tags.