A new line of toys has ignited an unanticipated and persistent controversy. On January 1, 2012, the Lego company launched “Lego Friends,” designed specifically for girls. To borrow the catch phrase of Martha Stewart, it sounds like “a good thing,” right? Not so fast. Some people are opposed to the idea and they’ve made their voices heard.
Lego kids are born
From the time Lego was established some 80 years ago, the company’s toys have grown to be a global childhood phenomenon in more than 130 countries. Even in a market dominated by digital amusement, the direct appeal of those plain little blocks, the ones that have helped inspire innovative dreams and hours of fun for generations, remain irresistible. Legos stimulate children’s minds, don’t you remember?
For anybody who has thought about where the name “Lego” came from and how the business started, the company website provides an explanation:
“The name ‘LEGO’ is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”. It’s our name and it’s our ideal. The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen. The Company has passed from father to son and is now owned by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, a grandchild of the founder.”
Not just for boys anymore
It’s been no secret, especially to the manufacturer, that boys have traditionally loved Legos. Well, just like any other successfully managed company, Legos searched to tap into other markets.
On the Yahoo Games blog, Mike Smith states in the January 6, 2012 column Pluggedin, “’Sexist’ new Lego range targets girls,” that offers a bit of, albeit, slanted background on a reportedly contentious product:
“Since 2007 the company’s been plotting what execs are hawking as the biggest Lego launch in a decade, and this month rolls out a controversial line of over 20 new sets aimed squarely at young girls.”
Smith notes, “As a company, Lego has rarely been in stronger shape.”
Accusations of sexism
Some of Lego’s latest line, among them “Olivia’s Tree House,” “Stephanie’s Cool Convertible,” “Butterfly Beauty Shop” and “Emma’s Fashion Design Studio,” have drawn fire from the Brooklyn based community activist organization, SPARK.
On December 23, 2011, Dana Edell, executive director of SPARK, is quoted in the NY Daily News as saying, “The new line of Legos is focused on girls getting their hair done and sitting at a cafe and hanging out at the beach.” Edell added, “And they’re sexualizing the figurines.”
In the same NY Daily News item, “Brooklyn woman starts petition against girl-themed Legos,” Tracy Connor states, “Critics have flooded the toymaker’s Facebook page with complaints, and a girl-power group started an online petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures overnight.”
Call it what you will, the true meaning behind Legos current campaign is plain and simple. The company CEO openly explains:
“We want to reach the other 50% of the world’s children.”
Legos aren’t just for boys anymore. Legos for girls, get used to it.