Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lego and Toys in General

I grabbed another random box of my Lego out of the closest to share with the boys. It's now our Lego, but they know it was Mommy's Lego and know there is more (although I don't think they know how much).

It turned out to be a box of mostly Lego figures and a few horses. These are not the figures of my youth. Those were the ones that had the long arms on a torso and you made the lower body with bricks; they had an adult male, an adult female and a child of each gender (based on hair) and that was it. They did not fit into any of the doors and were not sized to any cars you could make with the wheels available. These were the little ones that they have had for a couple of decades now. I like that they are scaled to the doors etc. I like the variability. I have many 'just bricks' sets and bought lots of bulk bricks over the years, but if a set comes out that has pieces I like or a theme I like, I got it. So I have A LOT of mini figures. The  pictures below are not even all of them, just those packed into that one box.

(Oh, I do have some of those old school figures in one of those boxes somewhere too).

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and everyone in between. The boys really like the ghosts and skeletons. Corwyn now insists that there is a figure (with a helmet) on each motorcycle in his daily parade.

But wait you say! There, in that first picture....there, that one....the talk pink girl and the dog-like thing....those are not Lego! Ah, but yes they are.

The dog-like thing is from Fabuland. It was a short lived series, available mostly to schools. The pieces were Lego size but were more....basic if that makes sense for younger kids, but not Duplo. I like it and wish they still had it. The car the dog drove is what Corwyn calls his 'chariot' in the parade.

The tall pink girl is from an earlier attempt to market to girls called Belleville. I got a few sets, not because I was a girl but because I wanted the other colors of bricks (pink and pale green) and some of the accessories. That's the same reason I have some 'space' sets, because I wanted the unusual pieces (or it was just a kick ass sale). The pieces, for the most part fit Lego, but obviously the houses, had to be a different scale to work.

Lego recently put out another theme directed at girls called 'Friends'. It too has lots of pastel colored bricks and it's own line of mini-figures. The mini-figures are closer in size/style to the standard Lego one, but not the same. I don't have one yet, but I'll post a comparison when I do. As with Belleville, I'll get a set or two of these to get some bricks I can't get in the regular Lego line and because I don't want the boys to create a distinction in their mind that there is such a thing as 'girl' or 'boy' Lego.

There I said it. I don't like that they created such a universal building toy with a gender bias. But I understand why they did, why there was a need. Growing up, no one gave me Lego because I was a girl. They gave my brother Lego. Luckily for me, just being a boy did not make him like it. He had no use for it at all. So I played with it. I loved it. People would keep giving Lego as gifts and I would get to keep playing with it. I loved to build and take apart and build again. So why would no one think to buy me Lego?

In this world of gender equality, people still have unconscious or even conscious bias about what is a good toy for a girl or a boy. The stores create areas that are blue and pink. Many parents naturally gravitate towards the section they are told to. Those looking for a gift for a child not their own, will give a store clerk and age and gender and be directed to a specific area. Toy manufacturers either make products to fit these categories or their products don't sell. That is just the way it is, still, unfortunately.

Happily, lots of parents buck the trend and buy their boys doll and their girls cars. I think it's great, exposing their kids to all the options and letting them develop their own interests. Some parents do go too far and won't buy their girls pink-things or their boys trains. To me that is still giving a toy (or a color) a gender. Toys don't have a gender (well, some toys do, but those ones are not for kids!)

I feel bad for the girl who was never given the chance to play with Lego because her parents thought it was a boy toy. It's for those girls, with parents like that, that 'girl' Lego was created. So yeah, it's cutsie with houses and bunnies but it also works with all the rest of the Lego sets. And if a girl gets one of these Friends sets as a gift and loves it, she will probably start to ask for more. Some of that more will be other Friends sets, but some will be general Lego. And if she really loves to build, she will start telling her parents and grandparents which Lego sets she wants.

The same can be said for boys with 'girls' toys. Thanks to a letter from a child, the new Easy Bake will come in "not-pink" so boys could play with. Why can't a boy play with a pink toy??? He could of course. But his parents have to be willing to get him it. He may be worried about what friends or an older brother would say. So make a non-pink one and let him have a toy that is (now) considered girlish. I say now, because the old Easy Bake was in the same colors as the grown up appliances (avocado green ring a bell?). The really old ads in flyers and catalogs often had both boys and girls (admittedly more girls). It was only in the last decade that they started to make them pink and move the marketing 100% towards girls. Yet still, the greatest chefs of all time are men (and not many of those are even remotely feminine).

Blue Easy Bakes and pink Lego are a double edge sword to me. I really wish we didn't need them, but they serve a purpose (well, actually, I think Lego should be in every color just not gender marketed by color).

Did you play with any toys that were not considered for your gender? Did you love toys marketed to one gender more than the other? Was it your choice, or because it was expected of you? Me, I loved Lego, but I also loved dolls. I did not like toy cars but longed for a train set. I had no use for marbles but loved jumping rope.


K J and the kids said...

One of the great things about having boys and girls in a family I that you will have both sets of toys which allows each gender to play with what they want.

I am not angry that they have pink easy bake ovens. I just wish that they don't offer another neutral color or (boy typical) blue or green. Even if you could order them online. Just the offer would be nice.

snorgator said...

Wow!Great collection of these old minifigs :)I also have a few collection of old lego minifigs from lego system sets.You can check them out at my blog :DD