I’d gotten over the hoopla that bubbled up over the Friends blocks when they first came out last spring—feminists who actually thought griping to LEGO was important, worthwhile work, and then this article that devolves into highlighting the Friends fight as an example of modern feminism. (As well as many others…) They get all up in arms because there’s a café and a beauty shop, and generally don’t mention the inventor’s workshop, tree house or vet. Not that I personally think a child’s future career is going to be based on what they play with at five. The kids of today will probably have jobs that don’t exist yet!
Anyway, just today I came across another reference to the “issues” with the line of blocks in a Jacobin magazine article discussing design’s role in establishing and maintaining class distinction (and more).
This is why women’s rights groups were so pissed off when LEGO released its dumbed-down “LadyFigs” line targeted at young girls. By simplifying a common toy for girls to use, LEGO was not only insulting girls by implying that they are technically inept, uninterested in challenges and generally stupider than boys; more importantly, the company was also proliferating objects that obviously embodied some blatantly discriminatory ideas about differences between the sexes. The point would not be lost on a five-year-old, who would realize immediately that compared to her brother’s LEGOs, hers look like they were made for an idiot.
Really? Do any of these people have kids that actually play with blocks?
I just thought they were super-cute and got a few sets for my daughter to complement the basic bricks and City advent calendar pieces we had. We had fun building the Friends sets according to the instructions—at the time she was 4, now 5, and so right at the early end of the suggested age. We weren’t “insulted” by the simplicity or anything like that—again, she’s young. Would she find it challenging at an older age to follow the directions and built the set as shown? Probably not. But, who am I to judge some other child who at 8 or 10 still would? Not everything has to be brain-busting work, does it? The many feminist voices that had charged that the Friends sets were dumbed down, much easier to put together, than say a Millenium Falcon, or whatnot, didn’t really resonate with me. Personally, I’d like to someday get the Farnsworth House or
Willis Sears Tower sets, but these Friends sets were great now for my preschooler. And really, it’s up to parents to be observant of their child’s interests and abilities and choose toys that can help enhance learning, or, just be fun.
What many commenters on the LEGO Friends sets seem to miss is that once a kid builds any LEGO set (the Friends café or the Millenium Falcon—Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars) it’s kind of over and the best play comes when they just build their own creations from basic bricks—or the ruins of the café! I mean, anyone who can read (or be read to) can follow directions on how to build someone else’s designs, right? The real fun and creativity and design and engineering learning comes from making one’s own ideas real. So does it matter, really, whether the blocks are pink or blue? My kid likes to have a full array of colors for the various cars, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and Dr. Seuss-like fantasy edifices she creates.
And besides, lately her medium of choice has been plain old construction paper, glue and tape. Lots and lots of tape.