Legos, Spaceships, and Breasts

The lovely Sarah Dunning Park (get her new book of poems!) pointed me to this post from Kate Bachus, which compares a “girl” Lego set with a “boy” Lego set, and talks about her own daughter’s enjoyment of a “boy” Lego set.

It fits nicely with the thin-and-sexy-toys and images theme I’ve been exploring on this blog (starting with the Candy Land post) but takes a slightly different perspective, pointing out how Lego sets marketed for girls don’t offer the same challenges and rigors as those marketed for boys.

The beautiful Lego desk Tim made for our boys for Christmas. It seldom never looks this tidy.

Now, we are a Lego family. My children spend most of their time playing with Lego, which, apart from the highly specific kits, are just about the most open-ended toys I can imagine.

Look, a knight with a pike and a sword IN A SCABBARD–

And, look, it’s a bunch of people looking through binoculars!

and here’s what Kate Bachus saw when she looked at ‘girl Lego’ sets:

“This set has 130 pieces, the majority of which are the doll’s “accessories.”  The construction of the car is limited to simple, large pieces, most of which make up large parts of the car so that it is clearly easier to put together and less assembly – and thought – is required.  This toy is supposed to be for 7-12 year olds, the same age group Lili’s spaceship is.

Also, this isn’t a Lego block person of indeterminate gender. It’s a girl. With big hair. With eyelashes.

And breasts.

Yes, breasts.

Meanwhile, the UFO Invasion Tripod set has 166 pieces, all devoted to the construction of a complex, interesting and fun toy. There are a few traditional Lego figures, and, you know, alien head hats to convert them to aliens.

No accessories. No breasts.

I want you to go to Target. I want you to go to the Lego aisles and just go look at the toys, for a minute.  And think about it. Think about young women who don’t go into science and engineering, even now, who struggle with math for reasons that have nothing to do with their innate intelligence, potential, ability.

I want you to think about how many female engineers you know.

And I want you to get pissed.”

So I’m struggling with how to think of this. I mean, I was not particularly interested in aliens or spaceships as a young girl. If I’d been given a Lego spaceship set as a gift, I’d probably have been disappointed. But how much of that has to do with the fact that I’d already been acculturated to regard such things as ‘boy’ things?

I don’t know what to think, but I do know girls deserve better than this.

Kate Bachus’ daughter assembling Lego.

{Read all of Kate Bachus’ post here.}


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3 thoughts on “Legos, Spaceships, and Breasts

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Rachel! :) My husband, Charlie, had pointed me to the Kate Bachus article. We’ve been bringing up this problem in discussion with our three girls (ages 8, 5, and 5), and they are all vehemently opposed to the idea of Legos that don’t give you much to actually DO or CONSTRUCT, and also… are pink. Three years ago, they all loved pink, but they’ve thankfully grown out of the Disney-princess-influenced stage, and are happy to talk about how crazy it is that Lego would think making the building blocks pink (and dumbing them down! although they don’t know that particular phrase) are the ways to make them girl-friendly.

    We’ve had a tub of old Legos, cast offs from my parents’ basement, that our girls play with occasionally, but no actual kits with detailed instructions. They spend most of their play time with paper, markers, scissors, and tape. But this week Charlie bought them each a little capsule with a 3-1 kit to make Lego vehicles. THEY LOVE THEM. A huge hit, all around. I’ve always extolled Lego for its open-ended nature, as a toy, but there is definitely something to be said for the process of following detailed instructions to make something really cool, and not just the free-form building!

  2. Perhaps I benefited from being a kid when there were no “girl” Lego sets, and from having a big brother who received the “boy” (I want to call the “regular”) Legos. I never once thought of them as being a boys-only toy, and since most of the instructions were lost, we built whatever we wanted. Originally, though, they would have made a police station, fire station, and a medieval castle. I got the set for the catapult. I have looked at the girls Lego sets and they look boring. They’re just another Polly Pocket or Barbie type toy. I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun with them.

  3. Great thoughts. I loved legos as a kid – especially my big pirate ship. I never thought of them as ‘boy toys’. Now my boys love legos – especially the dino ones :o) I do like the idea of a tree house or pet shop legos in the lego friends and would have liked those too as a child – they may not lead to the same kind of problem solving, but they do still encourage imaginative play – more like playmobile. As for the girls figures, that is unfortunate.

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