Recently Lego has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Everybody’s favourite childhood (and some adults) toy has come under fire for reinforcing traditional gender roles in the way they market their products. Some argue that Lego is in danger of taking how we view gender back to the 1970s.
The old argument went something like this:
Boys play with guns, cars and tanks; reinforcing their role as being soldiers, mechanics and drivers.
Girls, on the other hand play with dolls to prepare them for motherhood; they also play with toy kitchen appliances and vacuum cleaners – all of which is to prepare them for housework and a domestic life.
Boys go out, but a girl’s place is firmly in the home. While there is no specific prohibition on either gender playing with the others’ toys, any girl who does so is considered to be a tomboy (which is not necessarily a negative thing), but any boy seen playing girls toys is generally frowned upon.
If this old kind of thinking takes hold then maybe there will come a day when even a woman’s right to vote is rolled back. Of course I am exaggerating (or at least I hope so).
So why is Lego in the doghouse? Critics would argue that the way the sets are marketed has gender in mind. General blocks may be for both genders, but the Friends series is clearly for girls with its soft colours and horses and houses whereas virtually everything else is designed with boys in mind. It may be worth revisiting your answer to the pre-reading task to see how far your answers support this view.
The real question is of course about how much our childhood defines our outlook on life and consequently what we understand our adult roles to be.
Are Lego really attacking gender or is it just politically correct nitpicking that threatens to set back the ‘Gender Agenda’?
Does playing with Lego influence and decide for children a sense of gender expectation or is it just play – nothing more and nothing less?
As in the natural world play is an imitation and practice for adult life; possibly we do it out of boredom too. Baby lions trip their siblings to practice hunting techniques which will they will use as they mature. It could therefore be argued that play has a major influence on a child’s understanding of gender roles.
Or is it just play?
Does putting a toy tea set in a girl’s hand really make her feel that her place is in the kitchen and likewise does putting a toy car in a boy’s hand make him think his place is in the outdoors, driving and fixing things?
Agree or disagree with me, but I do not subscribe to the view expressed by those who believe that Lego is causing harm through the reinforcement of gender stereotyping. For me it is politically correct nitpicking. I am of this opinion simply because although choice of toys may have some influence on childhood behaviours and expectations once children mature, they put aside the things of childhood, open their eyes and develop into the adult that they were always going to become, regardless of what they played with.
Of course many factors can drastically change a child’s outlook on life, in particular any kind of trauma, but these issues are far more complex than play. Play on its own is simply play; it does among other things develop social skills. However, I firmly believe that it bears little relevance to an adult’s view on gender. Even on occasions when children do feel that their play has influenced their understanding of gender it is less likely to be the play itself and more likely to be something indirect – such as a boy being teased for playing with dolls; it is the teasing that does the damage, not the play.
Of course this is my view, please feel free to disagree.