Childrearing

LEGO Friends Are A Success And I Know Why – My Daughter Loves Them

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LEGO FriendsJust in time for the holidays last year, LEGO announced that they were finally going to open their arms to little girls everywhere. No, they weren’t going to make their existing LEGO sets with just a couple tiny, long-haired people thrown in there. They didn’t decide to market their lines of pirates ships and ninjas to girls as well as boys. They reached out to girls by creating a whole new line of products called “LEGO Friends.” This collection had a bake shop, instead of a firetruck. There were beauticians instead of superheroes. Everything was pink and purple. It was a feminist mother’s nightmare.

LEGO Friends were soundly dismissed and criticized from all corners of the internet. Moms could not understand why we needed such stereotyped “girliness” in our building blocks. I was pretty firmly convinced that my daughter and I would just continue playing with gender neutral blocks like we always had.

Then, a well-meaning family member saw the “Mia” collection for LEGO Friends. It’s a horse stable, complete with brushes and tools to groom, feed and care for the horses. My daughter happens to have a thing for horses. She’s been riding for two years now. I could completely see why someone would buy this particular LEGO set for her as a gift.

Now, we had played with plenty of blocks. From bristles to LEGOS and everything in between, blocks weren’t exactly new for my daughter. But when she got that girly purple set, she was ecstatic. She sat down with her dad and worked for two hours putting the entire thing together. She refused to do so much as eat dinner until it was done. I had to force her to take a break and use the restroom when she started squirming.

My daughter absolutely, without a doubt, loves that set of LEGOS. Even once the whole thing was put up, she plays with it, just like she would Barbies or action figures. She’s happy that there are characters she can relate to. As I’ve mentioned, she’s been looking to make sure that there are always girls in the games she is playing. She’s very gender aware. And these blocks surely look like they’re made just for girls.

LEGO just announced that their profits are up 24%. The success of LEGO Friends has been surprisingly high. The company even experienced shortages when the products were first launched. As much as some were sad to hear that the obviously gendered toys were doing so well, I couldn’t say that I was surprised. I’ve seen with my own eyes how exciting it is for girls when they believe a product has been “made just for them.”

In a way, it’s a vicious cycle. Toy-makers say that they only make toys that sell. If parents are pad about certain toys, than they just need to stop buying them. But our children like seeing people like them reflected in products. My daughter loves dragons, but she likes seeing a little girl she can relate to even more. And if the girls only come with beauty shops and tanning salons, she can learn to like those things as well. So my daughter wants the toy with a character she recognizes, LEGO sees that as a success, and they continue to make bright pink and purple cafes instead of wizards for girls.

I’ve reached the point with LEGO Friends where I just don’t know what to think. I still don’t love the things. But I love making my daughter happy and engaged, and this product seems to do that. Apparently lots of other moms out there are stuck in the middle like me.

(Photo: LEGO)

17 Comments

  1. Justme

    August 31, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I love LEGO Friends. As in…….I’d like to play with them…..with or without my daughter. If I were a little girl again they would be right up my alley. Not because I feel pressured to be “girly” (because I most certainly was not) but because I loved playing with Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids and every other kind of doll. I loved creating characters and plotlines.

    (Did you know that Skipper was an evil bitch who always tried to steal Ken from Barbie? True story. It happened every week in my playroom.)

    For me, these LEGO sets would be great for all that pretend play that I enjoyed doing when I was younger.

    If your daughter sees them in the store and is intrigued……..great. Get her a set and see what she thinks.

    If your daughter sees them in the store and thinks their stupid……..great. Keep moving on through the store until she finds something more her style.

    Easy enough, right?

  2. Lastango

    August 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    “I’ve reached the point with LEGO Friends where I just don’t know what to think.”
    ======
    Well, perhaps you can forgive yourself if you pack the Cross Social Deconstruction Set back in its gender-neutral box and leave it there. Your little sweetie is going to turn out Ok. Besides, fighting Mother Nature is a lot of work.

  3. Andrea

    August 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Of course she loves them! They are made FOR HER. To pretend children will NOT be aware of their gender because we make it so doesn’t make it true. Boys know they are boys and girls know they are girls. Now I have a son that is not into sports too much or cars. He likes to draw and paint and read and BUILD. He will NOT build that set. But my niece absolutely adores them.

    I say good on LEGO for expanding their demographic. It was a terrific move on their part and I hope they continue to make sets for girls. Maybe a Cinderella Castle? In time for Xmas? I bet they would sell out in seconds.

  4. Sarah

    August 31, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    It absolutely is a vicious cycle and you are absolutely right that little girls like to see that toys are made for them. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once there was a dragon set made for them?

  5. Kati

    September 1, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Before this , megablox had Dora and hello kitty sets. Which I think are
    Cooler than a hair salon. Lego was pretty late in figuring this out, whoever pushed for it must be a hero there now.
    Have there been any studies that prove pink toys have some negative effect on girls? Or that they may miss out on something by not playing with “boys” toys?

    • HannahBee

      September 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Lego have had many girls sets before Lego Friends
      The Belville sets pre-dates the friends sets, there was a disney princess range in the duplo series, and if you google “Lego Paradisia” you will find some of the old late 80’s to early 90’s girls sets.

      But nowadays everyone has to be OUTRAGED about something perfectly tame, like, oh I don’t know, lego having some pink sets with slightly more girly stereotypical themes, because, you know, you can’t have little girls liking horses or ice cream parlours or cupcakes any more (and why is it that whenever we always talk about the ‘stereotypical’ friends series, we oh so conveniently leave out the science set, THERE IS A LEGO FRIENDS SCIENTIST SET! AREN’T WE SUPPOSED TO BE JUMPING FOR JOY HERE?) so those ones were never complained about to the extent that the friends set is copping.

    • Katie

      September 3, 2012 at 4:16 am

      Ive noticed that too. The science set is never mentioned because it just blows the whole issue with the sets out of the water and proves that there is nothing wrong with them, THEN what will the blogosphere complain about?

      For the record, no, not all feminist mothers hate these sets, there are a large number of feminist mothers who think they are pretty cool and that trying to shame other mothers for allowing their daughters for wanting “girly” toys is counter-productive to feminism.

    • Justme

      September 3, 2012 at 9:27 am

      This. Your last sentence. From what I understand, feminism is about women being whoever they want to be – whether that’s “feminine” or “masculine” or girly or a tomboy or whatever.

  6. Leisel

    September 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Lego had “girl sets” when I was little, I don’t know why this is such a big deal now. Or did no one else look in the toy aisle in the 90’s?
    I had the beach cafe, it came with a cool board that had sand and water colours on it, and you built a cafe on it and it had little lego surfboards and all of that.

    My daughter has the Lego Friends scientist set and the dog grooming set. I don’t think they will corrupt her into a giggling, airheaded bimbo because I actually think more of my daughter than that.

  7. C.J.

    September 2, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I don’t see what is so wrong with having toys geared towards girls, or boys for that matter. That doesn’t mean children only have to play with “girl toys” or “boy toys”. When my older daughter was little everything had to be pink or purple or she didn’t like it. She had princess everything! Now that she is 10 she and doesn’t care for pink or purple or anything with a character on it. She is very level headed and responsible, for a 10 yr old anyway. Liking and playing with toys that are geared toward girls didn’t have a negative effect on her, those were the toys she identified with. She doesn’t think she can’t do or have certain things because she is a girl. She is confident in herself, knows what she likes and wants and focused on her goals. My younger daughter was totally different. She is an equal oppourtunity player. She usually has a Polly Pocket in one hand and a car or a train in the other. She didn’t get into the whole character thing like my older daughter. It never mattered to her if her toys has characters on them or not. They just need to be little enough to fit in her hands. Her confidence is and level headedness is pretty much the same as my older daughter’s was at the same age. I never understood the thinking that children should only play with gender neutral toys. That somehow girls that liked pink and frills or enjoyed tradtional “girl” things are doing something wrong. I buy the toys that spark each of my children’s interest so they can get the most out of their pretend play. The most important thing is to encourage them to develop their own interests, whatever they may be.

  8. Lizzeh

    September 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I think that the Lego Friend’s are good. My 6 year loved them until recently. Now with the introduction to the Monster Fighter’s Lego sets, The Lego Friend’s have been pushed aside.

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  10. Doctor Mobius

    November 30, 2012 at 3:30 am

    I see two good things coming from the Friends line.

    Firstly, more girls are getting into LEGO. LEGO is a fantastic toy that not only teaches coordination, spacial concepts, and engineering, it’s also an outlet for artistic expression for children. Kids are only limited by their imaginations, and what bricks they have…

    Which brings me to my second point. There was a distinct lack of “girly” colors in the LEGO library for years. There were many failed attempts at themes aimed at girls, but they were usually made of large single use pieces. Friends has introduced a wide variety of “stereotypically feminine” colors, in small, useful bricks, that were conspicuously absent from the LEGO library of elements. I think the exclusion of those colors was more concerning, than the manner in which they’ve been added to the fold. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have wished they had the parts to build a Pink Cadillac

    If LEGO really is an outlet for artistic expression among kids, then isn’t including feminine themes necessary for a well rounded building experience? Shouldn’t kids have the choice to build a pink bakery if they want to? I’m not saying Friends doesn’t have it’s flaws, I’m just saying that I think it’s more of a positive step from where LEGO was the year before Friends came out.

    I should also point out, that as a male adult LEGO artist, I took great pleasure in informing a cashier that the two large stacks of “stereotypically girly” LEGO sets were not for my daughter, but were in fact for me.

  11. Janelle Stokker

    January 23, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    absolutely!

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  13. Leigha7

    August 10, 2013 at 4:17 am

    I agree completely. Growing up (and even now), I strongly preferred TV shows, movies, video games (well, they didn’t have much characterization when I was a kid, but now), and books with female characters–they didn’t even necessarily have to be the main character, but they had to be well-written, or at least THERE. I was always very aware of how few girls there were in movies and in video games (and honestly, video games have gotten a lot better, but movies really haven’t), and it always bothered me, even if I couldn’t put that feeling into words when I was younger.

    I was never all that into girly things or colors, but I wanted the things I watched or played with to have girl characters. That sometimes meant I was stuck with girly things. Ideally, there would be Lego sets with girls and with real-world colors, instead of obnoxious pinks and pastel purples. If they made a castle and dragon set with girl characters, I would buy it in a minute, especially if it had wizards too. But instead they segregate it–girl characters go with pink and baking, boy characters go with castles and wizards and everything fun (baking is only fun when it’s real, pretend baking is the exact opposite of fun because you don’t get food out of it). So you have to choose between giving girls a female character they can relate to or giving them the fun, non-pink sets that only have boy characters (or have one token girl)…and if you choose the girl one, they think you’re in favor of the segregation and just make more of them. But if you choose the boy one, they think you’re okay with a lack of female characters, and continue omitting them. It’s lose/lose.

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