I Tell Mansplainers to STFU

Congratulations and thank you to SPARK for sending this astoundingly articulate letter  to LEGO, along with 47,000 signatures on their petition asking LEGO to stop relegating girl toys to the pink aisle.

These women have incited a much-needed cultural conversation about the way companies market to girls. They’ve also withstood some ludicrous mansplaining.

In a December SPARKsummit post aptly titled LEGO’s listening, but they’re not quite hearing us, Bailey Shoemaker Richards asks her readers to place themselves in the minds of the thousands of girls who will encounter LEGO Friends (emphasis mine):

Now, when a girl looks at Legos, she’ll see the twenty or so pink- and purple-packaged Ladyfig sets stuck next to the Barbies and Bratz dolls, while the “boy Legos,” hundreds and hundreds of sets that would have been gender-neutral, are left in another aisle, suddenly off-limits. What message is Lego sending to young girls with this new line of toys? The idea seems to be that girls should be focused on cooking, sunbathing, snazzy cars and looking pretty.

Richards not only identifies and explicates the problem, she offers what I think is a spectacular solution:

Instead of spending 4 years on research that ended up leading to Lego selling the same tired, pink stereotypes as every other company, Lego could have made an effort to start including girls in its advertising for all of its other projects…Simply showing girls in ads playing with Lego sets alongside their brothers and friends would have created the message that the toys are for girls too.

The post elicited several comments from women expressing their agreement with Richards and their frustration with LEGO’s gendered marketing. Her words clearly resonate with these women’s life experiences.

Then in saunters commenter David Eaton to helpfully explain to Bailey how wrong she is. His 587 word long post (her OP is 669 words) can be summed up with these three quotations (these are Eaton’s words, verbatim):

Your point is valid, but is minor.

LEGO’s not the only one doing this.

Do something about it other than complain.

Bailey is extremely gracious in her reply. Instead of calling him out on his arrogant and oblivious mansplanations, she takes the time to clarify and restate things she shouldn’t have to clarify or restate:

Kids can’t be what they can’t see.

If you read back through SPARK’s blog and action pieces, we have written many times on Barbie, Mattel in general and the problems with creating a gender divide in toys that says pink, frilly and domestic activities belong to girls…

[W]e are not simply complaining about the new Friends line – no way! We started a campaign on Lego’s Facebook wall asking them to support girls, and this has resulted in thousands of comments asking Lego not to create a new gender divide in the toy aisle.

Then Eaton fires back with 967 words – even if you don’t count his quotations of Bailey’s comments, his post is still 874 words long, far longer than Bailey’s original post. In summation (again, Eaton’s words, verbatim):

 Should LEGO include girls in those commercials? Meh.

This man blows a thousand words explaining to Bailey all the facts and figures of LEGO marketing, only to dismiss her ideas entirely.

Bailey’s final reply to Eaton is as gracious as her first, and full of glorious win (emphasis mine):

I’m not going to respond to every point this time, but I just want to say it really bums me out that your attitude toward changing advertising practices is “meh” and thinking it’s pointless to try. If we all took that line, it would be pointless. If we want to see positive change for ourselves and our kids and our friends, we can’t just accept the status quo. Even if this event doesn’t result in massive change at Lego or anywhere, it’s a start. It’s got hundreds of people talking and looking at an issue of advertising in a way that they might not have before.

I won’t bother quoting Eaton’s final post. It’s not worth the space on this screen.

Instead of valuing a woman’s experiences and observations about women’s issues, a man stepped in to explain things to her. This is not an isolated incident. It happens a lot, and it is infuriating.

Mansplainer, you are not being helpful. You are being a jackass. Acknoweledge your privilege, stop talking, and start listening to the voices of those with lives unlike your own.

And to you men who recognize what mansplaining is and refrain from doing it: Thank you. Now start calling all your mansplaining friends out on it.

I am 100% with Richards: we can’t just accept the status quo. We need to listen to and amplify the voices of those negatively impacted by the oblivious patriarchy. I applaud the women at SPARK for doing just that.

8 thoughts on “I Tell Mansplainers to STFU

  1. This is the nicest thing I think I’ve ever read about myself! I am blushing furiously right now, thank you so much. Being mansplained to constantly on this issue (not to mention having my opinions about a toy that I play with dismissed because I don’t have kids) is so frustrating. I cannot even adequately express how completely flattered I am right now, and how wonderful it is to see other people out there tackling the mansplaining along with us!

    The whole SPARK team is totally stoked that you’re with us on this issue, too, having supporting voices is amazing! :)

    • You should be proud! The issues you and the SPARK team are engaging with are important, and the fact that some men expend so much time and energy fighting with you instead of listening to you really gets under my skin. I commend you for maintaining your composure with that commenter; I wanted to punch him through my lap top.

      Keep up the awesome work, and consider me an ally! :)

  2. Legos were created to capture the imagination of all children. Today women have come too far. The message to children must be changed. We are not just playing cooking and dressup. We can be the jedi fighter who saved the world. I saw yesterday a brother and sister playing star wars. She destroyed the death star playing with Legos. He was so happy that he high five her. It make me proud.

  3. I respect your passion for the petition. I had read the petition myself (I am a guy as well) and agree with everything except for one thing and it may be irrelevant towards the petition anyways. Ms. Richards emphasized the importance of LEGOs in the future lives of children. However, I do not understand this at all and really would like to know how toys can influence whether kids are adventurous are not. This is something I just cannot wrap my mind around at all. I have met women succeeding in science who, I believe, were intelligent enough not to be influenced by something so trivial as toys. Don’t get me wrong. I think toys should be marketed to both boys and girls. I truly believe more girls should be shown in advertisements so as to encourage girls to take an interest in LEGOs too. But to suggest that LEGOs are so meaningful towards kids’ careers is unjustified and absolutely lost on me. No research has shown the relationship of LEGOs and kids’ decisions; in fact, I think such research would be useless because the same toys should be directed to all kids. But I would like for someone to explain to me the significance of LEGOs in the career decisions of kids.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad we agree that more girls should be featured in LEGO ads, and that the same toys should be directed to all kids.

      In answer to your question, I would encourage you to read this article about the challenges women in STEM fields face because of the pressures of motherhood:

      http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2012/2/when-scientists-choose-motherhood/3

      (Thanks go to Laura for sharing this link with me.)

      While reading the article, think about the message we send to little girls when we give them LEGOs, and the message we send when we give them baby dolls.

      Oh, and I am a woman.

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