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.