Mansplaining Lego Enthusiasts Tell Women to STFU about Lego Friends

Lego has a history of marketing to boys and girls indiscriminately, but the recent release of Lego Friends…not so much.

Many women have expressed their frustration at the company’s decision to create a definitive distinction between Legos for girls and Legos for boys. A few men have suggested that these women should shut up and stay out of it.

Lego’s release of a new product marketed to “the other 50 percent of the world’s children” (Lego’s words, not mine) incites an array of questions about gendered marketing and gendered consumption. Will the brand invite girls to play with Legos only to relegate them to the pink aisle? What if a little girl wants to construct a Lego helicopter? If a little boy wants to build a Lego salon, will his father buy it for him if it’s packaged in pink?

These were not questions posed by a Gizmodo a piece entitled, Hey Anti-Lego Feminists, “Lego for Girls” Actually Kicks Ass. Instead, Jesus Diaz argues that “feminists criticizing the new Lego Friends sets just don’t get it.” Who are these Anti-Lego Feminists whom Diaz seeks to educate? He does not cite a single feminist critic. He doesn’t quote any women at all. But he does inform us that he likes Lego Friends, and therefore we should all like Lego Friends. That, my friends, is called mansplaining.

If you know any mansplainers seeking more ammunition against these mysterious “Anti-Lego Feminists,” look no further than the blog Feminists freak out over Lego Friends (hereafter referred to as FfooLF), which seeks to fight the good fight against those hysterical women who care about the way toy companies market to children:

Some feminist women’s rights groups realized they can advance their own agenda by launching a “No pink aisle, bring back beautiful” social media campaign by claiming The LEGO Group offers no “gender equity” in the new theme “Friends” and its marketing. They created an online petition, then proceed to encourage their followers to SPAM the LEGO Facebook page with one of TLG’s own ads.
This blog sheds light on their omissions, skewed facts & images.

Basically, a group of women got on Lego’s Facebook page and dared  to suggest that relegating girl toys to the pink aisle limits girls’ exposure to a wider range of childhood experiences. Naturally, an entire blog had to be created, a blog dedicated solely to the purpose of showing the world how hysterical and stupid these women are. Don’t be offended, ladies; FfooLF is just trying to help:

Feminists freak out over Lego Friends is oversimplifying a very complicated issue. The site’s creator does not divulge his/her/hir identity, but FfooLF posts are written with an attitude I’ve only ever encountered when dealing with extreme male privilege: “Calm down, you’re wrong, let me explain to you what you should think and how you should feel about that. Can’t you see I’m trying to help you?”

Frankly, it pisses me off to think about how much time and energy has been dedicated to FfooLF. Time that could have been spent reading more nuanced reviews of the Lego product, like  Margaret Hartmann’s Jezebel article:

On the one hand, plenty of toy lines for girls wouldn’t even include an “inventor’s workshop” in which “the smart girl” can tinker with a microscope and a robot, but it’s still frustrating that all of the girls aren’t smart and her lab is light pink and blue.

Time that could have been spent thinking about this chilling passage from Cinderella Ate My Daughter author  Peggy Orenstein’s NYT op-ed (emphasis mine):

At issue…is not nature or nurture but how nurture becomes nature: the environment in which children play and grow can encourage a range of aptitudes or foreclose them. So blithely indulging — let alone exploiting — stereotypically gendered play patterns may have a more negative long-term impact on kids’ potential than parents imagine.

Instead of listening to what women have to say on the subject of Lego Friends, instead of engaging with these complicated ideas about gendered marketing and gendered play, FfooLF posts images like this:

At the end of the day, Lego wants to make money. I get that. But ultimately, sites like Feminsts freak out over Lego Friends want nothing more than to silence women who dare ask that society spend a moment reflecting on the impact of gendered marketing on the lives of girls and boys. That I will never understand.

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Did you play with Legos as a child? Were your experiences in any way shaped by your gender? I invite you to share your thoughts and memories (gendered or not) in the comments section.

8 thoughts on “Mansplaining Lego Enthusiasts Tell Women to STFU about Lego Friends

  1. I remember fighting with my sisters over the only “girl” minifig head in our Lego collection. (Do either of you recall which set she came with? Probably the set with the stable and not the one with the pirates.) The Lego girl head had lipstick and eyelashes to differentiate her from classic minifig. Without the existence of the “girl” minifig head, I never would have assumed the standard minifig was male.

    Sometimes we made one of our pirates a drag queen.

  2. Hey, welcome back!

    Also, I have no idea which set the girl lego head came with, but it was nice that even if you or Boogs called dibs on her face all I had to do was snap one of the ponytail pieces onto a normal lego head and POOF lady.

  3. If Lego had just included more ponytail pieces, maybe they’d never have lost their cred with little girls in the first place.

    Also, “POOF lady” is hilarious and will be cracking me up for days :)

  4. Thank you so much for this piece! As one of the starters of the petition on this issue, the mansplaining, hatred and paranoia that gets directed at SPARK and individual members is a little bizarre (FfooLF is a perfect example of this – the inability to engage with facts and the constant misrepresentation of our cause is bizarre, as is the fact that someone created an entire blog trying to discredit us!). It’s so nice to see support and people engaging with the mansplaining on our behalf, and this article really nails it! One thing I’m not good at is staying quiet on important issues, even when people want me to, and having support from so many corners makes it that much easier to keep going.

    SPARK is coming from a place of loving LEGO, wanting to see the company succeed and ultimately just being disappointed that they’ve decided to sell girls out like this. I still play with LEGO myself, so I have a lot of experience with their products, and I really want to see LEGO remain a company that I can continue to support.

  5. I bought my daughter lego friends for Xmas and since she’s had the sets lego has been her fav toy. She had Legos before the friends sets but never played with them. I find it offensive that if a girl acts like a girly girl at a young age she’s just giving into the stereotypical norm and not thinking for herself. I hated dresses till I was an adult, my fav color was blue. I def don’t push my daughter to be a girly girl. I won’t buy her a Barbie, but if she saves her own money and wants one i will let her get it. But when she wants girly Legos it’s a different story… She’s building and running the vet, beauty salon, cafe, and science lab. I think it’s great lego made a good line for girls, one that they will actually like…. Yayaya “girls liked Legos before”, well sorry, my daughter didn’t like Harry potter, Star Wars, chima,video games, ninjagq, superheroes, ninja turtles, technic, hobbit, lord of the rings, monster, etc….. I for one am very grateful they have exposed their product to the girly girl, because belville wasn’t cutting it. And my daughter and the other “girly” girls shouldn’t be deprived of a product that interests/expands their creativity just because some women think its wrong to enjoy things that are “the female stereotype”. Come on people stereotypes exist for a reason.

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