So let’s learn to see it and call bullshit.
“Girly Legos Are Officially a Success. Now What?” asks Katie J. M.Baker:
We hate the idea of Lego Friends, too, and we’re not saying critics should give up, but don’t they need a new strategy if it turns out that most girls (and/or their parents, the ones actually buying the toys) aren’t turned off by princessy marketing and products?
Fellow critics: don’t give up! But we do need new strategies, because there are only so many ways to say “When you enforce a culturally constructed, gender essentialist approach to selling toys, you limit all children’s access to a diverse array of play.”
So what does Katie suggest?
Maybe the solution is to fund and promote alternative types of toys instead of continuing to try and convince a large, successful company to stop selling a super successful product.
This makes sense; fight capitalism with capitalism. If we who hate the idea of Lego Friends are having no luck convincing the Lego company to stop profiting off of reductive gender norms, then we need to shift the focus from the company to the consumer.
If we can encourage more conscientious consumption, we might see more toy departments take the gender-neutral route. But we have to teach people to see the problem.
For instance: click over to Toys R Us and you’ll find
Over at Amazon’s Toys & Games
When a webpage directs consumers to click on either “Boys’ Toys” or “Girls’ Toys,” it tells people that the world is divided into Male and Female, and that these categories are mutually exclusive.
In an essay featured in this fascinating book, D. Travers Scott asserts that
…the web is not neutral. The technologies that constitute the online experience did not appear out of thin air or descend from Olympus as gifts from the gods. They are not separate from culture, somehow innocent and pure…
The design and function of online technologies is far from immune to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other social ills.
Sure, if you click “Girls’ Toys” you can easily click back to the “Boys’ Toys” option. But by confronting the customer with this gender binary, the company forces hir to conceive of gender as either/or.
So let’s make sure we are paying attention to this stuff, that we are thinking critically about what we consume and how things are sold to us.
Go paint the walls of the web with these links, buy a copy of Cinderella Ate My Daughter for everyone you know, and read this story and feel hope for a future free from reductive, restrictive, ridiculous, essentialist gender norms.