More than building blocks, the real human meaning of LEGO
During birthday parties as a young girl, I was showered with pretty pink gifts – dolls, make-up kits, kitchen sets or beads to make my own jewellery. My brother on the other hand was gifted with puzzles, action figures and construction sets. It’s understandable (but not excusable) why people buy gifts based on gender – it’s easy to go to the ‘girls’ or ‘boys’
section and pick something up – but it’s also lazy and perpetuates gender bias and expectations.
Luckily, there’s a bit more awareness and conversation around gender today and companies like LEGO are trying to deconstruct ‘toys for girls’ and ‘toys for boys’. On LEGO’s website, toys are now categorised by ‘passion points’ rather than gender. Aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, mothers and fathers will now have to think harder about what LEGO toy to gift. By allowing children to engage with toys that match their passions rather than what they are told to be interested in, LEGO is rejecting Conformity and Tradition
while injecting Hedonism back into play.
While it may be useful to forget gender in certain contexts, we may still need to think about ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ in order to start creating a more gender-neutral world. In a recently commissioned study, LEGO found that while girls were interested in a wide range of toys, parents’ attitudes were more restrictive. They would encourage their sons more than their daughters to engage with physical and STEM-like activities. It's no wonder then that LEGO is considered toys for boys – it was found that parents encourage their sons to play with LEGO more than their daughters (59% vs 48%). This difference was even more pronounced when parents completed an implicit bias assessment – 76% of parents encourage their sons to play with LEGO vs. just 24% for daughters. LEGO’s ‘Ready for Girls’ campaign aims to challenge this gender bias, calling for society to be more inclusive in what they encourage girls to play with, showing Benevolence towards girls, empowering them to be who they are and encouraging Self-direction.
Not only do girls suffer from gender stereotypes but boys are equally harmed. In the same commissioned study, it was found that boys are more self-conscious about what they play with, fearing teasing and bullying from their peers. This step towards gender-neutral toys hopefully provides Security and creates a safer space for boys to explore and play with toys
they actually like.
LEGO’s commitment to removing gender bias marks a very important step in the toy industry and in history. Hopefully, children growing up in this new period can feel a little bit freer in who they are and what they enjoy playing with. Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of fun playing pretend cooking with my doll friends but I wonder how differently my life would have turned out if I was given a LEGO set…maybe I would be building a spaceship instead of writing this.
Until next time,
Emily (Research Manager, OMTM)