I don’t get to the toy departments of shops very often and I also don’t pay a lot of attention to upcoming toy trends (what is a Squinkie??) so I was unaware that Lego are launching a special range of building sets for girls, in pink and purple. Presumably, the girls that play with these sets will be constructing beauty parlours for the little helmet-haired Lego people.
Yesterday, however, I read a superb opinion piece on this, from writer Michelle Smith, in The Age newspaper. Go to the link here and read it.
I played with gender-neutral Lego when I was a kid. I built spaceships and cars with blocks in blue, red, green and yellow. I even got a Technic set for Christmas one year that had a battery pack so I could make cars that drove around. I wasn’t a tomboy, but I did like building things and seeing how things work. It’s a very sad thing that Lego is responding to society’s assumption (presumption?) that young girls need to be pigeonholed in such a way that they should play only with pink blocks that are designed to build girly-type structures.
This is not to deny girls take pleasure in styling Barbie’s hair or taking a wavy-haired Lego figurine out on a pony ride. Yet we should be careful to differentiate between innate desires and culturally constructed ones. As Cordelia Fine shows in a study of neuroscientific literature in her book Delusions of Gender, our ideas about ”hard-wired” differences between boys and girls are baseless.
Such perceptions are based on sexism. The cycle of socialising children into believing that girls should like particular things that boys should not, is not only continuing, but is further compartmentalising children into their genders. This becomes more substantial when these perceptions affect how girls and boys are raised by their parents, making these ”innate” gender differences a self-fulfilling prophecy.