These Toys Aren’t Offensive Enough

January 25, 2012

I loved Legos when I was a kid.

If I had a pile of Legos in front of me now, I would play with them.

What is this? Lab Partner Lego girl? Is this offensive toy giving girls the false hope that they can be good at science?

Legos don’t usually make then news, but they did this week. Lego released a new line of toys for girls. And guess what! Despite all of Lego’s market research indicating demand for this product, some cranky women find the toys “offensive.” Apparently, girls can now suffer from low self esteem and poor body image from Legos.

To be honest, I don’t think the girl Legos are nearly offensively enough.

“Mom, This Toy Made Me Feel Bad About Myself!”

Here’s the thing about toys that supposedly promote “poor body image.”

They don’t.

The idea that a two inch, yellow plastic figurine will make a girl sad about herself is about the most pathetic thing any adult has ever come up with. Guess what? When I played with ninja turtles as a kid, I wanted to be a ninja turtle. But I didn’t feel inadequate when I discovered that I could not really transform myself into a hard-shelled amphibious martial arts vigilante.

Kids don’t know they are supposed to be offended. Adults will just find any excuse they can to take fun toys away from kids. The only way toys hurt kids is if they are defective, or a child shoves it up his nose.

“I’m taking these toys away! They are making you feel bad about yourself!” (Cue crying child who doesn’t understand the dynamics of postmodern feminist theory.)

The real offense is how generally crappy the girls’ version of Legos are compared to the boys.

Did That Toy Hurt Your Feelings?

Besides this fact, even if toys do make kids feel bad about themselves, welcome to life!

Life is all about being surrounded by people who are better than you. You have to learn to accept the fact that someone is better looking, more talented, smarter, wealthier, more fragrant, and more popular than you. We live in a culture where we don’t want anything to make us feel bad about ourselves, because we’re supposed to love ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are.

If

If you ask me, the world isn’t offensive enough.

We are fed a constant stream of images by the media of what “ideal” beauty is. Are we offended by this? No! People love to look at beautiful people! Does it make us feel bad about ourselves? Apparently, not enough to actually do something about it. Because the latest numbers say that 69% of us are overweight, and doing nothing about it.

Personally, I applaud every time an Elmo doll malfunctions and cusses a kid out. Don’t we tell kids “sticks and stones…?” That’s a lie, of course. A kid has to learn better and he has to decide if he’s going to believe all the terrible things Elmo says about him.

Stop Accepting Yourself As You Are

That is 69% of us who are content to not look as good as the media and apparently Legos tell us we should look.

Here’s the thing. Even though we tell people to love themselves and accept themselves for who they are, we don’t really mean it. That message was never meant to be taken to heart. Shows like The Biggest Loser are all about people not accepting themselves for who they are! It’s a show about people who tell themselves every day, “I’m not good enough, and damn it, I’m going to do something about it!”

That’s what’s wrong with us. While we tell people to love themselves for who they are, we don’t really want them to. That’s why we’re fat, stupid, and depressed. We should be telling each other you can do better than this. When we accept ourselves, we stop trying.

What say you? Are girl’s toys offensive because they reinforce negative stereotypes, or because they are just generally crappier versions of the boys’ toys?

32 responses to These Toys Aren’t Offensive Enough

  1. Well, maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m “offended”, but I have been kind of annoyed by this trend of toy companies making a “girly” version of every darn thing.

    Have you been in a Toys’R Us lately? They’ve got pink versions of stuff that used to be considered pretty gender neutral–the Fisher-Price Chatter phone, sock monkeys, those popcorn popper things…apparently the basic toys that I had when I was a toddler did not do enough to reinforce my femininity, or something.

    So, apparently the same thing is true of Legos. What was wrong with using regular Lego mini figures? (I can attest that, yes, girls like to play with those.)

    I’m not stupid enough to think that girls are going to have bad self-esteem because of a little plastic person, but as a nerdy female I’m kind of let down by the assumption that girls don’t want a figure that can also pilot the Lego space shuttle.

    • I thought the point of feminism was to make the girls want to play with the boy toys. Have we given up on that idea? :)

    • I’m with you. I have a two daughters who currently hate the color pink because THAT IS ALL THEY CAN FIND! Do you know how hard it is to find girl’s footwear that does not have a brush stroke of pink? My oldest girl bought boy sandals because they a.)had better functionality for hiking and biking and b.)weren’t pink. The only problem I had with it is that her brother bought the same pair in a smaller size.

      That same daughter also loves LEGOs for what she can build with it. And I hate to say it, but LEGO toys are for static creations, not necessarily for play creations because playing with them causes them to fall apart! The other daughter who does like dolls, doesn’t like the “girl” LEGOS because they are hard and small.

  2. You have so many levels of incredible wisdom – layer after layer! We have the church just for you; we tell people at our church all the time that if they come here “they better be tough because we pick on people.” Jesus came because we weren’t good enough. Sin had scared us, we were disfigured. The Holy Spirit works to realign us with the perfect will of God. It is only in that perfect will that we find peace – peace with God, peace with others, peace with our circumstances and peace with ourselves.

  3. I think what people are getting at when they attack toys like Legos is this: you shouldn’t WANT to idolize a Barbie-like or (apparently) Lego-like figure. Idolizing a TMNT is okay because it’s heroic (you don’t typically just want to look like one), but I’m thinking women want something than simple outward beauty to aspire to.

    Maybe. Or maybe not. Either way, I enjoyed this post. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Adrian. I think you make a good point. We don’t want kids to aspire to just be beautiful, but we make toys that encourage it…because it’s what they’ll do as adults anyway. How many of us aspire to look better?

  4. Yeah….the issue with the “girl” Legos isn’t that they make girls feel bad about themselves. They’re offensive (to me anyway) because they tell girls that they have to have their own, separate, pink version of everything. A girl can’t just play with Legos, she has to have the particular kind of Legos that is marketed to _girls_. And is pink. And if I understand correctly, very much reinforces gender stereotypes of girls going to malls and spas (I hadn’t seen the scientist one, not that I can say I’d done a whole lot of research on the subject). There’s nothing inherently wrong with pink Legos. What’s wrong is telling a girl that Legos aren’t for her _unless_ they’re pink.

    It’s the pinkification that I find offensive. It’s the assumption that girls _can’t_ (or won’t) play with regular Legos. Makes me nuts. I can’t even go into Toy ‘R Us anymore. They have their aisles marked with pink signs for “girl” things and blue signs for “boy” things. Heaven forbid a boy use a child-sized broom or a girl play with a train. Drives me crazy.

    • Love that word “pinkification.” You are right, it sends a message that boys and girls are always separated (and many times the girls get a crappier product because toy makers are just trying to cash in on supposed gender differences.) The beauty of legos is you can make anything from a pirate ship to a pet store. You don’t need the kit to tell you what to make.

    • I know I covered it in my separate post, but I have to ask, Have you been to the Lego aisle lately? They are not, for the most part, gender neutral. The Lego aisle has become a boy aisle. What you are suggesting is that Lego revert their entire marketing strategy to big boxes filled with pieces. They are sets now, designed to be built into something specific. Lego eventually had to come up with a girl product.

      • A) non-set boxes of Legos do still exist (my son got one for his birthday), B) why can’t a girl have Star Wars or Indiana Jones or Harry Potter or Batman Legos? Why can’t a girl have Bionicles? Or a Space Shuttle? Or a jet? Or any other set of Legos? I don’t see what is inherently “boy” about those things. I get that as a female engineer, I’m probably biased, but still – why can’t a girl play with a “City” set?

        • My 3-year old daughter loves Superman. She also loves fairies and dollies and all that (which my mother-in-law is more than happy to heap upon her). You’ve inspired me to go out and get her some Superman jammies or something. The pinkification is driving me crazy.

  5. I saw an article on this back in December (http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/12/16/lego_friends_should_children_s_toys_be_separated_by_gender_.html)and it seemed that Lego was making some smart marketing decisions. They know there’s a risk in pink-washing, but it’s worth taking since girls are such a small percentage of their customer base. If they could make more girls into rabid lego fans, they could make millions.

  6. I’ve been thinking about body image and my own youth lately, when I had many a Barbie. I had my body issues when I hit puberty and into the teen years…well, and some still now in my 30’s… But I can say that a plastic Barbie who so obviously was not reality was not the cause of my dysfunction. Unlikemthatmladynwho had tons of plastic surgery (ha! Plastic!) to look like a human Barbie, I have never wanted to look like one.

    I do have to disagree a little about the media’s portrayal of beauty and its effects. Yes, it is true that models have gotten thinner and more airbrushed and the public has gotten fatter. I think some of that has to do with being so overwhelmed by an unattainable standard of beauty (or only attainable if your public persona is shown only via airbrushed photos) that people just give up. Then there is the other side of anorexia and bulimia, which has a strong correlation to viewing the media’s beauty ideal in mags, etc. yes, a lot fewer people are anorexic than obese, but both are deadly. I don’t think media’s portrayal of beauty is the cause of all this, but it certainly is an exacerbating factor if nothing else,

    Off my soapbox and back to toys: when I played with my Barbies, I sometimes played with my twin brother and his GI Joes. Barbe was like the 50 foot woman attacking the city. It was awesome. I also enjoyed playing with regular Legos. We had a giant chest filled with Legos.

    And now, I have a daughter and a son. They both enjoy legos. And, unashamedly, my daughter plays with both ‘regular’ Legos and the girly pink set with the horse stable and rider with equal enjoyment.

  7. I disagree that the toys are generally crappier than the boy’s Lego sets. I thought they were quite interesting, and they seem to include plenty of pieces to build with. Girls’ toys don’t tend to have as much building as Lego does, so I think they’re good toys all around.

    To be perfectly honest, those figurines don’t even look that… anatomically disproportionate. They look like a fairly realistic depiction of a woman, not terribly idealistic or exaggerated, if you ask me.

    It’s a little ridiculous. Actually, it’s extremely ridiculous.

  8. These are all great thoughts. Here is something that piggy backs your idea: If we are looking for meaning and self worth in toys, we are looking in the wrong place.

  9. DUDE!! Thank you for this on every level. My son & I are huge LEGO fans.

    When I saw the LEGO commercials for these toys my first thought was, “Cool. Some semi non-crappy LEGO’s for my ballet dancing, doll collecting little girl that she might actually play with.”

    My first thought when I saw a number of mommy bloggers outcry at the audacity of LEGO… “Are you freaking kidding me?!”

    Beyond that I think you make a great point about toys and the world not being offensive enough to spur us into action. I imagine you’ll get some haters in the comments, but they’re probably the ones who love to be offended anyway.

  10. I’ve read a fair number of critiques of the new LEGOS & I don’t think that body image was the number one concern of these sets (I can’t recall any of the bloggers that I’ve read commenting about that aspect at all, but I haven’t spent a lot of time on it, so I likely missed some.). Instead, I think people are primarily annoyed that instead of having parts that we put together and build with (you know, the way LEGOs work), they have kits that don’t really stretch any kind of creativity in assembly.

    I’m not bothered by pink (my youngest daughter loves pink) and I’m not bothered by girly looking figures. I’m not even really bothered by the jobs that they’ve pigeon-holed girls into (though a little bit there). But dang. If she’s got to own a bakery, can’t she at least have to build the building and stoves and sales counter and all of that? At least then she’d have the option of making it something else if she wanted to.

    • That was the other thing I noticed – how unbelievably lame the new kits are. They total about 5 pieces and offer no creativity or flexibility. I find that offensive.

      • http://gizmodo.com/5872578/hey-anti+lego-feminists-lego-for-girls-actually-kicks-ass

        Some of the bigger sets have lots more bricks, and plenty of room for creativity. There are plenty of Lego sets that are too small, I don’t think it’s unique to this theme.

        Not to turn this into a debate about toys, I just think that these sets are pretty good, especially the bigger buildings.

        • Thanks for the link. I’m glad to see it. I kind of bemoan the linearity of many modern Lego sets. They are meant to be one specific thing in a theme and leave less room for creative free building like the sets I had.

          • I kind of agree. There’s nothing like the designer sets from 2001. Those things had about 10 instructions and probably about sixty different pictures for inspiration. Now, there are three instructions at best, and none of those inspiration pictures.

          • Unless you are one of my kids that builds the set, admires it for 1/2 day, then destroys it and mixes all of those parts into the bin(s) of other LEGO sets to create something totally different. We have either purchased or received, roughly 25 LEGO sets, all of which are sorted into bins according to function. If you ever want to play with LEGOs, Matt, come over to our house. The kids are willing to share. :-).

  11. I say it’s offensive because they are worse than the boys toys.

    I didn’t know men realized that there are other people out there who might look better than they do? Do men know that Tom Cruise is cute, and might be cuter than them? Do they care?

    (Just curious)

    When I was playing with dolls, I did imagine myself as the doll as I was playing with them. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be like my Aunt, and my Aunt was beautiful, but she looked and acted nothing like Barbie. She was self willed and spoke her mind.

  12. I have three boys. I regularly visit the Lego aisle at Target and Toys R Us. It is NOT designed for girls. The Legos we played with as children that allowed us to express our creativity just doesn’t really exist anymore. Everything is Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Harry Potter, Lego City, Lego Ninjago, etc. Sure kids take those pieces and build other stuff, but for the most part Lego’s are marketed towards boys, since girls make up roughly 50% of the marketplace, that’s a whole lotta wallets they don’t have access to.

    I also have one girl. Though she may only be 15 months old, she is definitely a girl. She is drawn towards her pink stuff despite the fact that she is in a sea of boy stuff. She loves her babies, her strollers, her sparkly shoes and her tea set. I always thought the whole thing about the desire for culturally accepted girl/boy things being innate was a load of crap. Until I had kids. I’m not a girly girl and do not force the stuff grandparents and aunties buy my daughter on her. But, I’m guessing that when she’s old enough not to eat the small Legos, she’s not going to want a boy set of Legos. On a side note, having seen the awesomeness that is Lego now adays for boys, I am disappointed that they just look like generic Polley Pockets.

    BTW, to the guy complaining about colored sock monkeys… my son wanted a mommy sock monkey for his sock monkey family, so we got him an orange one for Christmas. Sometimes it’s not about a person identifying with a toy, but that toy representing a conceptual identity, like a Mom, which is not a gender neutral term.

  13. I am just mad because we don’t play cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers anymore. We didn’t care if Matchbox cars were to scale, and everyone knew that GI Joe didn’t have privates. I do know that play money can choke you and Barbie lost her boobs.

    If we are so politically correct, and gender roles so confused, why do we make boys wear blue when they come home from the hospital?

    Out little girl likes puppies and dolls, and she picked her own. And she has a monster remote control truck. She picked that too.

  14. When our two daughters were young, we visited a family with three little boys. They played Legos for hours. Our girls created animals and houses, and the boys made weapons. So much for gender-neutral toys!

    When the time comes, we will make sure our grandkids have plenty of basic Lego blocks (not kits) of all colors. Then we’ll let them decide what to build!

  15. Easily offended people…offend me.

  16. The self esteem debacle is miring our kids in the sludge of complacency. AS long as you think you’re alright, great. I think you’re right Matt we need someone to say “hey that’s crappy, you can do better.”

    As for Sticks and Stones, I posted a piece a couple of weeks back about it being a lie.