I have been sticking up for Lego recently, arguing that their new Friends sets aren’t necessarily them insisting that girls MUST play with these new sets, or must NOT play with existing sets – it’s them trying to increase the proportion of girls playing with Lego at all by reaching out to the Polly Pocket and Bratz markets as well. Since the Friends sets are made up of perfectly normal Lego bricks put together in perfectly standard ways, it would introduce the building, creative side of Lego to those tempted by the dolls and the themes. I was willing to call this a Good Thing.
In fact, I had a (silent) criticism of the commendable letter to Lego written by a 14 year old girl. I mean – good for her for writing it, but her statement “IF you take these of the market […] THEN I will buy some of your regular sets” is a bit of a shame. I mean, what was stopping her buying the regular sets before? There are plenty of them – 59 fairly generic brick sets on the web store alone, that’s before you get into things like the Architecture sets, Harry Potter, or my favourites, the Creator sets. Lego haven’t removed these sets from the market to make space for special girly drivel.
However, my sympathies for Lego in this tirade have dissolved a little with the arrival of today’s post.
We had previously signed Polly up for Lego Club Jr, which basically just means we get a magazine delivered four times a year. It usually contains some comic-type strips based on some of their sets (usually Police or Ninjago), some little puzzle games, photos of kids with their Lego creations, and a set of instructions on how to build some random thing out of bricks (for example a bird or a car). It is, unashamedly, a big advert for Lego products.
Today, we didn’t receive Lego Club Jr. magazine. We got Lego Club Girls. It’s decorated with hearts, stars and butterflies, and is overwhelmingly purple. Two pages are taken up by introductions to the five Friends characters, Olivia, Andrea, Mia, Stephanie and Emma. Two are taken up by a comic strip featuring the City Park Cafe, where Andrea (the musical Friend) is portrayed as ditzy (unable to make a decision) and greedy (eating many different items). There is then a two-page spread on the new Forest Police theme, two pages featuring Harry Potter sets, two pages on Spongebob Squarepants, two dedicated to the Lego Champion game, one to a Creator set and one for Stephanie’s convertible – she’s lost her puppy, can you help her find it? The usual two page spread dedicated to kids’ own creations is still there – but every photo shows a girl. This concerns me, as it implies that the other magazine will never again feature a photo of a girl, they’ll be saved for the Girls magazine. Two things are conspicuous by their absence – Ninjago, which Lego have been focussing heavily on recently, and any building instructions. It’s been confirmed that in contrast there ARE building instructions in the boy/normal version of the magazine. Girls don’t build anything other than their existing sets, obviously.
The letter which came with the magazine says, at the end:
P.S. If you would prefer to still receive your regular LEGO Club Magazine instead of the Girls issue then please call the telephone number above!
Ah. Well. There we go. It’s not boys and girls. It’s girls and ‘regular’. You can be a normal child, or you could be one of those others. You know, the girls. The ones who can’t understand until something’s painted pink or related to kittens or service provision.
This is not what I want. What would have been wrong with having a single double page spread about the new theme in the standard magazine that everyone gets? Why do I have to ‘opt out’ of the pinkification (or just plain othering) of my daughter’s Lego experience? If I had two children but had decided to keep one membership (in, say, my eldest son’s name) to reduce paper waste, would I ever have known about the Girls issue? Would my daughters “miss out” (ha!) on this magazine? I mean, heaven forbid a boy might see it. He might be put off Lego for life – or, worse still, turn into a sissy. Incidentally, I have previously discussed why girly pink crap is bad for boys and girls alike – you may want to read it. Another discussion of the othering of girls explains why it’s all about dogs and Smurfs.
At the time of writing, the Lego Club website doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the Girls magazine (here for example) – though of course this may change.
I will certainly be writing to Lego about my misgivings and disappointment. I’ll let you know what response, if any, I get.