epershand: Rose brandishing knitting needles. (Rose)
So I just watched this well-done video on the new Lego Friends line, from Feminist Frequency:



Over the course of the video I went from peeved at Lego to actually really impressed with what they've done and grumpy at all the hate they've been getting for it, the exact opposite of what the video was aiming for.

I know! It's horribly gender-essentialist, all these pink and purple sets designed to help build houses instead of cities, with their human figures that look more like dolls than the iconic lego figurines.

But it's *exactly* the sort of thing that might have gotten me started playing with legos as a kid. I was never really into legos. I loved lincoln logs--I used them to build doll houses. I loved blocks--I used them to build doll houses. And I loved erector sets and chemical bond model kits (look I was the grandchild of a nano-physicist ok????) and mostly I really, really, loved cardboard, which I could cut and fold into ANY SHAPE I WANTED to build things with. (Mostly things for my dolls to live in and/or use.)

Legos always seemed horribly limiting. They only came in rectangles, for one, unlike things like erector sets and all the neat toys at my grandparents' you could use to build elaborate crystalline structures. And there were never enough vertical panels so if you wanted to build a doll house you had to build all your walls out of bricks, which just wasn't that fascinating an activity.

And those lego figures--they're pretty neat, I'll admit, with their different hair options and differently-colored shirts and stuff. But they're anonymous. They're not really people--they're just another shape of brick that you can use to decorate your scenes.

Lego friends introduces a set of distinct *characters* with names and personalities and identifiable features. That's an inroad to being able to use them to tell stories. And if there was one thing that I liked more than designing and building elaborate dollhouses out of everything I could possibly find for that purpose, it was acting out stories with my little sister and our dolls. Lego Friends would have let us do that, and hey, if we needed more pieces or wanted colors other than pink or purple we could have then turned to THE ENTIRE REST OF LEGO-KIND.

The uproar is about the fact that these are being marketed as "legos for girls", and I keep seeing this image being passed around the internet as a preferred marketing campaign:

Little girl in traditionally boyish clothes grinning with her legos. Text overlay reads 'what it is is beautiful.'

And that's great for girls who want to play "like boys". But what about girls (and boys, and others) who want to play "like girls"? Lego Friends isn't necessarily Legos for Girls. It's Legos for Feminine Kids. And I'm sorry, but I can't be angry at Lego marketing itself to feminine kids and giving them a doorway into the broader world of playing with Legos. I created my own inroad with erector sets and the other "masculine" toys I played with, but not every kid does that on their own.

The path "forward" doesn't necessarily have to be a brave march forward into an increasingly "gender-neutral" future where masculinity is the norm. That's not gender-neutral. That's masculine. Sometimes girls don't need to be given the freedom to "act like boys". Sometimes they need the freedom to "act like girls", damnit. (This is the part where I really want to insert a pithy Julia Serano quotation but if I tried it would wind up being everything she's ever said. If you want to pause at this point and get a copy of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity and read the entire thing I don't blame you--that would be an excellent life choice. But there's only one more paragraph and you can go read all the Serano after that.)

Twenty-ish years ago another toy company did the same thing--they took a toy traditionally sold in neutral colors and created a pastel version, with a set of unique characters, each with their own personality. That was My Little Pony, a toy that's increasingly in the news as it gains more fans of all genders. Can we give Lego the opportunity to do the same?

(OK GO READ ALL THE SERANO NOW. TRUST ME.)

Color coordination

Thursday, 5 May 2011 22:16
epershand: A rainbow of colored pencils. (rainbow)
This morning I caved to an impulse for secret color coordination.

I put on pink underwear, a pink bra, white socks with pink heels and toes, and a pink tanktop. And then I hid the whole ensemble under jeans, a green sweater, and blue shoes.

Shhhhh, don't tell anyone!

---

My undergraduate reunion is coming up in a couple of weeks, and the thing I am currently worried about is Laurel Parade. This is an event where all the alums and all the graduationg seniors, dressed in white, parade through campus and then sing "Bread and Roses" around the Founder's grave. Like you do.

I am having anticipatory white outfit worry. On the one hand, I don't really want to wear a dress, since I'm in a relatively butch stage at the moment (for me at least). On the other hand, I don't really want to own white pants.

All that being said, there is a not unsubstantial part of me that wants to go dressed up like Gerard in the San Francisco show of the World Contamination tour. I've got the hair, I just need the white polyester suit and the neck makeup. I'd be in Massachusetts in late May in polyester, so I'd even have the sweaty and smelly part down.

To be fully accurate, I'd also need the stage boner. But I live across the street from Good Vibrations, and I've kind of been having soft-packing impulses lately anyway?
epershand: Ampersand holding a skull. (ampersand)
Wow, Ursula K. Le Guin, I disagree strongly with you.

I still haven't seen The Tempest (I... don't watch movies, mostly, unless I can do it somewhere where I can multitask.) But still. The best production I ever saw of Hamlet was at a women's college. Most of the parts were played by women in pants roles, but the role of Hamlet was envisioned as an equivalent of King Christina of Sweden (Wikipedia has her title wrong). In this production, Hamlet was a girl raised to be King of Denmark until her uncle swooped in to snatch the crown, "Her Highness, the Prince."

Claudius tells her to stop her "unmanly" grief. Laertes tells Ophelia that no matter how strong Hamlet's feelings for her may be, a marriage is impossible:
...Perhaps she loves you now,
And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch
The virtue of her will; but you must fear,
Her greatness weigh’d, her will is not her own,
For she herself is subject to her birth;
She may not, as unvalu’d persons do,
Carve for herself, for on her choice depends
The safety and the health of the whole state;
And therefore must her choice be circumscrib’d
Unto the voice and yielding of that body
Whereof she is the head.


Prince Hamlet waxes eloquently about her grief while everyone around her assumes she is mad because her emotions are inappropriate. She kisses the girl and throws herself into a grave and kills her girlfriend's father through an arras, and she dies from the thrust of a poison sword. Her male friends from school follow her around making cracks about women's genitalia, ostensibly trying to take care of her while spying on her for her uncle. Her mother smothers her and her father manipulates her to do his bidding and her uncle slinks onto her throne because he thinks she can't handle it.

Her emotions are inappropriate. To survive she needs to be more manly. More rational. Less talk, more action. Somehow I think I've heard that before.

Le Guin is right, gender matters in Shakespeare. Queen Lear raging on the heath about her children means something different to us than King Lear doing the same thing. Changing the gender changes the play radically. It (cough) transforms it into something new. But that new thing doesn't take away from the thing that was there. It rings what was already there like a bell, striking all the bits we took for granted before and making us see them afresh.

And that's always been what I've loved the most about theatre. The words on the page may be consistent, but every director, every cast, every production is an opportunity to create a completely new work from scratch and show us something we haven't seen before. And Shakespeare in particular is a canvas that is ripe and ready for fresh painting. That is why Forbidden Planet works. That is why Ten Things I Hate About You works. That is why the production of A Winter's Tale where the first act took place in the 50s and the second act took place in the 60s and the character of Time was Albert Einstein in an astronaut's helmet worked.

That is why I can read The Merchant of Venice and see Shylock as a gothic hero rather than an Elizabethan villain (I really want to direct that production some day).

Shakespeare intended none of these things. It doesn't mean they aren't there. And it doesn't mean that bringing any of them to light takes away from the things he did mean. There have been plenty of literal productions. There will continue to be plenty of literal productions. Give me this one too, please.

ETA: All that being said, we're talking about THE TEMPEST here. Has Le Guin not read "The Sea and the Mirror"? Or did it just not hit her the way it hit everyone else I know who read it?

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