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.)

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