The increasing gender divide in marketing and developing kids`toys

AmnerisAmneris Posts: 15,117Registered Users
Here's an interesting article showing Lego marketing now vs. in the seventies.

LEGO For Girls Backlash Has Begun


It seems to me that the reason for this phenomenon of girly toys and constant princess stuff for girls is a way to push back the gains of feminism. Does this bother anyone else?
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  • DedachanDedachan Posts: 1,644Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    I played with Lego as a kid and think it's a shame they're trying to divide what I always thought was a great example of a gender-neutral toy. Although I liked barbies, I don't recall being that interested in dolls shaped like babies. I was never interested in being the mother figure. And now that I'm grown up Barbies creep me out.

    For those with 90 minutes to spare, I was watching this video yesterday: Sex in the brain: do men and women think differently? - YouTube

    One of the guest speakers said there are tests that show that kids tend to like different toys and that this is neurological. I do think it's possible and plausible that there are some differences, but I think the way toys are presented (princessy, pink stuff) is mostly a cultural distortion. There was a time when pink was the color associated with boys. I also remember being somewhat fascinated by some of the toys boys had and wanting to play as well. It's hard for me to believe that the way toys are marketed are an accurate representation of the two genders' natural urges.

    If there are different preferences, why not market the toys neutrally and let the kids decide what they want? I bet that would also make life easier for kids who don't fit in traditional gender roles.
  • RobinP92202RobinP92202 Posts: 213Registered Users
    I have 3 (about to have 4) boys and our house is taken over with legos. I agree that many of the sets are very skewed towards boys but a lot seem completely gender neutral. One set I got my son for Christmas (from the lego education line) was all minifigures and included mermaids, a king and queen, a knight and princess, a witch and wizard, etc...half the figures were female. I also got them a lego city set with a minivan and woman driver who they call the "mommy" because she has brown curly hair and drives a van like me, haha.

    I think changing the marketing towards girls might be smart but it is dumb to do it with figures with boobs and makeup and pink packaging. Just include more girl figures and show girls also playing with the toys in ads.

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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    I liked this take on from another discussion on this. I do think that in de-crying the gendered marketing, "girly" stuff often ends up getting bashed:
    On the one hand, there’s a lot of talk about how girls “should” play and the kinds of toys that “should” be available for girls, and on the other hand, we can honor that the little girls reported this type of play as what they desired from Lego. I’m concerned that there is a backlash against respecting “female culture”, for lack of a better word. Like cooking and going to the beach are inherently less honorable than wanting to play with or ride in machines. We’ve got this cultural thing where activities and desires that are coded male are inherently considered better than activities and desires that are coded female. Apparently the City line didn’t resonate with little girls. (It does with me. Can someone buy me the Emporium set? KTHX.)

    But specifically, like you, while I can deal with all the “girl stuff”, I hate that the new minifigs aren’t compatible with the old, boxy minifigs. I’ve got a few thousand Legos around my house from my boy, and I have no problem shelling out money for additional “girl” Legos if that means my little girl will play with them. But it sucks that this new “girl Lego” minifig ****e mimics the fashion/beauty emphasis that is aimed at girls.

    I’m not against it, necessarily. I’m a mean, nasty, fat, feminist who played with Barbies (and Legos!) until long after it would have been socially acceptable (and if you laid out a Barbie and clothes with one of those little hairbrushes on the floor, you’d have to distract me with something shinier to get me away from it), but Lego always provided a nice break from the other beauty-obsessed stuff. I can get down with the role-playing and story-telling type of play, and I typically don’t care if it’s robots or princesses as long as it isn’t desire-obsessed, but it seems that there aren’t a lot of non-beauty-aspirational choices for little girls to choose from.

    I also believe that for girls who do like more "girly" things it's not a bad thing if this makes them take interest in something like Legos whereas before they didn't hold as much or any interest.

    The discussion is here:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/12/19/its-fun-for-a-girl-or-a-boy-conspicuous-consumption-edition/
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  • DedachanDedachan Posts: 1,644Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Actually, I have to admit I do like some of the stuff on Home | Barbie Collector, but I suspect they are chiefly aimed at adults.
  • riotkittyriotkitty Posts: 1,307Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    Saria wrote: »
    I also believe that for girls who do like more "girly" things it's not a bad thing if this makes them take interest in something like Legos whereas before they didn't hold as much or any interest.

    I agree with this sentiment. I loved and still love girly things and my favorite color is pink (tied with black, go figure) and I love hair, make-up, and textile crafting. I also identify as a feminist and have a demeanor that is not stereotypically feminine.

    I don't like this idea that "girl things" are somehow less than "boy things". Its a harmful idea that says girls are less than boys, and is more harmful than making girly toys for girls. It reinforces that stupid notion that its ok for girls to like boys toys, but its wrong for boys to like girls toys.
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  • DedachanDedachan Posts: 1,644Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    I agree that feminine things shouldn't be viewed as something bad and I'm not against the fact that there are toys with greater appeal to one gender over the other. But I don't like that the notions of femininity and masculinity are codified in such an extreme way. I like what was suggested...introduce female and male characters that can coexist in a Lego story so that both girls and boys can play together instead of making boys feel repulsed by girlie things and vice versa.

    My issue with the traditional (non-collector's) Barbie isn't that it's a girl's toy, but that it makes them think there's only one standard of beauty.
  • Jenny CJenny C Posts: 1,195Registered Users
    riotkitty wrote: »
    Saria wrote: »
    I also believe that for girls who do like more "girly" things it's not a bad thing if this makes them take interest in something like Legos whereas before they didn't hold as much or any interest.

    I agree with this sentiment. I loved and still love girly things and my favorite color is pink (tied with black, go figure) and I love hair, make-up, and textile crafting. I also identify as a feminist and have a demeanor that is not stereotypically feminine.

    I don't like this idea that "girl things" are somehow less than "boy things". Its a harmful idea that says girls are less than boys, and is more harmful than making girly toys for girls. It reinforces that stupid notion that its ok for girls to like boys toys, but its wrong for boys to like girls toys.

    I agree. I hate when people brag about how when they were little they liked cars or trucks. I mean, that's fine, but it's usually said like they were somehow superior because they liked the boy toys. Trucks are not inherently better than dolls, it's just a matter of preference.

    I have two of the girliest girls out there and they wouldn't play with Legos because they consider them boy toys, which to them equals YUCK! I think they might enjoy the 'girl' Legos, even though they're the same thing as regular Legos.

    If by making them pink, it opens them up to a toy they wouldn't play with before, then I don't see what the fuss is about.
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  • DedachanDedachan Posts: 1,644Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    But that's just it. I didn't get to play with boy toys except on one or two occasions when I was playing with friends. It never occured to me that even though I enjoyed playing with those toys, it was okay to ask for mom or dad to buy me cars or race tracks, because that's not what girls do, supposedly.

    I'm not saying don't let girls play with dolls, but don't make them think a woman's identity has to be so restricted and that boys and girls are from two different planets. Let there be a nice, healthy spectrum of choices for kids rather than impose gender roles on them from such an early age.
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Yep, this ties into the discussion of the video of the little girl who was protesting that toys for girls were ponies and princesses and separate from boys' toys. The little girl is able to come up with the idea that girls might want boys' toys, but can't connect that maybe boys might like girls' toys. Thankfully her dad connects the dots for her.
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  • fraufrau Posts: 6,130Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    as a person who loved legos as a child but whose mom never bought them for her....
    as a mother who bought duplo blocks and legos for their child and whose child never really played with them....

    i love the new girly legos!!!
    i think they're great!!

    girls who like legos will play with legos no matter what the shape or color.
    girls who don't like legos may decide to play with them now.
    i bet my daughter would have played with the new girly legos.

    wait! i'll ask her! brb....(oh and thank god they included diverse looking girls!!)

    she said, "why do they have to make them like that? maybe some girls like making helicopters."

    i think it's smart of lego to approach the girl who wouldn't normally want to make lego structures.

    LEGO-Friends-3061-City-Park-Cafe.jpg

    it looks very uncomplicated though and may be slightly boring.
  • AmnerisAmneris Posts: 15,117Registered Users
    riotkitty wrote: »
    Saria wrote: »
    I also believe that for girls who do like more "girly" things it's not a bad thing if this makes them take interest in something like Legos whereas before they didn't hold as much or any interest.

    I agree with this sentiment. I loved and still love girly things and my favorite color is pink (tied with black, go figure) and I love hair, make-up, and textile crafting. I also identify as a feminist and have a demeanor that is not stereotypically feminine.

    I don't like this idea that "girl things" are somehow less than "boy things". Its a harmful idea that says girls are less than boys, and is more harmful than making girly toys for girls. It reinforces that stupid notion that its ok for girls to like boys toys, but its wrong for boys to like girls toys.

    But since when is Lego a boy toy? To my mind, it already is, and should remain, gender neutral.

    I don't think girl things are wrong or less than boy things, but I think we need to look at what we are saying girl things ARE, and the message that this is sending to girls about who they are supposed to be in life.

    Don't you think there is a correlation between poor self-esteem and body-image in girls and young women and plastic toys for girls with tiny waists, huge breasts etc. - not just in dolls but now in legos and pretty much any kind of toy there is? How is that a "girl" thing?

    Of course girls will say this is what they want when it is what has been marketed to them and pushed upon them all their lives.
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  • AmnerisAmneris Posts: 15,117Registered Users
    Jenny C wrote: »
    riotkitty wrote: »
    Saria wrote: »
    I also believe that for girls who do like more "girly" things it's not a bad thing if this makes them take interest in something like Legos whereas before they didn't hold as much or any interest.

    I agree with this sentiment. I loved and still love girly things and my favorite color is pink (tied with black, go figure) and I love hair, make-up, and textile crafting. I also identify as a feminist and have a demeanor that is not stereotypically feminine.

    I don't like this idea that "girl things" are somehow less than "boy things". Its a harmful idea that says girls are less than boys, and is more harmful than making girly toys for girls. It reinforces that stupid notion that its ok for girls to like boys toys, but its wrong for boys to like girls toys.

    I agree. I hate when people brag about how when they were little they liked cars or trucks. I mean, that's fine, but it's usually said like they were somehow superior because they liked the boy toys. Trucks are not inherently better than dolls, it's just a matter of preference.

    I have two of the girliest girls out there and they wouldn't play with Legos because they consider them boy toys, which to them equals YUCK! I think they might enjoy the 'girl' Legos, even though they're the same thing as regular Legos.

    If by making them pink, it opens them up to a toy they wouldn't play with before, then I don't see what the fuss is about.

    They're not just pink - they have purses, breasts, etc. and totally different items to build.

    I don't get this "girly girl" thing, either. I guess I was one as a kid - I loved dresses, clothes, makeup, jewellry etc. and I still do. It didn't mean I couldn't and didn't ALSO play with Legos. It kind of disturbs me that now we have this idea of "girly girls" who do absolutely nothing than play with dolls and makeup. If we translate that into the idea that male and female things are of equal value, do we think it is OK for grown women to want to do NOTHING but groom and preen? That's no more OK to me than little boys or grown men ONLY caring about guns and cars all the time.

    The things we are calling inherently female seem to be beauty-related or baby-related and the things that are inherently male seem to be action-related such as cars, weapons, construction, etc. Nothing necessarily wrong with those things in moderation (I am not fond of the weapons) but are we not sending the message that women should be decorative, passive and take all responsibility for the home while men should be risk-takers, energetic and active? This doesn't give people much choice.
    Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali


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  • AmnerisAmneris Posts: 15,117Registered Users
    frau wrote: »
    as a person who loved legos as a child but whose mom never bought them for her....
    as a mother who bought duplo blocks and legos for their child and whose child never really played with them....

    i love the new girly legos!!!
    i think they're great!!

    girls who like legos will play with legos no matter what the shape or color.
    girls who don't like legos may decide to play with them now.
    i bet my daughter would have played with the new girly legos.

    wait! i'll ask her! brb....(oh and thank god they included diverse looking girls!!)

    she said, "why do they have to make them like that? maybe some girls like making helicopters."

    i think it's smart of lego to approach the girl who wouldn't normally want to make lego structures.

    LEGO-Friends-3061-City-Park-Cafe.jpg

    it looks very uncomplicated though and may be slightly boring.

    I don't see why that is girly or supposed to appeal only to girls, though. My son just saw it and was excited and said it looks fun but "it's for little kids." So maybe it isn't complicated enough if a 4-year-old thinks that. But no reason a boy wouldn't enjoy making a cafe and engaging in imaginative play. I think that's my issue with this - that some marketer is dictating things so strictly by gender. Just make a variety of types of Lego that either gender can play with and don't call it "Lego for girls" or "Lego for boys."
    Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali


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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    It's a gender neutral toy, but some girls like pink, and princesses, and ponies. So, if they can have Legos AND ponies, what's wrong with that?
    I loved video games growing up, but that doesn't mean I also didn't love dolls and all the accessories that came with them.
    I just think that the protesting the marketing for girls often devolves into "ew, pink".
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • AmnerisAmneris Posts: 15,117Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    It's a gender neutral toy, but some girls like pink, and princesses, and ponies. So, if they can have Legos AND ponies, what's wrong with that?
    I loved video games growing up, but that doesn't mean I also didn't love dolls and all the accessories that came with them.
    I just think that the protesting the marketing for girls often devolves into "ew, pink".

    And I think it would be fine if both genders of kids played with Lego, ponies and princesses, but that's not the way it seems to work. It seems now that to keep their status as "girly girls", girls cannot touch anything unless it is pinki-fied, and boys refuse to touch anything that is pink.

    I think it was different when we were kids. I, too, liked dolls (I used to play paper dolls all the time and design clothes for them) as well as Lego, which was in bright colours and never pink, and all kinds of other things, AND was considered "girly girl" or whatever it was called then. You could do that. I don't really see that happening now. I know little girls on my son's soccer team who wouldn't play unless they came in a long string of pearls, tiara and pink tutu to every game - and then were not participating as much due to not wanting to get dirty, tiara falling off and having to pick it up, necklace getting in the way. So they can't even exercise and play a sport and be healthy without trying to make it girly-girl? Soccer is too "boyish" now to deign to wear the uniform for one hour without something pink? That's not every girl on the team, but it was more than one and I was quite shocked by it since the whole reason that the team is co-ed is to try to socialize the genders to play together and develop the same skills.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    I'm not disagreeing that marketing towards gender is the problem, just saying that the existence of "girly" Legos isn't the issue. Legos may be gender- neutral, but the figures tended to be male, save for some token ones tossed in.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Oh, and I got called a Maria machito back then because I ran around looking rather unkempt (except when my mother visited and actually did my hair) and just loved to play games like kick the can. So, I'm not sure it's any different.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • sleepymekosleepymeko Posts: 1,002Registered Users
    Eh. I'm indifferent. I probably would have played with Legos if they had some that were for girlier kids. I was very girly and I still am. I don't see what the big deal is.
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  • fraufrau Posts: 6,130Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Amneris wrote: »
    I don't see why that is girly or supposed to appeal only to girls, though. My son just saw it and was excited and said it looks fun but "it's for little kids." So maybe it isn't complicated enough if a 4-year-old thinks that. But no reason a boy wouldn't enjoy making a cafe and engaging in imaginative play. I think that's my issue with this - that some marketer is dictating things so strictly by gender. Just make a variety of types of Lego that either gender can play with and don't call it "Lego for girls" or "Lego for boys."

    amn!!! so true!!! you know what? they should've included boy figures too!! it's just clicked!! if they had included boy figures it wouldn't be about girls, but just a different style of lego. they could've made this toy for both sexes. it could've simply been an entire cute city with a fire department and school and hospital and it could've had both boys and girls playing with it. it still could've been colorful and cute.

    eta,
    nah....they have ken dolls with barbies and it doesn't make boys more apt to play with it.
    but had they started it as a unisex toy i think it may have captured the segment of child that is averse to legos.
  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,408Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    I never understood why legos were seen as boys toys. Legos were my favorite toy. If they want to market to girls, show girls playing with them or on the box? I think if girls are more likely to play with legos because they appear girlier(colors, etc) they've already been conditioned to want different things because of their gender. I didn't have many toys as a kid, but looking back, most were gender neutral except cars, trucks, racetracks and dolls. I liked them all. I never saw cars as boys toys either but I did view action figures(transformers, gi joe) as boys toys and didnt have or play with those. Oh yea I did have a tea set that I loved as well.
  • AmberBrownAmberBrown Posts: 1,072Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    It's a gender neutral toy, but some girls like pink, and princesses, and ponies. So, if they can have Legos AND ponies, what's wrong with that?
    I loved video games growing up, but that doesn't mean I also didn't love dolls and all the accessories that came with them.
    I just think that the protesting the marketing for girls often devolves into "ew, pink".

    Some boys also like pink and princesses and ponies. And more boys might like (or might admit to liking) those things if they weren't marketed as "girly". Categorizing toys as gender specific is setting kids up to fit the same socially constructed norms that we struggle against as adults. Maybe there'd be more stay at home dads if doll babies weren't marketed as "girly"--and that's just one example of the damage gender stereotyping can do to a young mind. I think people would be a lot more fulfilled if their possible interests weren't cut off from them as kids by crap like this.

    It's about leaving all options open to everyone, male or female. Not about denigrating "girlyness". What if we stop calling it "girl stuff" and just have "stuff kids might like to do"?
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    ^Notice that I said I disagree with the marketing of these toys, but that I feel the backlash against these types of things is usually misguided because it denigrates things that might be called "feminine".
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  • DedachanDedachan Posts: 1,644Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    I think the idea that you have to become more like men in order to succeed is outdated and I doubt that's what any serious feminist thinks these days. It's about allowing ourselves to do and be whatever we like. I want there to be toys for both genders, but I don't want girls to think they can only be one thing in life. As an adult, being inside a toy store makes me a bit uneasy because I can no longer ignore the messages they convey.

    For instance, I will never understand why make girls who aren't even old enough to think about boys romanticize weddings. A wedding ceremony is just one day in your life. A marriage is a different thing entirely and I doubt little girls who already dream about their future wedding gowns are the slightest bit interested in knowing what married life really entails. A marriage is also a part of a man's life just as much as a woman, but you don't see boys giving it much thought.

    The message girls are getting is that a wedding is the equivalent of a fairy tale that's come to life and that it is their happily ever after. It's the greatest accomplishment to which they can aspire.

    There are issues with toys for little boys too. They often glorify violence and warfare and I'm not convinced this is any better than the sugar-coated fairy tale girls are expected to live in. Basically girls are being told to be sweet and docile and boys are told to be agressive.

    You can pretend it's all perfectly harmless, and sure, many people who are exposed to all of that grow up to be independent women and sensitive men, but you can't pretend domestic violence, rape culture and sexism simply "happen".
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Dedachan, that's where I disagree with feminists who don't care that sexism affects men, too. Yes, I don't want to hear men having a pity party about how society expects them to be aggressive and insensitive, because let's face it, society celebrates those traits in men while putting down those same traits in women as well as putting down women for being sensitive or emotional, but that expectation for men to be aggressive and dominant encourages further oppression of women. If as a man you're taught that's what it means to be a man, then the logical conclusion is that women are to be meek and submissive.
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  • medussamedussa Posts: 12,993Registered Users
    I had to get a picture of my two oldest kids playing last night. My daughter has a pastel Lego set her dad gave her when she was 6. He thought she'd be interested in trying them out if they came in a pink box (pink is her favorite color). But I honestly think she would have shown an interest anyway. She loves playing with any Legos she can get her hands on.

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  • BekkaPooBekkaPoo Posts: 3,861Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood [Full Film] - YouTube

    Not necessarily about the gendering of kids toys, but about the beat-you-over-the-head-gimme-gimme marketing that is inflicted on children.
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  • Like.AustraliaLike.Australia Posts: 2,544Registered Users
    Sigh. While I LOVE looking at cute girly baby clothes, I have made a decision to not go crazy on the pink/ruffly/etc. That isn't my style anyway, but I don't want to limit or force cultural ideals on my baby, boy or girl. When we told my in-laws that we were expecting, some of the first comments were, "Oh, find out if it's going to be a boy or girl as soon as you can -- you NEED to paint the nursery and start getting the right clothes and toys." It made me so mad. Our babe will get the classic bright color legos - no special girl/boy sets.
  • KraytKrayt Posts: 765Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Legos were one of my favorite toys as a kid, along with Lincoln Logs.

    I still get excited to help my nieces and nephews play with their legos.


    I always just saw them as raw creativity, and those were the toys I liked the most. Ones that just sparked imagination and raw creativity to see what we could come up with.

    Now it seems that boys and girls need to have a gender identity rammed down their throats with toys.
  • pedahehpedaheh Posts: 4,812Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Toy companies take gender neutral toys (blocks, balls, bikes, legos, scooters, etc.) and make them pink to increase sales. If you have a boy and a girl, then you must buy two balls (etc.) instead of one. You "can't" pass your used pink girl ball on to your boy, so you have to buy a new blue one for him. It is a marketing ploy that ends up having more implications for society at large. (wow, that last sentence sounds pompous.:tongue3:)
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  • nynaeve77nynaeve77 Posts: 7,135Registered Users Curl Novice
    ^^unless you live at my house, in which my son's favorite sippy cup is his sister's old princess one...LOL

    My daughter and I were just discussing those Legos the other day. She's a pretty traditionally girly-girl and she thought they were kind of dumb. She just plays with regular old Legos. She didn't like that you couldn't just build what you wanted like you could with the plainer blocks. I'm not a fan of the Lego sets (like the pirate ships, etc.) in general. I'd rather my kids play with the regular blocks and see what they come up with rather than them trying to build what the Lego people think they should, at least at the age my children are at now. I'll give them a puzzle to build problem-solving skills; blocks, to me, should be more about creativity.
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