When first launched the Lego friends range in January 2012 it attracted a vocal backlash.
But with Lego experiencing a 25% surge in global sales this year, the friends range placing fourth in Lego range sales and Lego have struggled to match supply with demand despite doubling production. It seems that there are ample consumers that don’t have a problem with gender specific toy marketing.
For our family it’s important to provide options for our children, regardless of whether they are considered gender specific or neutral. Miss P played with dolls but also loved Thomas the Tank Engine as a toddler, Tarrant had his own Bratz* doll along with about a million hot wheels, I know there was a million of those because I stood on each and every one of those surprisingly sharp cars. Eve has a range of toys, we try to stick to cloth, timber and unbranded but make an exception for Lego (Duplo range) because of its imaginative and developmental benefits.
Our take on taking on gender restrictions is not the extremely difficult path of having exclusively gender neutral toys. Truly neutral toys, beside being a relatively limited pool to select from, I feel foster a false reality for our children. Gender lines are out there and drawn clearly in pink and blue, if we only present our children with gender neutral values how do they learn to think critically and navigate or better yet cross societal lines when we aren’t there to guide them?
Instead we provide toys from all areas and in all colours, I’ll admit I try to limit pink but that’s because I find most pink garish. Eve at the moment loves balls and cars but also likes to nurture her dolls. I’m sure her interests will develop and change but in the meantime we are trying develop a strong sense of what she likes and why it doesn’t matter if that something is considered to be for boys or girls. I feel that there is a limited time to teach Eve that these labels are not important, what is important is whether she enjoys play. I say that it is limited as I have experienced first hand the rough transition that kindergarten and primary school can provide when the opinions of others become incredibly influential. We’ve navigated it twice before with others trying to impress conformity on Miss P and Tarrant at many turns, thankfully I have strong willed children who only occasionally flail and give in to the boundaries of others and that experience is valuable too.
But back to the outcry vs sales figures for the Lego friends, what exactly does it say about the outcry, is it a battle that people are truly invested in? It may not be if sales figures are anything to go by. Did the outcry garner the product a higher level of publicity and did that additional visibility then boost sales of a range that may otherwise have passed largely unnoticed (as most of the previous Lego ranges aimed at girls have)? Does it even matter as long as we are all free to raise our children with our own individual values while teaching them to respect the choices of others? The market says there is a place for specialised Lego ranges for girls and even ninjas, does that influence what you buy for your children?
*Yes my kids played with those big headed dolls until the day that the hemlines rose so high you couldn’t tell if the doll was wearing a dress or missing its pants.