I hold my memories of working at Gray Elementary School very close to my heart. It was (and still is) a fabulous Chicago Public School, with passionate and innovative teachers and supportive and forward-thinking administrators. While the learning happening inside the school was quite progressive, the school structure itself dated back to 1911. Remodeling and updating took place over the years, but certain elements of the original facade were preserved – namely, the separate boys’ and girls’ entrances.
Set on opposite ends of the building with words etched in stone above, these doors had long since brought boys and girls into school separately. And the sight of this historical signage never elicited any type of negative feelings from me. In fact, I appreciated the history it represented. If anything, it was a reminder of how far we’ve come (in education and as a culture), and an incentive for continuing to push for change and improvement. Separate entrances for boys and girls – a thing of the past, ancient history, olden times, distant memories…. It’s 2012 now for goodness sakes. It’s a time of inclusion, progressive thinking, and ingenuity.
What is going on?!
Heartlake City in shades of pink and purple with nary a boy/man in sight – where is the inclusion? Gender stereotyped sets that sacrificed the brain stimulating aspect of construction in order to get to the role-playing faster – where is the progressive thinking, the ingenuity? The real shame is that in Lego’s attempt to bring girls back to their product (a loss that could have been avoided if they hadn’t alienated them in the first place); they’ve bought into the assumption that girls and boys don’t like to play legos the same way. Therefore, girls must be provided with frilly incentives. I ask you, Lego, why not go back to the good old ‘80s when Legos were “for girls AND boys.” Doesn’t every kid like to build stuff?
Many people are upset with the stereotypes elicited by this new line, and rightfully so. Additionally, people feel disappointed by the degree to which Lego is short-changing our girls, and are also left wondering why such stark blue and pink lines have been drawn down the toy aisles. These are all extremely valid and important concerns, and still I believe there is even more to it. In creating the Friends line for girls, Lego has missed an amazing opportunity for bringing boys and girls TOGETHER. If children are given more chances to establish some common ground, and work and play with one another, they will be more inclined to engage more often – learning from and about each other along the way. But instead of creating opportunities for kids to connect, engage, and collaborate, Lego put a product on the market that narrows kids minds about play partners by perpetuating caricature-like stereotypes and communicating the message that boys and girls should not be playing together.
Our kids already spend a disproportionate amount of time in single-gender peer groups, where they work on their communication and problem solving skills in isolation of one another and socialize each other in different ways. The messages and images polarizing our girls and boys contribute tremendously to the notion that they grow-up in “two separate worlds.” So after spending so much time apart during their formative years, what happens when our boys and girls need to/have to/want to come together – in school, the workplace, at home, and in relationships? The year is 2012 and boys and girls enter the building through the same door. The world is coed. It’s time to do more to help bring our kids together.
Other posts and articles on the Lego debate:
Does Stripping Gender From Toys Really Make a Difference by Peggy Orenstein – New York Times