Skepticism

Girls Play vs. Physical Play at Legoland

Thanks to Elyse for tweeting this jaw-dropping link to Chicago’s Legoland, where the boys get to wear hard hats and engage in “physical play” and the girls get bombarded with pinkness and terrifying pixelated renditions of creatures that bear passing resemblance to cute fluffy things here in the meat world. Look on in awe:

PHYSICAL PLAY

vs.

Girls Play

WTF? All the boys seem to be enjoying Action! And Excitement! While the girls accidentally ate the “special brownies” and have spaced out, entering a dreamy pink world of fairies and pixel-bunnies. Are the girls at all encouraged to join in on the “physical play?” Where do the boys who don’t like “physical play” go to build stuff? Home, I guess.

I absolutely loved playing with LEGOs with my older brothers. We built castles and pirate ships and houses and starships and anything else we thought up. They were the absolute best toy out there for creativity and a lack of bias toward one gender or another, and I didn’t need them to be presented to me in eye-searing pink in order to enjoy them.

I guess ultimately it’s not a huge deal—just another example of lazy “girl” marketing, where if you want your product to appeal to a female of any age you just dye it pink and add a princess. I hope the parents and the little girls aren’t fooled into thinking they’re not allowed to be just as adventurous as the boys.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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75 Comments

  1. I actually don’t know if I even want to take my son there at all… and I’ve been dreaming of the day he’s old enough to play with Legos (without eating them)… just like I did as a kid.

    Neither my sister nor I owned a single pink Lego. Probably a good thing since I’d never sleep if I knew that bunny thing was somewhere in my house.

  2. Ugh. And I’ve been so excited about the new Lego store opening just down the road from me. If there’s any of this crap there, we won’t be going as often as I intended.

  3. right on, rebecca. i hate it when toy companies try to push ideas of appropriate play onto kids. as i think the responses to my last ai show, kids have endless abilities to come up with play scenarios based on absolutely anything.
    i think a major paradigm shift in marketing is way overdue. the people that create kids’ advertising seem to be stuck in the 1950s, and are afraid to lose market share by trying a different approach. obviously i’m not in advertising, so i don’t know all the ins and outs, but it just seems so incredibly far from reality.

  4. “just another example of lazy “girl” marketing, where if you want your product to appeal to a female of any age you just dye it pink and add a princes”

    This has all the makings of a Photoshop contest. I’m thinking monster trucks, football, UFC…

  5. This makes me sad :( It’s so unfortunate that they play into the ‘gender role stereotypes’ (which is a phrase I hate, but is totally applicable here). It’s things like this that keep girls from being interested in math and science. As a biologist who happens to be a woman, this is the kind of thing that really pisses me off! Although if it was me and I had a daughter, I’d probably take her in to wear a hard-hat and play with the ‘boy legos,’ but I’d also grit my teeth and slap on a smile if she’d rather play with the ‘girl legos.’ (And vice versa if I had a boy.)

  6. I hate it how the default of a toy is assumed to be the boy version. The company just assumes that Lego is already for boys, and so they need to make a special, weird version just for girls. It never occurred to them that the default could be the feminine version, and they need to make some special version for boys that comes only in shades of blue and green.

  7. If it is any consolation, judging from the photos it appears that the pink castle the girls are building is much more structurally and aesthetically sound than the primary colored Jenga tower the boys are working on.

  8. @andyinsdca: well, i think we’re probably less likely to buy into something just because we’re “supposed to”. i like to think of myself as a fairly well rounded individual: i currently do construction work for a living, and also happily wear dresses and paint my nails (though it always gets screwed up as soon as i go to work :( )

  9. @ansuzmannaz:

    It’s like they’re teaching the boys to overcompensate for something…

    That’s what the hardhats are for – not the falling plastic bricks but the fighting that eventually breaks out over who has the biggest “tower.”

  10. Ahem…

    IS THE LEGO COMPANY OUT OF THEIR COLLECTIVE MINDS?!?

    Sorry,…

    I’m fine with them coming out with castles and gardens for pretend houses. I wanted to build my own castles when I was a kid. I’m fine with pink colored Legos. It woulda been cool to make pink elephants and dragons when I was a kid. (Don’t judge me.) However, that much pink makes my brain itch!

    Also, if they think that any kid of either gender is going to cuddle up to a hard-edged, plastic version of “Thumper”, they’ve really gone over the deep end!

  11. @andyinsdca: I’d be wiling to bet we are. At least on average. Because we don’t tend to fall for traditional gender roles, even if it’s just … liking science and math. Not that I like math (science, I do), but you know.

    I also like cheesy action flicks. Love me some Bruce Willis. And my two sisters and I drove real go-carts in the desert instead of playing with dolls.

    I clearly should have been born with a penis.

  12. @carr2d2: Yeah, exactly. I’d say it’s a case of us just being generally more well-rounded and interested in things *regardless* of what gender they are “supposed” to be for, because I’m sure there are plenty of “girly-girl” Skeptics who aslso *gasp* like math and building things!

  13. @andyinsdca:

    Well, I only have a sample size of 2, but my mom baby-sits her neighbor’s twin girls. They are strongly Catholic and go to Catholic school, but they absolutely love it when I am visiting my mom because I let them play with my (non-pink) Legos. They usually build neutral things like trees, food, and cars.

  14. Obviously the blindingly pink “Girls Play” is supposed to be for girls, but I don’t see anything about “Physical Play” being only for boys. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it looks to me like some of the hard hat wearing players might be girls.

    Is there any reason to think the “Physical Play” is only for boys? (Other than the fact that “Girls Play” exists I mean.)

  15. @marilove:

    No, their parents don’t really force things onto them any more than average parents. They play soccer an basketball, and also have some dolls. They are expected to do well in school and have good careers. The reason my mom baby-sits them is because both of their parents have careers. I’m sure there is some gendering influence from their parents, just like every parent does, but it’s no worse than what I had.

  16. I only have girls, and they are all way more into legos than I ever was. One of them is in a phase of everything must be pink and princessy, but her almost twin could not possibly care less.

  17. @thethyme: “you need to provide them alternatives and ideas on how they can market the product towards girls and boys alike and seperately.”

    Well, for starters, no, I don’t. That’s the job of their internal marketing departments and ad agencies.

    Secondly, that’s really the crux of the problem: assuming that girls need “special” marketing. There are a lot of differences between males and females, but so often companies get caught up in attempting to exploit those differences and end up trying to sell their product to sexual stereotypes instead of just selling it to PEOPLE.

  18. Finally! People are beginning to see the dangers of Legos. I used to build a lot of Lego castles and houses and then dissatisfied with my feng shui I would just pick up a wall and move it!

    Without consideration of price or zoning laws.

    And now, like a typical woman brainwashed by Legos, I own a sledgehammer and several crow bars and owe the bank a lot of money.
    Dangerous. So dangerous.

  19. Thing is, I don’t see any reference to specifically boys in the “soft play” zone. It’s an unfortunate picture, in that there’s no girls running around smashing up the tower (at that age, I would have, and incurred the wrath of boys who’d spent ages building it), but it just seems to be the place for those kids who are bored and want to do something fun.

    That “girl’s corner” is awful, though. Eye-blinding shades of pink and the impression that girls are these magical creatures who’ll all sit down and construct an elaborate pink house in perfect harmony.

    Then again, maybe the only girls who actually stay in the “girl’s corner” are the ones who do quietly sit down and play nicely with pink things… because they’ve been taught t do so.

  20. @Elyse: Exactly! That’s what kids do! They build things! My sisters and female cousins always loved playing with the Legos sets me and my brother had.

    We never built a castle though. My brother and I built a scale model of an oil tanker once out of a number of Lego sets. Why? We wanted to see if we could. It didn’t float too well.

    Making it a pink castle just sells the “princess” fantasy. As a young boy, you couldn’t get me to play with something that pink. (Any pictures found of me showing otherwise, are purely shopped.)

  21. Am I the only one who noticed that the girls seem to be playing with the normal sized legos and the boys have the super-sized-so-they-can’t-be-swallowed variety?

    While the larger size does make it easier to build something like a full size trebuchet (not that I have ever thought of doing that….), the smaller blocks are better for actually creating something, you know, creative.

  22. My oldest (now 13) is a girl, and her brother is 10. We tried to keep everything neutral with the oldest as long as we could, but eventually between childcare providers and presumably well-intentioned relatives (read: my mom who reallyreallyreally wanted a girly granddaughter), a lot of “girl” toys made it into the house. As the boy got a little older, all of the toys tended to just get piled together, and they both played with whatever they wanted, and it seemed to work out OK.

    There’s so much gender-role inertia out there that it’s hard to completely avoid, but the more we can convey to our kids that those roles aren’t cast in stone, the better prepared they’ll be to step out of them.

  23. I don’t think it is only a marketing issue. People in general promote this type of things…

    One christmas, a few years ago, gifts for my children from the family were something like this:
    – boy: remote control cars, bike, skates, balls, action figures, …..
    – girl: doll, doll, doll, doll, doll with bathtub, doll, …

    My wife and I banned dolls as gifts after that.

  24. Well, okay, Pinkville is pretty darn disgusting. I have no argument with that. And I certainly agree that often the marketing to boys is much more, what, valid? realistic? than the marketing to girls.

    Nonetheless, there sure is a Noachic flood of automatic assumptions pouring through this thread. So, like I sometimes do, I want to play devil’s advocate:

    1. Considerng that all major corporations spend millions of dollars annually on such things as market and demographic research, is it safe to assume that their research into those areas does not support the goofball results?

    2. Can anyone see if any of the hardhat wearers are girls? They certainly could be. I can’t tell. Can you?

    3. Where and what is the context?

    4. Are only boys allowed in Realville, and only girls allowed in Pinkville?

    And so on.

    It seems to me that these are just some of the questions that need to be answered before we all fly off the handle and scream, “Debbil’s got ’em! Debbil’s got ’em!”

  25. @hernicola:

    Christmas is the worst. 2 years ago, I had 2 new nieces (both of my brothers became fathers), and I wanted to get a special gift, like an personalized ornament. All of the baby ornaments available were either pale blue or pale pink. I could not find a single Christmas-colored ornament for babies. I wanted to give them ornaments that were red and green, so I ended up getting some that weren’t specifically designed for babies. It’s a little ridiculous when boy and girl infants can’t even get a simple Christmas-themed ornament, and it has to be all about their genitals.

    @eulalumel:

    Then again, maybe the only girls who actually stay in the “girl’s corner” are the ones who do quietly sit down and play nicely with pink things… because they’ve been taught t do so.

    It has been my experience that Legos will calm down any child, male or female. They just get so involved that nothing else matters to them. Giving Legos to your kid is like giving a gift to yourself. The twins that my mom baby-sits never play quietly and they bicker with each other constantly. But as soon as I let them play with my Legos, they calmed down for the first time ever. It’s the only time I have ever seen them in the same room without fighting with each other. They even managed to share without being asked.

  26. @revmatty: “Almost Twin”? Born in the same year but at least nine months apart (also called “Irish twins”), or born in different years, but still really close (like me and my older sister)?

    Just curious to see other people use the term.

  27. @SicPreFix:

    And I certainly agree that often the marketing to boys is much more, what, valid? realistic? than the marketing to girls.

    The thing is, there isn’t a special effort to market Lego to boys. The assumption is that the default is already intended for boys.

    1. Considerng that all major corporations spend millions of dollars annually on such things as market and demographic research, is it safe to assume that their research into those areas does not support the goofball results?

    I have no doubt that their marketing is successful, but it’s not necessarily because girls are all out looking for pink things. It’s because they’ve found a new way to market an existing product, and they convince girls that they should like this stuff, because other girls are playing with it. A huge part of this is laziness, and we see it all the time. Instead of making a new product, they just slap some pink dye on a neutral product and make girls think they need the special kind.

  28. @SicPreFix: I wonder if Lego actually did the market research. There is at least some (fairly strong) anecdotal evidence on this thread that a lot of girls enjoy the “regular” Legos as much as boys. If that is the case, wouldn’t it be much more cost effective to market to both sexes than retool an entire factory line to make uber-pink Legos? Lego is such a recognizable, word-of-mouth brand that all it would take to market to boys and girls would be to put more girls in their commercials and put a girl on the front of every other box.

    My guess is that their corporate culture keeps the paleolithic marketing strategies alive. Going with the ‘tried-and-true’ tactics of the 50’s is way less risky than more innovative unisex marketing.

  29. @Elyse: Which reminds me of how the skeletal ‘cat’ I built out of K’nex unnerved my mom when I was a kid (we had a dog, but couldn’t have a cat because she didn’t like them).

    I loved the hell out of Legos when I was a kid. Actually, I still love the hell out of them. There are 50lbs of them boxed up at my parent’s house that I’m always tempted to pick up and bring home with me when I’m visiting. My mom still has several of the contraptions I built gracing the top of her piano (including the ~2,000 piece sports car with working 5-speed transmission I built from a kit).

    K’nex were second only to Legos, mostly because my brother and I would build cars/trucks out of them, then fling them down the hall at each other and crash them until they fell apart (Legos scattered too badly to do that effectively with!).

    I always wanted an Erector Set, but my parents (rightfully) believed I’d lose all the nuts and bolts and the dog would end up ingesting half of them (she passed more than one Lego in her day…)….

  30. I hate the pink/blue thing. For Halloween, my then 4 year old son wanted to be a PINK power ranger. I let him. You would not believe the comments I got. *rolleyes* I’m proud my little man told everyone pink is just a color and anyone can like it.

  31. @marilove: Assumed by who though? It seems that the only place where the “Physical play = boys only” assumption is being made is right here. The existence of a Girls play area does not mean another area is boys only. Is there any actual evidence that girls are not allowed in the physical play area? There does not seem to be anything that indicates that is the case, aside from people’s assumptions here. If girls were being excluded from the physical play area, I could see everyone’s point, but I see no evidence that this is the case.

    If anything, the only problem I see is that boys are excluded from the pink legos by virtue of the fact that it’s called “Girl’s play.” Ideally, no area should exclude anyone, although I can’t imagine they had a whole lot of success trying to market pink legos to boys.

  32. Marketers don’t care what you or I think of their strategies. They care whether or not the strategies work.
    Legos marketed neutrally appeal to both boys and girls.
    The uninterested girls will be perceived as an untapped market needing either a differing product, a differing strategy, or both.
    The uninterested boys will be perceived that way too.
    A separate strategy will only be created for them if their demographic is large enough and homogenous enough for the marketer to believe the investment worthwhile.
    Obviously, in this case, Lego perceives the demographic of ‘girls not ordinarily interested in Legos’ to be large enough and homogenous enough to go after with a separate strategy.
    Since there isn’t at this time a separate strategy for ‘boys not ordinarily interested in Legos’ at this time, we can conclude that Lego does not, at this time, perceive it as a profitable demographic to go after with this product.

    BTW, and FWIW, ‘Sex sells’ is an epithet that most of us are familiar with; but, almost as ubiquitous for marketers, ‘obnoxious sells’.

    PS. My sisters, brothers, and I would have done something Unspeakably Awful (and fun and creative) to that pink abomination had we been left alone with it – well, maybe not my oldest sister – she would have stood back and pretended to be horrified.

    PPS. If you are into kink, dying it pink and adding a princess can spice up your sex life.

  33. I still remember my all-time favorite toy as a kid. We had a set of plain, unpainted, big wooden blocks. I played with them for HOURS a day. My biggest unfulfilled toy wish was for an erector set. Funny, not a single one of those blocks was pink.

    My husband said that he also loved blocks as a kid. I’m looking forward to finding castles, bridges & skyscrapers popping up in our living room when we have kids (whether they’re boys or girls!)

    TigerKitty – I also find the pink/blue thing funny because it used to be the other way around! Pink was a boy’s color (because it’s a derivation of red) while blue was a little girl’s color (just look at old Disney princesses – they almost all wore light blue dresses).

  34. @Catch22:

    Assumed by who though? It seems that the only place where the “Physical play = boys only” assumption is being made is right here.

    Tell me. Why would they need to make a completely seperate line for GIRLS, then?

  35. @Elyse: “I’ve been dreaming of the day he’s old enough to play with Legos”

    You’ll regret that dream the first time you step on a stray piece barefooted.

    On the positive side, Moose will add some expressive new words to his vocabulary when this happens.

    Seriously, I’d rather have the Viet Cong hide punji sticks under the carpet.

  36. @marilove: See Skepotter’s post at #51 (at least the first paragraph or two.)

    In short, it’s because “girls that wouldn’t normally play with legos” is a big enough demographic they felt they could reach with “girly” legos. Believe it or not, there are actually girls out there that like the girly pink pretty pretty princess stuff. (See Pinkbunny’s post at #54)

    My point was, and is, that the existence of the pink stuff simply does not mean the physical stuff is boys only.

  37. That it’s identified specifically as “Girl’s Play” gets under my skin a little. I’d assume all areas are open to all children, but the social pressure that creates is going to push girls to be in the girl’s play area instead of being un-girly and playing with the boys, and keep the boys out better than Cerberus on meth. It’s not even indirect, showing how you can make fanciful things out of Legos, it’s firm “REAL girls go here” sort of marketing. Pink legos, fine, but let people sort out who wants to buy them on their own.

    On an unrelated note, I find it aesthetically unappealing. That looks like someone threw up too much cotton candy, and that rabbit needs glowing red eyes and exposed circuitry to make it look more friendly and natural.

    And I loved toys I could build with, like Legos and K’nex. I still love physics based games, too, like Fantastic Contraptions.

  38. A woman at Feministe did an article on exactly this thing a few months ago…at least, I think it was Feministe, I can’t find the bloody post….

    Anywho, she had apparently worked for Lego when they came out with this abomination of a marketing campaign, and was discussing it as a segway into the massive FAIL that is childhood toy research. The standard research, is to sit the kids in a room with a bunch of new toys, and see which ones they pick up first, play with longest, etc. The findings were that when a researcher was in the room, the boys and girls went straight to gender acceptable toys (boys to trucks and guns, girls to dolls, etc.), and played with them longest. If the research was not in the room, the gender compartmentalization disappeared. Even kids that went straight to the “right” toys would investigate the “wrong” ones if the researchers left.

    It pretty much confirmed what anyone who has seen a child play before knows – they’ll play with anything around. The differences in play preference within the genders is far, far larger than between the genders.

    Accepting this kind of marketing is damaging not just to girls, but to boys as well. And it doesn’t matter whether the girls are allowed in the Physical Play zone, because the opposition has still been set up. The idea that some play is specially for girls and excludes boys. We all know that any boy who set foot in the pink room would be discouraged, to prevent him being contaminated by teh gay – because some types of things are for girls, and those types of things are inferior for boys.

    Girls are commonly allowed to play with boy things, but it’s usually treated as a sign of that girl’s superiority for revoking her inferior gender role. I don’t know if I’m being clear… I know a lot of girls who brag about how they prefer male-associated activities, and rain contempt down on girly-girls. I know it in myself too: I loved my cabbage patch kids and dolls, but I loved my legos and dissecting kit as well. Once I realized that playing with the dolls made me a lesser human being in the eyes of adults, I stopped playing with them. I knew I wanted to be a scientist (and a farmer, and a whale trainer at Sea World…), and I knew that I couldn’t be a weak female to do that, and that dolls were a sign of my weak femininity.

    Notice also, that the “Action” section has bins of blocks, and the children can build anything they want with them, whereas the girls-only section has a limited number of choices, with special blocks that can only make pre-approved things. I’d also be willing to wager that, like many of the lego kits, those castles have a lot of stuff that is pre-assembled, and there is virtually no room for customization or imagination.

    If they just created one big room with the castles and fairy garden sets in with all the other “neutral” lego that would be completely fine. Some girls would pick it, and they wouldn’t have to be othered to do so. But I guess the bigger fear is that without making it explicitly for girls, some boys would pick the castles too, and then ducks would mate with goats and what have you.

  39. My husband has about 100,000 Legos. (Yeah, I know. You’re jealous.) But our friend’s five year old daughter will play with none of them. She prefers pink and princesses. I know it’s not her parents’ doing. She’s just like that. The marketing of the pink Legos to girls always bothers my husband, too. He kinda wishes more girls liked Legos.

    Anyway, the question I have whenever this subject comes up is why are the boy qualities of rough and tumble and building and hard hats valued over the pink and frilly stuff? I get it–one is more functional and the other is all about superficiality. But superficiality is fun, too.

    Maybe the girls’ corner is the funnest place to play with Legos, and the boys should all ditch the hard hats and come over there.

  40. catgirl // Jun 17, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I hate it how the default of a toy is assumed to be the boy version. The company just assumes that Lego is already for boys, and so they need to make a special, weird version just for girls.

    Companies simply can’t win – if they don’t “reach out” to girls, they are accused of bias. If they do, they are accused of bias. Sure, they don’t need to label it so crassly, but everyone knows what happens if they don’t have a special girls area.

  41. Girls are told that they should be pretty little princesses, but no one shows them what comes after the whole “happily ever after” deal… until now.

    Check out this photo project:

    “I began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.”

    http://www.jpgmag.com/stories/11918

  42. Maybe the girls in the “girlie-pink” are the kind who prefer to play without boys around. You know, sort of like a women’s only gym. Maybe this is Lego’s way of reaching out to those girls who would otherwise not like playing with Legos. Or boys.

    When I was a kid, the neighbour girl across the street had a whole bunch of “my little ponies”, including a castle and whatnot. And whenever my sisters and I went over there to play, I was not allowed to play with them. I had to find something to play with on my own, or do what any kid does in that situation, and harass the hell out of them out of spite.

    It’s not that I disliked little pink rubbery horses whose primary purpose seemed to be to comb their rainbow-coloured hair (WTF?). It’s that I disliked being excluded.

    Like that women’s only gym …

  43. i didn’t read all the comments but i think i agree with @exarch. on the web site they label it “Physical Play” and “Girls PLay”. there is not mention of boys play and when i look at the picture there are at least a few of the kids in coats and hard hats that you don’t get a good enough look at them to be able to tell if they are boys or girls. though i think that if they had put a bit more thought into it legoland could have come up with a better title than girls play and designed it to include the boys who don’t like the physical play area.

    then again maybe Elyse is right to assume they intended it to be boys area and girls area, but they were simply afriad to pick a title that excludes girls because of the negative “press” it would unleash, but were more than happy to and felt it is totally o.k. to make an area that excluded boys because you aren’t allowed to excluded girls from anything, but it’s o.k. to exclude boys from some things.

    maybe they should make three areas; “Physical Play”, “Not So Physical Play”, and “Serene Play” so as to include more personality types.

  44. @carr2d2: Thanks! At least one person read through my long-ass post ;-)

    @exarch: I think girls frequently don’t like playing with boys around because boys wreck their toys ;-)
    The women’s only gym is a different story on the women-feeling-intimidated-by-constant-objectification-and-derision-for-being-weak front. That said, I totally think men’s only gyms would be popular too, because I’m sure (hetero) men are just as intimidated by female gym rats (there is a men’s only gym in my hometown, does a good business).

    @Frankiemouse:

    maybe they should make three areas; “Physical Play”, “Not So Physical Play”, and “Serene Play” so as to include more personality types.

    That’s a great idea, actually.

    then again maybe Elyse is right to assume they intended it to be boys area and girls area, but they were simply afriad to pick a title that excludes girls because of the negative “press” it would unleash, but were more than happy to and felt it is totally o.k. to make an area that excluded boys because you aren’t allowed to excluded girls from anything, but it’s o.k. to exclude boys from some things

    which goes back to my long-ass post- it is no longer okay to exclude girls from things (at least, not explicitly) because boy things are superior things, and girls gain status by doing them whereas boys are still excluded from girls things because girl things are inferior, and boys lose status by doing them . Parents may encourage a girl to be a ‘tomboy’, but they won’t encourage a boy to be a ‘sissy’. Rather than making traditional girl things and traditional boy things evenly valued, we’ve simply allowed girls to move from the devalued box into the value box. This is a little thing that feminists like to call “Patriarchy hurts men too”.

    Also, I can’t stop thinking about this Sarah Haskins essay , because it’s so true.

  45. @SaraDee: i was only being slightly facetious. oh and i did go back to “read through my long-ass post”

    maybe they should have built one main room with individual side rooms where you can take some of the blocks if you want to do something other than what is going on in the main room. you could go by yourself, or with friends, or with people you just met to build what you wanted. that way maybe it would sort itself out a bit. which i think what you said at the end of your LAP.

    anyway i think it could have and should have been designed and marketed much better than it appears to have been.

    i never saw it as boy things being considered superior, but then i’m a “boy” and was doing the “boy” things, except i did have an easy bake oven. it was great fun. at least until i graduated to the full sized kitchen when i was 8.

  46. As the mother of two female children I consider myself and expert on this topic. Some girls do want to play with the pink stuff. No matter how you redirect them, keep them isolated from marketing, they will stil prefer the pink stuff. And that is OKAY! Why do people think that if it is girly it is inferior? This goes right along with thinking anything feminine is inferior. To be considered equal women must behave like men. One of my daughters hates princesses, pink and baby dolls. The other loves them. I raised them the same. They are individuals and there is nothing wrong with being feminine unless you think it is somehow less valuable. Stop bashing feminity! It is not weak, or shameful or discouraging girls to become scientists. I am a scientist and I loved the pink stuff.

  47. @exarch:
    Your My Little Pony exclusion as a child is so sad…
    I was not a girly-girl, I was a country girl who violently resisted dresses and liked to get dirty. Yet, I loved My Little Pony (yes, especially brushing and braiding their hair. Thanks to MLP, I have great braiding skills. And my ponies were never as dirty as I was: I bathed them more than I bathed me).
    One of my favorite childhood memories is when my step-brother would visit and bring his GI Joe toys. We would round up the ponies and soldiers and they would unite to fight the evil invaders, with a royal ball afterwords to celebrate. GI Joe was pretty good at sitting on My Little Pony’s pretty pastel back. And we used Legos for buildings and transportation, of course!
    I didn’t realize then how incredibly lucky I was that my step-bro was not intimidated by the social pressures forbidding boys from playing with “girly” toys. It’s so sad that kids have to deal with that crap, especially boys (speaking as a feminist mother of an 11 year old boy, it SUCKS that girls can pretty much play with any toy, but boys can only play with “boy’s” toys. I’m glad that girls can do that, I wish that boys could). It’s so much more fun and enriching for anyone to be able to play with any toy in any way that appeals to them.

    Anyway, I miss those cute little ponies. They made girly tattoos socially acceptable, you know. If it’s ok for MLP to get a flower tattoo on her rear, it’s ok for anyone!

  48. @SaraDee: “it is no longer okay to exclude girls from things (at least, not explicitly) because boy things are superior things, and girls gain status by doing them whereas boys are still excluded from girls things because girl things are inferior, and boys lose status by doing them”

    Very well said, I couldn’t have said it half that clearly.

    “Rather than making traditional girl things and traditional boy things evenly valued, we’ve simply allowed girls to move from the devalued box into the value box. This is a little thing that feminists like to call “Patriarchy hurts men too””

    Thanks for reminding me, I have some knitting I need to finish.

  49. Merkuto: that rabbit needs glowing red eyes and exposed circuitry to make it look more friendly and natural.

    Zing! COTW?

    SaraDee: Amen, and I think your analysis is spot-on. “… and then ducks would mate with goats and what have you.” ain’t a bad zinger, either… Yeah, there are a bunch reasons they might want to a separate area “for the girls”, but most of them actually trace back to the power/status dynamic you describe. And none of them excuse opposing “Girls Play” to “Physical Play”.

  50. @catgirl:

    It’s a little ridiculous when boy and girl infants can’t even get a simple Christmas-themed ornament, and it has to be all about their genitals.

    Would you mind telling me where you went shopping? I’ve been looking for strings of Christmas lights shaped like babies’ penises for years and not found any.

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