by Michele Yulo
As so many of you know, there has been a massive movement to help Lego see how their attempt to reach 50% of their market (girls) by developing the now familiar Lego Friends line has possibly ...probably...definitely missed the bullseye.
Spark (Sexualization, Protest, Action, Resistance, Knowledge), the amazing activist group and watchdog for girls, now has 51,000 signatures on a petition that they started in order to send the message to Lego that there are many, many people who are dissatisfied with the gender status quo that Lego Friends represents. 51,000 SIGNATURES! That just seems like too many to ignore, doesn't it? As has been pointed out, this number is well beyond the amount of signatures that precipitated the pulling of JC Penney tee (within two hours of the petition going up) that said "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother does it for me"), as well as the "Allergic to Algebra" Forever 21 tee.
Spark, along with other contributors, has sent letters and requests to meet with Lego to discuss these issues. Specifically, "SPARK is asking LEGO to move forward in its gender representation instead of backward. By including more equitable gender representation across its line of products, instead of aiming marketing campaigns only at boys or only at girls, LEGO can increase the number of kids playing with its products, reduce the likelihood of gender-based bullying and inspire more girls to pursue STEM fields." [my italics] Gee, wouldn't that be great? Doesn't this seem like a win-win proposal? However, to date, Lego has not responded.
Everyone is now left asking, why are they engaging in avoidance? Why does Lego refuse to meet with those who actually believe in and purchase their product? What is the issue? Posing these questions, I thought I'd go deep and think about some of the possible reasons why Lego has not agreed to a meeting:
1) They simply hope that by ignoring all of us, the whole thing will go away (the old "stick your head in the sand" ploy).
2) They are self-centered and narcissistic and believe they are right, no matter the cost.
3) They think that 51,000 is a teeny tiny number.
4) They believe their sales are just fine and don't care about about whether they see an increase or not.
5) They think any publicity is good publicity.
6) Crisis management is not their thing.
7) They don't want to admit that four years of "research" may not really have told them what they needed to know about girls and they do not want to go back to the drawing board.
If you couldn't tell, I believe number seven (7) may be a large part of the reason. But I have some good news for Lego--the drawing board is not that complicated at this point, and will not require another four years of intense research because the research has been done for them. I repeat--fifty-one thousand signatures! In addition, there have been hundreds of articles in syndicated newspapers, blogs and tons of media attention in general. Too much work and thought has gone into this movement for Lego to ignore what's happening and there is too much at stake.
If Lego is savvy (and I know they are), they will look at this as an opportunity to GAIN sales. To tell the world that they recognize that girls should naturally be a part of their ENTIRE marketing strategy along with boys. Of course, they should keep the Lego Friends line, but not make it the center piece of their "get girls interested in Lego" plan. Some girls will like it. I know that some boys will like it. It should simply not be the only path for girls to choose.
I started Princess Free Zone because of my own daughter who did not fit into the specific gender box everyone wanted to put her in. I wrote a book that addresses bullying based on gender stereotypes. Lego needs to know that, while their initial intentions may have been pure and innocent--hoping to do the best for girls--they have simply added to the already numerous mixed messages kids absorb about gender by promoting existing stereotypes. Sadly, even Lise Eliot, author of "Pink Brain, Blue Brain," in the intial article from Business Week that introduced the new product for girls, said, “If it takes color-coding or ponies and hairdressers to get girls playing with Lego, I’ll put up with it, at least for now, because it’s just so good for little girls’ brains.”
Perhaps this is the most frustrating thing of all--that girls are being underestimated and consistently thrown into the pink box. There is so much more to girls, but we need to show them that we believe that. Let's give them equal opportunities--to build, create, and imagine. This is the crux of the issue that must be addressed--and must be changed. So the message to Lego is a postive one: You CAN do this! Rest assured, we are not going away until you do.
Voila! A meeting has been scheduled. Will keep you up-to-date on future happenings.