Legitimatizing Gender Bias?

40 years ago, LEGO issued a statement that reads, in part “a lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses. The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.” And though there have been company controversies since, they created a toy where gender “differences” didn’t really matter.

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In 2014, shouldn’t we be more culturally accepting of this fledgling concept of LEGO? Gender-neutral toys though, have become harder to find, not easier. As recently of April of this year, fast-food behemoth McDonalds still asked “do you want a boy toy or a girl toy with your happy meal?” Retailers like Walmart, Target, Toys R’ Us, Kmart and Amazon all offer consumers the chance to shop for toys by gender. Even Lego, who so long ago, promoted equality in children’s’ play, seems to have back-tracked. “In a Feb. 7 post on Speaking Out, the blog of the Texas Assn. Against Sexual Assault, Emiliano Diaz de Leon complained that his son's Lego City sets contained nearly 100% male mini-figures: policemen, firefighters, city workers and the like.”

It seems that just as growing pockets of society are gravitating towards unisex bathrooms and androgynous fashions, for kids, corporations and consumers may be resisting. Pink baby mewling things or exploding camouflage superheroes fill the top twenty toy lists across the web and television.

For those families who don’t want to focus on their kids’ differences, there are of course, options. ‘Feminist’ blogger Charlotte Allen suggests “maybe, in other words, there's more than a grain of truth in the gender stereotypes. And parents, if your daughter wants to make herself a fort or a skyscraper out of regular Lego bricks, there's no law preventing you from crossing the aisle in the toy store to satisfy her desires.” How hollow.

Care.com counters with “gender neutral toys equalize children's opportunities to develop a wide range of concepts and skills…They also help counteract some stereotypes that limit children's thinking about what and who they can and should be." Book retailer Scholastic offers “kids learn about the world through play, but what does the toy store’s all-pink and all-blue aisles teach them? Probably not what you’d hope: They signal to girls that femininity is all about commercialism and appearance, and masculinity is about action and aggression, They signal to girls that femininity is all about commercialism and appearance, and masculinity is about action and aggression” and then goes on to list gender-neutral toys and books for all ages.

Today, when nearly half of Americans are shopping for that special deal, keeping in mind that gender isn’t always indicative of interests, that sex shouldn’t always determine between blue or pink, sparkles or camouflage, and that you, as the consumer, guide marketing dollars.

1970s Lego note tells parents to let girls build spaceships - AOL.com. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://www.aol.com/article/2014/11/25/1970s-lego-note-tells-parents-to-let-girls-build-spaceships/20998868/

Allen, C. (2014, February 28). How Lego earned the wrath of the 'gender-neutral toys' crowd. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/28/opinion/la-oe-allen-lego-gender-neutral-toys-20140228

Dwyer, L. (2014, April 23). We're Lovin' It: A Teenager Convinced McDonald's to Stop Gender-Stereotyping Happy Meal Toys. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/04/22/teenager-mcdonalds-gender-stereotyping-happy-meal-toys

White, M. (2014, November 28). Black Friday Is Here, Get Ready to Rumble. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/business-of-the-holidays/black-friday-here-get-ready-rumble-n256861

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