Thursday, April 24, 2014
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EDIT: Let’s LEGO of gender stereotypes

A 7-year-old girl named Charlotte Benjamin penned out her frustrations on gender-stereotypes in a letter to LEGO this weekend.

In the viral letter, Charlotte wrote, “I am 7-years-old and I love legos but I don’t like that there are more LEGO boy people and barely any LEGO girls.”

LEGO, a popular line of mini figures manufactured by The LEGO Group, has been criticized in the past for failing to bridge the gap past gender stereotypes — a fault that Charlotte refused to let remain overlooked.

“Today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the girls pink and the boys blue,” she writes. “All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.”

LEGO could easily satisfy Charlotte and the like by simply making their product more gender neutral. Instead of making the Knight and Policeman figures exclusively male, LEGO could just provide the series with something as simple as more wig and clothing options for the figures. This way, the consumer could choose the look they want their crime-fighters to have, rather than having the decision constructed for them.

As such a popular company in a critical society, every decision that LEGO makes about their products is strategically calculated. The company follows trends and knows who is buying into them, and rightfully tailors their products to that. The problem here is LEGO has been marketing the product to a cisgender male audience.

After years of repetition, it only seems natural that boys would ask for a LEGO set before a girl considers them, but in reality, parents still consciously buy “boy toys” or “girl toys.”

Yet that’s not to say Charlotte’s unease with LEGO’s products is exclusively the company’s fault. Companies must respond to our demands as consumers, and therefore we have the ability to customize the market. LEGO’s products are simply just a glaring example of a company reinforcing our society’s inherent stereotypes.

As French philosopher Michele Foucault theorized in the 1970s and 1980s, with the rise of modernity in a less feudal society, power is no longer centralized to one person but rather dictated by discourse.

Today, the issue of gender, sexism and patriarchy stems from somewhere much deeper than society simply just favoring testosterone. If consumers are going to continue to buy into gendered products, they are going to perpetuate the gender stereotypes that Charlotte is so troubled by — right now it’s just simple supply and demand. If society distinguishes between boys and girls, then LEGO has just as much right to do so as well.

But, at the same time, LEGO should do a better job representing the important roles females play in our society. When there are women such as Sonia Gandhi, Angelina Jolie and Sonia Sotomayor influencing today’s world, it is not fair that LEGO depicts women as jobless figures, just sitting at home, going to the beach and shopping all day.

Although it would be hard to capture the likes of all the “superwomen” of today in a little boxy, plastic figure, these high-profile women are not the only ones who LEGO is under representing. By failing to make their products more gender neutral and representative, LEGO is undermining the Moms, the Malalas and the Charlottes of the world as well.

No company is going to change their behavior unless the consumers change their demands. So the only way to make these stereotypes disappear is if we as consumers reach out of our comfort zones and rightfully demand this change ourselves. Although Charlotte’s campaign is undeniably adorable, she is going to need thousands of other little girls behind her to make a change in the market.

If anything, Charlotte’s qualms with LEGO represent what she actually sees wrong in today’s world in terms of gender stereotypes. To better address this issue, our society as a whole should take a closer look at Charlotte’s concerns rather than just leaving it to LEGO.

 

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