Thursday, January 19, 2012

The case for pink.

I think it's fair to say that geeks treasure being different.  We relish in our weirdness and take great pride in the fact that we're different, that we aren't average. Being a geek is a source of pride for me, and when we found out we were having a girl we decided that our daughter wouldn't look up to damsels-in-distress, our daughter would be told she was "good" or "smart" or "brave" -  not "pretty" and no one would call our daughter "Princess".

And then Princess Kitty was born, and that all flew out the window.

You see, kids are little people.  As much as we'd like to think that it's through our gentle molding that they become who they are (and a lot of it is) there is a whole person in there with their own ideas about what is cool that has nothing to do with what mom and dad planned.

Kitty has access to Lego, lots of Lego.  She has a microscope and her own computer.  She has superhero action figures and Matchbox cars, and she loves them all.   But she doesn't nearly love them as much as she loves Tikka Tikka, her baby doll.  Or as much as she loves to dress her American Girl Doll in frilly dresses, or as much as she loves to BEG me to paint her nails.

She loves superhero movies, and we have a DVD library full of them.  If you asked her what she wanted to watch though, she's more likely to tell you "Beauty and the Beast".  She plays her Disney Princess video game in a hand me down blue Nintendo DS, but she has told me on multiple occasions that she wishes they made a pink one (she is unaware that they do).

You may think a lot of this resistance to the things we have steered her towards is due to the media.  That may be partially true, there's no escaping that.  But we don't have broadcast TV, she never sees commercials and the programs that she does watch are closely vetted by SD and I to make sure that they fit our criteria, one of which is the way the show handles gender-issues.

I tell you all of this because I have come to the following conclusion:  some girls just like pink, and that's okay.

I think this is harder for geeks to accept than the general public.  Many girl geeks were shunned for their lack of interest in the girly pursuits of their peers.  My guess is that most of the geeky moms reading this were the only girl who played DnD with a group of boys, or the only girl on the block who could beat Mortal Kombat 3. I was there, too and it was a lonely place.  Now as moms our job is to protect our girls from those mean girls, to let them know that it's okay to like math and to want to be an astronaut instead of a fashion designer.  But what we really need to be doing is telling our girls that it's okay to like whatever you like. That it doesn't matter if you like Barbies or video games or princesses or Pokemon or all of those things. That it is important to be comfortable with whoever you are, and to respectfully and compassionately let other people be who they are.

How did I get on this tirade?  Because some people on the internet have their undies in a bunch about Lego putting out a line of  building sets that are targeted specifically to girls.  The opponents of Lego's "Friends" line seem to think that somehow by making a line that is being marketed directly to girls they are negating that girls can play with their other lines.

They are LOTS of girls out there who like the Lego sets that are currently available. They aren't suddenly going to be banned from continuing to buy Lego City or Star Wars or Harry Potter because Friends has come out.  The girls who don't care about things being pink and "girly" are already Lego customers.  But they realized that there are some girls (and boys) who do care about things being pink and pretty.  There are some girls who would rather play house than act out a podrace. There was a market that they were missing out on.  It was a sound business decision as evidenced by the fact that Friends has been sold out at all the stores I've been to since it was released.

If the Friends line gets one girl interested in Lego who wasn't before and that girl goes on to discover a love of architecture or design or engineering, that's a great thing.

In the little fantasy world I had before Kitty was born she looked more like the little girl in the great ad that Lego published two decades ago:


But in reality this is Kitty:

To be fair one of her favorite things to do in this outfit was a "Zombie Ballet".

And I couldn't love her more.

8 comments:

  1. hey my knickers weren't in a knot, they were just wedged a little high up my ass :) Great article, thanks for the read. I still hate Lego Friends, but if Posey really wanted a set I'd buy it for her. Or let her buy it with her own hard-earned money actually, I'm too cheap. HA!

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  2. It wasn't (just) you :) Lots of people have been upset by the idea of "girl" Lego since they announced it. I was just excited that Kit may actually want her own Lego set now.

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  3. I am one of those crying out against Lego's Friends line. However, I don't really disagree with anything you said. There's nothing inherently wrong with pink, and there's nothing wrong with making pink Legos. My problem is that they are incompatible with existing Legos. The "girl" Lego people and play with the "regular" Lego people. I have a son who loves Legos, but also loves his dollhouse. He would probably be one of the boys who would appreciate what the Friends line has to offer. Except they're incompatible. That's my hang-up: Lego is saying you can play with the "girl" toys or the "boy" toys, but they don't mix. There is the heart of the problem for me.

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  4. @Cady: The Minifigs are redesigned, but all the bricks are compatible with all other Lego sets. From the Lego website: "there are play scenarios for everyone! Plus, LEGO Friends pieces are all fully compatible with all LEGO bricks!"

    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/FriendsTeaser?icmp=SHHomeM1_FriendsTeaser

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  5. At first glance, if pink bricks draw more girls into Lego, then that might be a good thing. However, what if some of the girls already happy with the other bricks decide that if there is a pink option, they 'should' be playing with that one? It's nice for girls to see that they can have things that aren't pink, and that non-pink things are not only for boys. Why sacrifice that, in order to attract a few more girls who for some reason cannot accept non-pink bricks?

    Is it healthy for these girls, and their parents, to think "yay, now I can like Lego, they've finally made it in a girls' colour"?

    If anything, those 'pink' girls need to be shown that an obsession with pink is unhealthy, and that if they don't break away from gender stereotypes they will miss out on the fun and it will be their own fault.

    Girls can do anything, play with anything, and be anything, that they want to. They don't need to wait for it to be tailored to their stereotype, or for the establishment to give them permission by 'making it appropriate for girls.'

    Can you imagine your daughter declaring "I've decided not to be an architect\doctor\etc; the equipment hasn't been made available in pink yet, so it must be for boys"

    I have a daughter, and although I never banned pink, I always look for alternatives. I want her to know that pink is just one out of many colours, and that she doesn't have to have everything in pink while the boys get everything else. A disproportionate amount of her toys are pink, because the manufacturers don't always give me a choice; but I deliberately chose non-pink where possible.

    Of course, this careful programming goes out of the window once they go to school and are mixing with other girls whose parents are trying their best to reinforce gender stereotypes...

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  6. I'm okay with the fact that they interconnect with the other Legos. I'm okay with girls liking pink.

    What I'd like to see is some of the "regular" sets also in the aisle with the pink sets - and then the pink sets also in the aisle with the standard sets.

    I was also a bit put out about the brouhaha about the Lego magazine. Sounds like they automatically defaulted anyone subscribed who was a "girl" to the "girl" version of the magazine. The boys got the "regular". Girls can REOPT into "regular"... really? Why not just have both types of items in the one "regular" version. Boys won't explode if they see pink, right?

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  7. Great post Sharon!
    Like you said..they can't keep them on the shelves..i dont want to over think this..but Im wondering if it was a male or female marketing or corporate executive at Lego who said..you know what we need? .....regardless...girls who don't care about the colors of the Legos will still play with them & the ones who "love pink" may discover an interest or talent otherwise left hidden.

    Ps...keep up the great work! :0)

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  8. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. They made me tear up!
    Not only are we a geeky family we are also in a neo-hippy community. Girly girl AND super boy stuff is frowned upon.
    It's is so interesting though, when you just let your children be who they are you will still experience resistance from the masses. But wait!
    Aren't we supposed to be in "accepting" and "just" communities with all these great minds about?
    I tell our Waldorf community that, yes, we let the kids play with their DS video games (though it is not a first choice by any means) and we get gasps. We tell our geeky community that we let the boys play with "silks" and play dress-up and we get gasps.
    All the while the kids are happy. They have friends that are forming long lasting relationships and the ones who matter the most in our lives love the boys for exactly who they are.
    C'est la vie!
    My youngest wants rainbow striped toe socks and my oldest wants to battle lego Severus Snape (or something like that). My youngest begs me to play chess with him and my oldest runs around with his star wand. And you know what, they'll probably let their kids be who they are because their parents never repressed them and their choices.
    Hubby and I live by these words (in general):
    “Accept the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom.” – Rudolf Steiner

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