Let me be the
first to admit that I actually really like the Lego Friends building sets. While the accompanying animated series
available on Netflix leaves a bit to be desired, my daughter genuinely enjoys
the girls with "actual girl hair," and she gets lost in the play with tiny
animals that are now repurposed as forest animals (we tend to stray from the
directions around here.)
There are times
when I wonder if the step-by-step nature of building sets will hinder
creativity, but my kids always build them once then tear them apart and turn
them into other things. And if little
tiny animals and a bakery-turned-restaurant-turned-summer cabin makes my little
girl happy, who am I to worry about the color of the blocks? Kids need the freedom to play what they want
to play, and that includes with pink and purple bricks.
Lego came under
fire this week when they published an "advice" column full of "beauty tips" for
girls in the April issue of Lego Magazine. "Emma's Beauty Tips" come courtesy
of the Heartlake Beauty Salon, which is part of the Lego Friends series. Emma teaches her target audience, ages 4 to 12, such gems as, "match your haircut to the shape of
your face" and the best ways to blow-dry and brush your hair.
Ages 4 to 12 is very young to be worried about
whether or not a haircut "matches" the shape of one's face.
Spend some time
reading the American Girl Library books about friendships and you'll find that
young children do respond to advice that feels relatable. Particularly in the 8 to 12 years range, kids like to
hear what other kids have been through and what helped. Publishing an advice column isn't such a bad
idea, but the content of the advice is important.
published advice about making and keeping friends (a logical theme for a
"friends" series), how to help a friend or even how to cope with school stress,
they could have helped kids in some small way. Instead they chose to focus on physical
certainly won't argue with outraged parents on this one, I do think we need to
consider the larger issue. Our daughters
are surrounded by these messages. In
movies, in the toy aisle and even in books, girls constantly confront mixed
messages. "Be a scientist. You can do
it! But just be sure to wear a
form-fitting shirt to the lab." And, "You can be anything you want to be. Just be sure to smile 24/7 because that shows
that you're a nice girl."
I would love to
say that fighting back against every mixed message in the toy aisle will change
everything for our girls, but the truth is that empowering girls is more of a
grassroots effort. Sure, we can lend our
voices to the cause to make Disney heroes look more like real girls and to stop
Lego from dispensing terrible advice, but the best way to empower our girls
is from the ground up.
We need to
engage our girls in honest conversations about the mixed messages they
hear. We need to ask them how they feel,
encourage them to consider alternatives and help them figure out who they want
to be. While I certainly don't want my
daughter to worry about the shape of her face, I do believe that talking about
the absurdity of that kind of advice will help her learn to stop and question
what she sees. Kids are constantly told
to sit still and listen to authority when they are in school, but outside of
school we have the opportunity to empower our girls to question things that don't
feel right and assert their thoughts and opinions.
disappointed in Lego? Yes. But I will take their mistake as my parenting
opportunity. I will poke holes in their
errors and encourage my daughter to consider what kind of advice might actually be useful for an 8-year-old
girl, just as we discussed the importance of a loose fitting lab coat with
plenty of large pockets to hold things that a scientist might need at work.
doesn't know the shape of her face, but she does know that she's strong,
capable and kind. That knowledge didn't come from Lego magazine, it came
from her own inner strength.