PHIL REID/Dominion Post
BUILDING BLOCKS TO SUCCESS: Nine-year-old Sophia Webster, of Karori,
with her winning entry in the National Lego Building Competition.
How many nine year olds can boast that they’ve built a house? Sophia Webster can. Well it’s a house made of Lego and only big enough for her dolls to reside in, but a house all the same. In fact, Sophia’s early architectural talent, creativity, and dedication have earned her first prize in New Zealand’s annual national Lego building competition.
Lego in its most basic form has been applauded as a gender neutral toy. Those uniform, primary coloured blocks that can be turned into anything and everything (but hurt like the dickens when stepped on in bare feet) are embraced equally by boys and girls. So why when I read this story about Sophia did I think “Wow that’s awesome – a girl showing the boys how it’s done”?
It may have something to do with the gradual shift Lego has made in their marketing approach which began in the 1980s. Struggling to compete with the popularity of Mattel’s Barbies and Hot Wheels, Lego began releasing editions of their once neutral bricks with specific gender targets in mind. Although inherently girl centric boxed Lego sets have been sold, many flopped and were never attempted again, while those with themes designed to appeal to boys such as pirates, castles and space craft flourished. Now don’t get me wrong, as a little girl I would have loved a set of Lego with any of these themes (in fact I’m currently coveting this) but it certainly was not a toy that any of the adults in my life thought to buy for me. Some parents complain that this masculinisation of Lego has meant that girls are no longer able to identify with the toy as female features and faces are left off the Lego men and therefore lose interest in the toy. In the article about Sophia’s Lego success her mother states that her daughter’s skill stems from her father’s obsession with the toy, showing that Lego-mania is a family trait in the Webster household.
It’s likely Lego loving youngsters are oblivious to the gender debate which surrounds their favourite toy. But Sophia’s beautiful dolls' house creation proves that Lego remains a suitable medium for a multitude of creations, regardless of the gender bend they are thought to hold.
So congratulations Sophia! Not only is it great to celebrate the success of girls in a range of fields but you have rekindled my desire to tinker with those little coloured blocks once again.
Girl Museum Inc.