The "Butterfly Beauty Shop" is part of the Lego Friends range.
Lego has brought out a new range, aimed specifically at girls. It centres around five girl dolls, and has sets such as a beauty salon and a bakery. Lego argue that it is a response to losing sales to girls because of their Batman and Star Wars oriented products. That is all very well, but the products do not seem quite equal. Professor Becky Francis, who has expertise in childrens' development and is director of education at the Royal Society of Arts, has argued that they are much simpler, and do not take as much skill as the toys for boys. Professor Francis goes on to say that Lego have missed an opportunity to promote engineering and practical skills in girls. The sets seem to assume that all girls are only keen on fashion and beauty, and are not capable of (or do not wish to) building from scratch.
I feel this is somewhat negative. As a girl I had Lego sets which required imagination and a basic understanding of building things, and I really enjoyed them. What’s more, I think these sets challenge children (boys and girls) and help them develop their creative and practical skills, and gain a sense of real achievement from seeing their idea materialise in front of them. I am not at all sure that these sets will have the same affect.
One father goes further in his criticisms. He believes that products such as these that are clearly oriented at girls give girls a “limited notion of their gender,” suggesting that they ‘should’ be interested in beauty and fashion, and ‘should not’ care much about the building aspects. I am inclined to agree with this father. Young girls need to be taught that they can be anything and achieve anything, and that beauty and fashion are all very well, but they do not make you a better (or happier) person. Girls’ toymakers have a responsibility to produce products that do not stereotype, or girls will grow up believing in the stereotypes about them, a process which can be damaging to happiness and health. There are enough girl’s toys that promote this view (Barbie, for example?), and Lego could have done something really different.
I would suggest that Lego think again. I have nothing against toys that are ‘for girls’ in general, but why focus on beauty and fashion, especially in a toy aimed at such a young age group? And why make them so much simpler than the boy’s versions? Why not make a whole range of models that are equally difficult and focus on a variety of topics? Models based on a zoo, or other animal related things, would be likely to sell to girls (and probably some boys) without giving them the potentially damaging idea that they must be concerned with their looks from a very young age.
Girl Museum Inc.