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Our Adorable Past

What Does the Girl in the Most Internet Famous Vintage Lego Ad Think About Them Now?


This 1981 advertisement for Lego sets has been given a renewed life in the reaction to Lego’s Friends line, a line of Lego products that remain the only ones marketed expressly at girls, with minifigures that are incompatible with other Lego products. Apparently this mostly passed by Rachel Giordano, the thirty-seven year old naturopathic doctor who was once the little girl featured in the ad. Women You Should Know.net tracked Giordano down to interview her and recreate the photo with a modern Friends set (a news caster van thats interior contains, not broadcasting equipment, but a makeup vanity).

You should go read their whole article, which relates Giordano’s account of creating the original ad as a child model, as well as a discussion of gendered toy marketing. Giordano hasn’t paid much attention to Lego in years, so the Friends line came as a bit of a surprise.

“In 1981,” explains Giordano, “LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”

What Giordano missed in the intervening decades was a significant push on Lego’s part to corner the audience for boys toys. This meant associating their brand less with abstract ideas like “creativity” and more closely with fighting aliens, knights in castles, and cowboys; a minimum of female minifigures; eliminating actual children from their ads in favor of adult male voiceovers. Lego is entirely complicit in creating an environment where their toys are shelved in boy isles and not in girl isles in toy stores. The trouble for them now is one that many companies in the toy industry are facing: they want a larger share of the girl toy market.

Note I said “larger.” These are massive companies with well funded research divisions. They know that girls buy toys that are “for boys.” Because of how our society prizes masculinity and denigrates femininity, girls have a much easier path to embodying aspects of masculinity than boys have in embracing aspects of femininity. And that means that the line companies have to walk is harder, though no less cowardly: they have to find a way to make Lego products for girls without creating a perception that Legos are a girl toy. Because if a toy is gendered female, far, far fewer boys will buy it than girls will buy male-associated toys.

This is why, personally, I respect Nerf’s answer to the girl market for boy toys a lot more than the Lego Friends line. Nerf took some designs that would have fit in right alongside any other of their lines, colored them brightly in black and white and fuschias and sky blues, as if to say: we could have pretended that our toys lacked a gender affiliation by saying that camoflage and orange is just associated with hunting, but instead we made some brand new Nerf weapons just for girls. And the names! Every name in the line associates something feminine “belle,” “heartbreak,” “sweet,” “crush,” with combat, the core gameplay mechanic of Nerf toys. Belle becomes Rebelle, Heartbreak becomes Heartbreaker (and not a heartbreaker because you’re a beautiful, fickle woman, but because you have a bow and will shoot a person in the heart with it), Sweet becomes Sweet Revenge, and Crush… ok, crush is still crush, but as in crush your enemies. The Rebelle line says: Nerf guns are for girls too, and they can can play with the boys, just how the boys play.

On the other hand, the Lego friends line set in a different town than every other Lego set that depicts real world city life. The minifigures have parts and hand sizes that prevent them from holding the same objects as regular Lego minifigures and swapping accessories like hair or headgear. What Friends says is: we made new Legos for girls, because our other Lego sets, even the ones featuring heavily female fandoms (Harry Potter, for example), were for boys. You can tell, because Legos for girls have their own world and are physically interchangeable from the boy ones. The boys are playing over here. The girls can play over there.

Is all of this nuance likely to be lost on little kids? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold companies accountable, because it’s certainly not lost on them. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask companies to be brave enough to challenge societal stereotypes. We hold them accountable for plenty of other unethical but profitable business decisions, after all.

In conclusion, read the whole article with Dr. Giordano at Women You Should Know.net.

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  • http://twitter.com/traditora/ Tess

    47? She surely can’t be 47, that would mean she was 14 when that ad ran back in 1981. Maybe you meant 37? She does look to be about 4 years old in that old ad…

  • Anonymous

    During a scene in the Lego Movie, there is a millisecond cameo by the LEGO friends toy line. But the characters(the regular lego minifigs) call it ‘not worth mentioning’

    And SPOILER ALERT! The final joke goes like this with a line from the father, “Your little sister is allowed to play down here too.’ Followed by Lego city being invaded by Duplo blocks. For certain I thought there was going to be another joke about the LEGO friends line, but to Lego fans Duplo is much of a joke as well. So even in the movie, Lego still has no real respect for their Female fans.

  • Skol Troll

    FYI (in case you’re in the dark about the “Friends” sets): They have sets for vets, bakers, farmers, high schools, etc. They ARE aimed at girls, and while some are dumb (makeup kit van? really?), many could easily be gender-neutral, save for the fact all the LEGO people are girls. Also, I think you CAN mix/match Friends and “regular” legos. The pieces are still the same, for the most part.

    My gals love these sets. We keep the “extra girlie” stuff to the side (i.e. we let the girls do whatever, including seeing Super Friend Batman riding a LEGO Friends horse to save Superman from a DUPLO circus lion).

    So there is an upside (fun and building), as long as you let kids be who they are. I think the bigger issue is, gender aside, sets that aren’t really made for imagination & creativity as much as rule-following, regardless of gender.

  • Anonymous

    Quick note: Rachel Giordano is not a “neuropathic doctor” but a “naturopathic doctor” which is natural cures like accupuncture, homeopathy and whatnot.

  • Anonymous

    She’s a naturopathic doctor — not neuropathic (a term that doesn’t even exist).

  • Anonymous

    Agreed she clearly isn’t 14 in the 1981 ad, but older than 4, I’d say. More like 7 or so.

  • Anonymous

    It does say 37 in the source article. The folks who wrote this piece got her age and her occupation wrong (naturopath, not neuropath).

  • Anonymous

    JINX!

  • http://twitter.com/LibrarianMarian Marian Librarian

    The “Friends” line came to my attention when I saw Anita Saarkesian’s post on it, and I agree with her. While I don’t have a vendetta about the pink isle because of the color (personally I love the color pink), the “otherness” of the FRIENDS line (They don’t look like minifigs. They tower over minifigs.) is the problem. Baking, shopping, babysitting: those things are for you girls. Fighting dragons, blowing up Death Stars, that’s for you boys. Boys are given violent, active activities and girls get passive, traditionally feminine ones and there can be no mixing because of the incompatibility of the sets. If a boy wants to go to the milkshake shop and then destroy a Star Destroyer it’s just as unlikely as a girl being able to fight a dragon away from her babysitting charge. It’s not even the color that is separating them now, but the entire branding and design of the sets.

  • locuas

    wait a minute…they KNOW girls buy legos too…yet they made their “girls” line incompatible with the “main line”(to call it something)…………they do realize people like to combine their sets, right?………i mean, you could just make regular sets and write “friends” over the package, but no, people, on top of making new legos, went to the trouble to make sure that they are incompatible with regular legos……and the sad thing is, this might be more reasonable than WB’s idiocy of “GIRLS DON’T BUY TOYS!”…

  • Sprainogre

    While I think there might be something to that, I think the bigger part is the annoyance at a younger sibling with their “little kids toys” barging in on your domain, where you’re playing and building your worlds. Now they’re going to wreck everything, and take apart your creations, and all those things the son was doing to his dad’s LEGO constructions. I think it’s more a parallel where the son is going to have to learn the lesson he just taught to his dad. It could have just as easily been his little brother and the reaction would have been the same. Speaking from the perspective of an older sibling who tried to keep his hoard of younger siblings from messing up my LEGO spreads (’cause they would), I found that bit really funny.

  • Anonymous

    Fixed!

  • Anonymous

    It might be that, but I still it as more of a ‘Boys get real legos, while the girls get the legos that aren’t really legos.’

  • spriteless

    Minidolls can hold the same items, and wear the same helmets as the minifigs. Some people buy the Friends sets just for the minidoll wigs to put on minifigs. Minidolls can’t turn their wrist like the minifigs, though, and you can’t swap out heads, torsos, or legs with minifigs.

    The Friends sets are full of tools and food for them to hold. They are all about customizing your little doll, moreso than building. That’s kind of the problem with it, in fact. Friends less engeneering than interior decoration.

  • Sprainogre

    And not being a girl, I didn’t see it from your perspective. So it was valuable to me to, well, see it voiced. And I don’t necessarily disagree that it can be taken that way either. I just don’t know if that was the joke they were going for is all. It’s really too bad that LEGO marketing has made this something we should talk about, and not something that can just be a joke about the kid having to get along and share toys with the younger sibling. They need to make them open and accessible to any and all that might want to be a Master Builder themselves, boys and girls alike. :)

  • Anonymous

    There actually is one male friend that I know of. And yes, they do have vets (nurturing & cute animals), bakers (cooking), farmers (chores & cute animals), high schools (cheerleaders, romance, dating), etc. They do have one lab. It’s a small kit. And then you have the beauty salon, the mall, the house, the pool, etc.

    You can mix the legos. What you can’t mix are the figures. Which was excusable when they were just generic figures. But with the creation of the Disney princess line which use the Friends design, then that’s a real problem. You can’t have Merida shooting arrows with Hawkeye, or Ariel going on an adventure with Frodo, or Belle learning the force from Yoda, or Cinderella driving the Batmobile. They don’t fit. Which creates an exclusionary situation where the Friends figures can’t mix with the regular figures.

  • Impecunious Joe

    In all fairness and honesty, some of what’s stated here about the Friends sets is just flat-out factually wrong – they absolutely *are* compatible with the others. Most of the parts in any Friends set are standard elements found in LEGO sets in any other themes.
    The only real difference is in the minidolls vs. minifigures, and even
    then the “incompatibility” is overstated; contrary to what the article
    here specifically states, the minidolls can indeed hold the same
    accessories and whatnot as minifigures, and even use the same hair /
    hats / headgear. They were specifically designed to. LEGO designers have
    specifically stated the C-shaped “claw” hand is there to retain some of
    the traditional LEGO design DNA, as it were, and ensures that they can
    hold exactly the same “rod/pin-handled” accessory items as minifigures.
    And even though the minidoll heads are differently shaped from
    minifigure heads, the tops of the heads retain the same shape
    specifically so hair and hats and such can be swapped between the two
    figure types. Some Friends minidolls actually come in sets with hair
    pieces originally designed for and used on minifigures.

  • http://www.honestuniverse.com/ Mark Hanna

    One important distinction that should be made: Naturopaths are not medical doctors. The majority of them rely on unproven and disproven modalities instead of actual medicine. Ms Giordano’s LinkedIn page (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-rachel-giordano/b/62/266) seems to place her firmly in this camp as it admits she considers the pseudoscience of homeopathy (a form of “alternative medicine” that involves selling plain water or inert sugar pills and calling it medicine) to be one of her “skills”.

    If you’re sick, don’t see a naturopath. See a real doctor.

  • Impecunious Joe

    The sets are actually quite compatible. There are plenty of adult LEGO City fans who buy lots of the Friends sets because they’re an easy way to get “civilian” stuff like businesses and so on that don’t show up in the City line all that often, since it tends to be dominated by police and fire sets. The scales are actually quite compatible – minidolls don’t really “tower” over minifigures, but instead stand a single plate taller. Buildings in City sets and Friends sets tend to use the same doors, which wouldn’t be the case if they were dramatically different scales. More than a few LEGO City fans buy Friends sets and plunk them down straight into their city layouts without modifying them at all, since the buildings work just fine for minifigures, and they offer additional variety that can’t be had from just City sets themselves (City has tons of police and firefighter sets, but not as many businesses, houses, etc.). And that’s just those fans who build the official sets; there are plenty more who buy them for parts to use with other themes, because of the color schemes or whatever.

    It’s true the Friends line (and the Disney Princess one, which uses the same minidoll figure type created for Friends) is heavily gendered and skews away from violent conflict, but it absolutely can be mixed with other LEGO sets. The figures do have markedly different visual aesthetics, but they are at least essentially the same size and can use the same hair/headgear and accessories, and the other parts that make up a LEGO set – any LEGO set, whether it’s Friends or Star Wars or City or Castle or Spongebob Squarepants or whatever – are very much the same across virtually all themes, save for Technic and DUPLO (and even then the parts are designed with cross-compatibility in mind – DUPLO brick can connect to “regular” LEGO System bricks, which in turn can connect to Technic elements and so on).

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    What I’d love to see if just… Legos. Sets with superheroes, veterinarian offices, ninjas, hair salons, what have you that are just Legos, not lines that are aimed specifically at boys or girls. I don’t understand why that’s not happening, to be honest. It’s teaching girls that they need specific sets (that lean toward nurturing or “shallow” pursuits; not judging wanting to play with a hair salon set because I would have played that, too, as a kid, but when that’s the only option…) and also teaching boys that they don’t want to play with those “girly” things.

  • Lien

    I never understood why all of a sudden, Lego had to divide the gender in their products. It’s the parents that got the money, not the boys. If you ask me, if they just had the same set pieces but just changed the gender of the Lego characters in the box set separately there would be a much lesser divide.
    And i don’t care if the Friends sets got doctors, lawyers or astronauts too, girls are not encouraged to play a different monopoly based on their gender with pink castles instead of hotels nor are they being told that the pink Uno cards with unicorns would be better for their taste. Lego has always been Asexual, it’s just the boys took it over and now the girls are being pushed to the side… to bake cookies while waiting hopelessly for the boy firefighter from the other sets to come save the day.

    It’s like Susana said, Nerf got it right with the rebelles set. They just changed the colors and the names… but THEY ARE STILL THE SAME NERF GUNS!

  • Lien

    Just to see if you were right, i went to my niece who has the friends set and i brought my old X-wing box set from the 90′s.
    While i can put (some) pink blocks pieces on the xwing… the Friends character can’t even fit on the seat (legs are too big), let alone lets the cockpit close (head too big). I then tried to use Wedge to work that cafe, he can’t even reach the counter to take orders (body too small)… also he has to stand on one feet to work some of the machinery (the scooter set for example that requires the legs to spread).
    Sorry, how compatible are they? Cause while the set pieces are compatible with each other, it seems to me they made it clear the sets characters aren’t made to mix and match their own worlds, no matter their clearly different “Lego DNA” as seen here:
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7019/6538934801_28fdde40fa_o.jpg

    Side note: i recall a picture i once see teaching people step by step how to build an Xwing with the friends set… which i could find it again for great justice!

  • Lien

    HAHA! i found that pic i was looking for!
    http://www.robertsoninnovation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Ultra-Violet.png
    FOR GREAT JUSTICE!

    Note: doesn’t make the set series any less problematic.

  • Impecunious Joe

    They didn’t make them incompatible. The bricks in a Friends set are just like those in a City, Castle, Star Wars, or whatever set.

    The main difference is the figure design, and even that is more compatible between the minidoll lines (Friends and Disney Princess) and minifigure lines (what most people think of when they think of LEGO) – they’re about the same size, they can hold and “use” the same accessories, and they can even swap hair and hats interchangeably.

    The minidolls arose because LEGO spent four years and millions of dollars doing market research in which they interviewed thousands of young girls and their mothers, and learned most girls just don’t respond to traditional minifigures the way boys and adults do, and instead wanted less stylized, (somewhat) more realistic figures, which they conceptualized differently (playing “as” the characters rather than “with” them, to a point). The research participants also overwhelmingly expressed a desire for the figures to be attractive / pretty / beautiful.

    I don’t think it’s what anyone wanted to hear, honestly. It would have been cheaper and easier for LEGO if they could have just used the same minifigure elements, after all (not to mention the classic minifigure is also a much-beloved, cherished, emblematic icon of the company and its products, and eschewing it probably had to also entail swallowing a little corporate pride). And I’m sure there are even adult LEGO fans who felt a little wounded twinge at learning young girls just don’t relate to what I see as the infinitely charming little plastic people so many of us have loved since we were kids; I know I did, feeling similarly to how I feel whenever a contemporary kid dismisses some movie I’ve cherished since I was this kid’s age. But a business should respond to its customer’s desires, not the other way around, and LEGO did.

    The result was sales through the roof – reports on the Friends launch, both from LEGO itself and from outside sources, variously describe the sales as being from two to three times expectations. It’s consistently been a strong performer since, and LEGO has responded by not only expanding the Friends line but also introducing a Disney Princess line using the same “minidoll” figure template, which has just hit shelves in recent weeks.

    Yes, LEGO’s toys are more gendered now than ever before, and that’s troubling – but the flipside is that more girls are buying and building with LEGO now, too, and that’s good. The thing is, there are really a couple different play experiences with LEGO. There’s the built toy, with all its attendant messages and roles and whatnot, whether it’s a house or a spaceship or whatever, and unfortunately gender roles and expectations about that aspect of play stubbornly continue to exist, and while many, many of us would like that to change, I don’t think anyone (including LEGO) knows how to do it. However comma the LEGO play experience also includes the actual construction, which is really the defining part of it. Before one sits down to play with that house, race car, police station, beauty salon, castle, AT-AT or whatever, one first has to put it together, and this part at least is pretty much the same, regardless of what type of thing is being built – but until Friends came along, not many girls were getting that experience, because various aspects of the culture (including, yes, LEGO itself), intentionally or not, presented and reinforced the idea that construction toys in general and LEGO bricks in particular were a “boys toy.”

    Whatever else Friends has done, it’s brought a lot of girls into building with bricks that weren’t before. With some girls it might be because the “boy-coded” thematic content of LEGO sets just didn’t appeal to them, while with others it might be because the toy providers in their lives – parents, grandparents, etc, – just didn’t want to give girls any of that LEGO stuff even if girls specifically asked for it, because “it’s for boys” (I have *seen* this happen, multiple times, and it’s always immensely frustrating, but what to do? One can’t accost strangers in stores to tell them what toys they should let their kids have…). But now, though, there’s this line of LEGO that clearly, unambiguously identifies as being “for girls.” It makes giving LEGO to girls “Ok” for people who previously couldn’t bring themselves to do it because of their own social conditioning. It’s wrong and terrible that such social conditioning is there, and I’d agree LEGO itself ought to do more to combat it (and sure, one way to start would be by filling that Friends TV news van with TV news gear rather than makeup tables), but I really can’t blame them for going with this overall strategy, especially when after literally decades of trying other ways to entice girls to LEGO they spent years and millions asking their potential market just what they wanted, and this is the answer they got, and when they implemented it in their product line it resulted in one of their biggest success stories ever.

    http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/news-room/2012/august/half-year-result_2012

    http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/news-room/2013/february/lego-friends-doubled-expectations-for-sales-in-2012

  • Ryan Colson

    Seems she’s pretty happy of the change in the recreation…

  • Impecunious Joe

    The bodies *are* different, yes – the minidolls have more realistic proportions than the minifigures, with the hip articulation higher up. Seating for minifigures in vehicles and whatnot is often a perfect square, since that’s the figure’s “footprint” with the legs moved up into a sitting position. But standing figures are different.

    I don’t know which scooter set you’re talking about, but if it’s the one I’m thinking of, the scooter in it is in fact designed for use with both minifigures and minidolls, and comes in sets with both:

    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Mia-s-Lemonade-Stand-41027?fromListing=listing

    (is this the thing you’re thinking of?) and

    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Parisian-Restaurant-10243

    - that’s the same scooter piece (in different colors, yes, but the same mold) in both sets, and both minifigures and minidolls get to ride it.

  • Erica Tomas

    HOLY POOP-BALLS, that adorable child is my massage therapist. Or rather, my former massage therapist, before she got her degree in naturopathy last year.

    I always knew i liked her. Standing up for gender-neutral, child-friendly creativity.

  • Impecunious Joe

    That’s probably how some people see it, but LEGO itself certainly doesn’t see DUPLO as “not real lego.” They’re quite proud of DUPLO, and it can be used with “regular” LEGO bricks (though this is unusual, it actually just so happens my own most recent LEGO purchase for my 45-year-old self was of a DUPLO set, and I’m currently planning a restaurant for my LEGO city that’s going to make some thematic use of DUPLO elements). LEGO isn’t going to denigrate one of its own major product lines.

    That said, I don’t know for sure whether the *filmmakers* Miller and Lord see it that way. They could indeed look sneeringly down their noses at DUPLO, but I really think ***SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER*** the joke was just about letting Finn’s obviously much younger sibling play down there as well, hence the last part of that last line.

  • Daniel Aubrey White

    I remember when I was a kid, and I wanted to play with my sister. We had to choose which toys we’d play with, because Barbies are giant next to GI Joes. We played with Barbies. I can’t really remember why she didn’t want to play with my toys. My toys were cool.

    Anyways, what I wanted were boy-compatible toys that could interact with girl-compatible toys. I was a child in the era between the late 1970′s and early 1990′s, when they didn’t sell MEGO dolls or Barbie-sized GI Joes, and I had to choose to either play with Barbies or play alone.

    Toy manufacturers should take this into account. We need toys for siblings to play with. Like LEGO’s. Which aren’t boy-specific at all. How did they ever get to be that way? Right. The whole, “alien fighting, dragons, and cowboys,” thing. They do realize, right, that nobody actually builds the sets? It’s literally a box of blocks for doing whatever you want with? Stupid marketing.

  • Joseph Roy Fishbeck

    I agree with most of this article, but I don’t consider the Nerf Rebelle line or its marketing to be more positive to gender equality than the Lego Friends toys. You wrote “The Rebelle line says: Nerf guns are for girls too, and they can can play with the boys, just how the boys play.”

    I feel like that’s not true, because none of the marketing media or packaging for the Rebelle line actually features girls playing among or against boys. Instead, it seems like Nerf is telling girls that they can only “Step Up. Stand Out”…when boys aren’t present.

    (On the other hand, I accept that I’m socialized as a cisgender male, so I may see or miss elements of the Rebelle marketing based on that perspective.)

  • Lori Day

    I was the author of this piece on WYSK. My name is Lori Day, and my website is http://www.motherdaughterbookclubs.com. Would love a mention and link here! Love your site!

  • Anonymous

    “society prizes masculinity and denigrates femininity” Bullshit. Oh, Christy Brinkley is so prized because she is so masculine. The meteoric political rise of gay men, and Obama because they are ‘so masculine’? Bull.

    Boys and girls are different, (THANK GOD). It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a healthy and natural thing and “societal stereotypes” are supportive of that. The AMA backs that up, deviants and freaks may disagree; but the statistics don’t help their arguments at all.

    Boys like trucks, girls like dolls – and not because thats what is shown to them. Anyone who has raised kids knows better.

    DARE to read the nightmare inflicted on David Reimer (Google it) It’s as sick of a deprived testing on an innocent human as anything the NASIs ever did, and it proves this crap to be a naive and sick pursuit of a utopia that human’s will never want to inhabit. Read up on it… Dare you.

  • Tasali

    There are also Friends girls who are rockers, do karate, fly planes, and build robots in a science lab.

    There are big and small sets. Big deal. Girls are playing with building blocks, and I really don’t care if those building blocks are pink and pastel. It’s a good thing anyway.

  • Junebug

    The last part is not correct: Friends are compatible with other Lego parts and pieces. My daughter recently built a tableau featuring her Friends Merida wielding the Gryffindor sword from a Harry Potter set behind a phalanx of Mega Bloks Hello Kitties, defending her basic brick castle from Friends Flynn Rider and his Power Miner lava monster minions. That sword fits in her hand just fine. There are some differences, like not being able to put hats on them (they have a tiny hole on their heads for hair accessories), but they are Lego. They’re meant to work with Lego. It’s an imperfect line from an imperfect toy maker in a toxic gender landscape, but my girls *love* tiny little dolls, and they love the Friends. I could do without the lipsticks and hairbrushes, but I’m really stoked to have Lego to offer my son in a few years that is just nice, conflict-free community spaces like restaurants, schools, and farms. That’s been missing.

  • Anonymous

    Why? Why does it bother you that little girls like pink veterinarian offices and horses and boys like aliens and trucks? Why? You can’t change it. From day one, boys will go to boy toys and girls will play with girl toys. We are not the same and that’s wonderful. It’s diversity. Why does that bother you? Being a Veterinarian (their best selling set) too shallow? Who complained about the shallowness of boys with Atlantis toys? It’s play!
    Lego’s patents have run out many years ago and all around the globe they have lost in court at defending their designs on copy write infringement. They are optimizing the appeal of their toys for the audience. You expect them to join you in your bizarre crusade to make the boys and girls of the world some average sex somewhere in the middle? That’s not how humans work and it certainly ins’t the job of a toy company.
    Since the patent is run, feel free to make your own gender neutral eight pin peg and block toys and take over the Universe. Yeah, that will change the world.

  • Anonymous

    “Aubrey”, I’m sorry your parents did that to you. It’s clearly made you confused and unhappy well into middle age. Try to get past it.

    Their “stupid marketing” has successfully made a 1949 company’s toy make record breaking profits in 2013. So your brilliant marketing isn’t doing near as well. Maybe they understand the human race better than you, Aubrey. And, I and my children and all their friends build ever set they get. You and your lack of focus is an anomaly. Eventually they take them apart and build variations and their own designs. Sometimes they get the original instructions out and build the original builds again.

    Maybe a little more ritalin would have helped. Yes, kids build their lego sets. And yes, most boys are boys and most girls are girls. You are the anomaly. Why would you want the rest of the happy, well adjusted, focused, productive world to be more like you? Why wouldn’t you want to be more like them?

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    Did you even read my comment? Do you understand what scare quotes are? I wasn’t saying there’s anything wrong with girls liking pink things, so stop putting words in my mouth. I said “shallow” because that’s the perception of so-called girly toys and pursuits, and it’s in scare quotes because I think it’s crap.

    And can you show me scientific evidence that there are “boy things” and “girl things?” And that babies instinctually gravitate toward those toys based on what kind of genitals they possess? Oh wait, you can’t? That’s right, because that’s horse crap.

    Legos WERE gender neutral. I played with them as a little girl in the 80s. I also played with Barbies and ponies and action figures and Tonka trucks. Unless you have something relevant to say, sit down and stop talking. Your straw man horsecrap argument that feminists are trying to desex everyone is painfully pathetic.

  • Lien

    Which is the issue. The girls mini-dolls themselves, the one that the little girls will more like relate to the most, in the friends line are significantly different to the boys (and girls) of the regular set by making them incapable to each other (in both the vehicles they use and switchable body parts). It gives this weird notion that even though both materials can work with each other, the people themselves have to live on separate world. Heck, the fact that the bodies stand out differently visually in each other’s set models already proves this. I can even go as far as say it insults the regular set by stating it is now “officially” a boy toy set when we all know it’s not true.

    It’s like i said up above your first comment too, why even make this illusion in the first place? Lego was all about creativity, not about gender set worlds. They could just improve the image of the girls from the regular set without changing the heads and bodies shape and form rather then create entire new “people” for the lego world. Heck, we can keep the blocks and pieces from the friends set, like you said they are compatible, it’s not that hard.

    And sorry… huh i don’t know much about the friend’s toy line apart from what i told you. Just the one my niece is using (box was gone but it’s none of the pics you showed) but i do remember i had to put one of the regular lego character’s leg up so he could fit on the scooter giving this weird foot hitler salute as he drives by. Kinda hilarious if you ask me… almost like a drive-by peeing. Hehe

  • Ashe

    “You expect them to join you in your bizarre crusade to make the boys and girls of the world some average sex somewhere in the middle?”

    Yes! And then all the gender-conforming children of the world will amalgamate into a genderless mass of pinks, blues, kitchen utensils, trucks, beer and lipstick. We will roll them into a ball a la Katamari and move them to another planet to make way for the new world order: “The Some Average Sex Somewhere In The Middle Coalition”.

  • luzzjl524

    My Uncle Aiden got an almost
    new cream Lincoln MKS Sedan by working part time off of a laptop. have a peek
    here B­i­g­4­1­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Brandy Davis Yi

    Yes, the minifigs and minidolls have differences. But as far as the figs/dolls/ sets being incompatible? Hardly! My son has numerous sets including Star Wars, City, TMNT, Super Heroes, Lone Ranger, Galaxy Squad, Monster Fighters, AND FRIENDS. I regularly find Clone Troopers visiting the Friends beach house or Obi Wan chillin in the tree house playing feeding the kitten. Ninja Turtles take their pizza over to the bakery to enjoy lunch and a treat. And the girls from the Friends sets always seem to be hanging around the Hoth Echo Base or fighting battle droids alongside Rex and Cody. The sets are only as compatible or incompatible as your child’s imagination allows them to be. I guess, luckily for me, my son has a pretty awesome imagination.

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    Have gender-conforming children with me. <3

  • Mariah Huehner

    No, I’m sure most people are aware they did a lot of research that led to this decision. Companies don’t just do this kind of thing on a whim and (hopefully) most people know that. I think there are several things people are frustrated about, and one is that Lego was hardly struggling financially. It wasn’t critical to their success to make such binary gendered decisions.

    It’s still relevant to talk about the choice to do so, why, and what effect that has. The fact that girls probably did respond to more conventionally “pretty” figures says a lot about what culture teaches girls to value in themselves and what this toy set now perpetuates by choosing to continue that idea. Did they do so for sound financial reasons? Sure. That doesn’t change what it signifies culturally or what impact it may have, passively and actively.

    Before this, Lego made the conscious decision to make their toys less friendly to girls when they had not previously. That choice led them to “having” to make the choice later to go back and re-court that market. And they chose to do so by reinforcing gender stereotypes to a large degree. And by separating these sets as being for girls or boys, more than even by color, but in the figure differences.

    None of this happened in a vacuum. There were decisions made all along the way that led here, and it’s worth talking about. How successful the Friends line has been is only relevant in the sense that, hooray, marketing worked. But why it worked and what it perpetuates are equally important.

  • Richard Cave

    its lego stop pluralising it to legos really annoys me

  • Brian

    Well, “naturopathic doctor” isn’t really a term that exist either. The term is “naturopath”, because they aren’t doctors.

  • Brian

    Sarkeesian also made the excellent point that ‘boy’ ads will say things like “You can build the [set]!” but the ‘girl’ ads say things like “Visit the newly-built [set]!” thereby removing the emphasis on building from the girls’ side.

  • Brian

    The reason it flashed by, along with Fabuland, Belville, Bionicle, and Technic, is that those lines don’t use Minifigs, and are therefore non-compatible with the rest of the characters. I don’t think they meant anything by it.

  • Anonymous

    The fact that they ‘don’t use Minifigs’ is part of the problem. They are trying to market exclusively to girls, when it doesn’t have the usual minifigs that can be joined with the rest of Lego line( I.E the boy stuff) it creates segregation. Boys are like this, and Girls are like that. And since the regular minifigs are the most recognizable piece out of Lego, while the Girl’s Minifigs are so different, it also teaches children that ‘Boys are the default. While girls are the exception.’

  • athenia45

    I really don’t mind legos for girls, but damnit, why can’t they build something *cool*? I’m waiting for my epic pretty pink princess Cinderella castle.

  • athenia45

    I get that, but I’d love to see their research. I mean, if I was in that research group, I’d be like, “Screw the playing! I wanna build cool shit!”

    I just remember being so epically bored with the girly Paradise line back in the 90s.

  • Skol Troll

    “But what’s cool about a building?” –Josh Basken

  • Skol Troll

    I would give my kids $50 if I walked in and saw a Friends babysitter protect her charges from an attacking Death Star by jury-rigging the milkshake stop using nearby vet tools. THAT, my friends, is LEGO.

  • Jake Mertz

    I wouldn’t mind having some of those Rebelle toys myself. I’d just repaint and mod them, just like I do with my other Nerf guns.

    As to the LEGO Friends sets, they are pretty lame. Guys, you go out and fight dragons and kill bad guys, but girls, you go out and make friends with everybody! If I had girls, and they wanted Legos, I’d get them the regular sets, and if they wanted girls to go with all the boys, I’d make them some. It’s easy, just put a long haired wig on a basic mini-fig, and a 1 block high two stud triangle instead of legs, and you have a lady in a dress.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe some turrets as well and a guard dragon named Jojo?

  • Anonymous

    LOL! You sir, are terrible.

  • Anonymous

    God I miss that game.

  • Anonymous

    “…there can be no mixing because of the incompatibility of the sets.” Hmm. Unless you’re speaking exclusively about the mini figures, I don’t think that’s true. They’re all Lego bricks after all. Here’s some inspired builds:

    Scifi…
    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2012/02/21/flashing-friends/

    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2012/02/03/lego-friends-is-uninspiring/

    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2012/01/23/lego-friends-samantha-carter/

    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2012/01/02/lego-friends-2012-parts-review-sets-3933-3187-3183-3936-review/

    House builds using classic bricks and Friends…

    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2012/01/23/mocking-friends/

    This is an all Friends build, but I it’s too good not to post, check out the hedgehog!
    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2012/01/09/take-to-the-skie-with-friends/

  • Fabian Öhlin

    It is a well known fact among palaeontologists that the flamingo as a species barely survived the stone age, since back then they were basically the only resource available for the cro-magnon to make girl clothes.

  • Kate Drew This

    I see these as LEGO capitalizing on Polly Pocket’s popularity.

    I may have totally grabbed the wrong end of the stick, but that’s how it seemed through my daughter’s eyes.

    She had no interest in the Polly Pocket play sets until the LEGO Friends came out. Now there are these tiny, girly dolls that fit into her dollhouse (standard LEGO mini-figs are too small to be compatible with her dollhouse furniture) and she can BUILD the play sets with LEGOS?

    Yeah, she LOVES these.

    She uses standard LEGOS for building, taking apart and re-building. Towers, houses, cities, robots, patterns. She builds her LEGO friends sets, and they stay built. The treehouse, dojo, magic studio and rock star stage are on a shelving unit next to her dollhouse. From her playing with those toys I hear her storytelling play.

    This also may stem from my perspective as a mother, but my daughter has many, many ways of playing, and no one toy meets all the needs of all the ways she plays.

    I can see why we (as adult women) are sick of marketing like this. I certainly am, but I look at my daughter and realize that she is just fine. She goes from playing princesses to giant bugs with her brother, and he reads to her from his Avengers comic books (they’re all-ages, I checked) before they have a tea party.

    Our kids are smarter than marketing!

  • Fabian Öhlin

    The question I’ve always (well, okay, not quite always) had with the LEGO City line was “who pays the taxes that fund all these public services?” I guess now I have my answer. The private sector simply employs another, similar but distinctive species of hominid.

  • https://riceballmommy.wordpress.com/ Anonymous

    The “ladyfigs” hands are not that different from the regular figures or at least I hadn’t seen much of difference when my daughter outfitted them all with blasters from her Star Wars sets. It also may have seemed a bit odd to me when the Captain America fig and Clone trooper came into the cafe.
    I will not argue though that huge differences do lend to that sense of “otherness” you get from the whole set. I think the whole thing would get a lot easier with a Lego section in stores, but then stores would have to stop doing the boys and girls sections.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Don’t tell them that pink used to represent masculinity because it’s the more aggressive color, while blue was considered calm and feminine. Zie’s troglodyte brain might break.

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    …I was making a joke. I’m aware of trans people and how sex and gender work.

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    Troll in the dungeon. Mods, this comment is an outright attack. Can we do something about this jerk?

  • Laura Truxillo

    I think that’s pretty awesome, and ties into what I remember of girl-toys as a kid (namely, the My Little Ponies were almost always involved in some kind of epic battle with the Trolls), but I gotta ask, because the Friends set comes with so many pre-fab pieces: does she build her own things?

    That’s what bugs me more about the sets. I think they’ve got some seriously nifty ideas out there, dojo and science labs and all that coolness. But it seems so pre-fab that I can’t see kids getting to do the basic Lego thing (raised on high as the Ultimate Use Of Legos in the recent Lego Movie) of just building stuff with bits and pieces.

  • Laura Truxillo

    There actually are a fair number of girl minifigs these days, or it’s starting to increase, at any rate. And heck, once upon a time, the LEGO town things were way more geared towards neutral funtimes, like pizza restaurants and the Paradisa sets and all that stuff. It’s just these days, the world of LEGO is a police state.

  • Laura Truxillo

    An odd way to correct someone’s grammar…

  • frodobatmanvader

    True story: my 5-year-old son wants some of those Nerf Rebellez, because as he says it, “There’s no such thing as ‘Girls’ toys’ and ‘Boys’ toys.’ There’s just toys.”

    Yeah, I’m a proud papa.

  • Anonymous

    Christie Brinkley is prized because she’s pretty. Besides being a model, what is she famous for? And would she have been able to do that if she wasn’t pretty? Also, “prized”? As in “prized possession?” It’s interesting you didn’t use a term like “respected”, “famous”, or even “popular”.

    No, actually the AMA doesn’t back up societal stereotypes. They recognize a gradient of personality types and gender identification, all of which is completely natural and healthy. Yes, there is an inclination for girls and boys on average to show a preference for gendered toys. But, they all like neutral toys equally. LEGO used to be a neutral toy.

    Time for some math:
    59,373,566 base pairs in the DNA of the Y chromosome
    286,812 possible variations in a Y chromosome
    155,270,560 base pairs in the DNA of the X chromosome
    2,174,952 possible variations in an X chromosome

    That means that in just the sexual chromosomes there are over six hundred billion possible variations for a male, and 4 trillion possible variations for a female. For the entire human genome, the possible variations total roughly
    12,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    But wait, there’s more. Between 80 – 100 billion neurons in the human brain, with 100 trillion connections between them, and dozens of neurotransmitters to send messages between them.

    What’s the point of all this? That anyone who thinks that the entire human condition can be simplified to “boy” or “girl”, is an idiot. Humans are way too complex for that. Generalizations like “boys like trucks, girls like dolls” may be an accurate generalization, but ignores the rich diversity found in individuals. Thank God that there are two differences? How about thank God that there are literally more variations than we can possibly count?

    Let people be who they are. David Reimer isn’t proof that everyone born with a penis acts one way and everyone born with a vagina acts another. What he is proof of is the dangers of trying to force someone to be something they’re not.

  • Axe Armor

    It’s not perfect, but reinforcing gender roles is a great way to sell toys to parents and grandparents. What makes Nerf’s situation a potential net win is that the girl toys are not mechanically different from the boy toys, which means that the fundamental message that is obtained through playing with the toy (the message is shooting your friends in the face) is delivered to the girls intact. Degendering mock violence and physical play ought to be worthwhile even if we’re risking sending the message that girls can only shoot other girls in the face (it’s also fairly likely that in practice, girls will shoot their friends’ faces on the basis of proximity rather than gender).

  • Axe Armor

    Everyone get your vaccinations.

  • Anonymous

    Actually there is evidence that monkeys show the same gender bias. There have been a couple studies where male infant monkeys showed a preference for trucks while female infant monkeys showed a preference for dolls. Of course it ignores the greater complexity of humans. But it does show that there may be a biological component that influences those preferences.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not pink (then Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland isn’t pink either), but LEGO does have a Disney princess line now, and you can get Cinderella’s castle.

  • Anonymous

    True, but since it was a bit off-topic, I didn’t want to get into it.

  • Brian

    I want the one – I think it’s Sweet Revenge – that has the actual thumb-cocking hammer, which as far as I know isn’t on any other Nerf gun. That thing is awesome.

  • Brian

    I completely agree. I’m just saying that when they flashed past it in the movie, it was in the context of Lego lines without Minifigs, not in the context of “For Girls”. It was an accidental problem created by Lego’s dreadful marketing, not a direct problem with the movie.

  • Anonymous

    “You can tell, because Legos for girls have their own world and are physically interchangeable from the boy ones.”

    think you want “incompatible with,” surely, since the point is that they’re not interchangeable?

  • Vorkon

    Speaking of, is that avatar from Septerra Core? I loved that game!

  • Natalie Willoughby

    I think you may be having a bad expressing-sarcasm-on-the-internet day. But don’t worry, I understood your air quotes and jokes. :)

  • Natalie Willoughby

    THAT is the plot of the next LEGO movie…

  • http://twitter.com/LibrarianMarian Marian Librarian

    The bricks fit, but the figures tower over the other minifigs.

  • Anonymous

    As a little girl I played with GI Joes, dinosaurs (lots of dinosars), and Legos. Never liked trucks the way my brother did, but we both had plenty of stuffed animals and spent a lot of time gushing over our pets. I also felt like a badass having a black mountain bike and roller blades.

    The differences between girls and boys aren’t the great gulf you’d like to believe. There’s so much overlap, not to mention the diversity within each gender. It would be lovely if we could move past this very narrow idea of gender stereotypes.

  • Mark Brown

    “This place just got interesting.” –Calhoun

  • Mark Brown

    And nobody cares if the Bionicles are segregated.

    Think of the poor robots.

  • Mariah Huehner

    I think we have to be careful that we don’t denigrate “girly” while also discussing what is problematic about rigid gender norming. I liked all that stuff, girly, not girly, pink and blue. I liked ridiculous fantasy stuff with dragons and magic…and sometimes baking shops and dressing up dolls in frilly dresses. The problem is when we make it so that there are less options, or we make those options seem good or bad depending on how they are coded via gender. Obviously no one is actually stopping girls from buying the “boy” toys…but the culture teaches people it’s “wrong” or “bad”. Especially if it’s girly. I don’t want to see the Friends line done away with, I just want to discuss what it signifies and what it perpetuates in the larger context. The solution isn’t doing away with “girly”. It’s finding ways to stop coding everything so rigidly and encourage kids to play with whatever.

  • Mariah Huehner

    Yeah, because as we all know trucks have been around since the dawn of humanity and therefore men have it coded into their DNA to like them. Except, no, because biology and socialization are different things. We start telling kids what to like BEFORE THEY ARE BORN with gender binary materials. People literally do not know how to talk to INFANTS until they know the gender.

    We have zero idea what is and is not inherent to gender because we A. don’t have a gender neutral culture B. start before children are born with gender coding. And the things that have been coded masculine or feminine? Yeah, they’ve changed dramatically over time. Pink used to be a male color. Dudes used to wear high heels and wigs and makeup. We didn’t always have cars or many of the things currently gendered. So unless you’re telling me rocks are inherently male or female, you’re just making shit up.

    It stands to reason that those born transgender would gravitate towards the things that are coded to the culturally accepted version of their real gender identity. Because that’s how that gender is performed. No one is born thinking pink = girl. That’s learned.

    Look, saying boys and girls are equal, as in neither gender is “better” than the other doesn’t mean people think men and women are the same. Other than we are all human beings, who don’t deserve to be told they can’t do things based on genitalia. We are all different from each other, with nuances and interests that don’t conform to our gender. None of us. Because it’s a social construct, how gender is performed. So kindly sit down and learn something before making any more asinine generalities.

  • Kate Drew This

    I’m not sure where this idea of all the “pre-fab” stuff comes from. The sets we have…no pre-fab. It’s LEGO. Blocks. There are accessories (the rock star stage has a guitar, the magic shoe has a wand and a rabbit), but as far as the set construction, it’s all building!

    Now, we don’t have ALL of the sets, so maybe some sets are more pre-fab than others.

  • athenia45

    I totally agree! I just really wish the “girly” stuff actually involved building things. I know their research has said that girls prefer to “play” rather than “build”, but there’s got to be a happy medium somewhere.

  • Mariah Huehner

    Yeah, and it’s not like folks like Lego haven’t done their damndest to code their building stuff as “for boys” so it’s no wonder if girls don’t want to do that as much. They aren’t encouraged to. That said, at least when I was nannying, the girl I looked after had the sweets shop set from the Friends line and it was just as much building as any other Legos. In fact, a little more complicated due to color co-ordination. I really dislike the figures, tho, and I remember she got rid of hers almost immediately. They didn’t fit with the other Lego’s she had and she was more into the building.

  • Anonymous

    “The minifigures have parts and hand sizes that prevent them from holding the same objects as regular Lego minifigures and swapping accessories like hair or headgear.”

    That’s objectively not true. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM9NQ_4k8vc

  • Anonymous

    The high school features a science lab and an art room. There’s nothing about cheerleading or dating.

  • John H

    Ahahahahahahahahahahaha! Best gender-essentialist satire EVAR.

  • John H

    *headdesk*

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the article in Psychology Today that talks about the studies that show that monkeys do exhibit the same gendered preference that people tend to.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/200804/why-do-boys-and-girls-prefer-different-toys

    And here are the two papers where those studies were published.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2583786/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2643016/

    As I said, it doesn’t mean that all people have this, we’re much more complicated than that. And it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong if you like toys geared for the opposite gender. As a man that grew up playing Barbies with his sister, reading Babysitters Club & Sweet Valley Twins, and who still enjoys things many people would consider “girly”, I’m the last person who would judge someone for not conforming to stereotype. But it does show that there might be a valid biological influence on our preferences for gendered toys.

  • Anonymous

    Yes it is. Good ol’ Maya. It was one of the avatars I got with the game from gog.com.

  • Anonymous

    True enough, but your choice of words was fairly alarmist about the sets themselves, which was the point I was speaking to.

  • Anonymous

    Senseless rhetoric. Your hypothesis are logically disconnected with your conclusions. It’s well spoken gibberish. I never implied that anyone’s choices should be limited. That’s what you are doing in criticizing a company for creating a toy that appeals to girls. You are forcing them to use toys that appeal to boys. Why would you do that if you didn’t have equal respect for both genders, (as I do). With rare deviation, throughout history and throughout every culture on the planet, boys are born to play as boys and girls as girls. You may not be aware of that from your particular perspective.
    Did you have the stomach to read what happened to David? Did you see the horrors that come from implementing your ridiculous theory?

  • Anonymous

    There is nothing narrow about broadening a toy selection to appeal to those most common of girls, (you are obviously aware and proud of your deviation from that description). It is a narrowing to deny my daughter the right to play with what ever toy she wants, just because you were different. Creating pink Lego’s doesn’t deny the overlap, it respects the diversity.
    People who aren’t typical seem to despise anything that appeals to those who are, all while railing against anyone who is simply normal being critical of them. How about you try joining me in being more open minded and back off criticizing a toy company for creating more options to appeal to more children?

  • Mariah Huehner

    No one is forcing anyone to play with anything, except a culture that idiotically limits choices based on gender and spend in an inordinate amount of time trying to define it along specific, arbitrary lines. I’m not limiting a company by critiquing their decisions: that’s absurd. I have no power to stop them doing whatever they like, which they have done. And which I am free to find fault with.

    When you say things like “boys like trucks inherently” it not only looks ridiculous, it doesn’t make any sense. None of your argument does. The only person with a substance argument problem is you.

    You keep saying “do you have the stomach to read what happened to David”. Do you understand anything about the story you’re citing? Have you made a study of gender and the ramifications of forcing children along certain gender lines? Do you know anything about being transgender and the complications associated with how we’ve chosen to define gender?

    Yes, I am very well aware of his case. He was used as an experiment and FORCED to be one way, like he was a thing. That is not the same as not forcing children to conform to gender one way or the other based on genitals. The opposite. He was forced to conform based on genitals he was assigned. His case is used to show how children who are born intersex, for instance, should be brought up as gender neutral as possibility and see what preferences they develop naturally and so they can decide FOR THEMSELVES what gender they identify with (or don’t. Some people identify as gender neutral).

    His case is used to show why we should NOT assign gender via surgery or otherwise to children because it can have an extreme consequence. I don’t think you understand a single thing about his case. It does not prove gender, as we perform it, is inherent. It actually shows how gender performance as a forced exercise is damaging. That applies to everyone, fyi.

    The “horrors” of allowing children to like different things? To not forcing people to play with one set of toys? You don’t even know what you’re arguing. Also? “Culture” defines what is and is not masculine or feminine. You realize not all cultures define this the same way? That it is not “rare’ throughout history to have much more fluid and less binary ideas of gender?

    Honestly, you should really sit down and let the grownups talk. You haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re arguing for or against. Lego’s are building blocks. They are a neutral toy right up until they were MARKETED along gender lines. That’s. The. Point.

    I honestly can’t believe you think you make any sense.