Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's just stuff.

NB The headline is not a new thought. It's not even a new thought for me. But it's one that's been raging in my head since yesterday.

This was prompted by a piece in The Guardian’s 'Comment-is-free' section about the new 'Lego Friends' range. 'Friends' is a new set of Lego for girls, incorporating five girl figures who like girly things like make-up and clothes and ponies and shopping and...

Okay, to be fair to Lego™, the products also include the 'Heartlake Flying Club' (where the girls can fly aeroplanes), and 'Olivia's Inventor's Workshop', 'Olivia's Speedboat', and 'Olivia's Treehouse' – yay! go Olivia! (who is “good at reading maps, navigation by the stars, building things, computers”; who wants “to be a scientist or an engineer”; and whose favourite colour is pink) – so they've clearly thought about it some.

The Guardian piece – itself prompted by an online petition “Tell LEGO to stop selling out girls!” – vacillates liberal-ly between "Oh, this pink stuff for girls is pretty suspect, isn't it" and "but should we really be policing children's imagination?"; while the comments – never read the comments! – see the usual outpouring of "girls and boys are different so there", "feminists are stupid and should shut up - lol", and "but what about the kids, what about the kids?!" My own contribution BTL was (mostly) this:

As for pink lego: it's the marketing of it as “girls’ lego” that's stupid. Lego is just stuff. People are always far too eager to attribute gender to stuff that's just stuff. Stop that already! Let children – girls and boys alike – play with it (or not) if they want to. I know that as a young boy I'd have been very happy to play with pink lego and all the paraphernalia. I liked that sort of stuff then, and I still like it. Because it's not “girls’ stuff” or “boys’ stuff” – it's just stuff.

And that's the thought which has been on my mind since then. Because why is this stuff being gendered at all? Why is anything gendered? “This here is girls’ stuff; that there is boys’ stuff.” What on earth?!? Is everyone bonkers? Are we all five years old? It's just stuff ffs!

Well, that's my thought anyway. Neither original, nor particularly profound, but still... I think I'll make it my maxim from now on. Perhaps I should have it put on a t-shirt, so that if anyone ever gives me nonsense about gender in future, I can simply point to it:

IT'S ... JUST ... STUFF !


  1. I have a similar t-shirt when out in lady mode: "they're just stuffed" :-)

    Cr4p jokes aside: yeah, you could argue that the Lego range is aimed at girls, but does it really matter? Yes, there is generally a difference in the way children play, but if a girl wants Lego Ninjago and a boy wants Lego Friends, so what? Let them indulge.

    On a side note, we did have a reasonable amount of PlayPeople toys - mostly pirates and soldiers for Wee Man. When he passed them on to his younger sister, she played with them, although they had more tea parties and sit downs than out and out war. Personally, I wish there were more tea parties and less war. :-)

  2. Hi Lynn

    1) Congratulations! You just made the 100th comment on my blog. There should be a prize really, but I can't think what it might be.

    2) "Yes, there is generally a difference in the way children play" – indeed; but then the pertinent question is "why?" Maybe we won't go into that right now ;)

    3) Coincidentally, I just came across this blogpost: 'Gender Lesson'.

    The author writes...

    I created this “gender lesson” for teachers to present in schools based on the needs of gender nonconforming children I see in my private practice and those I read about online.

    And concludes with...

    All toys are for all children.
    Colors are for everyone.
    People are different, and everyone likes different things.
    Everyone gets to pick how they wear their hair.
    Everyone gets to pick the way they dress.
    Everyone gets to pick their own style.

    Can we go back 40 years and have her visit my school please? :)

  3. Not everyone is bonkers but too many have bad ideas and bad attitudes, and I doubt this can be remedied.

    For what it's worth, I agree that adults - especially commercial companies - directing children's sense of gender in this way interferes with their natural development.


  4. The comments on stuff like this should always be avoided! Whole heaps of ignorance topped with prejudice.
    It is funny how stuff gets gendered, I guess society is still very binary, and 'stuff' mirrors this accordingly. I would imagine a lot of people don't even think about it, colours, toys, clothes, books, all gendered in some shape or form. Maybe it's only when you question/think about your gender that it becomes more apparent....

  5. Hi. Thanks for commenting. Yes to all that :)

  6. For a nice cartoon about Lego Friends and stuff, see here :)