So a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Leslie, one of the “train gang ladies”, which makes us sound a lot more badass than we actually are, but really means that we all just take the train every day and stand around chatting about which train car attendant is the cutest, or meanest. Anyway, Leslie is really into Harry Potter and she told me that Chapters had their Harry Potter Lego Advent calendars for sale. And I was super-excited because I love Harry Potter. I don’t particularly like Lego myself, having realized a very long time ago that, while it’s great fun to put together, what the f*ck do you do with it afterwards? It just sits on a shelf collecting dust and if you try to play with it, it breaks into tiny pieces that you will inevitably step on. But the Advent calendar is a tiny spark of daily fun, and later, I can roleplay scenes from the Harry Potter movies for Titus. With the Lego figures. Obviously.
But it reminded me of the year that I forgot to order our Lego Advent Calendar. It was close to the beginning of December and all the good ones were sold out so I was getting panicky, but one night I was on our local Buy and Sell group and someone had a new Lego Advent Calendar for sale. I was immediately all over it. “But”, the woman cautioned, “it’s GIRL LEGO.”
I was like “So? What difference does it make?” and I bought it. Unfortunately, I was misled by my own naiveté, which had caused me to envision a bulldozer driven by a yellow lady Lego instead of a yellow man Lego. No, gentle reader, the difference was much bigger than that. I knew it when I saw the title on the box. It said Lego Friends; the “i” was DOTTED WITH A HEART, and I was immediately infuriated. Here’s what I bought. Two female dolls, and their little doll house. The “Lego” figures looked like Polly Pockets, or miniature Barbies, NOT those awesome Lego guys with the pointy heads you can put helmets and sh*t on. These girls apparently lived together and liked to cook in their kitchen with the pink blender and purple mixing bowl that came with the kit. They had a pink and purple couch, a pink and purple toboggan, pink presents, and a white kitty cat who was wearing a purple collar with a pink heart on it. And the worst part was that virtually nothing needed to be assembled. I could forgive the colour scheme (personally I LOVE the colour purple) and the cutesy hearts, because assembly is the great equalizer. However, Lego seemed to think that girls are too clumsy or stupid to put things together the way boys can, so almost everything was preassembled for them. Anyway, I was shocked that in the 21st century, this kind of blatant sexism still exists, that according to Lego, all girls like hearts, the colours purple and pink exclusively, kitty cats, and cooking, and have trouble with manual dexterity. But on the box, there’s a warning that the kit isn’t suitable for children under 3—Lego claims it’s because of a choking hazard, but I think this just gives all of us a chance to make sure our little girls play with lots of regular “boy” Lego before they turn three and have to be exposed to the ridiculous world of Lego stereotypes. Then again, when I examined the scene on the box more closely, the two girls were obviously living together, cosying up on the couch to exchange pink presents, and were planning to host a dinner party with their kitty. Could Lego, in an extremely subtle and subversive way, have created the first Lego Lesbian Couple? Maybe I was wrong about Lego after all.
But then I started to do a little more investigating and realized that, unless Lego had created an entire COLONY of queer women, they were just plain old sexist. Case in point, the Lego Friends “Lighthouse Rescue Centre” where you can join Mia, Emma and their girlfriends (the only characters pictured on the box are female) as they cavort with sea lions, and holy sh*t is that a heart on the jetski?! I don’t know about you, but I’ve NEVER seen a PINK lighthouse, let alone one with a waterslide. Compare this to the Lego Helicopter Rescue kit that features four dudes (only guys are featured on the box) and a very realistic hospital, ambulance, and helicopter.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with a girl liking pink things, or kitties, or make-up—god knows, I love ALL those things and got my hair coloured purple on Saturday—I just think children should have a choice that isn’t based on gender stereotypes forced onto them by companies like Lego. Boys can like pink lighthouses and girls can like red helicopters. And people can be whoever and whatever they want to be.
I think back to my own childhood and wonder how I managed to escape those same media stereotypes and ended up being the person I am today. (My grade 5 teacher told my parents that I was “bossy and outspoken”—you’re goddamn right I am.) I had Barbies, and a Barbie camper, but we also had the “cowboy people”, one of whom was Cowboy Jane, whose only goal in life was to f*ck with Barbie by kidnapping her baby for a hefty ransom when she was on one of her many camping trips. Finally, my brother, who has a Ph. D., and I decided to test the laws of gravity, physics, and thermodynamics all at the same time by sticking matches in the side panels of Barbie’s camper, setting it alight, and launching it into our swimming pool from my second story bedroom window (don’t tell my Mom).
Today, I’m looking after the adorable child of my brother and sister-in-law, who agrees with me that people should be able to like whatever they want—she reminded me that even though she likes pink, she also likes red and black. Right now she’s wearing a sweatshirt with a unicorn on it and she’s drawing a very realistic picture of an egg:
Me: What are you good at?
C: Um…I’m very good at drawing things.
Me: You are.
C: I’m really good at math. I’m also very good at painting. And building things.
Me: You ARE. Anything else?
C: I’m good at being kind to people and also being helpful.
Me: That’s a very important thing for everybody to be good at.
C: I’m good at paying attention. Every day at school I get a sticker for paying attention. I DO have a lot of stickers.
C: Also, I’m going to be a veterinarian one day.