Ever see the Saturday Night Live commercial parody Chess For Girls?
The last scene in the commercial sums it up brilliantly. A little girl is brushing the queen’s hair, another’s putting pawns into a luxury convertible, and the third is feeding one of the knights from a bottle. “We’re playing chess!” they say, but of course in actuality they’re playing “girl” games – house, family and hairdresser.
Because, you know, regular chess is for boys.
In 1997, the idea of taking a gender-neutral strategy game, making it pink and selling it with bubbles to appeal to girls was ridiculous enough to be an SNL bit. But now, in 2011, Lego’s doing the same thing, for real. Its new “Lego Friends” kits still help build spatial, motor and math skills, like regular Legos, but these come with girl characters, bigger pieces, and pastel colors. The characters live in a pink town and embody pervasive, yet unfortunate, female stereotypes; there’s a beautician, a pop star, and a “social butterfly” (always a lucrative career choice.) Legos for girls.
Lego came up with these products based on extensive research into how girls play. During this research they learned the following:
- Girls prefer storytelling and collaboration to precision and competition. While boys methodically recreate the pictures on the Lego boxes, girls prefer to evolve their designs based on stories they come up with and collaborative play with friends.
- Girls identify in the 1st person with their Lego characters, while boys take more of a detatched, 3rd-person approach.
- Boys like to build linearly, one piece at a time. Girls, on the other hand, build more organically, changing and rearranging based on their storylines.
They also learned that toy aesthetics are much more important for girls. The separate Lego pieces seem unattractive to them. Boys tend to focus on the beauty of their “finished” products as opposed to the appearance of the individual blocks.
This research backs up much of what we already know about differences in play between boys and girls. But instead of fixing the larger picture – evolving the existing product to appeal more to both genders – Lego decided to create an entire new line just for girls.
Because, you know, regular Legos are for boys.
Leave a Reply to Debra Gelman