The discussion around LEGO ‘for girls’ and whether Friends is too pink seems to have died down somewhat of late, but the Spectator have a new think piece to add to the debate. Andrew Watts makes his case on the magazine’s website for why pink LEGO sets are not as problematic as campaigners looking to eliminate them believe.
It is not surprising that female scientists are keen for girls to play with Lego. Studies have shown that they can build cognitive skills as well as caltrops, and that the gender gap in spatial skills, for example, is virtually eliminated if girls play with Lego (and similar toys) as much as boys do. The fact that items like Lego came to be considered ‘boys’ toys’ is one reasons why young women are not making the impact they should in science and technology, which rely on these skills.
He goes on to argue that in a world that is not ideal, girls playing with gender-orientated LEGO sets is better than them avoiding the toy at all.
As such, the campaign against pink Lego was the worst form of counterproductive virtue-signalling: demanding what sounds like equality at the expense of actually improving women’s life chances. In an ideal world, girls and boys would play equally with Lego in nice primary colours; but what do you do if your daughter comes home from nursery saying she has decided that she can’t play with Lego because it’s a boy’s toy? Do you say, ‘Here’s a copy of Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender — I’d like you to read it, paying particular attention to her remarks on neuroplasticity’? Or do you say, ‘Look! This Lego is pink!’?
As Lise Eliot, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Chicago’s Rosalind Franklin University, puts it, ‘If it takes colour-coding or ponies and hairdressers to get girls playing with Lego, I’ll put up with it, at least for now, because it’s just so good for little girls’ brains.’ Lego is a toy we want our children to love. And that’s why many middle-class parents, despite insisting that their children should only watch CBeebies so they are not exposed to commercials, will willingly take them to the Lego movie.