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New pink LEGOs for girls enforce Disney Princess sterotypes

A new line of pink LEGOs, marketed towards girls, is just another example of the extreme gendering prevalent in children's popular culture, and enforces the Disney Princess stereotypes that have made Disney billions.

By Guest blogger / April 26, 2012

LEGOs capture the attention of two-year-old Jo'Hanna Osenkarski during a LEGO event March 8, 2012 near Michigan City, Ind. A new line of pink LEGOs, marketed toward girls, is just another example of the extreme gendering prevalent in children's popular culture, and enforces Disney Princess stereotypes.

Bob Wellinski/The News Dispatch/AP

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Saturday Night Live’s fake commercial, “Chess for Girls," was hilarious in 1997–but today, it strikes awfully close to home. An ultra-pink chess set that’s “not too hard, just pretty and fun” – with prancing ponies and a long-haired queen in a gown? Wow. Who knew SNL could see the future of children’s popular culture?

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Guest blogger

Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a children's media culture expert. A professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University, in Salem, Mass., her research focuses on girls and media. The author of "Growing Up With Girl Power: Girlhood on Screen and in Everyday Life,"  she blogs about children's media and popular cultur and lives with her husband and son in Peabody, Mass.
 

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Right now, everyone is talking about gender divisions in the toy aisles. Boys' toys swim in a sea of blue and black, while girls’ toys look like victims of a catastrophic Pepto-Bismol spill.

This is a big enough problem that about a month ago, Hamleys Toy Shop in London  made news by desegregating children’s toys, grouping them by interest instead of gender.

It wouldn’t have been newsworthy if the typical toy store layout wasn’t such a problem.

As you’ve likely heard, LEGO one-upped the stakes recently by creating a reductive and offensive girls’ line of LEGOs. If you think about it, the concept of LEGOs for girls practically plagiarizes SNL’s Chess for Girls. Like chess, LEGOs are enjoyable to both boys and girls. But making a new LEGO line that is pink, beauty-centric, and not too hard? Perfect!

No wonder parents and critics are upset.

In fact, it seems a movement is building, buttressed by a national dialogue about unnecessarily heightened gender divisions in children’s popular culture. SPARK mailed LEGO more than 48,000 signatures protesting the new line in January. The numbers speak volumes.

But how did we get here? How did gender divisions become quite so divisive?

There are lots of ways to explain this history. But in my opinion, Disney – one of the major producers and arbiters of children’s culture – plays a central role in it. In 1999, a Disney exec realized that by grouping Disney’s Princesses together, they might be worth more than the sum of their parts. This marketing insight has brought Disney billions in revenue. Other companies like Mattel moved quickly to cash in on the trend, fueling the princess craze.

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