Editor's Note: Kelly Byrom is HLNtv.com's Art Director and the mother of three children. She and her husband are committed to encouraging and supporting their daughter and both of their sons to follow their hearts and be true to themselves. Boys in tutus don't scare them at all. Follow Kelly on Twitter @designisgood.
Apparently, some people are up in arms -- little plastic arms -- about Legos. The company announced a new line of toys designed for girls called "Friends." Yes, they're pink, but some people are more upset about the backstory attached to the main characters. Each girlfriend includes a storyline about her personality and preferences. One likes animals, another is the "social girl." And yes, some of the "friends" are defined by gender roles that can be stereotypical, like beautician and singer.
As a woman and a mother of a daughter, I should be enraged, holding up signs and burning my bra in protest that Lego assumes my daughter must have pink toys, correct? How dare they assume my daughter has to limit her options to being "social' or liking animals?
But I'm also a huge fan of Lego, and grew up with the toys. I still have my treasured collection from "back in the day," including the pirate ship, the airport, the raceway, space station, the electric train ... it goes on. I am a girl, and no way would I have wanted pink or "girly" Legos when I was a kid.
But here's the thing: My five-year-old son would absolutely LOVE these. He adores all things pink, glittery and girly. What has me steamed about this story is what it says about gender roles for boys.
Are current Legos products gender-neutral? Heck NO! It's all guy ... from "Star Wars" and "Cars" to Ninjas. Even the neutral-sounding "City" line is mostly full of cars, fire engines and planes. Most of the 'mini-fig' characters that come with playsets are male. Pure macho stuff, hardly gender neutral.
So where's the outrage that our boys are pressured by overly-masculine stereotypes through building bricks?
My daughter can dress up as a ferocious dragon for Halloween and no one bats an eye. But put my boy in a Minnie Mouse costume and people start getting nervous. Not for one second did I worry about the looks we would get for my daughter this year, but you bet I was ready to challenge anyone who questioned my son. Girls have so many choices, and that's a great thing, but boys should get that same freedom.
And why are "boys toys" for everyone and "girls toys" just for girls?
We bought my son a fireman costume, one of the standard boy pretend-play outfits. He routinely pairs it with a tutu and declares himself a "fireman princess." He knows what he likes, and he's not finding it in the "boys toys" aisle.
The run-up to my son's birthday parties is always fun. His friend's parents ask what he'd like as a gift, and I list his favorite princess and fairy toys. THUD. One mom didn't hold back, saying "Well, I don't want to encourage that."
I'm not worried that he's getting mixed messages. Giving my son nothing but macho Legos while steering him clear of the "the pink aisle" boxes him into a stereotypical gender role every bit as much as a "pinked-down" version of any traditional boy toy.
When my daughter dresses up as a dragon, I don't worry she'll grow up confused about her status as human versus animal, and playing with pirate Legos won't turn my kid into Blackbeard.
So while I understand parents might not want their daughters too influenced by "girly" toys, I don't want those same "macho" limits imposed on my son. And as for the new Lego "Friends" sets, you don't have to buy them, but I will.