Feminist Legoing

Das Big Boy has just begun building with regular size Legos–with assistance, of course. Over the holidays, he built the race car carrying delivery truck that he received courtesy of the Huxtables, and the race car from Toy Story that Buzz and Woody use to catch the moving van at the end of the film. We’ve also been building with a gas station toy he got for his birthday, although with that one, we like to build random stuff like hovercrafts or elevators and then play with them.

The Legos have been getting lots of life as toys once they’re built, which is great because we get to work on frustration tolerance when they inevitably fall apart. Frankly, the only person who’s gotten frustrated at a deconstructed Lego project is me. I left Herr Husband in charge of Das Big Boy playing with the Lego truck at the breakfast table, knowing this was dangerous territory.

“Make sure he doesn’t drop it off the table,” I said, eager to enjoy the rare solo-bathroom trip that comes with having Herr Husband on staycation (who said romance is dead when you have small children?).

From the bathroom, I heard a crash.

“What happened?” I shouted!

“I went to check on Little Liebchen,” Herr Husband explained, “because she was too quiet.”

“And this was a problem because…” I snarked.

I emerged to find the Lego truck back into forty pieces, and had a mini wingding as I struggled to put it together. “We worked so hard on this!” I whined to Herr Husband. “I don’t know where anything goes and you threw out the directions! There goes my whole vacation!” And so on in embarrassing fashion that need not be detailed here.

Eventually, I calmed down and tried to turn it into a teachable moment. “I got frustrated about the Lego truck and I didn’t handle it well.” I told Das Big Boy. “I should have taken a break.”

But I digress. The nice thing about the Legos once they become toys is they are something the kids can play with together. The little people are cute and fun and accessible at the two-year-old and the four-year-old level. Except.

NONE of Das Big Boy’s sets come with even a single female character. Because apparently women don’t drive cars or trucks or pump gas.

I feel this sets a bad example (have I ever written about the time DBB and I had an actual fight about whether or not a girl figure could drive a toy bus? He kept insisting that the man had to drive, and I kept taking the man out and shoving the woman in and saying the lady could drive and we actually broke a piece of the bus but I think I finally won.).

I give you a binocular toting astronaut in an autoreferential shirt, a coffee drinking gas station/race car team employee (LL loves to pretend to drink coffee), and a doctor with an alarmingly scaled syringe. Trust me, I did my best with what was provided.

I give you a binocular toting astronaut in an autoreferential shirt, a coffee drinking gas station/race car team employee (LL loves to pretend to drink coffee), and a doctor with an alarmingly scaled syringe. Trust me, I did my best with what was provided.

So for LL’s birthday, I got her some female Lego people. It’s not easy. I know that under duress, they made those scientist ladies that are impossible to get/wickedly expensive. If you want to buy Lego Mini-Figures, it’s a surprise which one you’re getting and only 20% seem to be women, and some of those are women doing silly (slash awesome) things like dressing like unicorns, which is cool and all but maybe not that empowering. And if you buy a building set with a woman, it’s one of those Lego Friends sets, which we’ve already discussed.

So I finally got to the Lego store, where I managed to make my own Lego women. With a crew of children in the five to seven year-old range, I crowded around the tubs and fished for female hair and faces (now of course women can have short hair, and the Lego people use lipstick to denote a female face, so really I’m just buying into gender roles, but let’s save Judith Butler for another day). I had my own little dish going, and kids kept coming up to paw through it. “Sorry, that’s mine,” I’d explain to them and their parents. Then, sensing that I needed to justify why a grown woman was elbowing small children out of the way at the build-you-own-Lego-people station, I explained myself: “I’m building female Lego people for my daughter because all the kits come with men.”

“Cool,” one said one dad, then, to his wife, “Let’s make sure Cam builds one woman. I want some diversity in his collection of Lego people.” Awesome. (NB: all of the Lego people are yellow, which suggests a lack of diversity, but I’m focused on the gender stuff today.)

And then, when I explained my goals to the cashier, he asked me to take a look at the Mini-Figures display. “I tagged some of them in back, so if there’s a female one you want, I can be sure you get her.” Yes, it destroys the element of surprise that I think is supposed to make Mini-Figures fun, but I selected a female paleontologist and added her to my collection. And I thought it was cool that instead of rolling their eyes at my Lego feminism, both the cashier and the dad agreed with me and supported my mission. Huzzah!


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