Legos do not have a gender. And neither do the projects they create.

This is a Lego brick.

 

This is a Lego brick.

It’s in black and white because I overexposed the hell out of the original shot, but other than that, it’s an ordinary Lego brick.  It has four sides, six nubs on top, and a nub on the bottom.  You know what it doesn’t have?

A gender.

There are no boy Legos. There are no girl Legos.  A Lego is a Lego is a Lego.

You know what also doesn’t have a gender?  The things you make out of Legos.

Now that everyone is thinking “wtf is she on about now?”, a few hours ago someone retweeted something and it floated in front of me. I’ll be honest- I don’t remember which of my friends retweeted it, and I don’t know the original source – the person who said it is not someone I know, and I can’t even remember who it was. I do know what my reaction to it was, though.  Here I am, several hours later typing angrily into my keyboard, because I need to say this.

What it was about was a Lego build of Venice, Italy, seen somewhere.  The comment was “Finally, a Lego build for the ladies.”

Oh. Hell. No.

HELL no.

Not for nothing, but Zaha Hadid kicked in the door to the Pritzker Prize in 2004, and even that took too damned long.  But that one sentence explains so much of why women in architecture and design *STILL* have to fight tooth and nail.  STILL.  It’s ridiculous, and I’m not letting it go by without calling it out.

Venice is a beautiful city.  It’s lovely and romantic, which is (I am quite sure) what was meant by the comment.  But it is also a place of *fantastic* engineering.  It is a city based on the *technical marvel* of the built environment vs. nature. I am damned sure that was *not* what was meant by the retweeted comment.

On my desk I have two Lego builds. One of the Empire State Building. The other is of  the Guggenheim NYC.  Are those Lego models not for me?

*checks*

*checks again*.

Nope. No penis.  Still female.

The point of Lego- which is still the greatest toy ever for anyone who loves to build, adult or child, is that it allows you to create anything. Anything.  From a firehouse, to the Empire State Building, to Venice, to a bed for your cat. NONE of these things has a gender. There are no “builds for the ladies” without the inherent assumption that OTHER builds are for the men.

Bullshit.

This particularly kind of gender-biased and odious thinking in architecture is why in a magazine spread about architects, you have to BEG them to include a woman, even though there’s no shortage of talented women in architecture.  It’s about why women routinely decide not to deal with engineering- because they have to deal with stupid shit like this all the time.  It’s about why when you say youre a designer, as a woman, what people *hear* on the other end is “decorator*.

It’s RIDICULOUS. And here in MY space? I will not stand for it.

Besides, gang, it insults *MEN* just as much.  For everything assigned to women in some offhanded gesture of casual, institutionalized sexism, it excludes men from that same thing.  That’s nonsense too, and I’m not having it.

Legos? Neutral. Lego builds? Neutral. ARCHITECTURE? Neutral.  DESIGN? Neutral.

LEARN IT.

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Hooray – brilliant post and one I so thoroughly agree with! Lego is lego is lego – perfect.

  2. Brilliant and perfect. I totally agree that gender has nothing to do with legos, or design in general.

  3. Bravo.
    …and Brava…
    So LITTLE has to do with gender, now more than ever before, and yet still the small-minded cowards insist on classifying things this way.
    I am male (as my girlfriend puts it – VERY male), I have all the pluses and minuses that go with that statement… and yet… I love baskets in decorating, I love incense and scented candles, and I prefer a neat and orderly environment.
    And I am told constantly it is ‘girly’ – hello?
    No.
    Like Lego, and SO much else – these things have no gender.
    so – bravo. So perfectly said.
    thank you.

  4. …and since Venice exists as the most intricately engineered open sewer in existence, I extra-resent that.

    I grew up with Lego. Mom started supplying me when I was 2 years old, immediately upon confirming that I wouldn’t eat them. No one ever told me I couldn’t play with them or use them to build something awesome just because I’m female. But I never had Barbies either, which is to say that my parents never succumbed (or let me succumb) to the idea of gendered play.

    Because the marketing of leisure and play, especially with regard to games and toys for children? *Pathologically* gendered, and not even shy about it. So while Lego is, fact, not intrinsically gendered or gender-indicated, its distribution context is very much so. If you’re a kid who spent lots of time in toy stores you’d find your Lego with the other constructor toys, in or near the other coded-for-boys toys. And you’d find them packaged lavishly conceived and increasingly action-genred themed sets. And you may wake up in a beautiful house. With a beautiful [Your Preference Here]. But, chances are you’ll never ask how you got there. Because if you never stopped to decompress and parse the idea that proximity is *not* destiny and that Lego isn’t just for boys just because its more opportunistically marketed *at* boys, you may end up being the asshole who pipes up on Twitter one day with “Finally, a Lego build for the ladies.” Because if you grew up to become a male architect, you may not have had any reason to ask. Because finding Lego in the boys’ section of your childhood toy store has now become your origin story.

    • In a statement that will surprise you not at all, I was not permitted to play with Barbies either. Baby dolls yes (I kept beheading them and my mother got the point eventually), but my mother, in a rather bold and smart move for its time, deemed that she felt Barbies perpetuated an unrealistic body ideal.

      Dear mom,
      On *this one*, youre right. Thank you.

      I actually didn’t have legos as a kid, because legos were really, really expensive. I had other creative toys- spin art, etch a sketch, spirograph. I don’t recall having legos.

      However what bothers me about this, and I want to say that as usual, Ridgely, I think you’re slam on the money with your comment and I adore you so, is that it’s not the people who are TRYING to be offensive that bother me so much. People who *try* to offend are just silly. Every time Glenn Beck or Fred Phelps or similar opens his mouth I start laughing. It’s all so RIDICULOUS.

      No. What bothers me are offhanded, casual comments like this, which are truly NOT meant to offend at all. In fact, they’re uttered without the slightest thought that they might, in fact be offensive. It speaks of an absorption of cultural poison that’s deep, profound, and infuriating. It’s GIGO. It’s institutionalized bullshit. And no. No more of it. We’ve had enough.

  5. Another Lego-lifer. I even built myself out of Lego, and my little androgynous Lego me stands next to my Lego Han Solo and my Lego Porkins (also built by me) and all my Star Wars toys…oh wait, Star Wars isn’t for girls either? What about Hot Wheels? Any action movies? Lawn mowers? Dremels? Blue clothing? ARGH!

    My head caught fire a few years back over the “Della” notebook computer that was advertised as being so inexpensive you could buy one of each color to coordinate your clothes! Whaaat? Ugh.

    So glad we were raised better. ;)

    • I had Planet of the Apes action figures, with the treehouse. I loved the treehouse. I thought that was awesome. I remember my father gave me my first tool set.. I was about 8 or 9? I had that thing for years. It came in a big wooden case with a space for each tool. They were a natural wood with blue accents.

      What’s still sticking with me about this, days later is what Ridgely said below about the Origin Story. How many architects reference Lego in that story, and I wonder how those origin stories differ wildly but similarly depending on whether the teller is male or female.

      • We had the discussion regarding Legos vis a vis architecture students on day in our studio. It turns out that fully 95% of the students in the class had Legos as a major part of their “toy chest” growing up. Our studio was approximately 50/50 male/female. As I recall, out of 40 students, only 3 did not play with Legos. 2 female, 1 male. Discussions with other year students afterwards revealed the same common experience.

        Legos were one of the foundation toys of the student’s childhoods. Many still have them (or at least, access to them). This was irrespective of gender.


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