Lego Gives Girls (and Science) A Go

Here’s something to add to the “How Awesome, But Why Hasn’t It Happened Already?” file. Lego are bringing out a new Research Institute collection that will feature (cue horror music sting) a woman chemist, palaeontologist and astronomer.

It’s difficult to believe this is a ground-breaking thing. I mean women have been scientists for centuries. We all know of Marie Curie, who literally gave her life to her world-changing discoveries of radiology. She’s the reason we have x-rays today, and before she died of radiation exposure, her career included the discovery of two elements, and the winning of a lazy two Nobel Prizes. But before her there were many brilliant and brave ladies breaking through the constraints of 18th Century domesticity to explore science, the universe and what makes us all tick.

Just not in Lego Land. Until now. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Not just because the figurines are normal looking women with not a stitch of pink on them. And not just because the teeny tiny telescopes and teeny tiny beakers are beyond cool (except when sucked up in my vacuum cleaner or stood on in bare feet in the middle of the night).

But because I have a 5-year-old daughter, and I want her and all little girls to know, that you can become anything you want.

As a feminist, I was horrified when my darling fell in love with Barbie. What role modelling is she gaining from the plastic bimbo with her perfect hair and unattainable body shape? What kind of goals will she learn to set, aside from partying and swanning around town in a pink convertible and perfectly matching accessories? How will she see herself as anything but a passive, decorative princess?

In my desperation I searched Toy Stores for Barbies with “real” professions. Birthdays would come with a lecture to rival a TED talk.

“Look, look darling this is Doctor Barbie, she comes with her own stethoscope! And pink tights and completely impractical white stilettos, of course. That’s not to say doctors can’t wear pink tights and white stilettos. Feminism means you can choose to do, dress, be whatever you like, including heading off in a pink campervan with your girlfriends, but I want you to aim higher, but just to be happy as well, OH I’M SO CONFUSED!”

As I disappeared down my own panicky parental pressure rabbit hole, I realised two things:

1. My daughter’s imaginative play is perfect, because it comes from her beautiful pure little mind. Whether it’s with Barbie or Lego or our long-suffering cat, the world she explores is limited only by what I expose her to. If I want her to reach for the stars, or dig up dinosaurs, I need to introduce her to that possibility. It’s not up to Mattel. It’s Mummy and museums that are going to get her there.

2. The modelling that will lead to her healthy self-image is entirely up to me also. Forget Barbie. The high heels? Yeah, that’s what she sees me wearing. The make-up? Yep, me. The constant hair preening, the mirror checking, the never-ending worry about how I look? Me, me and, shamefully, me. Barbie has nothing to do with it. So regardless of the toys she chooses to play with, it’s my language and my behaviour that is going to give her the best, or worst, chance at a healthy body image.

So yeah, I own those two massive responsibilities.

But having some decent toys to play with that reinforce my daughter’s experiences, dreams and ambitions is only going to give me a helping hand when it comes to raising this gorgeous little ball of potential.

For that I’m deeply, beyond words, grateful to Dr Ellen Kooijman who submitted the Research Institute proposal to Lego Ideas (did you know you could do that? Why didn’t anyone tell me I could do that??).

And to the clever and inspirational 7-year-old Charlotte who wrote a letter to Lego, alerting them to the disparity between male and female Lego characters in the first place.

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You’ve both rocked my world, and given me an excellent reward for when my daughter next fills up her star chart.

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