In late 2012, Legos unveiled its Legos Friends line for girls, which seemed to focus more on hanging out with best friends than anything else. Girls could put together a Lego cafe or style salon if they were in a building mood. A Change.org petition to the Legos CEO bearing nearly 70,000 signatures challenged the gender stereotyping in the new line. A year later, Debbie Sterling, a recent Stanford graduate in mechanical engineering and product design, released the first GoldieBlox construction kits, which also targeted girls, but actually taught them skills in elementary mechanics.
The web and television advertising for both product lines demonstrate clear differences in the expected purposes for which the toys are to be used. And, given that these are short commercials selling a product, they are jam-packed with visual and verbal signifiers which sell the values, lifestyles and beliefs the products are supposed to represent. In this MediaLit Moment, your early elementary students will learn how to decode some of the larger clues to those values, and learn how to talk about what those values mean for girls and boys in society.
Ask students to describe the differences between advertisements for similar toys, and to explore the significance of those differences.
AHA!: The second ad actually shows girls building things!
Grade Level: 1-3
Key Question #4 for Young Children: What does this tell me about how other people live and believe? Is anything or anyone left out? (What values, lifestyles, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?)
Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view.
Key Question #1 for Young Children: What is this? How is this put together? (Who created this message?)
Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.
Materials: Computer with high speed internet access, LCD projector and screen.
Activity: Begin by asking students about the kinds of toys that they like. You may wish to point out differences in preferences between boys and girls. Next, show students the Legos Friends ad:
Ask students, what kinds of things are the girls doing in this ad? Play the video at least twice, so that students can recall significant details. Next, play a GoldieBlox ad: http://www.goldieblox.com/pages/beastie-boys-rube-goldberg-machine
Finally, ask students what the Legos Friends and GoldieBlox ads seem to "say" about girls. What are they supposed to be like? What are they supposed to do? Is there anything in particular in the ads that tells them these things? What do they think about these messages?
Extended Activity: Turn the lesson into a multimedia activity by asking your students to come in with a favorite toy, or even the package for one of their favorite toys, and discuss the different messages about gender in their toys and the GoldieBlox video.
The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com