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Why I feel bad for LEGO, Dr. Pepper, and most (but certainly not all) Conservatives

February 24, 2012

If you’ve read this blog at all or just read some news lately, you should have at least heard about the stuff going on with LEGO’s new line directed at girls (where they’ve thrown out the boxy bodies of yesteryear and marketed a line of tall, beautiful, figurines). And should have definitely seen/heard the new Dr. Pepper 10 nonsense that is apparently “just for men”. You also should be well aware of all of the conservative and religious worry and attempts to control contraception in America (because preventing unwanted pregnancy is just terrible [oh gosh please hear my sarcasm]).

My short short story tonight is about why I feel sorry for the above entities. LEGO has gotten a bunch of backlash from the feminist community for their new set (and rightly so, I think), Dr. Pepper 10 is almost laughable and I wonder how long it will be before they pull it, and everyone jumped all over the all-male conservative contraception party (because they know so much about birth control, right?). But what most of the criticisms handed out fail to discuss is how we should give these entities a little bit of leeway (or at least have a paragraph devoted to saying how we understand how they got to this point but we still feel like we’ve got to be a little mean about things).

How old are these "friends" supposed to be anyway?

I mean, think about it. I’m quite an obvious feminist, but I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and think about dieting a lot. I know it’s ridiculous and I know it’s pressure that’s definitely coming from the media (among other places) that makes me think these things. But I’m fallible just like the next gal so i try to tell myself I’m being ridiculous and go about my day.

I give you the above example because it shows you how even though I’m all feminist-y and happy, I’m still a product of my environment and for the past 22 years and probably until I die will get messages that if I want to be attractive I have to be skinny, without wrinkles, with clear skin, blah, blah, blah (you get it).

And just like me, LEGO, Dr. Pepper and some conservatives are also a product of their environment (as an organization, and also as individuals who make up and lead that organization). So, you know, they’re gonna make some mistakes. But (a very important but too), they have the double whammy of having to cater to society (at least enough to sell their product or ideas) for money (or votes). So when LEGO’s rebuttal to all the feminist upheaval is something along the lines of “but we did market research and this is what little girls want”, they’re kind of right.

They’re just trying to be a smart business, and being a smart business doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re trying to enact social change for the better (even though that has definitely proven successful and should be continued!). They’re operating in a society that is heteronormative, lots of times sexist, and that still looks down upon female sexual empowerment, gender non-normative toy playing, you catch my drift.

What I’m NOT trying to say here is that we should let them off the hook. As the society who is at the receiving end of these entities ideas, it’s definitely our job to tell them this is NOT what we actually want, even though their market research might tell them it is. What I am trying to say is that we should maybe take a moment of silence to appreciate that enacting social change as an individual is difficult, and that to attempt to enact social change as a company or political figure is bound to be even harder because there’s generally more at stake.

This also means that when we see a company or politician be forward thinking and progressive in their goals or products we should be super-duper happy. Because that right there takes some moxie (and some amazing advertising and marketing!).

So when I read these critiques sometimes I just want to give a LEGO CEO a hug or something because they’re in a rock and a hard place, you know?

{For the record, this story ended up being longer than I anticipated but I wanted to be a pretty clear about what I was getting at so no one got all freaked out that I was saying we should stop telling LEGO we’re not gonna put up with this stuff. Because I’m not. Cool? Cool. Also, happy Friday everyone!}

One Comment leave one →
  1. aarondelwiche permalink
    February 24, 2012 5:11 pm

    For what it’s worth — and this is in no way a defense of LEGO — none of us are safe from this body image pathology. Capital trumps gender and sexual orientation. Magazines targeting men (e.g. Men’s Health and Details) reminds us that it is important to be trim-but-muscular with rock-hard abdominal muscles. And this goes beyond the hetero community. Many gay and bisexual men are just as obsessed with “gym bodies.” Huffington Post recently cited a study in which “48% of gay male respondents” reported that they would be willing to sacrifice a year of their life for a perfect body.

    Personally, the scariest thing is the fact that critical awareness does not immunize us from these powerful images. I can look at Shape or Men’s Health and recognize that I’m being manipulated, but it still works at some fundamental level. And, I can’t say with 100% certainty that I wouldn’t be willing to give up a year of my life for a perfect body. (It really depends on whether I’m talking about the difference between 67 and 68 or the difference between 96 and 97. If the latter is the case, bring it on!)

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