If anyone is still holding on to the idea that abstinence only education isn’t all that bad, check out this quote from kidnapping and rape victim Elizabeth Smart:
Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run…
We talked with Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, about how American consumers can best pressure US corporations to protect workers abroad. Read the full interview here.
This week’s issue is out today, with a blockbuster cover story on how Wall Street spent $1 billion (!!) to gut Dodd-Frank, plus new pieces from Jessica Valenti and Naomi Klein. Find everything that’s inside here.
Happy May Day! From the celebration outside our office in Union Square.
LEGO Responds To Concerns About Street Harassment Stickers
Last week I posted here about a set of LEGO branded stickers I found in a store near me. The stickers featured a set of construction workers, one of whom was waving at an imaginary passer-by, shouting “Hey Babe!” That post caused quite a stir as evidenced here, here and the new reviews here.
Now LEGO has officially responded. More on that below.
I grew up playing with LEGOs and have a huge affinity towards the diminutive building blocks. In fact, I just began introducing my son to LEGOs, which was why these stickers caught my attention. That’s why I was so disappointed to see the brand affiliated with a product that normalized street harassment and cat-calling.
However, while I was disappointed with LEGO, I was more disappointed by some of the responses my post sparked. A number of men took to my Facebook page to defend the sticker asking if “Hey Babe” really amounted to harassment and warning the “well-intentioned anti-harassment camp” that their outrage could alienate “non-extreme feminists.” Another said, “IMHO, dealing with uncomfortable advances is part of being a human being. I’ve been hit on my both men and women I had no interest in, and yes, it was uncomfortable, but you just take it as a compliment and move on.” Even when a number of women tried to tell their own story about harassment and cat-calling the men in the thread seemed to minimize their experiences.
Then this weekend I got an email from Charlotte Simonsen, Senior Director at LEGO’s corporate communications office in Denmark (full email below). The stickers were a licensed product produced by Creative Imagination and was discontinued in the summer of 2010. Creative Imagination went out of business in December of 2012.
Simonsen said they were sorry I was disappointed with the product and assured me that my feedback had been forwarded on to the LEGO licensing team for their “future evaluation of how we can deliver the best possible LEGO experience.”
The email was fairly standard, and didn’t reference the content of my concerns or the specifics of this product except to say “To communicate the LEGO experience to children we typically use humor and we are sorry that you were unhappy with the way a minifigure was portrayed here.”
This explanation of the cat-calling construction worker is problematic for a range of reasons. First and foremost, who would think that these stickers were a positive communications of the “LEGO experience?” Secondly, where is the humor in this? Especially if the goal is communicating with kids. I have followed up with LEGO for clarification and asked a few more details about how their licensing agreements are structured and whether they had a chance to review products like this.
I never intended to cause such a stir, if we don’t call out these things when we see them, then even the little pieces of culture, like a pack of stickers, can serve to normalize sexist behavior and harassment. If you care about these issues here are some great resources and organizations to follow and support:
- Hollaback - http://www.ihollaback.org/
- Collective Action for Safe Spaces - http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/
- Stop Street Harassment - http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/
- Ms. Magazine - http://msmagazine.com/
- Women in Media and News - http://wimnonline.org/
- SPARK Movement - http://www.sparksummit.com/
- Miss Representation - http://www.missrepresentation.org/
The full text of LEGO’s response is below.
From: Charlotte Simonsen/COM
Subject: LEGO Group response to criticism of Creative Imagination licensed LEGO product
Date: April 27, 2013 9:45:39 AM EDT
To: Josh Stearns
Hi Josh, We are very sorry to learn about your disappointment with this product made by Creative Imagination under a LEGO license.
At the LEGO Group we greatly value all feedback we receive and I’d like to assure you that we also do so in this case.
We know that constructive LEGO play fosters positive, lifelong skills that are valuable to any child. We firmly believe in the play experience we offer, a system that lends itself to years of unlimited play possibilities for any child.
To communicate the LEGO experience to children we typically use humor and we are sorry that you were unhappy with the way a minifigure was portrayed here. This product was discontinued in the summer of 2010 and we have forwarded your comment to the LEGO Licensing team for their future evaluation of how we can deliver the best possible LEGO experience across our licensed products as well.
Thousands of labor and environmental activists gathered in downtown St. Louis today to protest corporate greed at Peabody Energy’s annual shareholders meeting, in solidarity with the United Mine Workers union. For more check out the Twitter hashtag #UMWA. (Photos from @CathySherwin and @aliemalie)
Cover of our latest issue, out today. Check out what’s inside here.
Happy Birthday Ella!
“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
Dear LEGO - Take the Street Harassment Out of Your Stickers
My son is just getting into Legos, so I thought he’d love these stickers. Then I took a closer look and saw that one of the construction workers (the only one wearing “cool” sunglasses) was labeled “Hey Babe!”
I was stunned. Maybe it’s the fact that I just saw the team at Hollaback speak this month, or maybe it is that this is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or maybe it is just that street harassment sucks. But chances are it was all three of these things that made me so mad to see a brand I love pushing this sort of thing.
The Hollaback website notes that street harassment is the most prevalent form of sexual violence for both men and women in the United States. Internationally, they point out, “studies show that between 70-99% of women experience street harassment at some point during their lives.”
Lego hasn’t really been on a roll recently when it comes to gender and its toys. See for example this post over at Ms. Magazine that picks apart the images of beauty in Lego’s new line of toys for girls (and check out the great ad from 1981 to see how far they have fallen).
Needless to say, I didn’t buy the stickers.
She’s a source of widespread frustration and anxiety who is demoralizing, uncaring, morale-draining, and very unpopular. He demands excellence and relevance.
She is difficult to work with, unreasonable, impossible, stubborn. He has a strong vision and insists on seeing it carried out.
She is AWOL and disengaged. He attended Sundance and SXSW.
Demanding a living wage of $15 per hour, retail and fast food employees at Macy’s, Subway, McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret and more have walked off the job today in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.