LEGO’s Loss

I recently wrote a piece for Ms. Magazine’s blog about a UK toy store that decided to organize their toys via “type” vs boy/girl. While the ultimate reasoning behind the toy store’s decision is still up for debate, the fact that they actually did away with gender codification within their aisles is a win in my book. As I worked on the post, I wondered if others would follow suit, when they realized they didn’t have to divide their store amongst blue and pink lines to sell merchandise.

And then…LEGO happened.

LEGO has recently announced “Ladyfigs” – a new line aimed specifically at girls. This line features a lot of pink and purple, slimmed down, yet still curvaceous figures, and pre-created background settings that include beaches and cafés. A few folks have already written about LEGO’s latest offering, and needless to say, they’re not so thrilled.

Dear LEGO, I Have a Girl

Et Tu, Lego?

My feeling about all of this can be summed up by this tweet:

Lego is launching a product line for girls. Someone should tell them that they already have one; its called legos. 

It’s not that I’m anti-pink and purple. I just can’t wrap my head around why LEGO has to go out of its way to target girls with overt stereotypes, when they already have a product that is awesomely gender neutral.

A few weeks ago my family went to to CT to check out the big LEGO expo that was going on at the local convention center. The place was filled with wall to wall kids – boys and girls alike. LEGO blocks of every color were being used to build cars, buildings, planes, boats, and more. There was no “boy section” or “girl section.” This new line of girl-centric LEGOs was nowhere to be found, and the majority of blocks were the primary colored ones we all know and love. (There were a few new colors thrown into the mix…an awesome chartreuse green and a bubble gum pink were some of the highlights for me)

Nobody seemed to have any trouble building something amazing out of the blocks provided…boys or girls. I’m not disappointed with LEGO in trying to build up their female customers. I get that they have a business to run and are trying to find ways to boost sales. But why can’t they attempt to do so in innovative ways that don’t rehash and promote tired stereotypes? Why can’t they remember older ads, where instead of promoting gender codification, they promoted creative, innovative playing (regardless of gender)?

There is currently a petition making the rounds (Spearheaded by Spark Summit) asking LEGO to rethink their decision regarding Ladyfigs. The petition is simple – it is asking LEGO to not underestimate young girls, and their imaginations. It is asking LEGO to not play into the cycle of stereotyping that occurs on a daily basis.

LEGO, we are asking you to:

1. Bring back your “beautiful” campaign;
2. Include girls in your advertising for all LEGOs sets;
3. Include more girl characters in your regular LEGO sets;
4. Market regular LEGOs in the “so-called” girl aisles of toy stores.
5. Release a public statement committing to the above actions and to practices that won’t sell girls out.

I am hopeful that LEGO actually listens to it’s customers and rethinks the way they market to girls. Hopefully they can set a precedent, similar to the one that Hamleys’ toy store has set with their gender neutral aisles – and show that it’s not about marketing ploys that exploit a tired stereotype, but about the integrity of the toy itself.

7 thoughts on “LEGO’s Loss

  1. My now-33 year old daughter adored her Legos. She and her friend Dan (yes, a boy) would play for hours day after day building structures and then creating adventures for their little Lego figures in those structures.

    She didn’t need pink and purple Legos, nor did she need Barbie-fied environments of beaches, stores, and beauty shops. She wanted castles, dungeons, space centers, and whatever she and Dan could imagine.

    She’s now all woman, smart, sexy, and stunning, earning a great living and in a great romantic relationship. She accomplished all this without ever having been relegated into a pink and purple “girls toys” ghetto. She only played with Barbies to please a grandmother; she preferred Star Wars action figures, Transformers… and non-genderized Legos. Now she drives auto-cross, does her own suspension and brake work on her cars, makes gorgeous gemstone jewelry, cooks, plays D&D and WoW, and shops for shoes on an almost-weekly basis. She’s a total individual, not locked into a “you’re only a girl” boxes!

    Why take that away by making “girlie” Legos? Stop boxing girls in! Let them be who they are, as you once did in some really kick-ass advertising.

    To quote others: “Lego already has a product for girls. It’s called Legos.”

    Put Legos in “girls” aisles in toy stores.
    Use girls as well as boys in all your advertising visuals.
    Make some female Lego people and include them in all sets.
    Let the world know that you won’t stereotype and isolate female children.

  2. I agree whole heartedly and am so upset at Lego. My daughter actually wrote them a letter a year or two ago asking them to include more female minifigs in the sets. She felt automatically excluded from her brothers’ sets, because all the characters were boys. The new sets are ugly and won’t be purchased by us. What is next? Technics sets that hold your cell phone or a robotic project that applies make up?

  3. I first saw that “What it is, is beautiful” ad in a post by Blue Milk. And still, I CANNOT look at it without tearing up. I look at that little girl, and I see my little sisters. We’re all in our thirties now. I’ve read Peggy Orenstein’s book, and yet I’m still flabbergasted; WHAT HAS HAPPENED to little girlhood in the years since I was myself a little girl? Flabbergasted.

  4. I have a lot of respect for the points you and other sibling feminists are making RE: the new “LEGO Friends” sets. And I LOVE LEGO. BUT I would argue that a lot of people are also viewing “non-girly” LEGO through rose-coloured glasses and believing it is gender-neutral. Often it is not!

    For example:

    – we are trained to see “boys” toys as being inherently more neutral and universal than “girls” toys. So we often see “normal” LEGO as more neutral than it actually is.

    – the toy market in mainstream Western society is extraordinarily gendered and dichotomized, and has been for years (though not uniformly so)

    – building toys are still gendered male in mainstream Western society. I hate to tell you, but it is true. It’s nice that some people believe this has gone away, but there are many places where it has never gone away!!!

    – the LEGO people are called mini-figures (minifigs for short). This calls to mind the dilemma of dolls versus action figures. And LEGO is trapped by this paradigm too…

    – the ratio of male minifigs to female minifigs is extraordinarily disappointing in many lines, though there has been some recent improvement!

    – And the RACE/ETHNICITY issues in LEGO are deeply embedded and often terribly sad and maddening! (even though there are occasional moments of improvement)

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