By Bailey Shoemaker Richards
After Stephanie’s post on how Lego has sold girls out by selling them pink, traditionally girly, stereotyped toys, I ended up having a conversation with Lego’s Twitter account (@LEGO_Group) about the new line of toys. They thanked me for sharing SPARK’s thoughts on the new line of toys and respectfully disagreed, stating that 4 years of research had told them the mini-skirt-wearing, hot-tub-bathing, beauty-shop-running Lego ladies are what girls want now.
I am so disappointed in Lego.
These kinds of toys aren’t what girls want, they’re what girls are told they should want: feminine, frilly activities with little need for building and more focus on the Lego “Ladyfigs” looking so super cute in their hot tubs, singing in what appears to be a nightclub and driving around in a convertible.
While there are Lego sets in the new Friends line that include professions like vet and inventor (the “smart” Olivia), these lines don’t manage to break through the gendered portrayal of the sets overall. While it’s nice to see a Ladyfig working on science and a career, the range of options presented to girls is still limited. The Ladyfigs are compatible with regular Lego sets, but the regular sets won’t be available to kids unless parents are willing to buy both kinds. The division in appearance (Ladyfigs with thin waists and breasts versus the blocky Lego figs of Hermione and Leia) may make it so that girls no longer even want the traditional sets because their pieces don’t fit in with the look.
Lego’s response to me continued to be that research had showed them this was what girls need in order to want to play with Legos, and that role play required them to make more “realistic” female figures (I guess “real” females never wear pants or engage in sports, because almost every Ladyfig I’ve seen is wearing a miniskirt or a dress). I question the sort of research that stops at, “Girls need pink, strictly gendered toys to play with to be able to identify with them.”
What about the message that sends to girls? Now, when a girl looks at Legos, she’ll see the twenty or so pink- and purple-packaged Ladyfig sets stuck next to the Barbies and Bratz dolls, while the “boy Legos,” hundreds and hundreds of sets that would have been gender-neutral, are left in another aisle, suddenly off-limits. What message is Lego sending to young girls with this new line of toys? The idea seems to be that girls should be focused on cooking, sunbathing, snazzy cars and looking pretty.
From a young age, children are socialized into specific gender roles that define behavior, likes and dislikes, and that shape how kids see their place in the world. Most young children “want to show mastery of their gender roles, which are more rigid and stereotyped than they will be later,” which means that Lego’s limiting portrayal of girls, and the separation of “boy legos” from “girl legos,” will have an impact far beyond playtime.
This isn’t the Lego I know, and it’s not one I want to spend my money on.
Instead of spending 4 years on research that ended up leading to Lego selling the same tired, pink stereotypes as every other company, Lego could have made an effort to start including girls in its advertising for all of its other projects. Lego Star Wars, for example, which my little brother and I love, is not exclusively the province of young boys, and showing both girls and boys playing with Legos sends the message that the blocks and construction play are for all children. Simply showing girls in ads playing with Lego sets alongside their brothers and friends would have created the message that the toys are for girls too.
Instead, Lego has shunted girls off into their own tiny section, reminding them yet again that their province is color-coded and limited, and left the sets focusing on architecture, Harry Potter, super heroes and even the basic creator sets to the boys.