There has been a discussion going on lately on the Flickr group FFOL Brick Chick (Female Fans of LEGO) on whether LEGO as a company is gender biased or if it is the parents that buy into the stereotype that LEGO is a boy’s toy. Now with only 40 members in the FFOL group and 6,220 members in the LEGO Flickr group this is a valid point of discussion.
Here’s a little bit of what I said on FFOL:
I think it is a little bit of both the parents steroetyping and LEGO itself for still not getting what girls want. Even while LEGO tries to make inroads with female LEGO fans, they still mainly market and produce sets for boys.
No, I didn’t see LEGO as a gender biased toy growing up, but then again, I was more of a tomboy than a girlie-girl anyways. But even I made mostly houses and castles as a child. In fact the whole reason I got into LEGO was that I saw it as miniature houses that I could take apart and build in what ever way I wanted.
As I got older and realized that I was the odd girl out with most of my friends and family (heck, I took all my brothers’ LEGO when they grew out of it) and that most girls, including my sister stopped playing with LEGO when they were still kids. I also realized how much LEGO miss marketed their products, making it very clear what the “girl” sets were with pastels and pinks in the sets.
In fact, it seems that they were less gender biased when I was a kid in the 80s. At least then they didn’t make all the girl’s sets pink. Granted, that was because they didn’t have pink or much more than the six colors at that point but still.
According to Steve Witt, there is a new line of girls sets coming out next year that “is nothing like you’ve seen before” (direct quote). And that these new sets will have four new colors. I’ll still wait and see on that one.
But at the same time, I also asked Mads Nipper if they were ever going to produce a dollhouse-like set. He said no, and yet now we have the new city set that I could only call a dollhouse.
My real question is this — does LEGO even realize what constitutes as a girls versus a boys set? My own conclusion is no. I honestly don’t think LEGO even knows what they already have and what they need.
In the New York Times there was a recent article that talked about this:
There’s a particular kind of story one reads occasionally, making fun of the worst excesses of political correctness. But this entry is about the other extreme—a toy manufacturer so far in the dark ages that even Don Draper might snicker. I’m told that the latest craze among the toddler set is Lego Minifigures—little people to inhabit the recently-built creations of your own little person. I’ve been looking forward to the day I can build Lego houses with my daughter. But we won’t be playing with these Minifigures. You see, there are sixteen characters in the set, but only two are female. That’s the sort of gender ratio you see at a typical economics conference, but even we economists know that we need to do better. But the lesson that Lego leaves for impressionable minds is even worse. The two female characters are a cheerleader and a nurse. Even on Mad Men, Peggy Olson rose to copywriter.
Even Barbie stopped saying “Math class is tough” eighteen years ago.
Now knowing what I know of how LEGO is trying to find a better balance of male/female sets and representation, this article is a little harsh. But at the same time, even the next Collectible Minifigure series is stereotypical = pop singer, witch, and “baywatch” babe lifeguard for the female figs. Females can just as easily be Karate masters, surfers, etc., etc.
Of course since they are minifigs, you could always make the “boy” figures “girl” figures and vise-versa. ;)
So what do you think? And what can we do to change it?