Lego’s New Gender-Specific Construction Sets

Lego has come out with a new line of gender-specific toys and it has enraged a group of women who collected more than 1,000 signatures overnight to protest it, according to an article in the New York Daily News.[1] The girl-themed Lego sets offer curvy figurines, a hot tub, beauty parlor and a rash of pink colors.  Construction sets include: an inventor’s workshop, a splash pool, a hot convertible, a design studio and a dog show.  Dana Edell, head of the activist organization SPARK remarked, “The new line of Legos is focused on girls getting their hair done and sitting at a café and hanging out at the beach.”[2]

Is Lego discriminating against girls by issuing a gender-specific line of products?  Or is it correcting prior discriminatory practices by offering girls more of a choice?  Were the prior Lego sets gender neutral or gender specific?  Is there anything wrong with selling a toy that more closely resembles the traditional world of a girlie-girl who adores Barbies and satin dresses and all things pink?  To answer these questions, I read a couple of pieces of writing by two friends of mine.

The first blogger, The Mother Freakin’ Princess (“MFP”), is an ass-kicking, pink tutu-wearing dirt-bike racer who represents the girlie-girl point of view.  As she writes, “THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THOSE OF US WHO LIKE TO WEAR PINK, OR TUTUS, OR JEWELRY, OR MAKE-UP, OR COLOR OUR HAIR.”[3]  MFP argues that Lego’s are not gender-neutral, and it pleases her that Lego “came up with more sets aimed at girls who like pink, flowers, small animals, and getting their hair and nails done.”  Women who were pink and pursue a feminine sense of being do so not due to a lack of self-worth or due to societal pressures.  No, MFP states: “We do it because it’s fun.”  And the women who are protesting the new Lego’s set are bullying the pink princesses and should simply choose not to buy the new sets.  It’s all about choice, as far as MFP is concerned: “Let me choose for myself.”

Another respected blogger and friend, Transitioning Mom, writes in a letter to Lego that “Legos have always been a . . . gender neutral toy in our home, and that is still refreshing to find in any toy aisle. I would hate for today’s girls to believe their dreams are limited by their gender.”[4]  Transitioning Mom, unlike MFP, believes that the traditional Lego’s were gender neutral and does not want for the company to market Lego’s in a gender-specific or gender-appropriate way with “your classic sets (through separate shopping aisles, packaging, print ads, etc.), including those that offer the chance to be an astronaut, a Ninja, Harry Potter or a Pirate in the Caribbean.”[5]  Like MFP, Transitioning Mom agrees that choice is good, so long as the choices don’t push girls out of one category and into a less adventurous and intellectually challenging category.

While I wholeheartedly support the provision of a wide array of purchasing choices, I worry that tomboy will now feel pressured, when they play with Lego’s, to play only with the pink, gender-specific Lego’s.  Relatives will hesitate to purchases a manly looking Star Wars set for their female relations.  As a little girl and inveterate tomboy, I felt alien when tossed into pink Barbieland and alienated by the insistence that I play with dolls and girly toys.  It also bothers me that of the five new Lego construction sets, the inventor workshop, treats females as intellectually powerful and capable.  The other sets—the pool, the dog show, the design studio and the “cool convertible” either are frivolous in nature or envision women working in low-end, poorly paying careers, with the design studio a possible exception.  I have no problem with girls being offered more choices, as MFP asks.  Yet let us think carefully about the nature and meaning of such choices to ensure that we are not shunting the females of tomorrow into low-flying expectations of yesterday.

[1] “Brooklyn woman starts petition against girl-themed Lego Friends.” Tracy Conner, December 22, 2011.

[2] Id.

[3] “Don’t Tell Me Who I Am or What I Like. Let Me Choose For Myself.” December 22, 2011.

[4] See Transitioning Mom on Facebook, December 22, 2011.

[5] See id.

9 comments on “Lego’s New Gender-Specific Construction Sets
  1. El, you make INCREDIBLY good points I had no thought of. Kudos to you!

  2. ehmcke says:

    Seems like a big kerfuffle about nothing. Judging by the looks of the box pictured above, Lego is simply trying to take a bite out of the Polly Pocket market. Do the incensed mothers allow their daughters to play with those annoying little dolls? … or care if the girls want to wash dogs and cats in the Littlest Pet Shop?? I find that most mothers don’t buy Lego for their daughters anyway; this way they might. Volunteering in a JK/SK class on a weekly basis, I have yet to see more than one girl ever choose to go to the Lego station at playtime. It’s always available as a choice but they mostly choose Polly Pockets, sand table, house centre or drawing/painting.

    I have one son. He’s seven years old. He lives for Lego. He also still uses his doll stroller around the house. He does dishes, he cooks, he has about 100 stuffed toys with names like Beary, Elly, Dragy (a dragon), Batty and Mousey. He dances and he’s growing his hair long again. I guess my point is that all kids, male or female, are different from one another and that’s what’s great about having as many toy choices as possible. As long as the new line is compatible with all other Lego sets then more power to the Danish giants!

    ps: it doesn’t ever matter what the Lego set is designed to be, it very soon becomes whatever your child wants it to be … even if that means the spa/salon ends up being a customer perk while waiting at the garage to have your oil changed.

    • LOL my dear V–I don’t feel any emotion about it, so yes, big kerfuffle is right! As I said two seconds ago, “I have mixed feeling on the issue too! When it comes down to it, I think I like that they are offering new choices tailored for girls but I’d prefer that some of the choices be more intellectual in nature.”
      Oh–this mom bought Lego’s for her daughter! But I kick ass LOL!

  3. Jess says:

    I have mixed feelings about this too. I’m a little annoyed by all the pink “girl” toys, but I also think that if they’d had this when I was a kid, someone might have bought me Legos. My brother always got Legos and other building toys as gifts, but I only got Barbies. This strategy might help more than it hurts.

  4. There used to be a LEGO line called Belleville. It featured pink and purple and chartreuse pieces along with plates and mugs and a female character tossed into the general mix. If this will get girls interested in building, more power to LEGO. We need more good engineers in this country and we definitely need more good female engineers. But these new sets do look like a dumbed down version of real LEGOs. They don’t really look as complicated as regular sets, and I’d like to see girls habe the opportunity to build real stuff. Anything that has to do with building IS challenging.

    Apparently, Belleville didn’t sell. This must be their new attempt to capture the girlie market.

    And it my book, that looks like a bummer.

    Trust me, the market will decide if this product has any shelf-life.

    My best guess is no, so buy one now and keep it in the original packaging. Because in 50 years, it’ll be worth something. 😉

  5. laineylol says:

    El…cant find the El Phoenix Farris page to send friend request for private account of I LOL’d. Sent request to Firebird Rising private group under personal account. Trying to stay anonymous after yesterday’s incident.

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