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For parents who want their kids to see a more diverse world, shopping for Lego sets can be incredibly frustrating.
The toy giant has been disappointingly old-fashioned with some of its offerings. For example, the “girls” section of the Lego aisle (known as the Lego Friends line) is filled with options like dressing room kits, pop star tour buses, fashion shops, a baking competition, a hair salon and a shopping mall (with a built-in bridal shop, no less). While some of the Lego Friends kits dabble in science and tech, they overwhelmingly trend toward jobs related to caring and nurturing, like kits that focus on babysitters, mothers/babies and helping animals.
In other words, girls are being marketed Lego kits that focus on beauty, fashion, shopping, nurturing and other stereotypical examples of performative femininity. What’s more, these kits are so aggressively marketed toward girls — a simple look at the boxes will show you this — that they alienate boys who may otherwise be interested in them.
Meanwhile, the Lego kits aimed at boys feature cars, robots, dinosaurs, spaceships (including “Star Wars”-themed kits), superhero kits as well as rescue vehicles, fire stations and police stations.
Noticing a theme here? The Lego kits marketed to boys are often STEM-based, focusing on things like space travel and robotics, or on rescue and crime-fighting forces. So while girls are given the tools to pretend to sing pop songs or take a shopping spree, boys are pretending to save the world or make mind-blowing discoveries.
The minifigures (Lego’s term for its miniature people) that come with the Lego Friends sets are problematic in several ways, as well. For one thing, not all of them are compatible with standard Lego minifig bodies, making it impossible to mix and match some of their looks. The Lego Friends minifigs also have much more stylized hair and makeup than typical Lego people. They are almost always wearing skirts or dresses, with obvious lipstick and eye makeup, as opposed to the conventional minifigs, which have hair and expressions that are much more plain.
And, again, these stylized minifigs are exclusively female-presenting. The message sent to little girls by this is that, whatever they’re doing, they’d better take the time to look good.
Additionally, the boxes for Lego Friends sets are brightly hued in pinks and purples, whereas the more traditional Lego sets are packaged mainly in blue, which drives home another old-fashioned gender stereotype. While there is obviously nothing wrong with hobbies like shopping or jobs in styling or liking the color pink, it’s the message that these things are exclusively aimed at little girls and that girls should be interested in them that is dated.
A Big Change For Lego
The good news is that Lego is finally coming around to the fact that boys can enjoy makeup and caring for animals as much as girls can enjoy dinosaurs, adventuring and defeating villains.
“We’re working hard to make Lego more inclusive … Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as ‘not for them,'” said Julia Goldin, the chief product and marketing officer at the Lego Group, to The Guardian recently.
This means that when you shop the Lego store online from now on, you won’t be able to sort by “Boys” or “Girls” but rather by a child’s particular interests. Lego is also testing new products that will be more inclusive and rely less on lazy gender stereotypes.
“We’re testing everything on boys and girls, and including more female role models,” Goldin told the publication.
Future Lego kits will now focus on including STEM as well as creativity and nurturing for all kits across the board, rather than segregating these interests largely based on a child’s biological sex.