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Lego Builds for the Other Half of the World
December 15, 2011 5:18 AM   Subscribe

"Over the years, Lego has had five strategic initiatives aimed at girls. Some failed because they misapprehended gender differences in how kids play. Others, while modestly profitable, didn’t integrate properly with Lego’s core products. Now, after four years of research, design, and exhaustive testing, Lego believes it has a breakthrough. On Dec. 26 in the U.K. and Jan. 1 in the U.S., Lego will roll out Lego Friends, aimed at girls 5 and up.... "The Lego Friends team is aware of the paradox at the heart of its work: To break down old stereotypes about how girls play, it risks reinforcing others. “If it takes color-coding or ponies and hairdressers to get girls playing with Lego, I’ll put up with it, at least for now, because it’s just so good for little girls’ brains,” says Lise Eliot." From Businessweek (print link, above; via BoingBoing), an interesting look at Lego's new girl-oriented initiative.
posted by MonkeyToes (189 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm curious - what was the reach of Lego into the girls' market 30 years ago, when toys were less strongly gendered? Because I've always thought of Lego as one of those truly unisex toys.
posted by jb at 5:23 AM on December 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


When I was growing up in the UK in the 70s Lego was a sharing toy for all, as were similar toys such as Playpeople, FWIW.
posted by Summer at 5:28 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


jb, I don't know. There's a link in the paginated version of the article to the Lego Girl Graveyard.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:29 AM on December 15, 2011


Pictures of the new sets

I'm curious - what was the reach of Lego into the girls' market 30 years ago, when toys were less strongly gendered?

I don't know about that, since they had a girls version back in 1979, Lego Scala. (The full article has some more illustrations that re cut off in the print version.) Also, the castle and space sets go all the way back to that time, and they were pretty strongly boy themed.
posted by smackfu at 5:29 AM on December 15, 2011


How do they know little girls aren't using Lego already?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 AM on December 15, 2011


The "R" in the Lego Friends logo that smackfu linked to gets sort of lost in the "F", so I read it as Lego Fiends. I would so totally buy a Lego Zombie set.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:32 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Girls definitely already play with Lego. Are not enough parents buying Lego for their girls, though? Is their concern that even more girls could be playing Lego, and that the impediment to this had been Lego's lack of explicitly "girly" branding? I'm not defending this project, I'm just trying to see things from their point of view.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:34 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do they know little girls aren't using Lego already?

Probably through something called "market research," which is surely a thing that a corporation of LEGO's size does on a continuous basis. What I think is likely happening is exactly what Eliot says in the pullquote: girls see gender-reinforced ads for toys on each and every program that they're watching, so they want just those toys. They may not even know LEGO exists, or if it does that it's "just for boys."
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:35 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


(And, believe it or not, most parents have fuck-all clue about toys that aren't the ones they grew up with, which means they just buy what their tyke demands, even if it's Hyper Pink Kissy Pony Squad Now With Makeup.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:36 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


So the problem is with kits designed towards the interests of boys combined with different play styles of girls. I suppose that can make some sense given my experience.
I came along long before kits and being female played with the things as much or more than my brother. We built things using our imagination and making do with the blocks at hand; therefore, we weren't stuck making an item designed by adults as marketed towards kids. We could play according to our own whims and learn about construction through trial and error to develop our own rules. Being uncool, we played with them through early high school.
posted by mightshould at 5:36 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find this incredibly insulting.

I adored Lego growing up - yes I had the cute house but also the police station and the petrol station and a whole Lego city that frequently suffered from sudden earthquakes (fun days). Why must stuff be dumbed down, made round and pink? Maybe if Lego stopped it with all the ridiculous branded crap (Harry Potter etc) and focused on their core product they'd see they don't need to play gender games like this. Lego was for everyone.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:36 AM on December 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


One funny side effect of these kind of sets is that the "serious" adult Lego builders will covet some of these parts forever. "A purple diagonal split ramp? That would be perfect for my recreation of the Louvre!"
posted by smackfu at 5:37 AM on December 15, 2011 [24 favorites]


How do they know little girls aren't using Lego already?

It's not pink, so little girls can't actually see it.
posted by Summer at 5:38 AM on December 15, 2011 [28 favorites]


hopefully this is a gateway drug to an awesome toy for more girls. some may even find they prefer the other sets (I only liked the castle, pirate, and robin hood sets and while the different areas had little stories to go along with them, I enjoyed the recreating new creations from old sets just as much).
posted by ejaned8 at 5:42 AM on December 15, 2011


This just reeks of Barbie Math is Hard marketing.
posted by dejah420 at 5:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pictures of the new sets

Ugh. This looks a lot like Lego Stepford Wives.
posted by permafrost at 5:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


ps. it would have been much, much better if the lego people weren't so drastically different, so you could mix-and-match the other sets with these more easily and if the sets they show had more building pieces (the less blocks in a set, the less you can reuse it for other stuff and be creative with it)
posted by ejaned8 at 5:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


hey look, polly pocket grew up and BEGAN SEVERING THE HEADS OF HER MALE COMPETITORS
posted by fetamelter at 5:46 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister seemed to be pulled in quite easily by one of Lego's earlier female-oriented outreach campaigns called "my mom gave her some Legos."

Jesus. They're Legos. Give them to a kid and they'll play with them. Fucking really? 2-year old niece. We gave her some Legos. The big ones you can't eat. They still called Duplo? I dunno. I call 'em The Big Legos. She loves them. Just give the girl some goddamn Legos.

Fuckin' magnets.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:47 AM on December 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


When I was a kid in the sixties Lego was just pieces and you could build anything you wanted out of them, a different thing every time. I think childhood was less conformist, and funnily enough less gendered, than nowadays.
posted by communicator at 5:47 AM on December 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


This new LEGO for girls theme is called “Friends”, and is following the story of five girls in their daily lives. The girls have different likes and hobbies; there is an animal-lover, a smart-girl, a beautician, a singer and a social-girl.

Sigh.
posted by tavegyl at 5:49 AM on December 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


smackfu: "Pictures of the new sets"

The sets look interesting, and my 11 y/o daughter would probably like them, but she will totally be turned away by the girl-themed packaging.
posted by I am the Walrus at 5:49 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've bought hundreds of Lego sets over the years and don't remember a single time when I was asked to prove I have a penis first.
posted by Legomancer at 5:49 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


This just reeks of Barbie Math is Hard marketing.

OTOH, there is an Inventor's Workshop set.
posted by smackfu at 5:50 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm somewhat intimidated that our next one is going to be a girl, mainly because I see commercials for ridiculously sexist toys for girls and I have no clue what I'm going to do if/when she asks for them. I'm pretty sure my answer will be, "Bratz doll? Hell no you can't have a Bratz doll! How about some lego?" And then I wonder if I'm just being uptight.
posted by Brodiggitty at 5:51 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know that I believe that Lego as it's currently sold encourages kids to build spatial reasoning skills and build anything they want. Lego sells kits complete with step by step instructions on how to make the object. Your mom probably has the big red bucket still in her attic but that's damn near impossible to find in a big box store.
posted by edbles at 5:51 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe if Lego stopped it with all the ridiculous branded crap (Harry Potter etc) and focused on their core product they'd see they don't need to play gender games like this.

Lego has no problem selling the "regular" Lego blocks, nor do people have a problem buying them. The Harry Potter, Bionicle, etc. sales are on top of unbranded Lego blocks, not in place of them. I would imagine that the new Lego Friends line is intended to be once again on top of existing Lego sales, not in place of them.

There's also the matter of how "regular" Lego blocks are so durable and inheritable that it might be hard to get people to buy any more than they already do. That said, when I search on Amazon for Lego, the "regular" blocks definitely come up first, which makes me happy.

Either way, these blocks aren't meant for kids (or parents) who'd be buying Legos regardless. They're for new customers.

ps. it would have been much, much better if the lego people weren't so drastically different, so you could mix-and-match the other sets with these more easily and if the sets they show had more building pieces (the less blocks in a set, the less you can reuse it for other stuff and be creative with it)

From Lego's perspective as a business, it would be nice to have a smallish starter set, and then to have huge-ass Lego Friends spirally castle sets and what-have-you. The smallish set probably has a large markup, because it has a minimum of pieces and starts you out on the brand, whereas the larger sets will obviously be much more involved, for after you're hooked. Beginning with too large of a set would be too intimidating for the customer and would rob Lego of an extra sale.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:52 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Yes, you may have the Bratz doll. But let's get you a nice crescent wrench, too. And I'll teach you about 'modding'."
posted by Wolfdog at 5:52 AM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


This just reeks of Barbie Math is Hard marketing.

Does it? I mean I get that everyone pines for their magical childhood when toys were unisex and everyone was truly creative, or whatever, but it sounds like Lego is doing their best to find out what girls actually want to do when they play and create a product that meets that desire while also giving them access to the kind of benefits that come from playing with Legos.

This really doesn't seem all that bad.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [20 favorites]


"A purple diagonal split ramp? That would be perfect for my recreation of the Louvre!"
“We want the sets for the new colors. One of the colors is ideal for a Perry the Platypus I want to build.”
posted by zamboni at 5:54 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm disappointed that the girl sets are so traditional. Is it impossible to imagine that a girl oriented set would be space or fantasy themed? Would it be so hard to integrate more female "characters or themes" within the existing sets?

Also, I found out that I built Lego like a girl. Huh.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not pink, so little girls can't actually see it.

You know what -- that is bullshit.

Girls don't play with all pink toys because "ooh they're all so crazy over pink" -- girls play with all pink toys because that's the only color anyone ever offers them. They're not playing with it because it's pink, they're playing with it because it's a toy.

And just assuming a girl would turn her nose up about something because "it's not pink" is incredibly naive, short-sighted, and clueless.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes, you may have the Bratz doll. But let's get you a nice crescent wrench, too. And I'll teach you about 'modding'.

I think you're actually going to want a P1 phillips to mod that Bratz doll.
posted by edbles at 5:56 AM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


For crying out loud, people, LEGO still sells plenty of basic brick buckets.

But being a business, they still want a piece of the girl-marketing pie.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:57 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm having a hard time following the logic here.

Previously, LEGO has tried 3 or 4 times to get girls more interested in their product (which they assume only interests boys). Each time they've done this, it has failed, because the sets they've put out for girls were less interesting than those for boys, and also not compatible with existing sets and/or poorly made.

The solution to this, the big breakthrough that this article references, is to create brand new sets that are not very interesting and not compatible with existing LEGO sets.

Seriously, wtf?

I mean, OK, look, if research shows that they need to have pink and purple blocks to interest girls, go for it, I guess (though I have serious doubts that girls don't play with LEGO because of the color). But those figures? Terrible. Absolutely terrible.
posted by tocts at 5:57 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe if Lego stopped it with all the ridiculous branded crap (Harry Potter etc)

I bet they sell well to adults. I'm never going to buy myself a dump truck or a garage set, but I have bought a couple of the NASA sets and some of the Star Wars ones. And I lust over the Lego Architecture series.
posted by smackfu at 5:58 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Their adventures have a backdrop: Heartlake City, which has a salon, a horse academy, a veterinary clinic, and a cafe.

What are the horses learning at the horse ACADEMY?! Those danes and their wasteful socialist spending. No child of mine will every play with a Lego set that tries to get them to send their horse to school.
posted by edbles at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


You know what -- that is bullshit.

Joking.
posted by Summer at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Pfft, Harry Potter Legos are awesome.

I remember getting a set of Legos when I was three or four. It came in a box that was the same size as my dad's Red Wing boot box. There was a green board for grass, and trees, flat brown bricks with dots on one side (shingles), doors and windows, wheels, all kinds of great stuff. And one little Lego man. Just one. I liked Lego man, but realized even as a wee child that he was supposed to be secondary. I mostly a house, then took it apart to build a garage, and wished for more bricks.

My younger brother? He LOVED Lego man. My brother- let's call him Jordan- named Lego man after himself, calling him "Little Jordan". He often incorporated Little Jordan into other play and games that had nothing to do with Lego, and put him under his pillow at night.

Then, when my brother was about five, tragedy struck. We had this wooden boardwalk at our back door, and the timbers had shrunk and worn over time, so there were gaps between the boards. Little Jordan fell between the cracks! My brother cried and cried. We tried various implements to extract him, but none worked. Once in a while, I'd go outside, and there my brother would be, digging near the boardwalk, trying to rescue Little Jordan.

One Sunday, roughly 18 months later, my dad came home from the hardware store's penny sale with a tiny, metal, spring type grasping device. It was about twice as thick as a spaghetti noodle and 8 or so inches long. My brother spotted it, and gasped, "I can use that to get Little Jordan!" grabbed it, ran, and rushed back in the house about 90 seconds later, holding a dirty but otherwise unharmed Little Jordan. I don't think he ever let him out of his sight again.

My brother turns 30 in three months, and he still has Little Jordan. He lives on a tray on his dresser.

I think Lego Friends is going to be great, because they should emphasize the figures more. And right now, the selection of Lego ladies is poor. We have about $1000 worth of Lego stuff at our house (three kids), and the only girl figures are a single female pirate, Hermione Granger, and Mary Jane Watson. That's IT. My daughter has taken to removing Hagrid's beard and calling the figure "Big Lady".

Lego makes amazingly durable toys, so I am also looking forward to being able to surreptitiously toss those godawful Polly Pockets that have been substituting as Lego women. Those things are trash- they break if my children look at them wrong.

Lego is only slightly behind Schleich in our house in toys that promote imaginative, involved play. I think that is because the younger two are still so small. I look forward to having a new line of Lego sets to buy, because we have just about everything else at this point.

Wow, up until now, I didn't realize I was such a fangirl.
posted by Leta at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2011 [27 favorites]


The solution to this, the big breakthrough that this article references, is to create brand new sets that are not very interesting and not compatible with existing LEGO sets.

From a close up of one of the new boxes, it looks like there are plenty of compatible pieces with older sets. Still no way to get a space helmet and oxygen tanks on the girl figures, but hopefully they'll find a way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:01 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This hurts me.

I grew up playing with Legos all the time. During this period, the heads just had the generic smiley faces -- so they could be men or women. I loved that. I could play with women who were pirates or police officers or astronauts or mothers or pioneers or whatever. If I wanted to have a princess who rode horses, I could do that. If I wanted to have a space police woman who was tough and awesome, I could do that.

Oh, I certainly played with "girly" toys too -- there were plenty of Barbies and dress-up clothes and all of that in my life. I don't really see anything wrong with those things. But I liked that Legos gave me more options than just that.

I do wish these sets weren't so isolated from the rest of the Lego world. That was always the joy of Legos -- taking sets and combining them.

Oh well. I'm glad my brother still has all our Legos (he asked me if I wanted any of them and I said it was fine if he kept them since he has more space than I do -- but I just wanted to be allowed to play with them when I visited. I think we may have to get them out when I'm there for Christmas).
posted by darksong at 6:02 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joking.


....sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:03 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid in the sixties Lego was just pieces and you could build anything you wanted out of them, a different thing every time. I think childhood was less conformist, and funnily enough less gendered, than nowadays.

I was a kid in the eighties, and I feel the same way.
posted by Leta at 6:04 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The solution to this, the big breakthrough that this article references, is to create brand new sets that are not very interesting and not compatible with existing LEGO sets.

Wrong.

Here's a link to some photos of the sets. They all use standard Lego bricks, in pretty colors.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:04 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You market toys to parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents just as much as kids. And a lot of adults just won't buy a girl toys unless they're 'correctly' gendered. Plus, younger kids themselves can be silly attached to their gender presentations. As long as these legos are compatible with other legos (am I'm certain they are), they might make a good starter. Lego doesn't want a segmented market any more than the rest of us, they want all people, regardless of gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, or age to buy their products. It's kind of beautiful in a way.
posted by Garm at 6:05 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The girls have different likes and hobbies; there is an animal-lover, a smart-girl, a beautician, a singer and a social-girl.

2011: The year My Little Pony became more progressive and feminist than Legos.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:05 AM on December 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


girls play with all pink toys because that's the only color anyone ever offers them.

At the risk of injecting some facts into the discussion: Bullshit.

I have N sons and 1 daughter. The daughter has, from birth, been very particular about certain things. One of these things is what she wears. She absolutely refuses to wear pants. It must be a skirt, a dress or stockings, the frillier and lacier the better. On gym days at school, we have to force her into jeans. If her coat isn't purple or pink, she's very crabby. If her plate doesn't have Hello Kitty on, with as much pink as possible, she hates it.

And don't give me that crap about that's what we, or society, trained her to like. We didn't even *own* these things until she expressed a preference and we were forced to buy them. We never watch TV with commercials. She had these preferences before she went to school or knew any other girls.

Not all girls are the same. A lot of them like space and robots and lasers but a lot of them like ponies and hairdressing and clothes. Don't force your "gender neutrality" on them all.

(She has also, from a very early age, been far FAR more interested and aware of relationships, family history, etc. She knows the first and last names of everyone in her class and also her twin brother's class. Her twin brother isn't sure if his seat-mates are boys are girls. She cares about that information, he doesn't. We, the teachers and the students did not teach them this. It's how they came to us.)
posted by DU at 6:06 AM on December 15, 2011 [30 favorites]


And a lot of adults just won't buy a girl toys unless they're 'correctly' gendered

Because they think kids won't be interested unless they are. And so the endless cycle continues.
posted by Summer at 6:08 AM on December 15, 2011


I do wish these sets weren't so isolated from the rest of the Lego world. That was always the joy of Legos -- taking sets and combining them.

And you can still do that with the Lego Friends sets, which are composed of standard Lego bricks. Only the figures are different.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:12 AM on December 15, 2011


Not all girls are the same. A lot of them like space and robots and lasers but a lot of them like ponies and hairdressing and clothes. Don't force your "gender neutrality" on them all.

I definitely didn't mean to imply that NO GIRLS EVER naturally prefer pink, and apologize if I lead you to think that was my point.

It was more like "EVERY SINGLE GIRL DOES NOT UNIFORMLY PREFER PINK". Some do, some don't. Some girls will be playing with a toy because it's pink -- but some will be playing with a toy because it's a toy. Correlation does not always imply causation.

So I was not attempting to force "gender neutrality" on your daughter -- only resisting other people forcing "gender uniformity" on EVERY girl. Put the options out there, and the girls who really want pink can have it while the girls who don't give a shit can also get what they want too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


And you can still do that with the Lego Friends sets, which are composed of standard Lego bricks. Only the figures are different.

I understand why the Lego Friends figures are different from a branding and design perspective, but at the same time, I don't like how their difference reinforces the idea that the typical, iconic Lego person is inherently male, until you add eyelashes, lips, or long hair to it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:13 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Harry Potter lego sets are awesome. Part of their awesomenosity is the amount of female minifigs. You've got Bellatrix (cool hair! evilness!) and Mcgonagall (green dress, general badassery), Madam Hooch (goggles!) Luna (spectrespecs!) Ginny (she smirks with confidence!) and a few other of the resident Hogwarts witches.

Looking at these new "girly" sets I'm honestly tempted to get some of them to expand on my elaborate and utterly pointless customized Hogwarts. I need purple blocks for the Divination classroom!

I know a 3 year old girl who loves her Duplo (and attends Comicon dressed as Chun Li and knows to "go boom" your Sackboy in Little Big Planet when you get stuck in a pit and was Athena with a sword and shield for Halloween) who would eat these lego sets up. I'm not seeing a conflict between having these as well as some other legos. She could have a Space Vets office if she combined the "Heartlake Vet" with the Alien Conquest bits.
posted by Mizu at 6:20 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone is actually making any girls (however defined) buy the pastel purple bricks, or restricting girls to only purple blocks. No-one will have to present their gender card when purchasing Lego. They are making pastel purple bricks to make more people (including girls) buy and use Lego.
posted by carter at 6:26 AM on December 15, 2011


girls play with all pink toys because that's the only color anyone ever offers them.

It doesn't end when they become women. A while back I was heading to Home Depot so I asked my wife if she needed anything. She asked me to get her a pair of work gloves. I was looking at the gloves but they were all too big for her, so I asked the guy if they had any "women's gloves", hoping they had smaller sizes and perhaps a different fit. He pointed me to a small section of pink and flower-print gloves. Total bullshit.

I told him in no uncertain terms if I brought my wife home a pair of pink work gloves she'd knock me over the head with a hammer. She's quite skilled with a hammer, you see.

Eventually I settled on a rather small pair of men's gloves and when I got home I apologized to my wife on behalf of, I dunno, society or something.

Back on topic, I think these sets actually look pretty good. They're mostly compatible with the regular sets and I think they'd make a good gateway into the wider world of Legos. I can see a girl getting a set or two, discovering what she can do, then heading off to the Lego store and getting into the Tecnic or city sets that she previously didn't know existed.

I'm curious though if the problem all along isn't the colors or the building method or the backstory but rather the hard plastic. I'll be interested to see how well these sets sell.
posted by bondcliff at 6:27 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


From a close up of one of the new boxes, it looks like there are plenty of compatible pieces with older sets. Still no way to get a space helmet and oxygen tanks on the girl figures, but hopefully they'll find a way.
Are you sure they can't have their hair taken off, and replaced with hats or other hair or whatever? I think that there are previously-existing Lego minifigs with hair that work that way.
posted by Flunkie at 6:30 AM on December 15, 2011


As anecdata, I have a Lego fanboy, 8. His baseline of normal Lego themes includes: space police chasing aliens; warring sentient robot-like beings; city- and construction-oriented vehicles and buildings; martial arts-practicing minifigs; adventures (Indiana Jones, pseudo-Jurassic Park, zombie Pharohs, etc.). He's into quick mastery of the set, and imagining himself projecting power out into the larger universe. His sister, 4, loves her Duplo and is starting to build with the (always available in a massive pile for free-building) Lego, and tends to find minifigs and make them talk with each other, and be families (same with her dinosaur collection). She is all about relationship mastery. I can't believe I'm considering buying her pink stuff, as she loves tractors and all of the other farm stuff that surrounds her, but I just might have to buy Stephanie's Pet Patrol, so my daughter can build a little barn for the lady on a 4-wheeler.

Agreed that boy-oriented has evolved as normative Lego, but perhaps the new girl-oriented line will succeed as a head-fake--increasing girls' opportunities to increase their awareness of spatial relations, scale, ratios, counting, while cloaking mastery under the guise of relationship and story. Bonus if their brothers don't steal the parts for their own builds.

Also, these are not the first non-minifig figures. IIRC, there was one named, um, Jack?, who was around twice as high as a standard minifig. I seem to remember non-standard pirates, too.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with these "stop forcing girls to like pink toys" discussion is the incredible sexism. And I don't mean it in the "reverse sexism!!1" sense. I mean it in the sense that it's somehow just understood that girly toys are bad things. Everyone should want building toys! And video games! And sports! And other things that used to be stereotypically male!

It is OK for girly things to exist. And it is OK for girls to like those things. It is also OK for boyish things to exist and for girls to not like those things.

Girls and boys are all people. Let them play with what they want, which you as a parent or relative will determine by getting to know them. This is 2011. There is no shortage of consumer options from both "camps" as well as plenty of options that span the spectrum in between.
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on December 15, 2011 [22 favorites]


Yes, I think that you just take them apart. Heads come off, hats come off, hair comes off, etc. I bought a big bag of minifig parts for carter jr., everything was separate.
posted by carter at 6:35 AM on December 15, 2011


I've got a first grade boy and a third grade girl and I have no problem with the attempted gender-branding. My daughter showed some interest in Lego when she was younger, but now that she's old enough to be able to build cool stuff on her own, she's more interested in "girl" stuff. She wants little dolls and collectibles that are so strongly girl-marketed that they make me want to puke. Squinkies and Zoobles, for example. Ugh. We got her a set of pink and purple Tinker Toys, hoping that would encourage her building side a bit. She built a few things and then mostly lost interest. Now they're exclusively weapons for her little brothers, who have no problem with pink lightsabers.

The typical girl this age absolutely does play differently from the average boy. I see these girls showing off their new toys to each other and talking about their collections. Toys are a social tool. When my daughter is alone or just with her brothers, she'll play with just about anything (including Legos occasionally), although she definitely prefers the girly-girl stuff. In groups though, the girls play games that involve talking to each other and creating an imaginary world. If they play with toys, they're props, not entertainment in and of themselves. It's I see the boys actually using their toys as toys (okay, mostly as weapons, but occasionally for other purposes). I recently watched my son and two of his friends crowded around the same Lego table building their own creations and paying no attention to each other. My daughter and her friends would NEVER do that.

She is Harry Potter obsessed and would love some of those sets, but they're ridiculously expensive for a girl who may or may not actually ever build with them. She likes looking around at the Lego store, but while her brothers are at the minifig display building away, she's looking at the cool sets that other people have built. I can't see her showing much interest in these things at all unless they become a craze in the 9 year old girl set. The color scheme and girly characters might help to get them in the hands of girls, but the problem is primarily that Legos are an individual activity and elementary-age girls are social creatures. A boy is more likely to get a plan in his head and find the pieces he needs to make it happen. A girl is more likely to get a plan in her head and find the other people she needs to make it happen.
posted by Dojie at 6:36 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, here is a list of at least some currently existing Lego hair pieces. I am partial to Lego Punk Rocker's hair.

I would be kind of surprised if the new hair wasn't the same way as Lego's previously existing hair - you can take off the hair and replace it with a space helmet or whatever.
posted by Flunkie at 6:37 AM on December 15, 2011


“If it takes color-coding or ponies..."
“or ponies..."
“ponies"

LEGO PONIES
LEGO CANTERLOT
LEGO CLOUDSDALE
LEGO PONYVILLE

THIS MUST BE
posted by synaesthetichaze at 6:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


My little boy is just getting out of his Lego phase in time to pass the torch to his little sister. Who, yes, prefers to play with minifigs that she can identify with. And there aren't that many. At best, maybe half the minifigs we have lack obvious male characteristics like beards. Very few are actually female though.

The Harry Potter lego sets are awesome. Part of their awesomenosity is the amount of female minifigs

But female minifigs aren't 50% of HP minifigs, AT BEST, they are 25%. And that was a choice by Lego to exclude girls from the playing experience. I also love playing the Lego videogames but even my five year old son thought it was unfair that I always had to play Leia when he had so many boy characters to choose from (ditto Lego Indiana Jones games).

So it seems bit disingenuous for Lego to be looked at as a gender neutral toy when they have been deliberately gendered for quite some time. As to the new sets, no way will I be buying them - my daughter deserves strong role models like astronauts and pirates. People with a bit more agency than pet lovers. But the size difference would make for some cool Amazon-themed battles if the girl minifigs attacked a pirate ship and stole their weapons...
posted by saucysault at 6:49 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't see the problem with what Lego is trying to do here. They did research in 2005 to shore up their brand with the boys who represented the bulk of their customer base. Then after that research was completed, they used the researchers to see how they could attract girls who were not buying the brand. Nothing stops girls or families with girls from buying more unisex or male-oriented Legos. What the new research is probably trying to do, assuming that they did the research correctly, is to attract to girls and families with girls who have never bought the Lego brand before. Personally, I'm a doting uncle to 2 nieces, aged 4 and 6. They played with a lot of Duplo blocks, and they still play with them occasionally, but much much less than since they got into their Disney Princess phase. If the new ladyfigs and the girlier Legos lead to toning down some of the Disney Princess mania while allowing my nieces to surpass their male peers in dexterity and mastery of spatial relationships, then I'm all for it.
posted by jonp72 at 6:51 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


They all use standard Lego bricks, in pretty colors.

I was perhaps unclear, but my main issue is the figures, which are completely non-standard, and where a lot of the focus of the sets seems to be.

Beyond the non-standardness from a perspective of marketing, though, it bothers me because of the limits it puts on its intended audience. What I mean is this:

There are hundreds of variants of existing LEGO minifigs. These come in gender-neutral as well as gendered forms. They allow immense variation and creativity. A young girl (or boy) can take all the various pieces from sets and literally create any type of figure they want. They can create male or female astronauts, police officers, undersea explorers, alien fighters, ninjas, etc. And they can also create princesses and veterinarians and beauticians and whatever else they want, if that's their preference.

The figures in these new sets, though, cannot do that. They are of a much larger scale than traditional minifigs, and will be completely incompatible with the huge variety of existing accessories. So, the only options a girl will have with them is other sets from the same line -- and thus far, that line consists 100% of stereotypical "girls only" options. This seems like a big step backwards, frankly.

Sure, they can build anything they want with the blocks, but you had better hope your little girl wasn't interested in the characters she imagines being anything other than gendered stereotypes.
posted by tocts at 6:51 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with these "stop forcing girls to like pink toys" discussion is the incredible sexism

Well, it's only sexist if you equate 'female' with 'girly' and all its manifestations. Which I think a lot of people would have an issue with.

I do understand where you're coming from. There's nothing wrong or bad about pink or softness, about playing quietly or wanting to be a nurse or a beautician, about loving animals or valuing friendship. There's nothing better about violence, war, building things, space or fantasy.

The problem arises when all this is presented as an assumption about girls and boys, because your sense of self and your ambitions form early on in life. And if some options seem closed off to you then it can have radical implications for how satisfying a life you go on to lead, both for girls and boys.
posted by Summer at 6:52 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


And that was a choice by Lego to exclude girls from the playing experience.

But the underlying content is also boy heavy. There aren't many girls in Star Wars or Indiana Jones.
posted by smackfu at 6:53 AM on December 15, 2011


That site linked to earlier also has some close ups of the various sets, and also a post about how compatible the new figures are with the old minifigs.
posted by bove at 6:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't really object to the things that the girl sets involve making. Or the colors. Those are the same things I made out of my general purpose lego, and I would have much preferred to build a house that was white and purple instead of blue and red.

But much like the play sets aimed at boys, there are way too many special-purpose, non-brick pieces in these sets to make them any damned fun. As a kid in my pretty princess phase, I'd have loved the fuck out of a giant pail of purple and pink 2 x 4s, but what would I have done with a few pieces that only fit together one way? You may as well just give me a 'some assembly required' Barbie Dream Home, since it was probably about the same amount of assembly.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As to the new sets, no way will I be buying them - my daughter deserves strong role models like astronauts and pirates. People with a bit more agency than pet lovers.

You know, I really liked the rest of this post, but I'm struggling with this. A veterinary clinic is a less good role model stage than a floating home for seafaring thieves? Really?
posted by Leta at 6:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As to the new sets, no way will I be buying them - my daughter deserves strong role models like astronauts and pirates. People with a bit more agency than pet lovers.

I'm confused as to how a set that features an inventor's workshop and a Vet's Office depict characters without agency. I'd say both those thing are fine role models.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:57 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]



When I was a kid in the sixties Lego was just pieces and you could build anything you wanted out of them, a different thing every time. I think childhood was less conformist, and funnily enough less gendered, than nowadays.

I was a kid in the eighties, and I feel the same way.


I was also an 80's kid (and a girl! A little girl!).....and oh lordy, did I LOVE me some legos. I just had a large 5-gallon bucket full of random loose pieces. I don't know if kits had really taken off yet? If they had, I didn't have any. Just oodles and oodles of bricks in primary colors.

My favorite part was the building. Once I was finished building something, I had no real desire to play with the thing. I remember my favorite thing to build were what I called Dragon Battle Ships, which probably didn't look much like dragons or battle ships.

I guess my issue isn't so much if Legos are gendered, I just have never understood the appeal of the kits where every piece is accounted for in a sheet of directions. What fun is that?
posted by Windigo at 6:59 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just because there are not specialized kits designed for female children, it doesn't mean that they can't make spectacular things out of the bricks that they can enjoy.

My advice to parents of girls who want to encourage a Lego fanhood is to go to the website, design something together and then order the bricks and make it a reality (see, you're already bonding!).

It is what I plan to do someday...
posted by Renoroc at 6:59 AM on December 15, 2011


You know, I really liked the rest of this post, but I'm struggling with this. A veterinary clinic is a less good role model stage than a floating home for seafaring thieves? Really?

I can see your argument with respect to the pirate, but I see the other argument as well. Lots of parents/former LEGO fans in here are saying that young girls are disappointed that they don't have many (any) minifigs to identify with, because the "use your imagination" part of play with LEGO requires kids to think about what they know and like and want to do so some identification is important. But it works in both directions -- if they only things they're given to imagine themselves as are girls in stereotypically "nurturing" roles -- animal vet! Horseback riding! Making food for people! -- and the one non-stereotypical roll is not "engineer" or "scientist" or "inventor" but instead "smart girl", they may start letting those associations influence their thinking. Not every girl gets to be or wants to be the "smart girl" but almost any girl can become a scientist or inventor or engineer if they're interested. Not every girl wants to love and care for animals or make cupcakes. So while I get having SOME sets that cater to these -- because some girls DO want these things -- I don't see a problem with having adventurer type sets too, with astronauts, pirates, airplane pilots, inventors, mad scientists, surgeons, whatever.
posted by olinerd at 7:00 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


The problem with these "stop forcing girls to like pink toys" discussion is the incredible sexism

Well, it's only sexist if you equate 'female' with 'girly' and all its manifestations. Which I think a lot of people would have an issue with.


I think the crux of the disagreement is that most girly things are female, but most female things are not girly. As some Third Wave feminists have argued, if the core of Second Wave feminism is the pro-woman line, then that should extend to having a pro-girl line or even a pro-girly line. You can oppose gendered marketing of kids toys without building in implicit assumptions that pink or girly = inferior.
posted by jonp72 at 7:03 AM on December 15, 2011


"Hi, I'm Olivia and I want to be your Lego friend."

Shoulder-length hair, pink sleeveless top adorned with hearts, eye makeup. Another stereotype.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:10 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm somewhat intimidated that our next one is going to be a girl, mainly because I see commercials for ridiculously sexist toys for girls and I have no clue what I'm going to do if/when she asks for them.

Easy. Don't let her watch commercials.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:15 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The best part is that the figures are extra skinny because we can't have toys for girls that don't cause body-image problems.
posted by empath at 7:17 AM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


We have a fairly big Lego collection, mostly procured as bins of assorted generic parts, although have been a number of specific models purchased over the years too, which have been disassembled and put into the general collection.

My 10-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter have always played with Lego together, and still do, and both entered their elementary school's Lego competition every year. They both won prizes in their age categories. As I type, in fact, there is a Lego city they built (and continue to build and re-build) together on the play table behind me. The projects they collaborate on are mostly buildings of some sort or another - restaurants, movie theaters, even a theme park at one point, although they have both individually built Lego vehicles of their own design too.

The one Lego thing my daughter showed only a little interest in at first, and then got frustrated & bored with (which surprised me) was Lego Mindstorms. It seemed to be the programming part that really put her off - not sure what that means, if anything.
posted by kcds at 7:21 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


When my daughter is alone or just with her brothers, she'll play with just about anything (including Legos occasionally), although she definitely prefers the girly-girl stuff.

Eliot talks about this in her book. Children don't really show any much gender preference for toys until they start forming peer groups, which are mostly separated by sex. E.g. "Star Wars is for boys!" (I've seen that exact example happen to a six-year old girl, who abruptly stopped liking Star Wars.)

There are studies that show young boys will play with "girls" and "boys" toys fairly equally when alone. Introduce another boy, and his play shifts significantly to the boy toys.

Sex and gender "differences" if they exist are very complicated.

I have a three year-old girl and I think marketing like this sucks. She plays with all sorts of blocks, including megablox.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:23 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Lego Friends look like a Polly Pocket version of the Disney Princesses. In order, Ariel, Snow White, Tiana, Sleeping Beauty and Belle. Here are the princesses for comparison.
posted by onhazier at 7:30 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


From what I have heard of this, it actually sounds like they did a lot of market research, listened to a lot of people (little girls and parents both), watched a lot of children of both genders play, and carefully weighed the pros and cons before making this decision.

The found in their studies, for instance, that girls largely favored role-play over the act of construction and wanted their characters to have stories, so LEGO asked what sort of characters they wanted...and we get beautician, veterinarian, etc. They preferred sets where they could dive right in and get to the role-play sooner rather than having to build the whole set, so we get kits that can be build in stages, to be ready to play sooner. They apparently *really* disliked the LEGO minifig, and so it was redesigned over several iterations to one that girls found more appealing. And so on.

I don't know how I feel about it. My impression of LEGO is not only one colored by my maleness, but also by the fact that I grew up in what was, in some ways, a much less gender-rigid toy climate. The apparent need to make "girl LEGOs" does sort of rankle when the elegance of LEGO, in my opinion, has been the egalitarian nature of a simple, brightly colored block.

But it sounds like they did their homework and -- as perplexing as this is to a lot of us -- this is what they found the majority of little girls wanted.
posted by kaseijin at 7:33 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I had a girl, I'd be tempted to move to a remote location without access to a TV for her first 10 years or so, because the girly princess industrial complex is just so inescapable that I don't know how we'd fight it.

What girlie sets seem to lack is not just a diversity of roles, but any potential for drama. A castle with knights, dragons and wizards lends itself to battles and heroic deaths and magic spells. A vet's office is just dead boring by comparison.

Most of what girls are supposed to be pretending to do is like that. Let's go to the beach! Let's go shopping! Let's burp babies!

When me and my friends played our Barbies, we had weddings, yes but also kidnappings, evil queens, and insurrections. Nobody ever seems to think that girls want to have villains or plots in their play. No wonder girls get bored by what they're offered.
posted by emjaybee at 7:38 AM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wanted my 6-year-old daughter to play with Lego but - thanks to whatever gender-role stereotyping is out there and whatever crap I've filled her head with and Lego's robot/lasergun/wizard boy-skewing marketing - she immediately identified it as a toy for boys and something she didn't want. I wasn't going to give up though.

Lego already have a line of pink girly stuff called 'Belleville' which has very little building involved and includes small Bratz style dolls. It's barely Lego and I wasn't going to buy it for her. So, I went to ebay and discovered a range of Lego they brought out in the early 90's called Paradisa. It's proper Lego with complex buildings to make only it's of a style that appeals to little girls. And maybe some guys too.

She loves Lego and now she's hooked I've started introducing stuff from their 'City' to dilute the pink.
posted by Brian Lux at 7:48 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think some of the disagreement here comes from some misconceptions about Legos.

First, there is a very wide age range for Legos. I started out with the super simple basic blocks as soon as I was old enough to not try swallowing them. At this age, I didn't get kits or models to build or anything and just built whatever I wanted. At this stage, I don't think legos are gendered at all.

The first kits I remember I got when I was around 7 or 8. I got a big police station and my brother got a fire station. They were both built on 12"x12" platforms and had buildings and vehicles and they were great. We built a ton of stuff out of them. I don't feel like those sets were all that gendered but I could see how some girls that age might not like them.

After that, I graduated into all manner of space ships and had a bunch of those sets for the next few years. When I was 10 or 11, I discovered the Technic sets. Lot's of trucks and cranes and cars. At this point these were pretty much a boy thing. The vehicles I built out of legos went to war right along side my G.I. Joes.

Legos are FAR more than just the basic bricks and you can a ton more with them than just make sculptures. (I'm still kicking myself for not buying Set #8448 when it was available)

Now, if you have a daughter who likes these things then great, no one is going to stop you buying them or her from playing with them.

Lego created teams of anthropologists to research this stuff and this is what their research pointed them to. All Lego is saying with this product is, "We think there are a group of children who will like these Legos better than their other toys and/or better than the legos they're playing with now." Maybe this line will just be the stepping stone to getting into Mindstorms (Robots and programming) or Technic and eventually inspire them to be an engineer or something.

Also, you buy the kits with the instructions because they have unique pieces that you don't get with the generic stuff. Then, you build the thing in the instructions and play with that for a while. Then you see what else you can make with those parts, then you combine it with the other stuff you have and make something totally new.
posted by VTX at 7:50 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


as perplexing as this is to a lot of us

Is it perplexing though? Kids are hard-line, unreflecting conformists. Why is it any surprise they ask for more of the same of what they've already been given?

The plus side is that they grow out of it when they start getting a real sense of themselves. I was a girly girl at the start. I loved baby dolls, Sindy dolls (UK Barbie), prams, shops, dressing up, the works. But that was all over by the time I was 11. Then it was pop music, sarcasm and black clothing pretty much until the present day.
posted by Summer at 7:51 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The figures in these new sets, though, cannot do that. They are of a much larger scale than traditional minifigs, and will be completely incompatible with the huge variety of existing accessories.

They're only marginally taller, and their hands are the same size "clip" as the traditional minifigure. Their feet still fit on a brick stud. You can swap their hair/hats back and forth.

Bove linked the comparison above. That's a standard Lego "goblet" piece the Friends figure is holding.

If you want to dislike them because of gender roles, that's fine, but incompatiblity isn't an issue here.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kids are hard-line, unreflecting conformists.

Well, they are raised by adults.
posted by carter at 7:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The found in their studies, for instance, that girls largely favored role-play over the act of construction and wanted their characters to have stories, so LEGO asked what sort of characters they wanted...and we get beautician, veterinarian, etc. They preferred sets where they could dive right in and get to the role-play sooner rather than having to build the whole set, so we get kits that can be build in stages, to be ready to play sooner. They apparently *really* disliked the LEGO minifig, and so it was redesigned over several iterations to one that girls found more appealing. And so on.

*grumbles slightly* Okay, fair enough. But this is really strengthening my resolve to get my niece a copy of Free To Be You And Me in a couple years, dammit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:59 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And maybe some guys too.

Finally, Lego has made a figure of Husker Du's bassist. My letters were answered!
posted by drezdn at 7:59 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Harry Potter, Bionicle, etc. sales are on top of unbranded Lego blocks

Tell that to my local ToysRUs, where the latter are very difficult to find amidst the HP and Star Wars sets. Sure, they're cool and all, but get real.

My daughters, The Twelve Year Old in particular, love LEGO, probably because, yeah, we were giving them LEGO sets since they were the big Duplo kind you can't swallow.
posted by Gelatin at 8:14 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to dislike them because of gender roles, that's fine, but incompatiblity isn't an issue here.

First off, full acknowledgement, I appear to be at least partially wrong here. My initial reaction to the scale was based on the picture from the BoingBoing link in the original post. In that picture, one of the new figures is shown with the head of a traditional minifig, and whether it is an exaggeration or just lack of scale, it really makes the new figure look significantly larger than a traditional minifig.

However, I'm only partially wrong here, because the very comparison you mention states:
The LEGO Friends fig’s hair is interchangeable with regular minifigs. None of the other parts are (torso, legs, head).”
You get hair compatibility, but that's it. It is not mentioned, but I have to assume if the head and legs aren't compatible, that also rules out any sort of backpack / footwear options as well.

So, you're not going to be taking a LEGO Friends figure's head and turning her into a policewoman or pirate or anything not on the list of options in the "girls only" set, which is the point I was making.
posted by tocts at 8:19 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my experiences as a retail employee (and someone who buys lego stuff as kids) the generic legos might be hard to find because they're sold out (that's the case at our store).

With that said, the branded sets account for up to 60% of Lego's business.
posted by drezdn at 8:19 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The figures in these new sets, though, cannot do that. They are of a much larger scale than traditional minifigs, and will be completely incompatible with the huge variety of existing accessories. So, the only options a girl will have with them is other sets from the same line -- and thus far, that line consists 100% of stereotypical "girls only" options. This seems like a big step backwards, frankly.

This is my main concern too. I generally applaud the idea of a wider range of kits and scenarios and I agree fully that girls (mine anyway) tend to like the storytelling potential at least as much as the engineering, and so I can see where they're going with this. If the sporty new girl is all out of proportion to Anakin and Admiral Akbar and doesn't even fit in their space chairs, though, I think this might just amplify the big problem I see with modern Lego, which is that it doesn't mix and match as well as it once did.

See, I've got a six-year-old daughter, and she's sort of sporadically interested in Lego. Likes to get and build new sets, loves to go to the fancy new Lego store with the bulk bins with her grandmother and fill a tub with random blocks. (Bulk Lego buying is truly one of the great things of our time.)

She'll get into it for awhile and build a wide variety of spaceships using mainly Star Wars kit stuff (she's a huge Star Wars fan, salivates over the fully built model of the $500 Death Star kit they've got at the Lego store), but I don't know whether it's how kit-specific a lot of the modern pieces are or the scenarios or whatever - hard to get the knights and their chariot to interact with Anakin's ship - but anyway she doesn't kind of disappear into Legoland the way I did at her age. There's a disjointedness to it all. And outsized girl figures with outsized kit-specific accessories and all seems like it'd actually amplify the disjointedness.

The bulk bins are a good example of a better direction. She went with her grandmother the first time, filled the thing with pretty, colourful little flowers and branches and these little candle-flame translucent bricks. Comes home, builds vast gardens. Gets bored, then reconfigures them into this elaborate dense garden platform. Calls me over, explains: This is the trap that Anakin & Co. need to escape. There's a bed of deadly fire arrows that also shoot missiles. Laser cannons. Lots of inventive little device-type things going on. Awesome. Something about the random pieces (or maybe being able to select them personally?) opened up that invaluable Lego creativity in her that is the reason we buy the stuff.

So what about something between the heavily themed kits and the random-brick assortments. Say an original-scale, possibly slightly anthropomorphized animals-in-nature Lego or something like that? I think you could get my daughter and kids like her - boys and girls - huge into like Jungle Cat Lego or suchlike.

Anyway, we'll take a close look at these Friends kits. See what my daughter thinks. Maybe she's been yearning for a Lego Vet all this time . . .
posted by gompa at 8:20 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand why Lego decided to make these the way they did (based on their market research). After all, a toy company exists to... sell toys!

But I'm already coping with my 4-year-old daughter thinking, by her example from her peers, that if it's pink - it must be for her. I've been adamant with not setting her that example in our home and it wasn't something she paid any attention to until she went to school. Since then it's been what I perceive as walking a tightrope to temper these blindly-girlie-b/c-girlie-is-the-only-option influences while recognizing that 1) she has to live in a world that is pushing this stuff at her and she's going to want to fit in at least somewhat - I know I did, when I was little; and 2) she is her own person with the right to make her own choices about what she likes.

And of course that 3) girlie stuff isn't automatically lesser (I've had to temper myself from my immediate aversion to anything pink as well just because it's SO coded that way right now in society)... I mean, I have the same issues with the model that some macho-boy stuff sets for children, and I've always monitored my sons' toys, shows, and examples to avoid models that I don't agree with (no guns, no war stuff, I could go on). There is plenty of "girl stuff" in our house - we have a big dollhouse, we have dolls and a doll stroller, a playhouse, a play kitchen with play food, we watch Dora and the new My Little Pony, we play Wii dance games, my 8-year-old's big craft obsession is his potholder loom - all my kids love all that stuff. All of them want their nails painted when I paint my toenails. I don't even think of it as "girl stuff" to be honest, it's kid stuff, as much as the Lego and the K'nex and the waffle blocks and plastic animal figures and so on.

My daughter builds with the Duplo (right now she most often makes guitars). She loves to watch her older brother with the Lego; she's very attracted to it because it's what the bigger kids are doing. She tries to play with it herself, a little, but it's still hard for her to snap the pieces together. I am seriously wary of, and not likely to buy, this "girl" Lego because she will think "oh this is the pink stuff, only for me, instead of all the Lego" and the idea of her limiting herself because this is the model she's already grasped, at 4, it bothers me so. The world is going to impose its limits on her; I don't want to encourage that, especially in her safe space, at home. Of course I feel that way about my sons as well - one of them likes My Little Pony as much as she does, and I can guarantee he'll be playing with the ponies she gets for Xmas as much as she will, if she lets him. Probably he'll bribe her with building Lego sets for them.
posted by flex at 8:46 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I could write about this at length, having a daughter with a lot of Lego who is reaching an age where she is starting saying things like "I don't want boy toys anymore" and "all the cool toys are boy toys", but I'm on a phone so for now I'll just say:

1) we've never considered Lego a gendered toy in our house, and have happily bought and played with City, Pirates, Kingdom and Star Wars.
2) we did get the pink brick boxes as you get some nice different colored bricks, some girl minifigs and a horse. Screw that Bellevue divergent minifig crap though.
3) At one point we noticed a minifig gender gap and bought a bunch of new hair and head peices from the online store, so now we have girl pirates and so on...
4) Those fancy minifigs that come in little bags are excellent stocking drifters and can help a lot with minifig diversity.
posted by Artw at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2011


I have two issues with these:

- The figures, which are Bratz dolls made of lego, complete with mini-breasts and hips, dressed in painted "sexy" clothing with painted-on eye makeup, and hands specifically set up to hold hairbrushes and handbags. They come with pre-determined back stories, only one gets to be the 'smart girl', and she gets excluded from all other roles, as well. The figures - which girls are supposed to identify with - can't fit into any of the other lego sets because of their huge relative size, and all represent teenage girls, while (with some branded exceptions) the general (now "boys'") minifigs are set up in adult roles. So little girls are apparently supposed to be roleplaying their asperation to be 'hot teenagers" while boys pretend to be firefighters and policemen. Nice.

- The fact that these are meant to go on the 'pink shelves' at toystores, while Lego is apparently accepting that all other sets are now for the blue shelves. So no, most little girls won't get the chance to play with any of the other sets if these succeed. Not only will the other sets, including the basic ones that we think of as neutral, not be in 'their' section of the store, but their parents will be given the strong message that only these sets are appropriate for their daughters. When have you ever seen a parent buy anything for a daughter in the blue section of, say, a Toys R Us?

I worked in MR for too long to buy the underlying research on these, either - qualitative market research can easily impose strong gender dichotomies where they don't exist in the real world.

I suspect that that's what happened here - the observers were sent in to family homes with a brief to find gender differences big enough to drive a new-product introduction. They were hardly likely to come back and say "Actually, you don't need a whole new product, you just need to market your existing bulk boxes and bins better, provide some more neutral sets, maybe with animals, and put more female minifigs in the branded sets," when the brief was for new-product development.
posted by Wylla at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


You get hair compatibility, but that's it. It is not mentioned, but I have to assume if the head and legs aren't compatible, that also rules out any sort of backpack / footwear options as well.

Lego footwear has always pegged into the bottom of the foot using the standard Lego stud, which works fine with Friends figures. After doing a little searching, I have found that you probably can still fit a Lego backpack piece over the Friends figure's neck, which is a smaller diameter than the standard minifig's neck. It would probably be a little loose, but would still work.

The only thing you won't be doing is swapping the printed torsos and legs around.

So, you're not going to be taking a LEGO Friends figure's head and turning her into a policewoman or pirate or anything not on the list of options in the "girls only" set, which is the point I was making.

At this point, I have to ask: So what? Buy a set with standard female minifigures and swap the heads and bodies around to your heart's content. The new Lego Friends sets are being made in addition to the standard Lego product line. If you don't like them, you will still be able to buy hundreds of other sets that have the traditional minifigures, including female figures.

Lego Friends is what's known as an aspriational product, meaning that its style and branding is intended to draw in people not already familiar with or interested in the standard Lego minifigures and sets. It's meant to draw in girls who might be more attracted to a "pretty" set with girl figures that are more doll-like.

So much of the GRAR in this thread is based on assumptions or ignorance of the Lego product line. I'll grant that some of that ignorance stems from brick-and-mortar retailers carrying more of the popular stuff like Star Wars, and less of the traditional basic brick sets. But we're on the internet here. Take a look at the Lego website. They still sell many different basic brick sets that include the traditional male and female figures.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's it. I'm getting all my kids (which I don't have) Parktools for Christmas, regardless of gender. If they're especially good, they can have something from the Lee Valley catalogue.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:07 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suspect that that's what happened here - the observers were sent in to family homes with a brief to find gender differences big enough to drive a new-product introduction.

Yes, it's probably team work; the researchers/ethnographers did one thing; the developers/modelers did another; the marketers did a third thing; and so on. They are a toy company, so that's what they do. Re. imposing a dichotomy - is that another way of saying that they are giving people what they want? There are possible critiques here from philosophy, post-structuralism/modernism, gender studies, etc. - but I'm pretty sure marketing did not want to listen to them.

Also, the article did not do a good job of sorting between gender, biological sex, culture, and other factors, and the links between them.

I just thought it was interesting that they went and talked to users in a qualitative way.
posted by carter at 9:09 AM on December 15, 2011


Has anybody else noticed that the new figures are better figures than the old ones?

They look much more like human beings. As a bonus, they're bigger (although only slightly; still not really big enough to be proportional with much that you'd free-build from 2x4 bricks).

The article says Lego's research said girls wanted to role play, so presumably they were given figures that looked human and role-playable. It says girls wanted things to be beautiful, so they were given attractive figures. And it says the girls hated the old figures... probably because they're amazingly clunky, ugly, and ill proportioned. I hate them, and I'm a male in my late forties.

The only disadvantages of the new figures are that the legs don't move independently, and that there are only a few of them and they're parts-incompatible with the rest of the line. No, they're not actually particularly skinny compared to real humans...

I don't know if the leg problem can be fixed, but the obvious fix to the availability/incompatibility problem is to replace the existing figure system with the new one throughout the whole product line, including the "boy" stuff. They're just plain better.

The predefined names and backstories and roles bother me, though. Hairdresser? "Smart girl"????
posted by Hizonner at 9:12 AM on December 15, 2011


30 years ago, when toys were less strongly gendered

Really? I was pretty young, but 25 years ago this would not have been true. My sister had Jem and Barbie and My Little Pony and Cabbage Patch and what-not back then, which is as strongly gendered as my GI Joes and He-Man and Transformers and M.A.S.K. and stuff was.
posted by Hoopo at 9:15 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lego Friends is what's known as an aspriational product, meaning that its style and branding is intended to draw in people not already familiar with or interested in the standard Lego minifigures and sets.

Fleebnork, these sets are intended to be 'aspirational' - but that word doesn't mean what you think it means. "Aspirational" in marketing means that the product is one the target market will buy because it represents a lifestyle or self-image to which they are expected to aspire - it's often because the main product is (or seems) out of reach. Ferarri is an aspirational product, and ferarri key chains cater to this aspiration, etc. The wikipedia entry above puts a lot of weight on price, but the term is used about lifestyle marketing, too. So a teenage boy buying a striped, skinny scarf with 'Brooklyn' on the label in a shopping mall in rural Kansas is also an example of aspirational marketing at work.

(An 'aspirational strategy' is one built around a whole new mission statement for a company. That might be what you were getting at, but that doesn't apply here, either - Lego isn't re-brandng itself as a whole. This is a standard new product introduction.)

So the 'aspirational" nature of these sets is exactly the problem - lego has apparently decided that preteen girls aspire to be 'hot' teens above all else, that their parents aspire to have their daughters meet that ideal, and that they should cater to those assumed aspirations to facilitate a new product launch.

Carter - I mean (having done this type of work), that if researchers are asked to come back with huge gender differences in how the children they are observing play with lego, in order to facilitate a new product launch, they will come back with wide enough differences to facilitate a new product launch. If they are asked to find ways to market the old sets to girls with only minor changes, they will come back with that...and they can do either of these things based on the same set of observation tapes. MR is not academic research - in general its job is to answer exactly the question asked, rather than tell the client they've asked the wrong question.
posted by Wylla at 9:18 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fleebnork, when I looked at your basic brisk setslink the figures were almost exclusively male (police, farm, castle, some with two bearded males) and the only two female minifigs I could find were the pink brick set and sarfari (animals again and with a male minfig too).

What Lego is doing is deliberately gendering their sets to "other" girls. Little boys should also have the chance to play with girl minifigs. The default should no be that the sets include boy minifigs and that getting girl minifigs requires additional purchases as well as a child or parent alert and vocal enough about the gender disparity to pay for equality.
posted by saucysault at 9:18 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Has anybody else noticed that the new figures are better figures than the old ones?

They look much more like human beings.


Nah, the level of abstraction with regular minifigs is an asset, not a defect.
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I love LEGO so much. Such an integral part of my childhood, and I can't wait for my kids to get older so I can start buying them their own sets. Luckily for me I have two boys and LEGO has made it super-easy for boys to get into playing with their sets. I agree with many of the comments above that LEGO really should step it up and have more female minifigs on offer. It wouldn't be hard to do and I really don't think it would dilute any of their sets.

That being said, if you are looking for ways to help your daughters/nieces/etc get into playing with classic LEGO sets, there are companies that do custom minifigs, some of which are female. Might be a nice way to supplement what LEGO hasn't managed to do on their own.

Just a quick google search yielded Firestar Toys. Their minifigs are expensive but if I had a daughter I'd be sorely tempted to get a few of those*. They even have Uhura from Star Trek!

*Unfortunately most of their minifigs are male too, but at least they have a few female ones, it's a start anyway.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2011


The figures, which are Bratz dolls made of lego, complete with mini-breasts and hips, dressed in painted "sexy" clothing with painted-on eye makeup, and hands specifically set up to hold hairbrushes and handbags.

I'm not a huge fan of the figures, but they are nothing at all like Bratz. They are not vamped up and they're not posed like drugged out porn stars. They've got very light makeup and reasonable clothes. They look like normal, clean-cut girls. Sure, they're built older than the kids they're aimed for, but so are the pirates and knights and firefighters in the regular sets. Seriously, if you don't see a difference between Bratz and these you are not approaching this discussion from anywhere near the same planet as I am. And the hands are the same - not some sort of handbag mod. I guarantee that if any of these were in my house they would be holding swords and guns in no time flat.
posted by Dojie at 9:36 AM on December 15, 2011


They look more like playmobil to me.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on December 15, 2011


The figures, which are Bratz dolls made of lego, complete with mini-breasts and hips, dressed in painted "sexy" clothing with painted-on eye makeup, and hands specifically set up to hold hairbrushes and handbags.

As I explained upthread, these figures are compatible with all normal Lego accessories. Their hands are the same standard size as traditional minifigures. They all feature pretty graphics, yes, but there's nothing in particular that pushes the spectrum all the way to "sexy". None of them feature oversized breasts or hips, none of the clothing is revealing, etc. Unless you're trying to insist that any makeup at all or skirts above the knee makes them "sexy".

They come with pre-determined back stories, only one gets to be the 'smart girl', and she gets excluded from all other roles, as well.

What? In what way is she excluded from anything? There is nothing about the set that implies exclusion.

The figures - which girls are supposed to identify with - can't fit into any of the other lego sets because of their huge relative size

Incorrect. Please read my posts upthread. There are links with photos comparing them to traditional minifigures.

and all represent teenage girls, while (with some branded exceptions) the general (now "boys'") minifigs are set up in adult roles. So little girls are apparently supposed to be roleplaying their asperation to be 'hot teenagers" while boys pretend to be firefighters and policemen. Nice.

You're reading an awful lot into these sets. Is that supposed to be a teenager who owns her own cafe? A teenage veterinarian? I'll grant you the relative "girliness" of it all, but you're kind of running away with hyperbole.

When have you ever seen a parent buy anything for a daughter in the blue section of, say, a Toys R Us?

The Lego section of Toys R Us is non-gendered. The Lego sets are in a separate corner of the store, near the science/learning toys. Wal-Mart and Target do place them in the "boy" aisles, however. It would be nice to see Lego placed between the pink and blue aisles, at the very least.

(snipped) and put more female minifigs in the branded sets

Branded sets are subject to the approval of the brands in question. Lucasfilm has to approve every Star Wars set. A Star Wars or Harry Potter set is only going to contain female figures that are characters who are present in the movies/cartoons/etc. You aren't going to find Jane Doe female figures in branded sets.

I'm doing an awful lot of posting in this thread, because there's a LOT of inaccuracy and GRAR coming from people regarding Lego and their product line, and a lot of it is based on assumptions or just plain ignorance about what Lego actually sells.

I don't even disagree with most of you about the gender role issues inherent in children's toys at large.

These sets look to me like Lego wants a piece of the Barbie/Disney Princess pie. They're a business, and that is an awfully big pie.

Fleebnork, when I looked at your basic brisk setslink the figures were almost exclusively male (police, farm, castle, some with two bearded males) and the only two female minifigs I could find were the pink brick set and sarfari (animals again and with a male minfig too).

It is true that Lego sets are more commonly populated with male figures.

What Lego is doing is deliberately gendering their sets to "other" girls. Little boys should also have the chance to play with girl minifigs. The default should no be that the sets include boy minifigs and that getting girl minifigs requires additional purchases as well as a child or parent alert and vocal enough about the gender disparity to pay for equality.

I don't disagree, but as you say, only people alert enough about the gender disparity even notice. This is an issue that Lego has been caught in the middle of for quite a while now. They have unfortunately found themselves in the position of being a "boy's" toy. They would love to sell more sets to girls. How do they do it? They've been trying to figure out that equation for at least the last 30 years. These Lego Friends sets look to me like a combination of the Paradisa sets and the Scala sets.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The researchers found that girls do not like the iconic, chunky Lego minifigure. So the company designed a new one that's slightly bigger than the traditional 1 1/2-inch figure, to make it easier for girls to put hairbrushes and handbags in the minifigures' hands." So it actualy is a "handbag mod."

Of course there's a difference between these and Bratz - these are lego, still - but the skimpy clothing, the non-removable eye makeup, and the fact that someone added breasts to a lego figure intended for pre-pubescent girls is creepy - they look like Bratz made of lego, as I said. YMMV.
posted by Wylla at 9:40 AM on December 15, 2011


Oh! Oh! Firestar even sells just female heads and hair...which means you could use the minifig bodies that come with your sets and essentially create your own female astronauts and pirates. They even have a female head with an eyepatch.


(I swear on my original LEGO castle set that I'm not a shill for Firestar. I just barely found them and have quickly become enamored with all the cool minifigs they sell).
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nah, the level of abstraction with regular minifigs is an asset, not a defect.

I don't really think that a trapezoid shaped torso with a shirt design printed on it is that much more abstract than a human shaped torso with the same shirt design.
posted by smackfu at 9:43 AM on December 15, 2011


Sorry for unclarity - I know that these figures can click onto standard lego...but they also won't fit into standard lego sets, because the figures and vehicles those sets are set up to help you build are set up for minifigs, and these are substantially larger.
posted by Wylla at 9:44 AM on December 15, 2011


Oh! Oh! Firestar even sells just female heads and hair...which means you could use the minifig bodies that come with your sets and essentially create your own female astronauts and pirates. They even have a female head with an eyepatch.

Very very tempting. Of course you can actually get individual heads and hair from the pick a brick section of the lego store...

Oh man. They launched the Superhero stuff. Catwoman and Wonder Woman are getting purchased as Christmas gifts RIGHT NOW.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on December 15, 2011


Sorry for unclarity - I know that these figures can click onto standard lego...but they also won't fit into standard lego sets, because the figures and vehicles those sets are set up to help you build are set up for minifigs, and these are substantially larger.

Plus they'll look kind of crappy and inconsistent. The non-legp minifigs are bad enough.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


but they also won't fit into standard lego sets, because the figures and vehicles those sets are set up to help you build are set up for minifigs, and these are substantially larger.

That's what I thought too, but from the comparison link above, they seem to be the same height, just thinner. And the heads are compatible with the old ones. I don't know if the new figs have the holes for sitting though.
posted by smackfu at 10:06 AM on December 15, 2011


the skimpy clothing, the non-removable eye makeup, and the fact that someone added breasts to a lego figure intended for pre-pubescent girls is creepy
The "skimpy clothing" is standard summer wear for women all over the place. If you want to knock the clothing, I think it's legitimate to complain that it's all fundamentally identical, there are no job-specific or role-specific outfits, no "personal taste", etc. It would be good to show some diversity and choice, including options with more coverage. But it's not "skimpy clothing" in remotely the way that phrase suggests.

The eye makeup is similar. Again, if there's a problem, it's that they ALL have it. The designers might just claim that's what their eyes look like, but of course nobody's eyes look like that. But who's wearing more eye makeup? http://thebrickblogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/LEGO-Friends-Minifigs-Comparison-1.jpg

The toys may be intended for prepubescent girls, but the figures themselves are supposed to be adults. Adult women have breasts. They're not optional accessories. They're body parts. It would be really, seriously creepy to remove them out of some kind of bizarre unwillingness to have girls acknowledge that. The proportions are realistic; we're not talking about Barbie here.

If you want to knock the physical appearance, though, it's a bit odd to find everybody looking 20 years old, and a bit odd for everybody in town to have the same body type.

The figures do indeed project an "ideal" appearance, and that's especially a problem for girls, and it could be dealt with by adding diversity in clothing, body shape, facial features, etc. For that matter, they're all the same height, which is a bit unrealistic, no? However, it's a standardized building set, so you're only going to be able to take the shape diversity so far. The original minifigs are fundamentally ageless, too... and they all identically look like walking refrigerators.
posted by Hizonner at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2011


Sorry for unclarity - I know that these figures can click onto standard lego...but they also won't fit into standard lego sets, because the figures and vehicles those sets are set up to help you build are set up for minifigs, and these are substantially larger.

No, they're not. They're only a plate or two taller than a regular minifig, depending on headwear.

The hip and leg proportion are different, so they might not fit in certain vehicles. Fortunately, it's Lego and you can add a brick or two to accomodate them.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2011


I like that we're all calling them minifigs and using "plate" as a unit of height measurement - this is a Lego literate crowd.
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2011


I am partial to Lego Punk Rocker's hair. -- we bought a bunch of the random figs and ended up with two lady snowboarders, along with the punk rocker, so we swapped around bits and pieces to end up with a snowboarding couple and a punk rock girl.

Actually, I have four female minifigs* on my desk right now, plus the "Vintage Minifigure Collection" (lady edition); the paucity of women in the minifig world is one of my personal ranting topics. Once I actually did a gender count in a Lego mailer, maybe a year ago, and I think it came out something like 10 to 1. Leaving out "branded" sets, where presumably the ratio comes from the source material, didn't help any. The most even distribution of male and female minifigs seems to be in the sets like Pet Shop, which are the more elaborate version of the City sets. (And aimed at adults, I think.) Research whatever, I'd just like to see more female figures in the "regular" sets.

When I was a kid (late 70s/early 80s), there was really just the one girl minifig: the dark braids, although of course there was only the one kind of boy hair then too. So I often took off the hair entirely and pretended that the knob on the top of the head was actually a bun of long blond hair. :)

It's disappointing to see that these don't seem to be designed for swapping around, since that's a hugely fun thing to do if you're into the lego-as-barbie sort of thing: building up cool outfits and telling elaborate stories. (My Barbies always went on fantastical adventures, and my sisters and I built vast Lego cities with Russian-novel levels of complex interpersonal relationships.) It would be pretty awesome to put one of those girly heads on a knight's body, but that doesn't look like an option. :(

* Mid-90s Catwoman**, one of the aforementioned snowboarders, Cleopatra, and the woman from the Camper, on the bicycle. (also, the Smart Car.)

** Holy heck, that set is going for $200 now?!

posted by epersonae at 10:12 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is bullshit.

My daughter's last two Lego sets were a dragon and a space shuttle. She loves Lego. If people start buying her this sexist crap I will be *extremely* displeased.
posted by rodgerd at 10:21 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think relative are part of the problem. I used to want legos, but only my brother was ever given sets. Similarly, I always put Transformers on my Christmas list, but I would also list Barbies (because all kids list 20x more toys than they will get), and everyone opted for the Barbies.

That said, what I really wanted were the historical/fantasy sets, because I was am a history geek. But they were too large and expensive, so all we had were the cheap space sets instead. So we had helmeted mens wandering around the cute little two story houses I would design.
posted by jb at 10:23 AM on December 15, 2011


Holy heck, that set is going for $200 now?!

I just bought more or less the same Catwoman and bike for $12! Doesn;t have the sweet batmobile though.
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2011


I'm 27. My lego sets were mostly Lego Paradisa sets--and I loved them. Particularly the horse sets. I built a shit-ton of stables and houses for my little lego ladies.

Ironically, my mother later got me a huge "boy" set--it was a mega blocks castle. I was obsessed with the middle ages, and loved it, too.

However, I used it pretty much as a medieval doll house.

The "gender" of your toys really says nothing about how you play with them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:28 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yuck.

This new Lego is not Lego. It's bubblegum pink bourgeois fantasy lifestyle propaganda. It's social. It's Barbie.

Why don't they just put some girls in the commercials for regular Lego? Maybe throw some of those flip-hairdo pieces into the kits at the very most.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:28 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, there's a science lab in this lego line. Check out the tiny robot! C'mon, guys, that's awesome!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:31 AM on December 15, 2011


I would totally buy my daughter the Lego Paradisa stuff - shame it isn't around any more.

It would totally get invaded by pirates and aliens of course.
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on December 15, 2011


If you don't like them, you will still be able to buy hundreds of other sets that have the traditional minifigures, including female figures.

This seems to completely miss the point.

The problem here is not that these sets will cause existing sets to cease to exist (they won't). The problem is, LEGO is already generally fine for boys and girls. It's not perfect, and absolutely there should be more female minifigs in the standard sets. But, by creating a new, super-girly, pink-boxed, hyper-marketed GIRLS ONLY zone, LEGO is going to inculcate in both children and parents the belief that the only LEGO that is appropriate for girls is this particular subset. And that subset is underwhelming, to say the least, when it comes to representing anything beyond incredibly stereotyped visions of female role models.

With that said, honestly, I don't have the time today to sustain a long-running argument on MeFi, so I'm going to bow out.
posted by tocts at 10:35 AM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi - awesome sounding link is not working.
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on December 15, 2011


My nephews play with my lego set from 30 years ago more than they play with the new sets people buy them. It's basically just a big box of red white and blue blocks with no theming at all.
posted by empath at 10:39 AM on December 15, 2011


Really? Works okay for me, but it's "#3933 LEGO Friends Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop – est. price: $10" on this link

Funny thing about the Paradisa sets. The boxes all seemed to exist in a universe where girls sat around with tons of make-up on while wearing bikinis and being served by the uniformly male (and usually mustached) hired help. Talk about aspirational! The new sets actually seem more age-appropriate, and show girls doing a variety of tasks, including mowing the lawn, playing with robots, baking, being vets (and since when was that not something to aspire to?!). I get upset with how a lot of gendered toys encourage complacency in girls. These seem explicitly to do the opposite, even if they're "social" toys. Also don't think it's so great to put down the social aspects of traditional girls' play--there's something distinctively anti-feminist about doing so, as if the way girls have played for centuries is inherently wrong.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The problem is, LEGO is already generally fine for boys and girls.

It would appear that the company disagrees with you. If it is already fine for the full spectrum for both genders, why did they spend all these resources on coming up with this new line?

If there are parents who don't buy their daughters Lego sets because they view them as a "boys only" toy and those girls miss the opportunity build the skills that playing with Legos builds, isn't this line a better option? Granted, it isn't solving the real problem but that problem isn't Lego's to solve.
posted by VTX at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2011


Why is no one excited that now their sons can have their legos be vets, fashion designers, and pop stars?
posted by drezdn at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why is no one excited that now their sons can have their legos be vets, fashion designers, and pop stars?

Because of The Patriarchy.

I am not even kidding. Remember how I was saying that my daughter was now saying things like "I don't want boy toys anymore" and "all the cool toys are boy toys"? Which appears slightly contradictory, but it isn't: There's an implied hierarchy in the BOY/GIRL toy divide with the boy toys being assumed to be cooler and better.

I like to think I'm doing a good job countering the first part of this, by saying that she can play with all the spaceships and robots she likes, but I think I might be falling down on the second part, because TBH I am less than interested in pink frilly princess business.

My Little Pony though, that's cool now.
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also don't think it's so great to put down the social aspects of traditional girls' play--there's something distinctively anti-feminist about doing so, as if the way girls have played for centuries is inherently wrong.

I didn't bring up the social aspect of this new so-called Lego to put down the fact that it's social, only to point out that there are innumerable other products for social play (a fact that will doom this brand right out of the gate), and that traditional Lego--being a solo creative toy for the asocial aspie in us all--is not one of them.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:23 AM on December 15, 2011


There's an interesting peice here on Lego and shared play.

(And from my comments there, wow was I a different person pre-kids. And, um, having one of said kids go to the exact same school that was in the article.)
posted by Artw at 11:28 AM on December 15, 2011


I am not even kidding. Remember how I was saying that my daughter was now saying things like "I don't want boy toys anymore" and "all the cool toys are boy toys"? Which appears slightly contradictory, but it isn't: There's an implied hierarchy in the BOY/GIRL toy divide with the boy toys being assumed to be cooler and better.

Also, the gendered "boy" toys often have more parts or invite more expansive, imaginative play. (I'm fairly certain there was a FPP about this awhile back?) Your daughter is probably at the age where she wants to assert her gender identity, but she's finding that, when it comes down to it, a lot of the girls toys kinda suck. Not because they're pink or deal with animals or social play but because they're just not that great as toys.

(Weirdly, I've found this is also true for, say, the quality of clothes made for men versus women. My husband's cheapie pajamas are so much nicer! And have pockets!)

I didn't bring up the social aspect of this new so-called Lego to put down the fact that it's social, only to point out that there are innumerable other products for social play (a fact that will doom this brand right out of the gate), and that traditional Lego--being a solo creative toy for the asocial aspie in us all--is not one of them.

Again, I played with traditional legos. My minifigs always talked to one another and had elaborate social interactions. I wasn't aware that I was doing it wrong when I was six, I guess.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:32 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


WTF is Social Girl? Do her little hands come configured to hold a tube of antibiotic cream? Maybe a container of penicillin?
posted by Kokopuff at 11:36 AM on December 15, 2011


I had my first Lego set in the mid-eighties. It was the Town House, which could probably be considered girlier than the average Lego set, being a house and all, but still, pretty unisex, no pink or purple. I loved it.

It was also my last Lego set, but my younger brother got into Legos a couple years later, and I'd play with his stuff. Every time he got a new Lego set, there'd be a little brochure in the box with all the other sets currently in production. I'd flip through them, and with each new brochure the sets got more and more boy-targeted. Space battleships and racecars and knights and pirates and stuff. I remember being ten years old and pissed that Lego was now a boys' toy.

Then the Paradisa line came out, and I got even more pissed. Not only was it pink and supergirly and totally not what I wanted, but all the sets looked dumbed-down compared to the boys' Lego sets. There wasn't much actual building involved. What was the point?

The appeal of Lego for me was always just building buildings, not trying to act out any stories or battles. I already had Barbies and My Little Ponies to do stories with. I guess there were the big buckets of assorted pieces, but when those are lumped with all the boys' sets, in a for-boys aisle you wouldn't ordinarily go in, it's pretty easy not to notice them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:36 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The "gender" of your toys really says nothing about how you play with them.

As a young boy, I had a bunch of My Little Pony toys that I exclusively "played with" by sitting and smelling. I have no idea what they put in those chemicals, but it smelled fantastic. I think we should all hope for a gender-free future where children pick toys best on which has the best smelling plastic. My Little Pony will totally win.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lego already have a line of pink girly stuff called 'Belleville' which has very little building involved and includes small Bratz style dolls. It's barely Lego and I wasn't going to buy it for her. So, I went to ebay and discovered a range of Lego they brought out in the early 90's called Paradisa. It's proper Lego with complex buildings to make only it's of a style that appeals to little girls. And maybe some guys too.

We had that Paradisa stuff but it was called Belleville back then - I guess they recycled the name. Not as cool as Ice Planet for me, but it fit into our larger ecosystem.
posted by michaelh at 11:42 AM on December 15, 2011


Belleville looks different from Paradisia - Paradisia has standard minifigs, versus weird polly-pocket looking things for Belleville.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on December 15, 2011


Paradisa doesn't seem that different set-wise from this new theme. Except it seems excessively beach-themed: I think LEGO just reused the Pirates theme piece.
posted by smackfu at 11:49 AM on December 15, 2011


When the little girl I nannied for turned 3 this summer, I got her a Lego set of a horse stable. It was girly enough for her to loooove it, but it was not festooned in roses and pink. We regularly lug the whole set into the living room and make the stable or other variations using the pieces.

If I'd had a time machine that allowed Me of Two and a Half Years Ago (when I first started babysitting for her) to see Me of Right Now buying her a quasi-girly Lego set instead of the gender neutral variety, Me of Two and a Half Years Ago would have had a fit. I was certain that between me, her mother (a highly accomplished creative director at an ad agency) and her Scandinavian father, this kid would be free of the Princess Pink industrial complex.

Then life happened. We took her to playgrounds where little girls wore frilly pink dresses, introduced her to friends who watched Disney Princess movies, walked her by some ad on the subway for the American Girl doll store - and by 3 she'd turned into a Girly Girl.

My point isn't that we can't protect our kids from gendered crap; we can't, and any parent or guardian of a kid will learn that short of raising your kids in a basement or a bubble, it's an inevitable onslaught of plastic crap labeled blue or pink by the time they're 6 months old. Your kid's level of engagement with that colored plastic is part peer pressure, part natural inclination, and in part, possibly (likely, in my little girl's case) even the rebellious sense that the grown-ups don't really want them to choose that color of plastic.

I am naturally concerned about what the Princess Pink universe implies, but I'm also deeply concerned about what the hatred of the Princess Pink universe implies. Just because the little girl in my life love dolls and Disney and fairies does not mean she's inferior to a girl who likes boyish things, or gender-neutral things. She's also an extremely brave kid, the only kid in her class during the field trip to pet the boa constrictor. She's kind and hilarious, totally theatrical when given the chance. If she wants to wear an ugly Snow White costume while she plays Princess (in which she sounds an awful lot like her mom giving out orders to her underlings during a conference call), then fine.

It took me a while to come around to the Princess Pink stuff, but now I see it as a complex phenomenon of negative embedded qualities juxtaposed next to really great character-developing tools. Just as it took third wave feminism to remind everyone that women don't have to act JUST LIKE MEN to be valid people, that male values aren't necessarily unimpeachable either, it takes us as a culture to realize that the Princess Pink industry has some undeniably good qualities for little girls who seek self-expression.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you have little girls and you don't live entirely isolated form the world then the Pink Princess thing will happen. I have given in to that now, and just concentrate on squelching any weird values that come in with that and making sure a variety of other options are available.
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on December 15, 2011


Hizonner: Has anybody else noticed that the new figures are better figures than the old ones?

They look much more like human beings.


Artw: Nah, the level of abstraction with regular minifigs is an asset, not a defect.

I agree with Artw, as far as the heads go. Some customization is fine, but it's turned most of the heads into specifically male heads, with ridiculous little grimaces. Sure, the defining female characteristic of the old minifigs would be a wig, then they got wedge dresses (newer example, with extra painted-on details, and painted curves to her top half).

Perhaps some market research found that generic minifigs didn't stand out compared to articulated GI Joes or other action figs, with "realistic" features, compared to boxy little bodies and cylindrical yellow heads. At least they haven't added noses, like on some Cobi brand minifigs.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on December 15, 2011


I don't know that I believe that Lego as it's currently sold encourages kids to build spatial reasoning skills and build anything they want. Lego sells kits complete with step by step instructions on how to make the object. Your mom probably has the big red bucket still in her attic but that's damn near impossible to find in a big box store.

My experience as a father of 6, 3, 1 year olds is that the big Star Wars or pirate ship or whatever gets build exactly once (by me) and will never be in the same shape again. I've given up trying to save instruction booklets, compete sets or anything like that.

Every birthday and xmas I get to build the each set once with varying amount of help and then pieces will be liberated forever.
posted by zeikka at 12:08 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, I played with traditional legos. My minifigs always talked to one another and had elaborate social interactions. I wasn't aware that I was doing it wrong when I was six, I guess.

But that's just it -- you weren't doing it wrong! Real Lego is completely flexible. You can do whatever the hell you want to do with it. It's your choice. But there's not a whole lot of flexibility or creativity or choice involved in a pink girl in a pink house. It is nothing but Barbie.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:09 PM on December 15, 2011


But that's just it -- you weren't doing it wrong! Real Lego is completely flexible. You can do whatever the hell you want to do with it. It's your choice. But there's not a whole lot of flexibility or creativity or choice involved in a pink girl in a pink house. It is nothing but Barbie.

It looks like the new girly sets can be changed and modified just like the "boys" sets. I don't see how it's any more like Barbie than, say, the Harry Potter branded sets. If Lego didn't want us to play social interactions, it wouldn't have included people.

Also, there's plenty of creativity involved in playing house with dolls. This is what I'm talking about in that we value the play of boys over girls.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:12 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Colour is really the least problematic thing for me here. I would have LOVED to have a giant bucket of pink, white and purple Lego.

This new line, however, is not a giant bucket of pink Lego.
posted by sawdustbear at 12:13 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've given up trying to save instruction booklets, compete sets or anything like that.

My oldest, now 10, now does keep complete sets built and on his shelves, and has for a couple of years. He explained to me awhile ago that he had to take apart the earlier sets, until he had amassed a big enough supply of pieces to build his MOCs with.
posted by not that girl at 12:13 PM on December 15, 2011


My experience as a father of 6, 3, 1 year olds is that the big Star Wars or pirate ship or whatever gets build exactly once (by me) and will never be in the same shape again.

As a kid, this is what my brother and I did too. We built our set once, sometimes modified it or added to it from our existing collection and then it got taken apart and put in the big bin with the rest of our collection. In retrospect, I think that building it at least once with the instructions was a good way to get some new ideas on how to use some of the pieces and I know I used whole assemblies (like a steering rack or some piece of a suspension) when building things on my own.
posted by VTX at 12:15 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd also add that I think there is a lot of value in building 3-D objects using those 2-D illustrations as a reference.
posted by VTX at 12:23 PM on December 15, 2011


I started reading the thread early this morning, but only now got a chance to look at the links. What makes me sad about this is not the actual product, but that now everything else in Legos that was fairly gender neutral is now by default more "boy" and this small offering is now for "girls".

And also that they are being referred to as Lego, not Legos.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd also add that I think there is a lot of value in building 3-D objects using those 2-D illustrations as a reference.

Between Lego and Ikea, this must be the mission statement of Scandinavia.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:34 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Perhaps some market research found that generic minifigs didn't stand out compared to articulated GI Joes or other action figs, with "realistic" features, compared to boxy little bodies and cylindrical yellow heads

The Pirate sets from 20 years ago all had custom male heads though. So I think it might just be that kids wanted their pirates to have beards and eye patches.
posted by smackfu at 1:03 PM on December 15, 2011


As the parent of a 3-year-old boy, I agree that it is HARD to find the non-movie tie-in Legos and Duplos.

Harry Potter, Cars, Toy Story... the vast majority of the Target/Toys R Us Duplos and Legos are these.

If I go to lego.com I can order a wider variety, but it is tough.
posted by k8t at 1:09 PM on December 15, 2011


What was the reach of Lego into the girls' market 30 years ago, when toys were less strongly gendered?

Every girl in my extended family grew up with Lego, in the 70's and 80's especially. It never carried any boys-club stigma at all. These children turned into what I imagine is the usual mix of well-developed writers, accountants, lawyers, engineers and snarky insomniac blog commenters.

And there were no pink pieces or horsey tails, either.
posted by rokusan at 1:35 PM on December 15, 2011


If you have little girls... the Pink Princess thing will happen... just concentrate on squelching any weird values that come in with that and [make] sure a variety of other options are available. -- artw

Which reminds me: please vote early and vote often for my coolest father/daughter combo of the year nominee.

(She wanted to be two different things for Hallowe'en.)
posted by rokusan at 1:38 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


By Brad Wieners

*ahem*
posted by chavenet at 1:38 PM on December 15, 2011


I've given up trying to save instruction booklets...

What you can't find on Lego's official site, you can probably find scanned into BrickFactory.

(Yeah, I have too many buckets, and they're all in storage on the wrong continent. You know how expensive it is to ship three and a half jazillion metric tons of Lego overseas?)
posted by rokusan at 1:41 PM on December 15, 2011


If I go to lego.com I can order a wider variety, but it is tough.

The bulk "by the pound" section at Lego retail stores is pretty much heaven.
posted by rokusan at 1:42 PM on December 15, 2011


I like that we're all calling them minifigs and using "plate" as a unit of height measurement

If you don't instinctively know that a plate is one third of a brick, and you don't have fingernails of steel, please get the hell out of my house.

Use the yellow saloon doors.
posted by rokusan at 1:44 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Check it out, storage freaks!

(We have since doubled up on containers)
(It is rarely this organized)
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Belleville looks different from Paradisia - Paradisia has standard minifigs, versus weird polly-pocket looking things for Belleville.

Back then Belleville had regular bricks and figures. This was maybe 1993.
posted by michaelh at 2:06 PM on December 15, 2011


Let's not forget Bionicles, which was LEGO's attempt to ruin LEGO for boys too.
posted by smackfu at 2:16 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bionicles were a product of peak Lego custom block madness - I think they've calmed down considerably on custom bricks since then for most of their stuff.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on December 15, 2011


Without reading any of the article or comments, I will assume that this is just like "Chess for Girls."
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:33 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


being vets

I don't think that little girl figure is supposed to be the veterinarian in that set - I thought the two included figures were pretty clearly taking their pets to the vet. If one of them was a vet, she would be wearing a lab coat, wouldn't she?

I loved playing with other kids' LEGO when I was little, and I remember one day when I was 11 my parents finally took me to Target to buy some. There was some sort of girly version available at the time - I think it was a LEGO knockoff - and I wanted to get one of the cool neutral all-blocks sets, but once we were there standing in the aisle, it became very, very clear to me that I was supposed to get the girly set because I am a girl.

I remember that weird, confusing pressure-y feeling to this day; my parents took me to the girl section first off, and when we looked at the "boy" LEGO they made a bunch of offhand comments about how boyish it was, how my boy cousin had this set, how there weren't any girl characters, etc. I think the girl sets were like babysitting, driving a car, some sort of house, that kind of thing. I ended up getting the babysitting one because for whatever reason, little 11 year old me wasn't quite strong enough yet to argue against those implicit gender expectations. I don't think my parents really meant anything by their comments, they were just saying what came to mind - but it really made an impression on me. I remember feeling like there must be something wrong with me if I wanted the "boy" set, and I assumed their gender policing must be correct because there wouldn't be girl versions if there wasn't an expectation that good girls are supposed to pick the girly ones. I didn't even want to admit to my parents that I wanted the boy set because it seemed so self-evident - you're a girl! you're supposed to like the girl sets!

LEGO obviously put a lot of care into these sets, and I actually kind of want the inventor lab setup - but the very existence of a "girl's version" is going to implicitly guide some number of girls into getting these sets when they would actually be happier with the neutral stuff. Girls who want gendered toys have all sorts of other options; there aren't nearly as many choices for introverted tomboys. It also bothers me that the girl sets have a bunch of body & appearance expectations built into them (at least my crappy babysitting set didn't include figures with skirts and makeup). Anyway, hopefully most parents are more reflective than mine were at that moment - but there are definitely a few tomboyish girls out there who will have their choices implicitly constrained by this product line, and I can't help but feel bad for them.
posted by dialetheia at 4:16 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think that little girl figure is supposed to be the veterinarian in that set - I thought the two included figures were pretty clearly taking their pets to the vet. If one of them was a vet, she would be wearing a lab coat, wouldn't she?

Actually, it looks like one of the girls IS the vet if you look closely at the image. Anyway, there's only one male figurine, and he's explicitly described as a "dad." And only comes with the house set, which suggests that little girls are expected to use the girl figurines to play vet

I'm really struggling to see how a line of toys with a tree house and a science lab (oh, and an atv to drive your bunny around) aren't tomboy friendly. Half of the girls are wearing pants. Their outfits aren't all pink or ubergirly. Most of the sets aren't focused around make-up; in one of the "beautician" sets, she's not doing hair but designing a dress on a drafting table. The sets seem to do a pretty good job of encompassing a wide range of identities for girls.

I do think it's problematic that other lego sets and minifigs have become more gendered. Heck, when I was a kid, this was the head that I used to represent me, but a similar modern head is labeled "Male Child with Freckles". But that seems to me to be more of a problem with their main line than a problem with this new one--which actually seems to be addressing a gap in their existing product.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:13 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sigh. PhoB, your links keep redirecting to this page. You should read it!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:14 PM on December 15, 2011


Oy, buy some bandwidth, guys.

If you click on the article with the sets, then click on the images, you'll see that the vet set features a female character wearing a stethoscope and one of those headlamp thingies and is clearly meant to be a vet. The other one is one of the characters in a mostly-blue, fairly detailed ATV (with a bunny).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:30 PM on December 15, 2011


Ah, fair enough - I didn't see the stethoscope detail.

My point, though, is that some girls just want to build stuff with LEGO. Some of these girls will be steered toward these sets by unthinking parents or divided store placement or gift-giving relatives or what have you. These girls-only sets don't allow nearly the creative engineering that "boy LEGO" does; they are intended to be used in a totally different way, as a set for social play-acting rather than as a set of infinitely reconfigurable building materials. I appreciate that many girls want to use their toys as playsets for characters, but I just wanted to build cool helicopters and rocket ships, not be a veterinarian or run a beauty shop.

The point is, the very existence of "girl LEGO" gave 11 year old me the clear message that I must be transgressing against society's gender expectations simply for wanting to build rocket ships instead of role-playing with figurines. Because I was too young to know how fucked and narrow those expectations were, I internalized the idea that I must be doing it wrong, and so I didn't get to build kick-ass rocket ships very often, which I am still kind of sad about. I had plenty of other dolls to play-act with if that's what I wanted to do (I was a big Moon Dreamers fan for that sort of thing), but nothing else I could use to build rockets.
posted by dialetheia at 6:08 PM on December 15, 2011


I've always felt that Lego was kind of weak as a playset toy (except when instructions were not followed). It's strength was as a construction toy. Lego Friends seems extremely well designed to me - it hits the spots they wanted to hit, and those new minifigs seem to look good and work well, but fundamentally, Lego really shines once it gets into roll-your-own territory, and these sets seem quite thin on having the kind of parts selections that encourage that.

(On that line of thought, the inventor lab seems like a missed chance to have enough bits and bobs that the kid can build their own inventions in the lab. Instead, all the pieces are tools and tables. I think this set should have been a larger one, that comes with those tools and tables, but also a pile of parts to construct toy inventions that really work. Perhaps Inventor lab could also enjoy a first taste of technics parts?)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:50 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


More than the alleged gender differences themselves being discussed in this thread, I find it fascinating how they're characterized. Girls like showing off their toys to each other? Clearly, the toys are a social tool. Girls like to memorize names and family trees? Clearly, they're more interested in relationships. Whereas if it were the other way around, we'd be hearing about how boys' play centers around showing off their toys because they're more interested in objects than in people, and they memorize information because they're such good "systematizers."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 8:01 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Honestly, these do feel like Chess For Girls. Bratz is a dead on comparison, and it horrifies me that theoretically, this is exactly what girls want. I got some kind of Lego For Girls years ago and it was like, a baby nursery in all pastels with a plastic baby and plastic parents. It was really disturbing, and this seems along those lines. I prefer the gender-neutral minifigs and just wish they had some more girl options, dang it.

Girls don't like to build stuff? Then why the hell would you get Lego if you don't want to build things?

Though um, I do like that ATV and bunny. That cracks me up.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:35 PM on December 15, 2011


How about assuming that girls want to build architecture kits. Or that girls care about more than puppies and kittens and bunnies. The inventor set is good, but if Lego made a Marie Curie lab, with a standard mini-fig of Curie, lots of parents would love it. Florence Nightingale, etc. Market to parents who want to give their girls (and boys) a different perspective.

Legos are always in the boy aisles at toy stores, where the Lego and Matchbox aisles are red and the Barbie aisle is screamin pink. Girls like pink and purple, but they could have used a broader, more colorful palette - teal, navy, lime green, peach,etc., and been a bit less hackneyed. As a child, I'd have happily built any castle, but maybe not the pirate ship. Girls generally care a lot about relationship, so lots of minifigs, and people-oriented settings. The girl Legos are unnecessarily cutified. I have some green Army minifigs, all male, but the US military is @ 14% female.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on December 18, 2011


The lab would pretty much by be instaby for my girl if not for the weird mini-fig. She spent the morning building bridges between baseplates and then putting up a wall to keep stormtrooper and evil knights out of the good guy's bit, FWIW.
posted by Artw at 9:04 AM on December 18, 2011


There seems to be a disconnect between game designers and toy designers, because it's almost a cliche that boys like games where you break stuff(Call of Duty) and girls like games where you build stuff (sims, minecraft).
posted by empath at 9:22 AM on December 18, 2011


According to guy-from-Popcap the target market for all Popcap games is middle age women. So middle age women are into jewels, zombies, cutesy talking animals and pegging.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on December 18, 2011


Oh, and it looks like in order ot appeal to girls Disney is now stepping up the bland.
posted by Artw at 12:40 PM on December 18, 2011


pegging.

ಠ_ಠ
posted by empath at 1:11 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pegging and balls!
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on December 18, 2011


With boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:12 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread inspired me to go searching on eBay for a dream and now, after 30 or so years of wanting it, I am happy to say that I am the proud owner of THE MOTHERFUCKING GALAXY EXPLORER!

It's good to be a grown up.
posted by bondcliff at 4:15 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Awesome, bondcliff! I still have mine, even though its parts are now scattered throughout my son's collection. He's amazed that there was a space theme before Space Police came along.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:32 PM on December 18, 2011


Wow, I had a Galaxy Explorer and apparently its list price was $32 in 1979. Steep.
posted by smackfu at 6:53 AM on December 19, 2011


Bulk Lego buying is truly one of the great things of our time.

... and the little baby Jesus weeps.

I worked in MR for too long to buy the underlying research on these, either - qualitative market research can easily impose strong gender dichotomies where they don't exist in the real world.

Amen. The notion that "this is what girls want" is ridiculous.

If it is already fine for the full spectrum for both genders, why did they spend all these resources on coming up with this new line?

That's American capitalism. You have to find new markets to maintain infinite growth. Of course, LEGO has always been fine for both genders. LEGO is now going after the brainwashed-princess market.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:45 AM on December 21, 2011


That famous American brand LEGO.
posted by smackfu at 12:10 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Update: My son very helpfully showed his little sister the new pink Lego and she went "SQUEEEEE!" He bought her the pink puppy house because (he said) he wants her to get interested in building, and he joyfully coached her through her first set construction.

Points for creating bonding, Lego. More points for selling these sets alongside the rest of your products and not relegating them to the Glaringly Pink Aisle. I'll even award additional points for making the dog Duplo-cute.

But--minus several million for the damn microscopic Polly Pockets-style accessories that don't even make any noise when I vacuum them up. I can't keep track of these itty-bitty brushes that are so integral to the set and which, when lost, cause much distress. WHICH IS WHY I DON'T BUY POLLY POCKETS.

I'm standing here looking at the girl minifig, and I'm unpleasantly reminded of the evolution of Fisher-Price Little People. Years ago, the people were more minimalist and it was left up to me to give them names and imagine the details of their lives and what they looked like when they moved around (which was tough, because they had no arms or legs, and in fact consisted of a sphere on top of a barely shaped cylinder). The new Little People? Ugh. Repulsive. Every one of them has a different and defined shape, specific and detailed clothing and has become a larger and lighter and more plastic-y pseudo-person. Likewise the girl minifig. Detachable hair--I think I've seen this brown ponytail before--but the head is a misshapen cylinder, sloping at the back and with a chin and nose and cheeks in front. The eyes? Eyebrows and lashes. With freckles underneath. My son removed the hair and pronounced the head "creepy." And it is: there's something uncanny valley/robotic/mannequin-like about it.

The arms move like those of standard minifigs and the hands are the same, which means she can wield a sword or lightsaber. Or, you know, a microscopic pink dog brush. She can bend at the waist, but her legs don't move independently, meaning that she can stand there but not strike an action pose.

Her clothes...they remind me of the 10-year-old next door, whose mother wants her to look cute and a little grown-up without appearing slutty. Pale blue halter top with pink paw-prints and a blue skirt. The shoes are...odd. I guess the shoes had to be big enough so that the fig could attach to a single stud on each foot (minds out of gutters, please), but because the figs legs are rounded and so much thinner than a standard fig's, it has the effect of giving her disproportionately large feet, charmingly shod in purple...um...flats with a gladiator strap in the back? And a wrap above the ankle? To balance out the big hair?

The more I look at this thing, the less I like it. Her personality has been stamped all over her, together with a bunch of really quiet messages for little girls. I see it as directing my daughter's imagination in more concentrated ways than the standard minifigs do for my son, who is freer to project his imaginings on a more minimalist slate.

I'm pretty sure that my particular daughter is going to lose the pink bits, and that the bricks will get absorbed into the larger collection. For better or worse, she'll probably hang on to the girlfig and her dog, which does not get us a whole lot further along than we are with her hundred animal stuffies. On the other hand, maybe her brother will build for her, so tentative win? Not quite a fail, but not a raging imaginative success, either. You're breaking my brick-buying heart here, Lego.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:01 AM on January 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


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