LEGO: Creative, Educational and … Gender Segregated?
While I have found some more great Lego content this week, like this :
I have also discovered a less flattering side to Lego.
Lego, it seems, has a problem with girls.
Over the last 20 years, Lego has become a gender segregated toy, offering different products for each gender, and seemingly discouraging girls and boys from playing together.
The most popular Lego products have been predominantly marketed as a boy’s toy, while additional product lines are developed every few years specifically for girls. Unfortunately, the company’s attitude towards gender seems to be increasingly backward, relying on very old stereotypes to dictate its product line, marketing and packaging strategies. As a result, girls are increasingly disinterested in this once gender-neutral product. And every time Lego tries to create these girl-centric products, they fail to attract their desired customers. Girls are simply not buying it.
Earlier this year, Lego released its latest “girl-friendly” lego product called Lego Friends. It is so pastel and girly, your eyes will burn. And it gets worse. In these sets the building aspect is totally de-emphasized, in favor of more dollhouse-style gameplay. The sets activities are really very domestic and stereotypically “female” (Locations include the hair salon, the cafe, the bunny house, the beach, and the home). And they have introduced new minifigs, that when compared with the traditional minifigs are dramatically thinner and taller, so much so that they appear to be a separate species. For more see this complete list of difference.
The introduction of the Friends Lego set marketed exclusively to girls has all made a lot of people very annoyed, and rightly so.
But this seems to be only the latest in a series of strangely out-of-touch moves by Lego. Over the last 20 years, the company has been releasing increasingly gender segregated products; blue Lego city/castle/space for boys, pink Lego home/princess stuff for girls. The problem is that the girl-centric sets repeatedly fail to make an impression. This is probably because the themes are totally uncreative (ex. princesses & beauty salons), the sets are frequently incompatible with the larger Lego universe and the gameplay is often centered around superficial storylines instead of around the act of building.
At the same time, the more central sets to the Lego universe are increasingly marketed as a boy’s toy. For example, products like Lego City, which could easily be gender-neutral, instead highlights predominantly male-centeric stories (ex. male cop chasing male robber), only feature boys in the commercials and on the box, and focus their sets mainly on traditional male occupation such as firefighting, construction, and police.
As a result of these marketing choices, many girls are avoiding Lego all together.
This 2 part video series from Anita Sarkeesian (She of Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter Fame) explores the history of Lego marketing and their current attitude regarding gender. It is a great watch if you are looking to better understand the current problem with girls and Lego. Take a look:
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLpuWwC?p=1 width=”780″ height=”438″]
I believe that Lego is such a gender neutral product in its core, and that if Lego would drop some its old stereotypes about “what girls want”, it would absolutely be a toy that could appeal to both genders equally. Introduce more gender neutral sets into pre-existing product lines, let girls play with boys in some of the ads, and include more female minifigs in the current sets. Instead of constantly highlighting the difference between gender, why not start looking at the similarities. Both girls and boys love to build, to create and to play around with quality toys. Given the right balance, Lego can be all things to all kids.
Believe me their are tons of Lego fangirl just waiting to start building.