Gendering LEGO

lego

On a friend’s Facebook wall the other day, the topic of geek girls needing to defend their geekiness came up, and the topic shifted to gendered LEGO sets. Even having had this conversation many times, I noticed something on the LEGO site that I hadn’t previously.

Go look at just the Bricks & More sets. Look at  whether the “themed sets” and “starter sets” include male or female minifigures, or both.

Male Minifigures Only:

Fun With Vehicles
Police
Castle
Road Construction
Airport
Monster Trucks
My First LEGO Set (example creation is a construction site)
Blue Suitcase (gas station)
Fire Station
Brick Box
another My First LEGO Set (example creation is a house, a car and a helicopter)
Large Brick Box

Male and Female Minifigures:

Safari (It’s not just nursery themes that consider elephants and giraffes gender-neutral)
Town

Female Minifigures Only:

Princess
Pink Suitcase (house)
Pink Brick Box
Large Pink Brick Box

Even the “coordinated” sets Pink Suitcase and Blue Suitcase show a huge difference: The “boy” set is travel-themed, while the “girl” set is home-themed.

And then there’s what the LEGO figures are shaped and what they’re wearing: In nearly every case, the males are blocky, while the female figures have cinched-in waists and tight, busty shirts.

If all that isn’t gender-stereotyped enough, look at the sample LEGO creations and see what the male and female figures are holding or doing. Here are my observations:

Male minifigures (holding or doing):

Wrench
Hammer
Camera
Sword
Gas nozzle
Construction materials
Packages
Firehose
Magnifying glass (oil can sitting to one side)
Driving escape vehicle
Running to police car
Piloting plane
Driving monster trucks
Working crane controls
Driving car

Female minifigures (holding or doing):

Carrot
Pink glass
Plate of cookies
Horse brush
Looking at elephant
Standing still at back bumper of an empty truck
Bicycling (arriving at friend’s house for a pink beverage)

So boys fix things, drive things, take pictures, kill things, build things, lift things, fly things, pump gas and put out fires.

Girls? They feed things, admire things and make things pretty.

Photo from Flickr user Dan Goodwin under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. Danielle says:

    You know what’s really cool about LEGO?

    You can pop the female’s head off and put it on any body you’d like. So she can hold whatever you want her to. And vice versa.

  2. I also note the facial expressions. Males are angry/tough. Females are – you guessed it – smiling. So hard to be a parent. Gender themed toy industry is worse than ever. No progress.

  3. Lin Tse-hsu says:

    Lego is definitely gender stereotyped – no argument. What I like is how my daughter plays with it – she gives the girls swords and wrenches and hammers; her girls captain spaceships and pirate ships. She likes the minifigs that have feminine features, but does not limit herself to any particular script. What I don’t like is how much Lego has become about the mini-figures. Neither my daughter nor my son engage with Lego for the sheer fun of imaginative building the way that I did at their age. They focus entirely on the minifies. To me they are missing a great deal.

  4. http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Fire-Emergency-60003
    A female firefighter.
    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Bug-Obliterator-70705
    A female space marine.
    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/The-Mummy-9462
    A female monster fighter.
    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/LEGO-Minifigures-Series-10-71001
    An Amazon.

    You might want to let a doctor check those burns.

  5. “Girls? They feed things, admire things and make things pretty.” While I get your point, these are all pretty awesome things to do, demeaning them plays into the patriarchy too.

  6. You can always put a girl Lego head on a boy Lego body. The male doctor Lego I had as a kid immediately became female with just the switch of the hair. I realize the sets should be coming with more female minifigs, but until they do, it seems like an easy solution to just do some rearranging and make your construction workers, cops and pilots female.

  7. Penelope says:

    Someone within the company is actively making these arcane decisions in 2013 based on what? It would be easier for LEGO if they just randomly made male and female figures in each category.

  8. Liz Weishaar says:

    I notice that the female Lego character shown in the pic is smiling, The male Lego characters’ faces are neutral or grimacing. And need I mention that the male Lego characters are dressed in job “uniforms,” while the female Lego character wears regular clothes?

  9. Feathers says:

    It is lego; you can take the heads and hair off the female figurines and put them on whatever uniformed/outfitted male figurine you want to. I took the heads off female town lego figures and put them on (usually) space-themed or medieval themed lego set figures. I do understand that the advertising is encouraging stereotypical gendering, but an imaginative child or parent can easily swap that around.

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