Lego goes girly: Is it sexist?

Lego Friends — pitched to pastel-loving, beauty shop-visiting, fashion-designing, cafe-chilling girls — has annoyed feminists, who say it urges girls to obsess about appearance, reports the LA Times.

The new line, whose characters sport slim figures and stylish clothes, will contribute to gender stereotyping that promotes body dissatisfaction in girls, said Carolyn Costin, an eating disorders specialist and founder of the Monte Nido Treatment Center in Malibu.

. . . The toys send girls a message “that being pretty is more important than who you are or what you can do,” Costin said in a statement.

“We heard very clear requests from moms and girls for more details and interior building, a brighter color palette, a more realistic figure, role play opportunities and a story line that they would find interesting,” said Mads Nipper, executive vice president of  the Danish-owned Lego in a statement. Lego Friends isn’t the company’s only girl-friendly product, Nipper said.

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  1. Bill Leonard says:

    Anybody else get the feeling that people who get into a lather about trivia such as pastel Legos are people who don’t have enough to do?

  2. I think it would only be sexist if the stores/Lego required parents of girls to buy this Lego (and not a “regular” set, or what have you) for them instead.

    Don’t like the pastel? Don’t buy it. (When I was a kid there were no themed sets…and there weren’t really minifigs, not until I was older. Still, I loved Lego and played with it all the time.) Would I have preferred a set with pink and dolls? Maybe the pink, probably not the dolls.

  3. dangermom says:

    It’s my understanding that Lego spent a lot of time asking actual girls what they wanted, so I’m not sure how it’s sexist to respond to requests from customers. Nor am I convinced that Lego sets that include a vet’s office, science lab, and etc. encourage girls to only be pretty.

    I have two daughters–the oldest one is 11 and currently hypersensitive about any slights (real or perceived) to girls. The younger one is a Lego addict who loves Star Wars and ninjas (and fairies and purple).

    The 11yo saw the new items and got upset because there was so much pink, so we went and looked at a very detailed review of the house set. It turns out that it’s not actually very pink, it’s just that the awning and roof bricks (not much else) are pink so it looks like more than it is. By the time we finished looking at the review, 11yo wanted the set.

    The 8yo wanted everything as soon as she saw it anyway, but even she seemed to think it was neat to have more realistic mini-figs, esp. when she saw that you can switch hair with regular mini-figs and do some other fun things. She particularly wants the science lab.

    For myself, I think Lego should be praised for trying to produce something that girls will like that isn’t completely princessy and glittery. If people want to complain about girl-stereotyping, there is a *lot* to complain about that isn’t nearly as well-intentioned as Lego is.

  4. Catherine says:

    I’m not in a lather. But I probably won’t be buying Lego Friends, either. They are too stereotypically “feminine” and have way too much pink and purple. I’m a mother of daughters, and I loved Legos as a kid, but I think Lego misfired here. I’d have rather seen Lego move back to offering more sets geared to both boys and girls, instead of reinforcing artificial divisions between the sexes. I buy my girls Lego sets that they’ll enjoy and try to get ones with girl minifigures. I don’t deny them pink Lego blocks, but both the real world and the Lego world have a lot more to offer than pastels. And I won’t buy them sets that deal with lame, materialistic themes like hanging out at the pool, a cafe, the beauty shop, or on a stage; except for one set I saw, the only thing the Lego Friends do that’s not recreation is bake, do hair, take care of animals, and try to be the next American Idol. Blah. They’re further reinforcing a vapid, predominantly anti-intellectual view of girls.

  5. I certainly wouldn’t buy them for my granddaughters, but I find them far less objectionable than the veritable flood of princesss stuff. Even in the grocery store, it’s not uncommon to see little girls wearing tiaras, long ballerina-style skirts and similar gear.

  6. The product line’s displayed at There’s also a vet, an inventor’s workshop, and a dog show. Feminists may loathe the fact that many pre-teens like fashion, animals, and hanging out with friends, but they’re not buying legos.

    In the larger lego universe, such a small line of legos almost disappears. Lego serves the boy side of play very well–pirates, star wars, dinosaurs, video games, etc. Much of their theme product lines have more male customers than female customers–and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Lego figures aren’t shaped like humans. They don’t have knees, bendable elbows, or noses. I don’t think this line encourages eating disorders, any more than the original lego figures encourage humans to emulate Kim Dotcom. Let’s be sensible. If anything, the new figures look more like humans than the old figures. Look at this comparison:

  7. dangermom says:

    “I’d have rather seen Lego move back to offering more sets geared to both boys and girls, instead of reinforcing artificial divisions between the sexes.”

    That’s what Lego did for years. And 10 years ago, they were losing incredible amounts of money. They revamped by targeting the boy market and doing the licensing, and it was a huge success. It’s hard for me to blame them for abandoning a strategy that wasn’t working at all.

    • Catherine says:

      You’re right. I don’t fault them for needing to make a profit. I’m just expressing my druthers.
      I do think they might have gone a bit too far in the Barbie direction with Lego Friends and that it might lessen the popularity of Lego to those parents who fondly remember the classic Lego experiences of their youth and wish to share those to their children. However, if such parents are outnumbered by the ones who lurve Lego Friends, then I’ll just be sad. C’est la vie.

  8. Sharon Rauenzahn says:

    Aren’t these just an update of the Belleville line from a few years ago? This isn’t sexist. Sexist was 15+ years ago when they changed the Lego Pirate mini-fig set from 4 male pirates and one female pirate to 4 male pirates and a lego monkey. And around the same time when the castle sets lost their princess and the Robin Hood sets stopped having Maid Marion.