When I was a kid – you know, way back in the day – Legos weren’t considered a ‘boy’ toy. They were just toys. I remember spending hours on end building giant lego cities in the living room with my siblings (three girls, one boy in our family). The generic yellow-faced mini-figs could be boys or girls, a distinction usually made by putting on a different hat or plastic wig.
I always thought of Legos as part of the ‘building toy’ category, about as gender-neutral as you could get. I mentally lumped them in with wooden blocks, Tinker Toys, bristle blocks, Brio trains, Lincoln Logs, marble works, and the like. These were toys for boys and girls, young and old, limited only by imagination and frequently used together (if you didn’t know, the small lego wheels work really well on wooden Brio and Thomas train tracks!).
This mental image of Legos being for everybody is part of why I was so horrified when I realized that, sometime between my youth and my daughter being born, Legos somehow became “boy” toys. When and how, I have no idea. But it happened. And then we got “girl” Legos when someone complained that girls weren’t playing with Legos as much (probably because some jerk told them their whole lives that they couldn’t).
These “girl” Legos are a tragedy, in my book. The series is called “Lego Friends” and they supposedly cater to how girls like to play – more story-oriented, and in mostly what I think of as Easter colors (pink, purple, pastels). Some of the sets are named things like Dolphin Cruise, Juice Bar, Pet Salon, Downtown Bakery, Flower Stand, and there’s even a beauty parlor. Because heaven forbid a girl should play with the truly awesome Star Wars legos or something.
There’s been a good bit of backlash against this weird division of Legos into “his and hers” categories. There’s the viral story of the little girl who wrote the angry letter to Lego asking why there were no cool female mini figs – you know, the kind who do stuff like work in STEM fields.
The good news is, Lego has started listening. A contest to design new mini figs resulted in a winning entry for three new female legos: chemist, astronaut, and paleontologist.
This is a big step in the right direction for Lego and for the ridiculously gender-separated toy industry in general. I hope these get a tremendous amount of support and sales and continue to send the message to the industry that girls need and want something beyond the pink aisle.
What are your favorite Legos or memories of playing with Legos? Would you ever have thought of them as ‘gendered’ toys? What STEM field would you like to see a mini figure for?