Lego's new line of toys for girls

Brad Wieners (my friend from the days when we were both editors at Wired and now an editor at Bloomberg Businessweek) wrote the cover story for the December 19 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek about Lego's latest (and most expensive) attempt to capture the girl market.

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 company's confidence is evident in the launch -- a full line of 23 different products backed by a $40 million global marketing push. "This is the most significant strategic launch we've done in a decade," says Lego Group Chief Executive Officer Jørgen Vig Knudstorp. "We want to reach the other 50 percent of the world's children."

Revealed in Brad's story is Lego's introduction of the ladyfig, which is a Lego Friends minifigure that's 5 millimeters taller than the original minifig:

Then there are the lady figures. Twenty-nine mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012, all 5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard dwarf minifig. There are five main characters. Like American Girl Dolls, which are sold with their own book-length biographies, these five come with names and backstories. Their adventures have a backdrop: Heartlake City, which has a salon, a horse academy, a veterinary clinic, and a cafe. "We had nine nationalities on the team to make certain the underlying experience would work in many cultures," says Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director.

The key difference between girls and the ladyfig and boys and the minifig was that many more girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig -- she became an avatar. Boys tend to play with minifigs in the third person. "The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them," says Rosario Costa, a Lego design director. The Lego team knew they were on to something when girls told them, "I want to shrink down and be there."

Read the entire fascinating article at Bloomberg Businessweek (Image courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek, photographed by Nick Ferrari)


    1. Agree. I predict this will fail.

      So making mini-figs easier for girls to identify with is the solution? That’s very condescending to girls, as it implies they have no imagination. Boys appear to have no problem with identifying with square plastic objects with yellow heads.

      Maybe they should ditch the ‘make anything you can imagine’ marketing and instead change it to ‘dress them in anything you can image’. You know…coz girls like clothes…

      1. What’s condescending to girls is the idea that the way that they play is less valuable than the way that boys play, and that they should just be happy playing with the same toys.

        1. Actually though, it’s boys they seem to think have no imagination. What is strange is that I do not know how they are measuring how much boys identify with toys. What they say does not seem right and I’d like to see the study. I mean, have these people ever *watched* boys playing with action figures?

      2. Didn’t they say in the excerpt above that boys didn’t identify with the minifigs, that they “tend to play with minifigs in the third person.”

      3. Exactly what is wrong with this. It isn’t make anything you can imagine, it’s make what we tell you to make. So then they have to compete with all the other boring dolls. 

      1. I bought a friends daughter Legos for her birthday and, judging from some of the reactions, you would have thought I had brought her a severed puppies head. There was actually a comment about sending her the “wrong message”. This was 20 years ago. I am hopeful things have changed but I am doubtful.

    1. I scored ~10 sets of at a garage sale this summer, most with their box. IIRC I made over $300 off of a $10 purchase. Oh, and $70 on a Lego pirate ship.

    1. Exactly. Legos were my favorite toy, well into my college years. I’ve used them in many projects, including professional work, building interfaces that were photographed and formatted for browser interaction. I’m female. 

      The beauty of LEGO was that they were a non-gendered toy that appealed to the imagination. They had it right from the beginning. Only now, as gender stereotypes are becoming controversial in mainstream discourse, have they stuck their big blocky foot in their mouth by sticking tits on their figurines. Are they making little dollar-dollar-bills-yo to stick in the female figurines’ waistbands?


    1. Uh – it’s singular possessive, hence the apostrophe. (Please, please let my recollection of my last English class an eon ago be correct, so that I too don’t look like an idiot.)

      1. Yes you are right, I just didn’t pay attention properly to the poster and thought the 4 different lego blocks had 4 different words that didn’t relate to each other, so my bad, I guess I must just be hyper sensitive to the whole “legos” things which makes no sense.

  1. I encourage my 5 year old daughter to play with Lego. She enjoys the various play themes, though not as much individually as my son. But they will both sit a play Lego together for hours with each other or with their friends. 

  2. As a AFOL & father of a 9 year old girl – I believe we have one of the larger collections of “girl hair” and “girl faces” for LEGO minifigs.  But this has taken some serious effort on our part.  It’s good to see LEGO pay attention to the girl’s market.  The last paragraph of this post nails it – in my experience of watching my daughter play.  She and her friends make minifigs that look like them, and will play with them for hours.  I mentioned this article to her, and she shouted out “Hurray!”  I think this will work out fine for the Lego group.

    1. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply put more female minifigs in the boxes? I agree that they’re too rare. I’d rather fix that than introduce gender-specific lines.

      1. This. If they can’t *include* the girls stuff in the regular stuff then why? Freaking gender ghettos. 

  3. This is called the “Purple Moon” syndrome, and it goes back many many decades in American culture in particular but there seem to be analogues in other cultures as well.   (The Lego manufacturers are no doubt heavily influenced by American marketing executives)

    Americans are simply incompetent in marketing to girls.  They cannot do it, no matter how hard they try.  Even when they are given a ten-figure head start, they can’t do it.   The only entertainment product America can sell to girls is pop music stars like Hannah Montana and they can only do that because of the Disney Channel.

    In 1994, the Sailor Moon television series was licensed for adaptation for English-language television.    This is a property that made more money in Japan than the Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles combined ($1.5 billion.  Yes, that’s a ‘b’).   See if you can guess what happened?  It cratered. The process was repeated with numerous other anime series which were tremendously popular with girls in Japan yet failed in the U.S.

    By contrast, Pokemon became a multi-billion dollar worldwide colossus.  Why?  Because the basics of Pokemon weren’t altered to fit America’s vision of marketing to girls.  It remained about collecting pets, while Sailor Moon became about dolls and pink flowers instead of heroic girls fighting for “love and justice” which is what made the television series and manga so popular.

    You have to go all the way back to the 1930s to find an American literary heroine, and that’s Nancy Drew.  From Nancy Drew to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with the notable exception of Wonder Woman and various comic cook characters) you have nothing in the way of an heroic woman.   Why?  Because America can’t figure it out.  American marketing executives are incompetent.  They fail at their basic function in business.

    If you want to see just how stupidly America handled marketing Nancy Drew, just look at the difference between the self-reliant Nancy Drew of the books and the simpering boyfriend-dependent dullard she became in the early movies.

    (It should be noted here that Disney, though it makes fortunes off the girls audiences for the Disney Channel, and though the overwhelming majority of its film characters – Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo, etc. are female, actually had the rights to Sailor Moon at one point and didn’t know it) 

    And the great thing is these captains of industry who are supposed to be so knowledgeable about marketing cannot solve this problem.  They don’t even try any more.  When was the last attempt at a major market “video game for girls?”  The web has had this figured out for years.  So has the app market.  Where are the big companies?   Incompetent, and often deliberately so.

    This article is basically announcing Lego that are painted different colors.  Purple Moon all over again.   Guaranteed to fail.

    1. To anyone wondering/googlefailing, Purple Moon wasn’t a sailor moon thing. It was a software company whose products exemplified total failure in marketing to girls. They hit all the requisite notes of what girls “should” like, and its failure is therefore “mysterious”

  4. I’ll tell my daughter to stop playing with the ones she has now since ones for girls will be coming out soon, thus making her existing ones “boy Legos”

  5. On top of falling into the pervasive ‘girls like everything pink and fashion-oriented’ gig, they also set up some war of the sexes theme by showing the girl lego holding the guy lego’s severed head.  Real funny.

    WTF Lego, you used to be cool (way back when with the 80’s space set…).

    1. The decapitated guy-Lego, at least, is Bloomberg’s fault; it’s their photoshoot, not the Lego company’s.

    2. I think the ’80s were the golden age of Lego. The Castle line of that time was vastly superior to anything since then.

  6. Assuming that “girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig — she became an avatar. Boys tend to play with minifigs in the third person.” is accurate, Lego’s plans seem perfectly reasonable to me.

    Their research said that girls liked the basic toy, but wanted more personalized figures. So Lego releases sets that are basically regular Lego but with more figure options. What part of this is a bad call?

    In the long run I suspect that they will regret not finding a way to make the new figures perfectly size-compatible with the traditional ones, but that is a minor quibble.

    1. I agree, I would be very surprised if NO girls (especially BB readers) played with Lego minifigs in the third person, but if they’ve done some research and found a trend, why not follow it up with a new line that actually allows you to give the minifigs a personality that you can relate to? Or should we just assume that what’s generally attractive to boys should be the standard for both sexes?

      1. I always played with Legos and action figures in the third person.

        I never liked Barbies or other dolls, and didn’t identify with them in the least. And I’ve always felt that dolls that look like babies/children are creepy and repulsive. (And I’m Childfree. Coincidence?)

    2. This. Meeting the interests and preferences of a particular group who share them is a way of serving that group, not of imposing the interests and preferences of that group on others. Lego is not saying here that “if you’re a girl, you must like A and not B” – they’ve simply been doing B for a long time and recently discovered that there is also a large group of kids who prefer A to B.

    3. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with catering to a certain demographics. However, is it truly impossible to create an avatar for little girls who’s NOT wearing makeup, at least? Can’t little girls identify with a single character who’s not totally dolled up?

      I don’t think anyone would be groaning at this if it were just another branding idea among many others. But it is far from it. Nearly every single toy set one can find geared towards little girls have themes around makeup, fashion and beauty. It’s aggravating that marketers make so little effort to approach girls in ANY other ways (especially a company that has been successfully catering to children for generations!). I understand it’s not their job to care about anything beyond the bottom line, but we can still point out that it is an ubiquitous, unoriginal approach that, when you add it all together, may be damaging.

  7. My sister and I never had a problem playing with the same Lego as kids. Just like neither of us had a problem playing with the same Barbie dolls.

    Toys aren’t FOR a particular gender, adults come in and impose that decision for the kids.

  8. My sig-oth is a true purist and has been mad at lego since they started adding specialized one use only bricks to their sets.  Me, on the other hand, can stand a mixed box of 50% special use bricks and 50% generic bricks.

    But the only way to pull their burning butts out of this huge fire they are jumping into is to eventually come out with a ‘boy’ set of Lego Friends with some generic books stores or disco or whatevehs..

    If they do that then kids will start feeling supported in their lack of gender bias again.  but only if/when that happens.

    1. They’re only a tiny bit bigger than regular minifigs. They’re the same size wedge-shape dress minifigs, in fact.

      So in fact they are almost compatible with other Lego stuff. Only they can’t sit on Lego chairs because of their long legs, and their legs aren’t as articulated.

    2. The size difference will make them seem Amazon when mixed with the existing figs. Or conversely make the existing figs seem puny.

  9. Seriously, just make sparkly vampire mini-figs and bare-chested werewolf mini-figs, and the girls will be all over them. And they’ll have the added bonus of being better actors than their human counterparts.

  10. We were involved in a LEGO-related project a number of years ago, and we were told (by LEGO’s partner) that LEGO saw the bricks and the LEGO computer games as boy’s toys. 

    Why does the mini-fig need breasts?

    1. The irony is that, historically speaking, piracy was actually one of the few “professions” that was open to women at the time.  There were a number of famous female pirates (who weren’t wenches, but pirate captains)

  11. Totally disappointed. We left an American Girl store to go to the LEGO store on Friday and spent at least an hour at the building table. The place was full of girls. A store employee told me about the new line when I asked how come there weren’t more sets aimed at girls. This was what I was afraid of when she told me they were coming in January.
    I buy sets with girl minifigs if I can kind  like  @twitter-17638833:disqus  . If LEGO was smart they would make less aggressive looking female minifigs and include them in more sets to appeal to girls. They lose their grown up core male audience who have been buying LEGO for their daughters by putting dolls with them. They do look like Polly Pockets like @arenacreative:disqus says and I agree, I don’t need more of that kind of stuff around the house.

    Here’s another idea LEGO  – if you want to appeal to girls then  just make a set with little fairy houses and little fairy minifigs. Oberon and Titania as king and queen to give it a back story. Boom. Done. Not even any new manufacturing equipment needed. That I would buy. Gymnast? Not so much.

    1. This is a fantastic idea!  They could make so many really cool sets by drawing on literature and folklore.  I imagine they’d appeal to boys and girls more evenly.

      Probably not Hollywood enough for the marketrons though.  Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  12. At the risk of sounding all curmudgeonly, I must say that back in the day (the 70s), I took a dim view of the kits and I thought it was just all about the blocks and building stuff out of that.  It’s hard to care about gender issues when there aren’t any humanoid legos around.  And I still think that’s what it should be- Legos shouldn’t be dolls, they’re  like 2x4s and nails for 5 year olds.  Build a ship, a house, another planet, whatever.  Rather than building a setting and then having them give you your avatar, I always thought of it like building my own toys with which to play with in a setting in my imagination.   It shouldn’t be what you’re “supposed to build with this kit/your gender”.  

  13. I’m guessing there will be no awesome tank tread parts or dragons…

    Look, I don’t have a daughter, and my own experience with Lego was that of a boy’s (apparently there is a difference now); but I can’t see this as anything but a future embarrassment for the company.

    My impression is that if girls don’t play with Lego in large numbers it is because society, acting though the way their parent’s shape the idea of ‘playing’ and what toys they have access to, funnels girl children away from constructive imagination toys (building blocks) and toward gender-role-emulation toys. 

    That is, it isn’t that Lego needs to change the product, is that it needs to change the marketing — throw big money behind a campaign to push building/experimentation toys on young girls, maybe get some advocacy groups to back it.

    But what do I know?  I’m not an expert or a parent, and I haven’t even read the full text of the article yet.

    1. Also not an expert but definitely a parent.  I think you’re on the right track though.  But we lack the market research to confirm it!

    2. No no… it’s natural. It’s inbuilt. It has nothing to do with friends, teachers, the approval you get when you conform, or anything like that.

      If you have a vagina you naturally just don’t have a constructive imagination and want to have babies and play with dolls. Look… it’s uh… it’s proven! 

  14. ” Lego Friends”

    “5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard dwarf minifig.”

    “Heartlake City, which has a salon, a horse academy, a veterinary clinic, and a cafe.”

    “The key difference between girls and the ladyfig and boys and the minifig was that many more girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig — she became an avatar”

    Bravo LEGO research& development team. You have discovered that girls like dolls. I can imagine your pride. But what, pray, does the LEGO-experience add to the experience of a doll, other than the tedious and time-consuming task of assembling the would-be barbie-house yourself before you can engage in the well-written prefab-fantasy?

    Oh and then there this:

     “The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them,” says Rosario Costa, a Lego design director.

    Really? Five to ten year-old girls have tits and peroxided hair? They wear miniskirts and makeup now? 

    Who did their research? Snookie?

  15. Identifying with your mini fig does not mean looking exactly like you. Boys play with pirate and space men mini figs, styled like grown men, beards and all. Girls diden’t have anything. Now they are correcting that mistake and launching something aimed at girls. 

    But everybody is used to seeing toy companies take a cynical and over exadurated aproach with this sort of thing that you are unable to see a geniunely good idea. 
    The lady mini fig is cartoony but not overly sexualised. She wears a skirt, but doesn’t have double D breasts, wears a normal sweater, a small amount of cartoony make up. Recognizable as a cartoon female character but nothing offensive.
    Ofcourse the colors are bright, that’s Lego.
    Save the negativity for when companies really get it wrong.

    1. True, this isn’t “Brats” material, but the spirit really is. Here was a chance for LEGO to come up with an imaginative, engaging way to get the interest of girls, and what do they focus on? The physical characteristics of “female” figures in pink miniskirts. I expected better.

  16. My daughter (born 1985) LOVED Legos. We got her the simplistic, pink & blue “girl” lego set they did around 1992. She didn’t like it; she like the intricate castles and space stuff made for boys. Her main complaint was that there were not enough female figures; you would get one queen with a bunch of male figures, etc. She even wrote a letter to Lego, asking for more females. They did respond apologetically, but that was it. These are 17 years too late for her.

    1. The lack of female minifigs is nothing new. Lego even says they consider Lego boys’ toys. With an attitude like that, how can they be surprised that they’re missing out on the girl market?

      And instead of introducing a completely separate “girl” line (thereby suggesting that the regular lines are unsuitable for girls), they could also just have included more, and more diverse, female minifigs in existing lines. Lego City is especially suitable for a wide variety of “girly” subjects. Salons, veterenary clinics, horse riding, etc would not be out of place there. Have more princesses and women of other social ranks in the Castle line.

      There are a million ways they could have handled this in a cheaper and more effective way.

  17. Without regard to the product itself, why would you launch so close to the xmas season, and miss the xmas season (Jan 1)?  That one month before xmas is when retailers make their profit for the year.  Why wouldn’t you launch Dec 1 and attempt to make it The present of xmas 2011?  (Even if you had shortages, that’s even better. It becomes a public relations multiplier in itself, builds up demand.  Remember the frenzy that was Tickle Me Elmo some years back?)

    1. They mention that they had a team built from nine different “nationalities” in the article.  So unless that’s nine Whitey McWhitersons, my best is that there’ll be more than just the pretty pasty blonde girl.  My knickers are in a twist over some of this, but I don’t think that will be an issue.

    2. To be fair – the figure you are complaining about is just one of many new ones on the cover. Given Lego is from Denmark, blonde hair, blue eyes isn’t exactly a rare genotype.

  18. The key difference between girls and the ladyfig and boys and the minifig was that many more girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig — she became an avatar. Boys tend to play with minifigs in the third person.

    All ideology and trolling aside, having raised two children (one of each gender), this is consistent with my experience, so I’m not that surprised.

    (Note, however, I’m not making a statement of the form that some posters are making (“well, my child does X, so this is stupid”). It makes sense to relate one’s experience to research, but not to dismiss research because of an anecdote).

  19. Recognizing that there are differences between the genders – that, for instance, girls and boys generally play in different ways and develop at different ages, is not inherently sexist. And developing toys that engage girls and boys in different ways should actually be viewed as appreciating and embracing those differences rather than taking the rather male perspective that girls have to play with the same toys that the boys do and just be happy with that.

    Lego has changed significantly from the toy that I grew up with, tending to put out and market more “kits” that are actually more like puzzles than free-form play. And many of these kits have been themed to appeal to a very traditional male audience, e.g. Star Wars and Cars lines, ninjas, superheroes, dump trucks and front loaders, etc. Are there girls who like to put together puzzles and who love Star Wars? Sure there are. But I would say that by and large even girls who love Star Wars probably appreciate the characters more than the epic space battles, and are probably less inclined to spend hours and hours building models of the Millennium Falcon.

    It only makes sense that Lego should move to reengage the girls that they’ve largely ignored for the last few decade. That doesn’t mean that they should just put out sets of pink legos, or fall in to the trap of thinking that girls don’t want to solve puzzles or make things with robotics tools. Lego should be engaging girls with toys that build on and enhance the way that girls play, and create toys that expand their abilities and understanding in the process. And if they’re not doing that, then parents should’t be buying their toys. In the end it’s not up to a corporation to teach your kids values, how to be creative or how to engineer solutions to problems; that’s the job of parents. 

      1. What would you prefer, no titties? Only denim coveralls? Should all kids just be forced to play with Amish dolls? I agree that there’s a danger of falling in to gender stereotypes, but I think there’s just as much of a danger in thinking that the solution is to de-genderize everything, which really means masculinizing everything.

        1. What?  Taking boobs off of something masculinizes it?  That’s nonsense.

          The fact that you see an ungendered figure that doesn’t have any immediately visible gender cues (i.e. breasts) as masculine is more of a societal problem than anything innate to the figure itself.  Little girls generally haven’t developed breasts at the young age Lego seems to be aiming for, and I never had a problem as a kid putting ladyhair on my minifigs and seeing them as female.

          What lego has ended up with is a pointlessly aged up figure, taller and curvier, wearing makeup, and working at either a salon, a vet clinic, a cafe, or whatever the hell a “horse academy is.”  That’s not accommodating the way girl’s play, that’s is setting up a divide- saying these are for girls, these are the things girls like, and as a side effect immediately gendering normal Legos as “male.”

          1. The obvious solution is to give the male figures huge baskets so that boys can identify with them.

          2. Denying that women have breasts is what’s nonsense. Thinking that women who*do* things must have short hair, wear pants, and not wear make up – that’s nonsense. And these look to be figures of older people (adults, perhaps teens) so it’s totally appropriate for them to be developed. In fact, pretty much all the minifigs I remember from my youth were “adult” characters – you could tell because they had interesting careers, and the uniforms and hats to go with them. The problem was that those female minifigs, most easily recognized by the fact that they had hair, couldn’t can’t wear a fire fighter’s hat or a cattle rancher’s hat or an astronaut’s helmet on top of that hair. So what kids end up playing with are a lot of firemen, cowboys and spacemen and generic female minifigs. 

            Like it or not, we live in a society with customs. You can teach your kids to understand those customs and to question them, bend them or throw them out completely. But kids pick up on these customs and they do ascribe gender to figures, no matter how generic they are. And making all of them generic in a male way (designed by males for males) is what led to Lego being such a predominantly male toy. 

    1. An large part of the reason why boys and girls play in different ways is not genetic, but cultural. Society pushes them towards different styles of play, just like Lego does here.

      Left to themselves, boys love playing with dolls and stuffed animals, and pretending to take care of a baby every bit as much as girls. And girls like cars just as much as boys. Until they learn that this is wrong and there are stereotypes they need to adhere to.

  20. What bothers me most is that they aren’t the same size as the little people I would have called “regular” yesterday. (It would be sexist to call them regular figures and girl figures. Like “pioneers and their wives”.) How can we give the girlifigs skeleton heads and monster feet if they aren’t all compatible?

  21. As the father of a 7-year old boy and a 4-year old daughter who play with a very well built-out Lego kit (much of it from my own childhood), I think these are great and beat the pants off most of the other crap that gets dropped in my house by well meaning friends and relatives (Disney princess crap, oh how I hate you!)

    The daughter wants to play with doll and doll-like things and while she likes to play Lego with brother (and do science experiments and play cards and have nerf gun fights and lots of other stuff), I’m not going to tell her she can’t in some damned-fool crusade to think I can fundamentally reshape her nature.  Play with dolls and that sort of stuff makes her happy and I’m not going to say otherwise.

    But Lego offers me something here that I do think is terrific: instead of Polly Pocket which is just small figures with dress-up crap, this is small figures that may involve some *building* too.  Heck, even if it’s just that this piece broke off and she needs to put it back, the building is inherent to the activity.  So I’ll spike her doll play with a bit of engineering.

    And hope that that’s what she remembers best.

  22. My main question is whether Heartlake City and its occupants is compatible with Can-D, Chew-Z, or both.

    1. lol!  The quote “girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig” made me think of Perky Pat layouts.  I haven’t read that novel for 15 years; Dick makes quite an impression.

  23. The fail part of this whole thing is making unique “5mm” size adjustments to the whole set. Just make girly minifigs and be done with it.  then the kids can interact with the same sets and intermingle all their play. And make sets with more minifigs in them. Some kids like having a larger ‘army’ to command than things.

  24. I want to know how many of the people saying “Wait! Lego is already unisex! Fail!” are men.

    I think it’s amazing how the pervasive the “male is default” mentality — and the accompanying “male is unisex” mentality — is, even today.

    No, Lego sets are not unisex. Just take a look at any lists in Google for “Best Lego sets,” like this Gizmodo list. They are all fighter spaceships, pirate ships with cannons, castles with knights, ninjas , racing cars, and construction equipment.

    Are you going to tell me that list isn’t gendered?

    Sure, the basic building blocks are unisex. So we’ll let the boys have the basic set plus a few hundred awesome pirates fighting ninjas in neon green and black spaceships, and the girls will get… the basic set.

    Yes, girls can play with ninjas. That doesn’t mean that ninjas and spaceships are enjoyed equally by boys and girls. (A related mindset to the one above is “of course girls should play with ninjas. That’s cool! Why would she want to play with barbies? That’s stupid marketing aimed at girls.”)

    Lego has clearly spent a huge amount of time and money researching this, and if they say that more boys play with lego than girls, I believe them. You can argue over whether this is the right solution, but don’t pretend that the majority of Lego sets created in the past haven’t been aimed squarely at boys.

    1. I agree and disagree. I’m a woman, by the way. My issue is that they could *include* some things that might appeal for girls without making it a OTT girls like icecream and skating skirts thing. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a mermaid princess enchantress who liberated whales and saved the freaking universe even if it meant it had to be spattered with the brain matter of whoever got in my way. You see what I mean? There’s something missing in their equation.  There’s such a thing as including, and this isn’t it.

      1. Including a set of girls doesn’t remove the existing Lego universe. That’s all this is doing — *including*, as you say. It’s not its own separate universe. You can still use your ladyfigs with your pirate ship and put guns in her hands to shoot whales’ brains, or whatever it was you wanted.

        (The height change does mean it’s hard to play with the regular minifigs at the same time, but these still mesh with the rest of Lego.)

        1. I’m a woman as well. Look, the problem isn’t catering to girls, it’s that there hardly aren’t any marketed female figures who are not impeccably dressed-up in alluring, fashion outfits and wearing make up. We’re not saying that this stuff shouldn’t exist, we just think we ought to be wondering exactly why the overwhelming majority of things aimed at girls fall into this category.

          A commenter above basically implied that unless the minifig was wearing a cute outfit and pretty pouty lips, it would be a neutral/masculine figure. THAT’s what were complaining about: The notion that unless something is pink and pretty it’s not even female and cannot possibly be identified as such. There is a problem with that, especially if people truly feel that way.

          There is also the issue that a lineup of a prissy blonde, a prissy black and a prissy asian minifig doesn’t truly amount to  ‘female diversity’. It’s just a lineup of Smurfettes, of Barbies, of Disney princesses, of Bratz, only with the Lego twist.

          There ought to be more options outside of either pink girly girls with big eyelashes or ‘boy stuff’…”. Surely, it’s not that difficult to understand that, for all the girls who don’t identify with everything Barbie-like all the time, this message is aggravating and alienating. And it IS everywhere.

        2. This isn’t “including”. It’s a ghetto. Girls can play, but they get their own line, with figures that just don’t mix well with regular minifigs. And the new line doesn’t include female pirates, female ninjas, medieval princesses, female pilots and police officers, etc. It is a separate universe.

    2. Have you considered the possibility that maybe more boys play with Lego exactly because they make mostly (male) ninjas, knights and pirates? Why not add some more pricesses to the castles? Why not have big, detailed, multifloor houses with a regular minifig familiy and pets? Why not add a bunch of female pirates? (Or mermaids!) The City line is especially suitable to explore lots of themes you might consider more girly.

      Lego’s main problem is their own attitude. They target Lego entirely at boys, and then complain that no girls play with it. But instead of making all Lego more unisex, they just make a separate (small, and probably quick to die) girl line. That’s really not going to fix their problem. They need to make more female minifigs.

  25. I kinda think they’re trying their hardest to get girls interested. They’ve tried for years several different approaches–including just marketing plain old Lego sets–and nothing has taken off. As many have stated here, plenty of girls DO play with them. But clearly, not enough are finding them interesting for long enough to make an impact if they have to go to these lengths to market them.

    I don’t see how anyone can fault them for trying to improve on what’s not worked in the past. You might not buy these for your daughter, but then they’re likely not FOR your kid.

    If this is what it takes to get little girls thinking about engineering and creativity, I’m 100% for it. Even if it’s just an entry point to other, clearly better, Lego sets.

    1. And yet no credit from you for decades and decades of Lego promoting positive role models for people that were pure yellow and largely devoid of facial expressions?  

        1. I will set up our minifigs and give them a diversity seminar.  “If you were not packaged with a blaster or sword, take two steps back.”

    2. But but but, they need to be able to relate to something like them! Which means skinny white girls in miniskirts. Just like meeeeee!

  26. Gender roles, etc.. ?

     it’s just down to spectral marketing.

    Lego, being marketed in blue bins, failed to make it onto Suzie’s toy list.

    Granny goes for the pink colors.

  27. This couldn’t be more backwards and wrong. As a female that loved legos and grew up quite fond of the pirate and medieval collections, I find this really pathetic. Especially this FAIL marketing research:

    “Boys tend to play with minifigs in the third person. “The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them,” says Rosario Costa, a Lego design director. The Lego team knew they were on to something when girls told them, “I want to shrink down and be there.”

    Since when does “shrink down and be there” translate to pink miniskirts, makeup and titties? I don’t remember having any of those things in my lego years, nor would I want them.

    The reason WHY I played with legos is because I wanted a place to play without creepy, adult gender stereotypes shoved into my imagination. I didn’t think about this like that at the time, merely “I want to act out adventures and grand storylines and my barbie can’t trek through an island jungle with her leather miniskirt, lol”.

    Not only is this a huge swing-and-a-miss aesthetically (and dated as hell), pegging girls into the “shut-up and be pretty, leave the swashbuckling and adventuring to the boys”, but it does NOTHING to encourage the building spirit behind the tiny blocks. Which is the best freakin’ part.

    When will gaming and toy companies realize that girls are so assaulted by the intimidating, weirdly adult and sexual advertisements they already have to grow up with, that all they REALLY want is GREAT adventure and GREAT storylines, an escape from being reminded that having a vagina means you have to play a certain way according to the laws of marketing.

  28. This may be a bit off-topic, but as a lifelong LEGO enthusiast with a five-year old who plays endlessly with a giant bin of my old LEGO sets, I think this approach is completely misguided.

    I think they could get more girls to play with LEGO if the sets weren’t so damn specific that you can’t build much of anything else but what’s on the box.  I’ve picked up several new sets– trains, planes, boats– and the problem I have with them is that they can really only be that train or boat or plane because that boat hull is one gigantic piece shaped unmistakably like a boat hull.

    I seem to recall when I would get new LEGO sets, there would be the main thing you could build on the front and then three or four different ideas on the back you could build with the same pieces.  I think if LEGO wants to win over more girls, and more boys, just make more sets that are just a bunch of blocks.  There are a few of those plastic tub-o-LEGO things, but they are more of an afterthought.

    Here’s the part where I’m burned at the stake for being a heretic.  This XMAS, my kid is getting a couple of  sets of Mega Bloks precisely because they appear to be made of actual blocks you can build something else out of.  It’s an experiment, and it may fail.  But at least it’s not a terribly expensive experiment.

    1. Heretic? I agree with everything you wrote.

      I don’t mind specialty blocks when they’re still small and interchangeable, but they’ve really gotten ridiculously specific lately.

      1. I guess I meant that the Cult of LEGO would frown upon combining LEGO with Mega Bloks.  But since LEGO lost their patent and the two are (allegedly) compatible, I thought I’d give it a try.  Maybe I’ll post something about my findings….

    2. There’s a handful of really nice, cheap, vaguely themed starter sets that I think are awesome for sparking the imagination. There’s one with a knight and some vaguely castley bits, there’s another one with (I think) a police man and some car bits, etc. The boxes are filled with images of the many different things you can make with them. There might be instructions for a few of them (I’m not sure), but mostly they make it really clear that you can make anything you want.

      I love these. I think all of Lego should be like that.

      (As for Mega Bloks, my impression is that they’re less accurate than Lego, which makes them less suitable for building.)

    3. But why must you limit yourself to just the most basic of bricks? One of my fondest memories was taking the remains of the cowboy-bandit jail break set and turning it into a EARTHQUAKE TRAP for my spacemen and aliens (also giving an alien a GUNMASK)

  29. (female) the best part of lego was the LACK of all the pink pastel blonde handbag crap. stop pinking little girls!

  30. There is an “inventor’s workshop;” boingers can at least appreciate this, right?  Comes with a lego erlenmeyer!  Girl, get your swirl on!

        1. OMG – who the fuck would notice or care about such things?

          So if one of your dolls action figures was supposed to be a knight, you wouldn’t notice if he was wearing flip-flops?

          1. If she was in a lab coat, I could maybe see how flip flops would be noticeable/out of place. Just dressed in street clothes it seems like an OCD nitpick.  Who said they are flip flops? They could be Birkenstocks.

    1. That one’s pretty nice. Especially because the figure is not dressed in pink, nor in a miniskirt. Shame about all the pink in her lab, but it looks like something I might buy (if it wasn’t part of a tiny incompatible line that will die soon).

  31. As a female and a lifelong LEGO fan, I have to ask: WHY?

    I get the whole “identify with the minifig” thing, but is there anything preventing girls – or anybody – with identifying with minifigs already provided?  Me, I used to have an entire village of characters, all named, with back-stories I made up myself.


  32. I’m a chick, and I grew up with LEGO. Back when I was younger we had the traditional bald yellow head figure with the interchangeable torso. I had a few LEGO wigs for my minifigs – which were fine. Why don’t they just come out with better “wigs” and girlier torsos? There. Problem solved. I played with LEGO because I like to build stuff. Isn’t that why we all played with them? :


    (As a boy) I remember my friend’s sisters had a few if the Belville  sets and how the doll/figs were just so alien to the rest of lego it’s like they were Barbie knock-offs. So of course we exiled them from the glorious bins and into the sandbox in mock funerals. I think I remember the Scala (what an Ikea sounding name) had some cool special parts.
    Also I think may of you are being too harsh (and in the term of tvtropes RUINED FOREVER) when these haven’t even come out yet. Judge something by it’s own merits and not the narrow lens of an article (preview). Don’t put the pre in prejudiced. 

  34. my girls have NO problem playing with legos with their brother. Maybe what they could try is have more sets for girls (like the horse riding one – bring THAT back, will ya? but don’t make it looks so odd like it didn’t belong either) or the Kingdom set could have a queen and princess… maybe more girl cops/doctors in the city set… etc maybe the lack of girl minifigs being address would go a lot further then an entire line just for girls – GAH!!

  35. I gave my daughter a girls Lego set for Christmas last year. Then I gave her another one when she turned nine few months later. Here we are a year later and she is still begging me for more Lego. She had learned to play with, organize and care for small pieces from The Littlest Pet Shop toys. Lego was a logical next step.

  36. I thought Legos, like traditional building blocks, were gender neutral.  I loved legos as a kid, the only problem I had as a girl playing with them is that I only had one little plastic ponytail  “hair piece”  to make one of the minifigs a girl. Clearly as the only woman in my lego society, she became their queen. 

    From my experience the logical step for lego is not to make a separate line for girls (which is incompatible with their other lines), but to make more female minifig parts so girls can have more to “identify” with in the lines of toys they already produce. 

    Also, these new ones will probably be all pink and won’t have the emphasis on building and imagination…which a gender neutral concept and what legos are all about

    On another note, my mother is 62 and still builds lego sets. She loves them. She even readily started loving IKEA furniture because the instructions are laid out like the ones for lego sets.

  37. ObCreds: I played with Legos *before* they had minifigs…

    I think the Bechdel test may actually be relevant in discussing (and solving) Lego’s problems.

    In order for female characters to have identities independent of men, there ought to be at least 2 female characters (who thus have the ability to converse with one another about something other than a man).

    I poked around Lego’s online store, and found a large number of playsets containing only male minifigs.

    Lego sets are for play; they aren’t about strict historical recreation. There’s no reason not to include females among the pirates and ninjas and knights and firefighters and robbers and X-Wing pilots and so forth.

    There’s a general rule “don’t mess with success.” If you measure success in terms of sales and profits, then their boys’ product lines are successful.

    But Legos are supposed to be about learning through play. And what are boys learning about the world if their play universes are devoid of women?

    IMO, any Lego kit containing 4 or more minifigs ought to have at least 2 females – or a very good reason why that’s not possible (limits of licensed properties, for example).

    I think that would go a long way towards feeling more inclusive towards girls — and would be beneficial to boys as well.

    Aside: Thinking about this gave me some renewed respect for the classic boardgame Clue, which managed to have 3 female characters to choose among, without the game itself being in any way “girly”

  38. shopping for the part of your little girl that likes ponies = easy peasy.

     shopping for the part of your little girl that wants to be a secret agent/spy/martial arts superhero = errrr …

    even in this day and age, raising a butt-kicking girl takes creativity and crossing the gender aisle at toys r us.  and trawling youtube for canceled cartoons with female protagonists (hi, juniper lee!).  anyone who doubts the existence of the girl toy ghetto had never been in one.

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