Comparing gender in Lego minifig heads


From the Boing Boing Flickr pool, Maia Weinstock's chart of gender in Lego minifig heads. There's an accompanying blog post, where Weinstock explains:

So many of LEGO’s sets today are made in conjunction with a movie or other Hollywood media brand. It’s a win-win for Hollywood producers and LEGO alike. But how many of those brands star girls or women in the lead role? Star Wars? Toy Story? Pirates of the Caribbean? The Lord of the Rings (available in LEGO this summer)? Hermione Grainger is a major character from the Harry Potter series, and there were a fair number of female minifigs incorporated with those sets, so I’ll give them that one. But still, in almost every franchise that LEGO has partnered with, females are secondary or sidekick characters at best. To be sure, this heavy male slant in children’s programming is a problem with Hollywood as a whole, not just with the famed brick-makers. (For an in-depth look at how girls and women are marginalized, sexualized, and stereotyped in family films, check out these studies by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.) And yet, LEGO could go a long way toward increasing its girl-friendly cred by creating sets and minifigs that mirror movies and shows featuring prominent leading ladies—like Avatar, Dora the Explorer, Spy Kids, and The Hunger Games.

See also: History of gendering in Lego.

LEGO minifig head breakdown by pixbymaia

Discuss

52 Responses to “Comparing gender in Lego minifig heads”

  1. cleek says:

    there are at least two ‘neutral’ faces which look female, to me: the first on the top row and the middle on the bottom row.

    • Anon_Mahna says:

      I agree,  R1c1 , R2C5 look to be female.   R1C5 looks like it could be as well… would be easier to gauge if I had that particular head/face in my Lego tub.

    • llazy8 says:

      I still keep thinking that Romney is coming for the second neutral from the right, top row.   

  2. theophrastvs says:

    “higher cheekbones” wt…?

    • Happler says:

       That and the “Male-pattern baldness”  To me it looks like they have a big peg on their head. From my point, all the minifig head default to “male-pattern baldness”

  3. Mister44 says:

    1) Even though they want more girls to play with their sets, Lego has rebranded itself as an action toy instead of a  building toy. Thus the slant, IMHO, is and understandable one.

    2) They do make Dora Legos, under the Duplo brand.

    • Hao Ye says:

      2) They used to make Dora sets under the Duplo brand, but stopped in 2004.  I believe Megabloks now has the Dora license.

  4. flailx says:

    Ugh. Here we go again with the LEGO gender thing.

    First off, I am totally in favor of LEGO producing more female minifigs; I love it when they make them! They can’t make enough as far as I’m concerned. But I totally understand why they don’t. They are a bidness and the first order of a bidness is to make money. Boys (mostly) buy the sets and boys (mostly) want male figs. I am a HUGE LEGO fan and have been since the mid 70′s. I can recall a time before the advent of the glorious minifig. My friend and I would have killed for some female figs. LEGO had one female face and two female wigs for quite a long time. In fact, this is kind of a “golden age” for the female fig. With the collectable minfigs as well as the licenses (Potter, PotC) LEGO is producing a greater variety of female figs than ever before. As far as trying to cater to the female demographic you can not fault LEGO for trying. They have made a number of lines (Paridisa, Bellville, Clickets) to try to attract girls with not a great deal of success. Their new line, Friends, has taken a lot of heat for it’s very targeted “girly” look. Is this what girls want? If it sells then the answer is yes. In fact, LEGO produces quite a few sets that are gender neutral; many City sets have a camping or recreational theme and nearly all of them feature female figs.

    Oh, and LEGO tried already with Avatar and I don’t believe that line did very well.

    • 20tauri says:

      True, it’s a business. But many folks (myself included) think they could offer way better products for girls that would be inspirational, fun, and yes, profitable too. Regarding the “quite a few sets that are gender neutral,” I’d definitely challenge that. The City line is only one of many – take a quick glance at the Lego set page and you’ll notice that really, the majority of the sets are geared toward boys. http://www.lego.com/en-us/products/default.aspx Even that page right there is something LEGO could do better at…why not show a few female figs on the icons for these sets? There’s not one female fig on the whole page…

      • 20tauri says:

        Whoops, realized I missed the one lady fig in the “Bricks & More” area. Still…

      • flailx says:

         I would have no problem with LEGO doing more to cater to girls, but it’s up to the girls (and their parents) to actually buy them. Before LEGO offered licensed sets, they were a seriously hurting unit.

        For all those clamoring for bricky building sets they still make those too. And you can buy bricks in bulk. But speaking as someone who has been buying LEGO for 35+ years, I think the company is offering the best product they’ve ever offered.

        Happy building! :)

    • But I totally understand why they don’t. They are a bidness and the first order of a bidness is to make money.

      Other companies do make better minifig sets and do make money. I pointed out the Lakeshore set yesterday, which include minifigs of different colors as well as genders.

      Oh, also, companies don’t generally sit idly by and wait for the market to dictate what they want. Often, the companies dictate to the market, which they could do in this case for more money ad equality, yay! (See also: Diamonds, hair color, etc.)

      • flailx says:

         With all due respect, NO other companies make better minfigs than LEGO. The LEGO minfig is the most perfect abstraction of  the human form in plastic!

        As to your point, LEGO does produce figs of “different colors.” All the licensed lines reflect the actors racial background.

        I believe most companies do wait to see what the market dictates, otherwise your likely left with a warehouse full of product destined for the discount bin.

        And from a quality standpoint, no other company comes close to LEGO.

        • With all due respect, NO other companies make better minfigs than LEGO. The LEGO minfig is the most perfect abstraction of the human form in plastic!

          Can you tell me the quality differences between the Lakeshore minifigs and the Lego minifigs? My kiddos and I certainly haven’t noticed any differences, except that the hair/hats actually have an easier time staying on the Lakeshore minifigs and that the Lakeshore minifigs are more economical in price.

          As to your point, LEGO does produce figs of “different colors.” All the licensed lines reflect the actors racial background.

          My point wasn’t that Lakeshore offers poc minifigs and that Lego somehow doesn’t. My point was that your ‘following the market’ theory is pretty much total BS.

          I believe most companies do wait to see what the market dictates, otherwise your likely left with a warehouse full of product destined for the discount bin.

          You’re wrong about what companies do, but correct in the idea that they are often left with lots of leftover product. (Haha, my accidental alliteration amused me.) Anyway, if the market doesn’t want female minifigs, then why do other companies continue to manufacture and sell them?

          And from a quality standpoint, no other company comes close to LEGO.

          Again, from a quality standpoint, what are the differences between the Lakeshore minifigs and the Lego minifigs?

          • flailx says:

            I’m actually not familiar w/Lakeshore. Other companies (Best Lock, Megabloks) are considerably lower quality than LEGO. Lakeshore’s figs make my eyes hurt – U.G.L.Y. Honestly, the only reason I still purchase LEGO (bought a new set yesterday – yay me!) is do to the timeless brilliance of the LEGO minifig.

            As to your point about business – meh – bidness is not my strong suit. Don’t understand it and not interested. I do know, however, that ALL businesses are interested in making a profit. LEGO would build nothing but female centric toys if that’s what would bring in the cash. Just as Hollywood would make nothing but thoughtful character dramas if  people swarmed theaters for them. I also would imagine that companies (smart ones) know their customers and their wants.

            “Anyway, if the market doesn’t want female minifigs, then why do other companies continue to manufacture and sell them?”

            LEGO does produce a fair amount of female figs, especially in their collectible minfig line.  As to your point about what other companies do, LEGOs market share dwarfs Lakeshore. I never heard of the company before you mentioned them.

            Anyway, glad your kids love the bricks they do. Happy building!

          •  So first you said:

            And from a quality standpoint, no other company comes close to LEGO.

            And now you say:

            I’m actually not familiar w/Lakeshore.

            You need to own it and admit that you’re completely wrong there.

            Other companies (Best Lock, Megabloks) are considerably lower quality than LEGO. Lakeshore’s figs make my eyes hurt – U.G.L.Y. Honestly, the only reason I still purchase LEGO (bought a new set yesterday – yay me!) is do to the timeless brilliance of the LEGO minifig.

            Lol, not only do they look exactly like Lego minifigs, but ‘ugly’ isn’t a quality issue.

            So first you made alot of claims about what businesses do and now you say:

            As to your point about business – meh – bidness is not my strong suit. Don’t understand it and not interested.

            Again, you need to own it. You’re wrong. Business are run by people, most of whom have inherent prejudices. They don’t make decisions with a magically intuitive understanding of the market.

            I do know, however, that ALL businesses are interested in making a profit. LEGO would build nothing but female centric toys if that’s what would bring in the cash. Just as Hollywood would make nothing but thoughtful character dramas if  people swarmed theaters for them. I also would imagine that companies (smart ones) know their customers and their wants.

            This is hilarious. Also, stupid. Please execerise your Google-fu and educate yourself.

            I said:

            Anyway, if the market doesn’t want female minifigs, then why do other companies continue to manufacture and sell them?

            To which you responded:

            LEGO does produce a fair amount of female figs, especially in their collectible minfig line.

            Did you even glance at the post? They do not produce a fair amount of female figs, and many of the ones they produce are problematic.

            As to your point about what other companies do, LEGOs market share dwarfs Lakeshore. I never heard of the company before you mentioned them.

            This isn’t relevant. You stated that if there was market for this kind of thing, Lego would do it. I pointed out that there is a successful market, therefore you are wrong.

            Dude. Admit it. You’re wrong.

          • flailx says:

             Wow, you’re REEEEAAALY combatative aren’t you? What I gave was my opinion.

            Lakeshore’s minifigs are horrible. Awful. An atrocity. Beside the fact that they have badly shaped arms, legs, torsos and heads they bear no resemblance to LEGO minifigs.

            As for female LEGO minifigs, I own 40+ unique female figs. In the Harry Potter line alone there are 24 female figs. Does LEGO produce a lot more male figs than female? Yes. Are females represented? Yes, not as much as you would like and frankly, not as much as I would like.

            “Dude. Admit it. You’re wrong.”

            I admit it. I was wrong. For thinking I could have a respectful dialog with you. I’m done.

          •  Wow, you’re REEEEAAALY combatative aren’t you?

            Says the dude arguing on topics on which he admits that he is ignorant. Yeah, no. I’m not ‘combative’.

            What I gave was my opinion.

            Your opinion is wrong, because it is not based on facts. Kind of how if I said that, in my opinion, Germany is not a country, I’d still be wrong.

            Lakeshore’s minifigs are horrible. Awful. An atrocity. Beside the fact that they have badly shaped arms, legs, torsos and heads they bear no resemblance to LEGO minifigs.

            Holding one of each in my hand. I can’t find any difference. Nice try, though.

            As for female LEGO minifigs, I own 40+ unique female figs. In the Harry Potter line alone there are 24 female figs. Does LEGO produce a lot more male figs than female? Yes. Are females represented? Yes, not as much as you would like and frankly, not as much as I would like.

            Again, you just need to admit that you’re wrong. I mean, you keep contradicting yourself in a vain attempt to fanboi your favorite company EVAR, and you’re just making it all worse.

            I admit it. I was wrong. For thinking I could have a respectful dialog with you. I’m done.

            Lol. Nothing ‘disrespectful’ has happened here. Pointing out that you are factually incorrect isn’t the kind of thing that derails conversations, so have a good time flouncing away. :)

          • flailx says:

            Said I was done but I just can’t quit you.

            So you “can’t find any difference” between the pics below?

            Really?

            Oh, and everything you’ve stated is “stupid”. Maybe you should “google-fu” and educate yourself. Nothing disrespectful has happened here. Just pointing out that you’re factually incorrect. But in a respectful way. :) :D ;)

            You win , I was wrong yet again. I said it was my opinion that Lakeshore sucks. That’s actually a solid FACT.Lakeshore < Megabloks. Serious suckage.

  5. gauch0 says:

    The lack of female Lego minifigs has been a source of frustration in my family for years. I have two daughters, and the Lego playsets have always appealed to them in theory, but the lack of female figures to play with has always been a barrier to them. It just makes it hard for them to find a way in, even for the Lego City sets. When they play with Legos, building is a part of the enjoyment, but relationships are a big aspect of their play. They don’t want their characters to fight. They want their characters to have relationships with each other and with their environment–tending a garden or launching into a dynamic popstar/veterinarian career. Of course, the Lego Friends line has renewed their interest in Legos, but it’s true that it’s not as build-y. What they’d really like is something like Lego City, but with more kinds of “things people do” and more female figures in leading roles. (And not all pink. And not sized all big and chunky as if somehow little girls aren’t capable of playing with the normal-sized Legos.)

  6. Hanglyman says:

    “And yet, LEGO could go a long way toward increasing its girl-friendly cred by creating sets and minifigs that mirror movies and shows featuring prominent leading ladies—like Avatar, Dora the Explorer, Spy Kids, and The Hunger Games.”

    Or they could, you know, stop making movie tie-ins altogether and go back to being awesome. I guess that would be trying to put a genie back into a bottle at this point, though. A genie made of money.

  7. Niczar says:

    Is there a point to this? Is this just a random musing or is this implying a an accusation of sexism towards Lego™? Are they to be held responsible for the toy preferences of kids based on gender? Has anyone else read Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” and still believe that biology has no part in such preferences?

    • waldowv says:

      How dare you bring science into what is clearly a faith-based issue?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        It’s not science; it’s opinion.

        • Niczar says:

          Don’t you think that Steven Pinker deserves a little more credit? He has been known to know a thing or two about doing science. If you want to disagree, that’s fine, but at least read the book. 

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            If you want to call it science, cite some studies, not a book.

          • Niczar says:

            There’s plenty of cites in Pinker’s book. Citing primary sources is not really appropriate for the level of discussion at hand. And anyhow it looks like you’re just reflexively and disingenuously using that request for citations as a distraction, and not even making an attempt to refute my basic questions. Prove me wrong, answer this: do you believe that biology has 0 incidence on the difference in sex-based preferences of kids?

            Anyway, I get the impression that you’re really not familiar with who Pinker is and are mistaking him for some pop psychologist or something, so I’m giving you the link to his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker

            Here’s the WP page for The Blank Slate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blank_Slate

          • Hao Ye says:

            Nizcar:
            It strikes me that a lot of people are actually not that familiar with the points in “The Blank Slate”, even for those who may have seen one or two of Pinker’s public talks.  When you say that there are sex-based preferences, many people jump to the conclusion that you are making some sort of justification for gender-ratios in occupations, particularly ones that have high social status.  It is very difficult to get people to even acknowledge that there may be sex-based preferences at all.  Certainly many studies that look at the issue of gender-ratios attribute all of the difference to discrimination and preferences resulting from society/culture (the latter is not necessarily a bad thing; though one could argue that it makes for inefficient allocation of the available talent).

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      And do you live in a test tube where children aren’t bombarded by sex-based expectations every moment of their lives?

      • Niczar says:

        Consider the alternative explanation; that girls tend to like girly things, and boys tend to like boyish things, naturally, outside of social norms. First, does that strike you as an outrageous statement? Second, how does the existence of gender stereotypes give any indication as to the direction of the causality (expectations causing certain behaviors, vs. natural inclinations resulting in expectations)? 

        In other words, if boys, for biological reasons, have a greater affinity for construction games than girls, how is it surprising that a maker of construction games invests more in marketing their products towards boys? 

        And I’m not denying that social circumstances could have an influence here, even a strong one. However I find it ludicrous to take it for granted that biology plays no role in determining differences in behavior and preferences in the sexes. Sexual dimorphism cannot be that superficial. 

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Sexual dimorphism cannot be that superficial.

          That’s an article of faith for you.

          • Niczar says:

            No, it’s not. But not only would it be too long to elaborate here, it’s very well demonstrated in “The Blank Slate.” And anyway you don’t appear to be interested in a bona fide debate, so why bother?

        • llazy8 says:

          You’re stating that ‘girly things’ and ‘boyish things’ pre-date the ‘social norms’ (i.e. societies) which constructed and gave meaning to those things?  Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally? Please elaborate. 

          “Way, way back in our hominid history, there were rudimentary little toy ovens and glitter pens made out of slate.  Once homo sapiens evolved into the modern form, the approx 1/2 of those born with vaginas showed a tendency to like those things, so 20th and 21st century scientists have adopted the technical term ‘girly things’ for those elements naturally occurring in most human environments.”  

          • Niczar says:

            I was not stating it, although I believe it to be true. 

            Anyway, your incredulous sarcasm is laughable, we know that Roman girls owned dolls while their brothers played with wooden swords for example (thanks Vesuvius). And all over the world, wildly different societies have come up with the same gender role, and as far as I know, none has been found to differ significantly in that respect. 

            Simply put, all superficial evidence point to an innate tendency, therefore the burden of the proof should be on the constructionists.  And they have none.

          • Ipo says:

             Juvenile rhesus macaques show preference for gendered human children toys according to their respective genders. 

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Male =/= masculine, boyish, etc.
            Female =/= feminine, girly, etc.

  8. middleclass says:

    Because women can’t have beards, men don’t wear eyeshadow and kids apparently can’t pretend anymore? Stop judging these minifigs by their looks its how they feel that counts and the researcher didn’t bother to ask those questions.

    • llazy8 says:

      Whoa, doggie . . .  I so totally agree with you and I bet in the comments section of most posts we’d be hand in hand, but I think that analysis is a little too meta for the fact that most little kids don’t automatically ‘read’ their toys as trans and queer.  Least not at the elementary school where I work.    Ojalá.  In this study, the researcher didn’t categorize ‘lego boys’ and ‘lego girls’ – the terms were ‘male’, ‘neutral’ and ‘female’ which apply to gender, ergo to transgender and genderqueer.  So, in fact, it’s more evidence that female-of-center gender expression can be less valued by society, regardless of the sex of the actor, ahem, minifig.   

  9. Andy Simmons says:

    As pointed out already, Lego Avatar has been done.  As for Dora the Explorer, that’s more the Duplo age group, so it’s not really appropriate for Lego.  I can’t remember the last time I heard a kid actually giving a crap about Spy Kids, and most of the non-adult fans of The Hunger Games tend to consider themselves “too old” for Lego.

    What’s interesting is that the complaints leveled against Lego are primarily really complaints about Hollywood.  Sure, most licensed Lego toys involve primarily male characters, but that’s the result of two things that are beyond Lego’s control:

    1) kids who play with Lego tend to prefer “action” toys.  Toys that do things, or that they can do things with.  As such, action-centric movies/ TV shows/video games are the ideal licenses to grab.

    2) action-centric movies/TV shows/video games involve primarily male characters.

    Yes, Lego could totally make a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants playset.  And nobody would buy it.

  10. andre paris says:

    are you certain the “male”‘s are not drag kings and vice versa for the “female”‘s they may be transgender

  11. Roscoe says:

    We should also consider how the male figures are mostly snarling, aggro, competitive tough-guys.  I’m tired of the small-mindedness surrounding what boys can aspire to be… it’s almost as bad as the low standards we set for our girls.

  12. Keith Tyler says:

    Wait.

    GEENA DAVIS INSTITUTE.

    Mind. Blown.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      “Oh really, well, you’re lucky. You be sweet to them, especially your wife. My husband wasn’t sweet to me. Look how I turned out.”

  13. TheBehinder says:

    I think we have hit a milestone in gender equality if we’re obsessing and arguing over the gender distribution of lego.

  14. Allen says:

    I wonder what the difference would be if they corrected for facial hair…

  15. Dan Morrison says:

    If *depictions* of males vs females in a product is a solid indicator of the products intended audience…

     - I’m surprised to find that I wasn’t really the target demographic for a number of magazines I used to buy after all…

  16. gullevek says:

    Grown ups argue about Mini Figs in Lego while kids don’t care and just play with it. When I was a Kid, I and my Sis played with LEGO like most other kids and neither of us got upset about Mini Figs being more male or Female. They were just Mini Figs …

    First World Problems.

  17. It seems funny to me that adults find it at least somewhat entertaining to argue about the slight differences in the forms that appear in children’s toys.  I guess you could say we learned how to create and resolve Lego conflicts as children and now we make real arguments with real people about those same shapes but this time it feels much more significant to make the win and the thoughts about the drama still continues even after we snap Rubbermaid lid back on the tub. Wait – why is there no Mr. Rubber Maid. Or is there?

  18. First Last says:

    I think it’s more important to note that regardless of LEGO’s actual gender balance, the heads are being separated into ‘Female’ based on 3 “Has Make-up” and 1 “Feminine” attribute while the ‘Male’ ones are getting in under 3 “Masculine” attributes plus 2 (Cleft chin & thick eyebrows) which aren’t actually masculine attributes but just ones that don’t ‘fit’ under the idealised image of a woman as dictated by the western beauty-myth. 

    I doubt it’d change the fact that they’re still weighted toward Male, but at the very least it’d move that vampire to ‘Neutral’ instead of forming unreasonable sex assumptions based on the living dead’s lack of concern for the social mores of their food.

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