Monday, 17 February 2014

What it is is beautiful. What it is is different.

Dear Lego company:
My name is Charlotte I am 7 years old and I love legos but I don't like that there are more lego boy people and barely any lego girls. today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the pink and the blue toys. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks. I want you to make more lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!
Thank you.
from Charlotte (via)

Recently, the handwritten letter of seven-year old Charlotte Benjamin caught (social) media attention. It was tweeted more than 2000 times soon after being published. The girl's campaign got quick response from LEGO, too: "LEGO play has often been more appealing to boys but we have been very focused on including more female characters and themes that invite even more girls to build, and in the last few years, we are thrilled that we have dramatically increased the number of girls who are choosing to build." The statement continued: "While there are still more male characters than female, we have added new characters to the LEGO world to better balance the appeal of our themes." (via)

LEGO toys are both fun and educational. They make children "develop their motor skills, solve problems, and use their imagination" (via) and can improve the social skills of children with autism (via). They are, in addition, completely gender neutral. This is probably the very reason why there was disappointment when LEGO started widening the gender gap by focusing on boys a few years ago. Later, CEO Knudstorp announced that they would "reach the other 50 percent of the world's children" (i.e. girls) with their new line LEGO Friends (via).

The LEGO Friends set (launched in December 2011) consists of curvier figures that live in Heartlake City, a town built with pastel bricks offering a beauty salon and a horse academy (via). This line of toys targets specifically girls and is criticised for gender stereotyping by using for instance specific colour schemes. The company was also accused of positioning products for girls on the low-skill side of the spectrum (via) and lacking creativity (via). A petition followed asking the company to stop gender-based marketing (via).

Campaign from the 1980s: LEGO invited children to play in the studio. After an hour their pictures were taken presenting their creative masterpieces.

Below: The iconic Lego ad from 1981 with Rachel Giordano when she was four years old and in 2014 at the age of 37. The ad from 1981 became more or less a symbol of what toy advertising should look like. Giordano: "LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it's the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender." With her criticism, she refers to the LEGO Friends line. Giordano's main message is that "creativity is not a boy thing or a girl thing". What it is is different. (via)

photos via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via

For a historical perspective on the LEGO gender gap see

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Update (December 2014): Lego instructions from 1974 in English and German (via and via)


  1. I dig the ads, all of them. Again, exquisite article, Laura.

  2. The lineup of the two photographs (1981/2014) is a scream! Beautiful!

  3. This brightened up my day!

  4. Smashing sujets from the past! Thanks!

    1. They are wonderful ... and without photoshop ;-)

  5. What a great blog you have! You've got my vote ;-)