Lego Thinks Girls and Boys Can't Play Together

Oh, Lego. Please don't make me hate you.

With the recent launch of the new Lego Friends line of toys, Lego is truly challenging my loyalty. Now first, let me remind you that I personally, and my entire family collectively, are such fans of Lego that there is an entire section of this blog dedicated to it. And we have enough Lego in our home to sustain a village of children in the event of some major Lego catastrophe.

Now I do have enough experience in marketing and communications to understand that Lego is interested in appealing to a huge target market that they've had trouble reaching over the years. (Granted, that might be a problem of their making, since they used to market Lego as gender-neutral.) And I also understand that there are well documented gender differences in how boys and girls play, but I have always been of the opinion that this is as much the product of cultural biases as innate biological tendencies. (I'm of the nature AND nurture school on this one.)

So, good for you for trying to reach out to both genders specifically. However, as both a female and a mom to a male, I am so disappointed with your approach.

Riddle me this: If gender equality is still an issue in the workplace, and if the best time to reach people to minimize bias is during childhood, why on earth would you go and create entirely segregated toy lines? One that you market to boys (although there are plenty of girls out there that love them) and one that boys have absolutely no interest in playing with because they don't look like legos. And, as the Dude pointed out, have no boy characters!

Lego Friends set (Credit: Lego)

Lego City set (Credit: Lego)

Are we back in the 50s? Are there not little girls ranting on YouTube about the pink and purple crap in the toy aisles? Would we not be better served by teaching children about gender equity by bringing them together and showing them how to collaborate? (Aside: I help organize conferences that are intended to show managers and execs that collaborative tools are beneficial to the workplace because innovation and productivity can be significantly improved when people work together. Anything that drives a wedge between people, or isolates the sexes in general, drives me nuts. But you might already be able to tell.)

Listen Up, Lego
Had I been faced with the challenge of appealing to the female demographic, I would have taken a two-pronged approach: I would have started by integrating more female characters and female-friendly environments into standard Lego. I would have started by creating balance in the minifig universe: more female characters, more female hairstyles, more female clothing.

I would have also included more images and scenarios to allow girls to see themselves in the standard Lego line. More story lines with female protagonists. More gender equality in the roles included in Lego sets.

Sure, it might take some time to get to the point where our culture would blindly accept Lego as a girl's toy. And maybe that's where a separate line could help to change the mindset of the folks buying the toys (prong #2). But I think it would only work if it was in addition to an integrative strategy with traditional Lego.
Creating Lego Friends without addressing the gender inequality in traditional Lego is about as effective in promoting collaborative play between the genders as would creating a separate Lego store for girls only. And really, that's pretty much the next step, right?

Come on, Lego. Remember when your standard blocks were for everyone?

Lego Ad from 1980s
(Credit: Material Archive)