Sexist Legos? Feminist Group Denounces Lego For LadyFigs

Feminists have launched a campaign of criticism against the Danish company, Lego, over its new line of figures called LadyFigs. Lego has added subtle curves to its new “LEGO Friends.” Not exactly soft porn, mind you. Just characters without the traditional blocky form. Nevertheless, SPARK executive director, Dana Edell,”They have little breasts and they have fancy hair.”

The Ladyfigs have a hot tub, a splash pool, a beauty parlor, an outdoor bakery and a convertible as well as an inventor’s workshop.

SPARK says that the male figures have tasks like building space shuttles while the female figures can have their hair done. Edell says that “it just disturbs us that this is the image that they want girls to see.” SPARK has organized tens of thousands in protesting the new line.

The line does include Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop and Heartlake Vet. The parents can of course chose any number of sets of blocks for the female figures — the whole concept of LEGO is that they are interchangeable.

While LEGO has introduced more professional options for these figures, SPARK insists that it is not enough. They still object to the availability of the other items like the beauty parlor:

These kinds of toys aren’t what girls want, they’re what girls are told they should want: feminine, frilly activities with little need for building and more focus on the Lego “Ladyfigs” looking so super cute in their hot tubs, singing in what appears to be a nightclub and driving around in a convertible.

As the father of three boys and a girl, I have to disagree. I have previously written that Leslie and I have found strong gender preferences in toys and games distinguishing our kids. We have raised our kids without any preconceptions and Madie tends to play as roughly as the boys. However, she has always tended to favor classic girl pursuits from cooking sets to beauty parlors. Likewise, as I have discussed in prior columns (here and here), the boys have tended to favor toy guns and war games. I have observed the same tendency in other families, liberal and conservative.

Studies have confirmed differences in how men and women think and learn as well as other differences. Is it so difficult to believe that these differences would extend to the play and preferences of children?

The important thing is that not only does the company offer professional sets for girls but parents can buy any sets to suit their preferences. However, I do not see why girls should not be allowed to buy the beauty parlor or other sets that are designed for girls. This seems to me to be more about the parents’ idea of fun than the kids.

What do you think?

Source: Hot Air

37 thoughts on “Sexist Legos? Feminist Group Denounces Lego For LadyFigs

  1. Yeah, just another group that feels threatened by a cartoon/doll/image/idea/icon. If they were so secure in their beliefs then why do they take issue with such irrelevances such as this. I wonder at what point a lego-lady becomes acceptable. Should her breasts be a certain size first? I want one that you can pull a string and it says “Math is hard.” If I had a daughter, I would like her to appreciate the humor of such things.

    The interchangeability is definately key to this. I would be proud of my child if she/he took the hairdresser lego-lady and put the boy’s face on it. (with the blonde girl hair and all.) I would be proud that my child was able to create the best hair dresser. Some political groups might be up in arms but often a person can’t go wrong with the stereotypes. I like my wife’s hair to look great, so it would please me she would have an “eternal flame” stylist. I want my oral surgeon to be as arrogant as can be, for I want his reputation to be wrapped up in how good he fixes my jaw. If I want a hunting rifle, I go to the most rednecked hick possible. And, most importantly, if I need my muffler fixed, I look for a place with an effigy of a man constructed of mufflers outside, girly calendars on the wall, and race car trophies on the counter. Why? because guys who llike these things live and breathe muffler repair and all I want is the best muffler installation for the price.

    There is no harm in these legos. Being a good parent is far more important.

  2. What do you think?

    I am reminded of a story concerning the author Hemingway.

    The story goes that he was sitting in a bar somewhere in Key West, where he was asked by an antagonistic admirer to follow his minimalism to its logical outcome.

    Not only that, he was to do it with only six words, whereupon Hemingway picks up a napkin and writes out the following words:

    For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

    Perhaps there will be similar stories for these toys.

  3. I agree with Prof. Turley’s opinion. SPARK’s reaction is overwrought, to say the least.

    Dredd, your mention of the Hemingway story is interesting. What I heard was that he entered the story in a competition requiring a short story of no more than six words. The story as I recall it: “For sale. Baby clothes. Never worn.” I have never read a more poignant six words.

  4. It seems to me and the dog pack that everyone has overlooked the given name of the product. Legos. Celebration of legs, not hooties. These dolls are showing off the legs from the get go. Big deal. We live in a fat society. If they were putting out fat little porkies to satisfy the obese amongst us we should be wary. But no. This is pure health. Hemmingway also said that good bodies make good bedfellows when he was drinking at Harry’s Bar in Venice, just before the dog puked at the bar and ran him out for the last time.

  5. Oh, and they still serve us dgos right at the bar, and give us a bib, at Harrys Bar in Venice, Italy. Lots of Legos in that place too.

  6. When I was a little girl, I played for hours with my brother’s old, classic Legos. In fact, my mom loved this because I could be kept occupied for hours when she did other things. Lots of girls do not exhibit strong gender preferences for toys until their are in school and begin receiving more and more messages about what defines them as girls. Then they begin to conform (I didn’t and suffered a lot of criticism from adults and bullying from my peers as result, so there you can see is a young girl’s incentive to conform). This is why a girl’s peak for her self-esteem is around 8 and 9 years of age, because this with when she’s begins to be bombarded by those societal messages everywhere she goes, home, school, media, any social activity. Unless she’s given other opportunities to develop her self-esteem away from these pressures, a young girl often resigns unconsciously to thinking she has no other options than play the role society has carved out for her.

    I grew up with an older brother and I can tell you from the perspective of a little girl living in the shadow of a male sibling that you easily pick up how you are being treated differently. I wanted the toys my boys had. My was given dolls and stuffed animals. I wanted to wear shorts and pants so I could run around and play like boys did. My mom made me skirts and dresses. I wanted to have short hair because it wouldn’t get in my face when I crawled around in the bushes looking for bugs and frogs. My mom wanted me to grow out my hair and spend every evening combing it out so it’d “look nice.” If I looked too “toyboyish” and other adults mistook me for a boy, my mother would be embarrassed. And these are just a few of the more overt, more easily articulated examples of the messaging I got as a young girl. I’ve heard other women say they were openly told at young ages that they couldn’t do science or math, or that they would have to get married and have children when they grew up. I was told I’d have to be the caretaker for my mentally troubled older brother when I grew up when I was just 7, while boys my ages were being told they could be anything. And the examples go on. It’s endless. Girls get it from *everywhere*–other kids, school, TV, our toys. And our family. Parents and other family members themselves do a lot to impress gender roles on their children often without realizing it. And when comes from your family–your primary authority in your life at that age–it’s hard to resist.

    A big problem is differentiating these gender role conventions from girls and boys exploring their developmental strengths. Girls and boys develop differently. This is true. Girls often develop verbally and emotionally much faster than boys, and that lets them explore social behaviors more precociously. However, girls are often limited to exploring their precocious social skills in ways that conform to expectations of their gender (Let’s go shopping!), like through toys marketed to them like these Legos. Another thing that is troubling is that what girls are limited to though this type of marketing is usually frivolous and doesn’t challenge them intellectually or in other ways (again, lets go shopping!). Go Google boys and girls science kits sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

    But yeah, it’s hard to challenge these problems when people don’t want to see them, or blow them off as frivolous girl stuff, or dismiss it as girls whining or girls being hysterical and overreacting or girls misinterpreting the situation… Like I said, endless.

  7. All I know is that having raised two daughters among their and my favorite memories was playing with Lego’s. This was before Lego’s started producing themed sets. The fun was in the building. However, we also did play with dolls to. Both my daughters are liberated women in all respects, but at the same time they are quite feminine in dress. The object of women’s liberation is not to copy males, but to fully embrace ones being female, understanding that between the sexes women are the stronger/smarter sex, but on their terms not male illusions of strength.

  8. Mike Spindell 1, April 23, 2012 at 10:32 am

    The object of women’s liberation is not to copy males, but to fully embrace ones being female, understanding that between the sexes women are the stronger/smarter sex, but on their terms not male illusions of strength.
    Well said.

    “Author Greg Baxter once made a comment:

    ‘I sometimes feel one drink away from whatever makes a dog hump women’s legs’”

    My daughter and granddaughter have convinced me that we need more feminine women in our governmental power structures if we want it to be more humane.

  9. Mike Appleton 1, April 23, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Dredd, your mention of the Hemingway story is interesting. What I heard was that he entered the story in a competition requiring a short story of no more than six words. The story as I recall it: “For sale. Baby clothes. Never worn.” I have never read a more poignant six words.
    Yes, folklore mutates.

    Either way, as you say, he had a way with words.

  10. I played with a lot of Legos in my childhood (the 90’s), and the standard sets have figures whose heads come with long hair painted on them – that is, the standard sets include female figures. The standard set also includes plenty of completely androgynous figured with no hair, no facial hair, and no distinguishing clothing – these figures could easily be played with by boys or girls, as boys or girls.

    The new line of products seems much closer to a dollhouse than the standard Lego sets, and I think that’s the reality. It is just a different kind of toy. Comparing the two is silly, because they seem aimed at a completely different kind of play. And frankly there’s nothing gender biased about the standard Lego sets anyway, except maybe the occasional “cowboy” Lego man with a mustache painted on his face,

  11. “And, most importantly, if I need my muffler fixed, I look for a place with an effigy of a man constructed of mufflers outside, girly calendars on the wall, and race car trophies on the counter. Why? ”

    At this point I’m wondering why a guy who knits or sews in order to fix a muffler would have girly calendars on the wall. Then I figured out what you meant by muffler. Guess it’s the snow on the ground today. LOL

    I prefered to play with my brother’s erector set than dolls and was chastised for it. Not b/c it was a boy-toy, but b/c it belonged to someone else. I had enough time as a babysitter for my younger siblings that dolls didn’t interest me until I got older and was interested in designing clothes for them.

    I have no problem with lego introducing pink stuff. Actually, I think it’s a good thing to recognize girls. I didn’t like it that all their “people” were masculine looking. The problem is more likely to be with parents or grandparents who insist that their little girl must play with only the pink ones and the boys had better not. My preference is for those who buy for the kids (boys and girls) get a mixture of options and then leave the kids alone to decide what they want to play with – sometimes the pink ones, sometimes the other ones, sometimes mixing them up. Choice is what is important.

    Now if they can just provide other colors besides pastels for their female “people”….

  12. CC,

    Lego did what I wanted them to do – include females in their standard sets. Didn’t know that. It’s been awhile since I played legos with the kids.

  13. “SPARK says that the male figures have tasks like building space shuttles while the female figures can have their hair done. Edell says that ‘it just disturbs us that this is the image that they want girls to see.’ SPARK has organized tens of thousands in protesting the new line.”

    These people do realize that Legos are a modular toy, don’t they? LadyFigs can be building a Space Shuttle in no time . . .

  14. I have Playmobil here for the youngest granddaughter to play with. We have a magic castle, a grande mansion, an airport, a pirate ship, and a knight’s castle. There are unicorns, birthday cakes, grand pianos, cannons, catapults, dragons, swords, crossbows, bouquets, and mad skeletons.

    She plays with all of them equally. She gently washes the baby in a bath tub then knocks down the castle wall with a battering ram. The nanny figure who helps bath the baby has a bosom. The pirates who surround the gazebo looking for treasure have peglegs, eyepatches, and a hookhand. The knights have helmets and the princesses carry bouquets but the catapult knocks ’em all down.

  15. I would like to see more professional/academic/strong activities reflected in the pink sets as I often see girls go for those colors in preference to the other colors. On the other hand, the comments above suggesting real issues with the sets seem to reflect a history of authority figures limiting play rather than problems with the toys.

  16. The Zoo and the Circus have wild animals, male and female trapeze artists and genderless clowns.

    If she were into legos, Ladyfigs would be part of the mix.

  17. The Electric Company used to provide some wonderful science toys for boys and girls and my daughters loved them. This grandchild is only 3 years old. In 2 or 3 years we will start introducing her to more sophisticated science toys and it won’t matter what color they are. Right now she’s happy with her ” ‘ploding” vulcano ( what a mess that toy makes)!

  18. Related:

    In Salon, one of their strongest feminist voices is Tracy Clarke-Flory, now 28. For years at Broadsheet she was one of the feminists scolds, telling us how evil men were, and sexist everything was, how oppressed, she as a highly educated white woman in good health in her early 20s was.

    Rape culture this, and male gaze that.

    A year ago, or so, they fired most of the bints at Broadsheet because the rag was just bleeding money.

    Tracy went on to become their sex writer.

    Over the past year, she’s become known for putting out a constant flow of “wow I was so ignorant about sexual practice X” and “sex turns out to be really groovy” columns and “this weird sexual practice is fucking great” posts.

    So last Friday at the “elderly” age of 28 she writes:

    “In the past, I’d always written off the cliché of the woman in her late 20s or early 30s with a “ticking biological clock” as a sexist trope. Now I find myself reconsidering and wondering how real it is, and why it is.”

    So feminist warrior Flory has discovered that sex is good, and now she wants a babies and hears her biological clock thumping away.

    War is stupid. Modern feminism insane.

  19. “They have little breasts and fancy hair” If that is SPARKS complaint I would hope they go after Tiaras and toddlers and kiddie beauty pageants.
    Girls do have little bosoms and fancy hair (sometimes). Go after what doesnt matter helps diminish the legitimate issues of gender discrimination and forced gender roles.

  20. “Modern feminism insane.”

    Antimenism isn’t feminism. MS (not Ms.) said it best.

    BTW, my daughter was so embarrassed at her Girl Scout’s Father-Daughter dance when someone noticed her face had a smudge. She hadn’t quite washed off all the camo from her morning turkey hunt.

    Both my daughters liked pink and frilly stuff and collected and played with dolls. Both are were little Annie Oaklies and could outshoot any boy around. .

  21. @Dredd –

    “Author Greg Baxter once made a comment:

    ‘I sometimes feel one drink away from whatever makes a dog hump women’s legs’”


    – And Mel Gibson’s been credited with this… Sounds so much more intelligent when Mr. Baxter says it.

    Sorry, couldn’t pass up the opp.

    And in regard to Darren Smith’s comment “Math is Hard,” One of my favorite “Demotivational” posters is girl with her head on the blackboard, frustrated with a math problem. The caption reads, “F*** this S***, I’ll be a stripper.”


  22. junctionshamus 1, April 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    @Dredd –

    “Author Greg Baxter once made a comment:

    ‘I sometimes feel one drink away from whatever makes a dog hump women’s legs’”


    – And Mel Gibson’s been credited with this… Sounds so much more intelligent when Mr. Baxter says it.
    Yep, as I mentioned to Mike A up-thread, folklore mutates, even into the Queen’s english:

    A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing the following elements:

    1. Religion
    2. Royalty
    3. Sex
    4. Mystery

    The prize-winning essay read:

    ‘My God,” said the Queen, “I’m pregnant. I wonder who did it!”

    Ah yes, writing, it is not just for the long winded anymore. ;)

  23. Thanks for your article.
    I appreciate the balance of political vs personal experience.
    As a Lego fan, sure I’d like to see Lego introduce a greater range of themes in regular minifig size that might just bring in more female fans (fairies anyone). But I also like Friends sets. The figures are ok, but if they eventually go missing no-one would mind as the sets are regular minifig size as well.

  24. I grew up with only sisters. When I was a kid I played with dolls, which I liked, but I couldn’t wait to go to my cousins’ house to play with their chemistry sets, race cars, electric guitars. Those were REALLY fun. When I was 14, my oldest sister’s boyfriend gave me a Heathkit, which I played with all summer.

    Still, the toys weren’t as limiting as the books for girls. I loved Anne of Green Gables until she grew up and became as boring and constricted as the adults she railed against as a child.

    So, yeah. I find this sad. The choices are limiting. Uninspired, and confining. And worst – polarizing. I was disheartened when I saw this months ago, because I thought Lego was the “smart” one.

    And then there’s the stupid colours. The all pervasive pink and purple have now crept into adult women’s fashions, and a few years ago when I went shopping for running shoes, I couldn’t find a pair that weren’t in those 2 ugly colours. I cringe every time I put my black and hot pink shoes on at the gym. At least when I was a kid, we were still allowed allowed all the colours.

    Kids of both genders should be dreaming big and wide.

  25. Lego to Meet With Feminist Parents, As Conservatives Defend Toy Line
    By Alyssa Rosenberg on Apr 23, 2012

    In December, Lego expanded its MinFigs line — its slightly more realistic line of toys — to include a range of female characters. The company made a real effort to make the toys, dubbed Lego Friends, multi-cultural (they brought in a range of consultants from different countries). But two aspects of the new toys made waves. First, the Lego Friends have the curvy bodies of women who have been through puberty, rather than the undifferentiated bodies of young girls or the blocky, sexless bodies of traditional Lego figurines. And second, the world the Lego Friends live in has a slight bias towards traditionally girly occupations and activities—the beauticians and bakers outnumber the inventor.

    Those two factors have produced enough of a backlash that Lego has agreed to meet with a group of petitioners troubled by the figures. And that, unsurprisingly, is setting off conservatives who see those petitioners as in willful denial about differences between the sexes. Via Fox News:

    Dr. Leonard Sax, author of “Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences,” said gender differences are natural, and that while some girls may prefer traditional LEGOs, there is nothing wrong with the company offering what it sees as a girl-friendly version. According to Sax, even animals in the wild show differences along gender lines from the earliest ages.

    “These particular women’s groups are disconnected from reality in their desire to promote the idea that these gender differences are taught by the patriarchy or through socialization,” Sax, who also authored “Boys Adrift” and “Girls on the Edge,” told “The sexualization of children is indeed an important issue, but this is not a part of that.”

    I’m of two minds about this. I see precisely nothing wrong with toy lines for girls that include figures performing traditionally female occupations or activities, as well as options that show them performing more gender-specific roles. There’s nothing wrong with being pretty, or spending time on your hair or clothes, or baking. The problem is the idea that those kinds of activities and preferences are mandatory, or the only option for girls. I’d never want to teach my theoretical daughter that being pretty is the only way to be strong, nor, if she turned out to lean girly, that such interests were in some way incompatible with being a scientist or an elected official.

    I’m more sympathetic to the complaint about the fact that the figures are shown as curvy rather than pre-pubescent or simply in the standard Lego body. The Minifigure line preserves the toys bodies in the original Lego mold, rather than giving male figures broader shoulders or any other sign of sexual maturity. You don’t actually need those signs of manhood in order to represent a Star Wars Storm Trooper any more than you need breasts to bake a cake. But giving the Lego Friends breasts and adult bodies is following the trend of toys for girls, whether it’s Barbie, who has always been a teenager or orlder, or the Bratz dolls, who make up what they lack in noses in womanly curves. I agree with conservatives that parents should have choices about what kind of depictions of womanhood they want their children to get from their toys, and at what stages. I agree with liberals, though, that Lego could have sailed against the prevailing trend in girls’ toys and offered parents a choice of toys aimed at girls that are less expensive than the American Girl dolls, and that don’t look like they’ve gone through puberty.

  26. “From the get-go, the Lego Friends were met with a not-so-friendly response. The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals called the line “devoid of imagination,” and said it would “promote overt forms of sexism.” US News offered “5 Reasons Not to Buy Your Daughter Pink Legos.” In Time, Ruth Davis Konigsburg bemoaned that “With its emphasis on physical appearance and limited career choices — [is it] really any different from that of Disney’s princesses?” She continued, noting how the Friends sets require the barest of construction, “LEGO Friends doesn’t give girls the same sense of mastery and accomplishment that it gives boys.”

    So it’s a hopeful sign that on Friday, members of SPARK (Sexualization Protest Action Resistance Knowledge) are sitting down for a meeting with Lego executives. The goal, as SPARK optimistically explains, is that “We want [Lego] to commit to dramatically increasing the female characters in their non-Friends lines. (The current numbers are pretty dismal.) We want them to consider female representation when choosing pre-existing material to adapt into new toys. And we want them to improve the Friends line.”

    It’s a bold hope, especially when Lego reports that Friends line is “off to a very strong start” just the way it is. But it would be wise for a company founded nearly 50 years ago with the imperative to create toys for “girls and for boys” to remember that goal doesn’t mean “girl toys and boy toys.” We don’t need to ostracize our sons and daughters to the divergent wildernesses of ninja land and beauty parlors.” Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon.

  27. The subsequent time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I do know it was my option to read, but I really thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you might repair if you happen to werent too busy looking for attention.

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