I’ve always been a big Lego fan and I still purchase and play with their products as an adult. I follow the company rather closely to see what new products they are releasing and was taken aback this past December when the Lego brand released a new line in their toy system called Lego Friends.
The line is specifically designed to target a girl audience. The toy sets focus around the lives of five girl friends and the activities they can do together, like shopping or baking. The traditional lego minifig has been redesigned to resemble something that looks like an amalgamation between a Playmobil and a Polly-pocket character. The building blocks are mostly pink and purple and the sets are based less around construction and more around role-playing. Apparently the Lego company spent a lot of money and research to discover that these are the kinds of toys girls want to play with.
I have no problem with toys that encourage role-playing but Lego Friends is so blatantly gendered and designed to reinforce female stereotypes that is begs to question if girls innately want to play with these kinds of toys or if they been conditioned too? Not to mention that the sets are really poorly designed in comparison to traditional lego sets. They lack the element of construction and experimentation. It looks like all the bricks can only serve the function that have been designed for and not deviate from that and in a way, the female characters fall into the same trap.
Lego does construction really well and these sets make it seem like they want to branch out to a new a form of play that belongs more to the Playmobil world. The mini-figures have been totally changed and don’t resemble the traditional figures at all. The Lego Friends world can’t even exist in the same world as the “male” sets. I had both Legos and Playmobil growing up. When I wanted to construct something I took out my Legos and when I wanted to create a dramatic story about a Victorian aristocrat being kidnapped by pirates, I took out my Playmobil toys.
Playmobil definitely had some very gendered sets as well but they could all exist in the same world- dollhouses and pirate ships together. Lego has made it so their new girl world can’t be a part of the boy world one which furthers this separation of gender roles. Why are there no bakeries or cute cafes in the Lego city sets for instance? Last time I checked men also eat and drink coffee.