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These Women Made Lego Friends Videos So We Didn’t Have To


We had strong opinions about the Lego Friends line of toys targeted to girls, and we weren’t the only ones. The folks over at Feminist Frequency created a two-part series explaining the history of the Lego brand, their marketing strategies, and the implications and complications that come along with Lego Friends. It’s totally something we would have made if we made that sort of thing. Lucky for us, that’s what Feminist Frequency is all about. Watch Part 1 and hit the jump for the second half! 

From the YouTube description from Anita Sarkeesian:

In part 1 of my two part LEGO and Gender series, I’ll explore how LEGO went terribly wrong with LEGO Friends and provide a brief history of LEGO’s ridiculous and slightly hilarious attempts to market to girls since the late 70′s. In part 2 I’ll delve into LEGO’s intentional strategy to market almost exclusively to boys since the mid 80′s by developing and marketing sets that are male identified and male centered. In conclusion, I’ll offer LEGO a couple of suggestions that they can consider when creating and marketing new products.

The FF website was giving us some trouble earlier, but now it’s back, so you can check out all their videos!

(via Jezebel)

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  • http://tentacled-testing.tumblr.com/ Kate Falanga

    Those were great and well done. As a non-parent I’m not really sure how to positively affect change other than to support people like this who are doing the job well.

  • Anonymous

    Great videos.

  • Anonymous

    I feel very conflicted.  I kind of hate Lego Friends.  If I were a kid right now, I’d be insulted.  My mom always avoided gender stereotyping by buying us legos in tubs rather than in sets.  My only set was the Mars Alien set.

    But at Target a few weeks ago, I saw a girl look at the Lego Friends display with a look of awe.  She looked so intrigued, so delighted.  I saw her pick up a set and walk off, with this look that definitely said “I hope my mom will buy this for me.”  I wanted her to get it, just because it meant this little girl was buying legos.

  • http://twitter.com/IC_Jen Jen Graybeal

    fantastic commentary. she beautifully articulated what is really happening here. great, great video series that should be mandatory viewing by everyone at Lego.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to know where all these companies that bombard us with pink pretty princesses do all their research.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I have a ton of legos, and my two daughters, 6 and 4 years old respectively, like to play with them with dad (me).  However, when they saw the Friends legos, it was love at first sight.  Say what you want about stereotypes, but my 6 year olds favorite color is pink, and my 4 year olds favorite color is purple.  And they love puppies and bunnies and kittens.  And that isn’t because I pushed those things on them (my 6 year old being a Miami Dolphin’s fan… yeah, maybe I had something to do with that though!).  Maybe 100 years ago girls were associated with blue and boys with pink, but not today.  My little girls live in today’s world.  Dont blame Lego for that.  After I bought them each a Friends set, they played with it ALL DAY.  Normally, their new toys interest them for about 15 minutes.  And the next morning, when they normally would be coming in and waking up mom and dad… they were mysteriously absent… only to find them already playing with their Friends lego sets.  Do I like them?  Of course… they are legos!  Are they my favorite theme?  No, not by a long shot.  But my little girls simply LOVE them.  And that is all that matters to me.

    Dad

  • https://twitter.com/SeeSome Charley Sumner

    My 8yo daughter plays with regular Legos (tubs, city sets, and misc others), but also adores the Friends sets.  Of course, her first reactions were to be really excited about the Lego hedgehog and the mini-robot that the girl with the inventor’s lab has – and she has no interest in the beauty salon or cafe.

    So yeah, I don’t like how it’s marketed, but given that they have been marketing mostly towards boys, it’s nice to have some balance to that (even if it would be better to just have a more neutral marketing overall).

    Also, if you look at this Flickr set, it’s a nice reminder that the sets in question are still only limited by the user’s imagination: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nabii/6812390569/

  • http://twitter.com/JinxyBlastwave Jinxy Blastwave

     Seriously.  Every time a company comes out with something saying “We know we haven’t reached out to women much, and we’ve done a bunch of research to make it right” they always come out with something awful.  Who is this terrible researcher and can I have his job?  I can’t do much worse.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know that there was a Lego gender specific issue. I bought Lego sets for both my son and daughter, who are now in their 20′s. If they saw something that they wanted, that’s what they got. They each had a pirate ship to play against each other, they each built space stations and visited each other. They each built their own little cities and connected them together so outside of the boxes being blue (which is my daughter’s favorite color), we never saw these as gender specific. These new ones are plain silly. Perhaps they cut this line and just add more girls in their marketing efforts.

  • Anonymous

    At least as a few years ago (when we were buying tons of Legos), one could still obtain large quantities of basic building blocks via catalogs from teachers’ supply stores (particularly those that carried a lot of preschool equipment).  Just plain blocks; none of the fancy parts.

  • Marissa Burt

    Bravo!  Well done. I’m not sure if its more disturbing to see the skewed marketing toward girls or the hyped up combat/violence line for boys.  As a mother of three young boys, I would LOVE to see occupation/cooperation based lego sets that appeal to boys and girls.  Maybe someday.

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  • Victoria Eden

    Wonderful videos. This whole thing has rubbed me the wrong way from the get go. There seems to be such a gender divided emphasis in toys these days. The dichotomy is completely unnecessary. Definitely sharing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dani-Hale/1542724034 Dani Hale

    You guys need to get over yourselves, it is just a toy.  My daughter loves all the girly stuff but she is also loves to help daddy build stuff in the garage and of course climbing trees and playing in the mud.  I thought is was really cool that Lego finally made sets to make dollhouses out of.  My daughter loves that kind of stuff.  It is about time.  They have been marketing to boys forever and it is time for girls to get theirs.  Who you going to go after next, a Disney Princess?  Tinkerbell?  Cosmo magazine?  Sometimes a toy is just a toy and you guys read way too much into it.  In America a girl should have the freedom to be a GIRL.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gorillazfan Emily Hill

    sad thing is I was the one playing with lego’s when my brother was blowing up gi joes XD

  • Anonymous

     I think it’s great your daughter feels comfortable to build things, climb trees and play in the mud, while also liking “girly stuff”.  Now, personally I’ve never liked pink, and there is nothing wrong with liking it at all, or for that matter, playing in a “girly” way, but there are many girls who don’t.  Should they be excluded?  Are girls who don’t like those things not to be considered as much of a GIRL?  Why also, should boys be excluded from cooperation and nurturing types of play?  The original idea of Lego was you could build whatever you wanted, and that includes dollhouses.  Lego didn’t used to be so divided, it used to be for everyone, but now it’s like they’re making us choose a side.  That makes a lot of people, who don’t like either side, to feel left out and get frustrated even though it is just a toy.

  • http://twitter.com/femmissgeek TheFeminineMissGeek

    Back when I worked in day care, all we had to play with were gender neutral toys, which means nearly all of them were building toys. We had two baskets of big Legos, and those were always the first to get snatched during playtime.

    It was always very interesting to me to see how boys and girls would play differently with the building toys. Yes, the girls would often make animals and people, while the boys would make vehicles and guns. But they chose what to build, there wasn’t a box telling them what to do. That in itself is the beauty of Lego.

    Me, whenever I sat down to play with them, we’d build a big pyramid together, getting joy out of the building process rather than the finished product.

    We also had a popular set of baby dolls, that both the young boys and girls enjoyed. I wish more parents would get their young sons baby dolls. I’d buy some for my nephews, but I’m sure that my brother-in-law would quickly get rid of them.

  • Life Lessons

    ARGH! Ya’ know all they had to do was start showing girls in their boxes and advertising. That’s it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.gulledge Karen Gulledge

     Seriously? There was something lacking in the original line of LEGO toys that somehow prevented the building of dollhouse-style houses? THAT’S what you’re arguing with? That this pink and purple abomination is the ONLY way girls could build their little dream dollhouses? Lady, I made dollhouses out of cardboard boxes and some crayons — kids don’t need preconstructed building toys to make what they want. It’s called imagination and THAT up there ISN’T promoting a lick of it. It’s pigeonholing to the extreme.

  • Anonymous

    I might be remembering this wrong, but I distinctly remember I had a generic “box-o-bricks” set that was for “girls” when I was little (~1995). The only difference was that this set came with female and male minifigs, a few flowers (which were pretty cool, actually), and some purple roof bricks. It came with directions for a house, some cars, and a bunch of other stuff. What was wrong with that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alice.tordoff Alice Tordoff

    A lot of people don’t seem to be getting why others are a little edgy about this. I’m not a parent but I’m still concerned about what affect todays toys have on young kids. This article isn’t exactly a war against all things pink, pretty and ‘girly’ its more against how these toys are splitting the children up. I know that girls will still favour the more feminine things but that doesn’t mean a toy has to be girlified to be aimed at them.

    What this article is stating is that Lego doesn’t need a whole new line of toys aimed only at girls, it just needs to market the original line at them as well as boys. It’s not that hard, just include girls and boys playing together in the adverts. Lego Friends is a toy that seems to help widen the gap between the genders.

    We need more gender neutral toys. Lego is meant to be one of them. Other neutral toys can be things like stuffed animals or water guns, but even they get seperated into gender categories in adverts or marketing schemes. This kind of thing reinforces the gender stereotypes so OF COURSE the research comes out with ‘girls like pink and flowers and cooking!’ because we vary rarely offered them anything else, they think thats how they are meant to be. Occasionally you get a tomboy who’ll like the boys stuff more, i was one, but they’ll have to struggle with societal norms because of it. Boys too, boys might wanna play with these new lego friends sets but they won’t because they are marketed towards boys. The boys  actually have it a little harder this way.

    Someone in this thread said that ‘girls need to have the freedom to be girls’, thats fine but they also should be encouraged to be girls who can play with whatever they want, which is something that isn’t happening. If they wanna play with ponies thats fine, I’m not gonna deny them that. If they wanna play with lego then thats fine too….. they don’t need to have something made pink for it to be okay.

    I mean I asked for a lightsaber at christmas once, when my mum went to get is she was asked ‘do you want a boys one or a man sized one?’ …. Not child or adult, boy and man.

    When I was a kid and wanted a happy meal they tried to give me a girls happy meal, my mum had to turn around and state that I wanted the boys one because I didn’t want the toy in the girls box. I never particularly liked it when they had gendered happy meal boxes, i preferred the rare occasions when it would be a happy meal for both genders.

    IDK lego…. just market more towards both genders and if you have to include more ‘girlyness’ ….add pink and purple bricks to some of the sets for crying out loud.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=539428171 Fred Beukema

     That’s awesome that they seem to be responding to them. Have they grokked the possibility of using Dad’s Legos to expand the Friends universe?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FPHRKWVNBGO4N6VSY7KALW6A6U Torsten Adair

    There is a 1973 LEGO catalog floating around the Internet.  In that catalog, there is a line of LEGOs designed for making doll houses.  (Mostly prefab furniture bricks.)    The first line of LEGO people (the Homemaker series) was primarily a doll line, and it lasted eight years (being replaced by mini-figures).  I never owned any of those sets as a kid, although I did have a few of those homemaker figures from random brick sets.

    What LEGO realized years ago (and it took them years to figure this out) is that kids were using the mini-figures as action figures.  That’s when the Space line was phased out for “story” lines, and when LEGO started developing larger figure sets like Bionicle and Knights’ Kingdom II (and the awesome DC Superhero Ultrabuild series!)

    I think LEGO realizes that the “traditional” brick sets aren’t selling that well.  It’s rare to find those sets in stores, or in the catalog.  So they must develop franchises to spur sales.

    So for them to have a “doll” line?  Not too surprising.  They actually designed it fairly well, with distinct characters who are positive role models.

    As for pink bricks?  Try #4625 (Brick Box – Pink) with a female mini-figure!    Or wait for the Duplo version, due out this year (#4623).  You can also “pick-a-brick” at the LEGO website!  (And design your own sets with the Lego Digital Designer!)  

  • Anonymous

    Well, good for you, but for whatever reason, it sounds like Diane’s daughter likes purple and pink. Why shouldn’t she be able to build something with legos that she likes? Why shouldn’t she, and girls like her, be able to build things that appeal to their own sense of aesthetics?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IFISAIWMELBDXQOUV3QBDL5ZZE Moira

    yes, let’s go after Disney princesses who only have one ambition – to marry the handsome prince.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BionicBadBoi Åtsel Vetik

    You can still buy the parts you like in bulk through Bricklink.com