Seven-Year-Old Girl Accuses LEGO of Sexism

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Seven-Year-Old Girl Accuses LEGO of Sexism

LEGO Letter - Main

Charlotte Benjamin, a seven-year-old from the UK, has written a firmly worded letter to LEGO headquarters.

Charlotte Benjamin is a seven-year-old girl from the United Kingdom who has a soft spot for LEGO blocks. Unfortunately, since LEGO traditionally focuses on its dude-infested fan base, groupies like Charlotte are left in the lurch. But, while most little girls would simply refocus their attention on another toy, Charlotte is asking LEGO to repent.

"I don't like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls," she writes in a firmly worded letter to LEGO. "I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun. OK!??"

Over the last few days, Charlotte's letter has become a minor phenomenon on Twitter and other social networks. So far, it has been shared and retweeted over 3,000 times, but that's probably just the tip of the iceberg.

LEGO hasn't responded with the apologetic acknowledgment that Charlotte probably would have liked, but Emma Owen, a spokeswoman for LEGO UK did address the issue. "In general we believe that LEGO play appeals to children of both genders and all ages," she said. "Building with LEGO bricks fosters the creativity of children which is why it's our mission to offer any child - regardless of their age, gender or interests - a relevant LEGO play experience."

Owen added: "We have a variety of female minifigures in our assortment."

Source: Twitter, Independent

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Are they boys? Or are they genderless?
Oooooh.

We had an article year or so ago just like this, didn't we? Something like this...

Either way, it's still cute. But I can't help think of how Minecraft changed their player pain sound to a bone crunch to make it more gender-neutral.

Her spelling's pretty impeccable.

"In general we believe that LEGO play appeals to children of both genders and all ages," she said. "Building with LEGO bricks fosters the creativity of children which is why it's our mission to offer any child - regardless of their age, gender or interests - a relevant LEGO play experience."

My God even Lego has politicians.

They should have just done the cool thing and made her a custom girl Lego figure or something, that's how you come out of it looking good.

My favourite part of the letter was "I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun. OK!??". It's a funny mix between angriness and cuteness.

Headsprouter:

Either way, it's still cute. But I can't help think of how Minecraft changed their player pain sound to a bone crunch to make it more gender-neutral.

Better than Terraria.

The guys sound like they are doing something between sneezing and coughing while the girls sound... excited.

This girl speaks the truth. What Lego girl figures exist are mostly sold in sets that resemble hideous pastiches of Barbie and Bratz, where you get to enjoy such exciting things as brushing their hair or riding ponies.

Outside of that, the only time you see them are as housewives in the city sets, or as licensed characters in the various trademarks Lego is milking. Chances of finding a female cop, pirate or astronaut are practically zero.

Yes, let's use the word "groupies" to describe a seven-year-old girl in an article about sexism. Because the word "groupie" is so respectful and appropriate to call female fans.

While she does the rise a good point (the toy store over here have a huge section for Lego boys while the girl only get two shelfs) but isn't the whole point with Lego is that you can build anything with it as long you got the imagination? In saying so I don't think she will be content with just using the bricks from the boy Lego but an actually equality for both audiences.

Maybe this is just me being old (at 22), but wasn't the whole appeal of LEGOs that you could mix-and-match? You could create entirely new characters by simply switching heads. Want a female cop or scubadiver? Just put a female head on the cop body and there you go. If you're just playing with LEGOs as they are advertised on the set, that onus is on you, not the company

Maybe the marketing behind it is something to consider, but I'm not sure that's LEGO's fault so much as it just is how all toys are marketed. At least with LEGO, they can be played in such a way that they can still appeal to any child of any gender, so at least the actual "play" aspect isn't necessarily compromised in any way.

Also, does anyone find it interesting that this happens the same week the LEGO movie comes out?

What a dumb girl... The plural of LEGO is LEGO. Seriously, kids these days.

It seems to me that Lego has attempted to cater to girls over the years, at the end of the day though it all comes down to sales. I think that with this kind of thing, the problem is less a matter of the product not having been available, and reinforced gender stereotypes, so much as it not selling on it's own so manufacturing hasn't kept up.

I'll also go so far as to say that I'm pretty sure there have been female lego minifigs including queen and princess figures for the castle set, and pirate girls for the pirates sets (indeed I think an old issue of Dragon Magazine or Polyhedron had some quick rules for turning lego pirates into a sort of quick-play wargame, the female figures were used as the primary ranged attack/pistol packing units, it's been a long time though).

At any rate, my basic input here is that if people think this is an issue, those of you who are parents should consider buying your daughters more legos, once you spend money (and lots of it) it will encourage the company to produce products for the consumer base that already exists.

This should read : "7 year old girl's PARENTS accuse lego of being sexist." Kids don't see these distinctions unless their parents put those thoughts into their heads. Every modern theme has male and female minifigs. This whole thing smacks of a busy-body parent with time on their hands and their nose out of joint.

I always find these articles funny that make it sound like the kid is doing something important and amazing when it's obviously the parents behind the scenes pushing them along.

Like when "9 year old discovers new star, star to be named after the child! Oh, and by the way, the kid's dad is world famous renowned astronomer with access to a super-telescope but we're sure the dad was in no way involved with locating the star and pointing the kid in it's direction to "discover"."

More than likely the girl made an off-handed comment in the store about wishing there were more girls in the kits and her mother saw a way to make her daughter famous.

From what I recall; City Lego has a lot of genderless characters and a lot of the licensed product (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, The Lone Ranger) is restricted to characters seen on screen (though SWTOR Lego has some female characters). On the other hand, Lego Marvel and DC aren't doing a lot to bring in female characters from those properties. The Lego Marvel sets that aren't tied into the movies don't have any female characters in them and there's a lot to choose from.

Good grief, back when I received Lego for my birthdays I was lucky if there were any minifigs, all with that smile...

image
it stares into your soul...

M-Tron warships (in my mind at least), Octan Petrol stations, all minded by Smiley McGee and co.

While modern faces are more detailed it doesn't matter much with figurines that are gender neutral apart from aforesaid heads.

It isn't that hard to swap heads, its what my sister did with her Knights Castle set (which had a female knight anyway).

Blunderboy:
Are they boys? Or are they genderless?
Oooooh.

If they're genderless, why are there (admittedly few) girl minifigs in the first place? And why so few in the playsets based on actual franchises? Why are there sets for girls with girl figures?

Headsprouter:
We had an article year or so ago just like this, didn't we? Something like this...

I don't know about that, but about a year ago there was a tantrum on the forum because someone discovered Anita Sark...She who must not be named lest she come and consume your male privilege....Her videos on Lego and rather than a cogent argument on the points she brought up chose basically to complain about how evil and feminist she was.

Legion:

My God even Lego has politicians.

They should. They've been making the same stump speeches for like 20 years.

The guys sound like they are doing something between sneezing and coughing while the girls sound... excited.

Isn't that fairly typical of games, though?

Zombine3D:

Or, you know, you put a female looking head on a gender-less body.

Since he's talking about the ones where the minifigs are another size (Lego friends), no you can't. There is a limited amount of compatibility, but the head is not one (according to a lot of Google hits, at least...I don't own any Lego of either variety)

Scarim Coral:
While she does the rise a good point (the toy store over here have a huge section for Lego boys while the girl only get two shelfs) but isn't the whole point with Lego is that you can build anything with it as long you got the imagination? In saying so I don't think she will be content with just using the bricks from the boy Lego but an actually equality for both audiences.

Eternal_Lament:
Maybe this is just me being old (at 22), but wasn't the whole appeal of LEGOs that you could mix-and-match? You could create entirely new characters by simply switching heads. Want a female cop or scubadiver? Just put a female head on the cop body and there you go.

Well, you can mix and match, yes. Of course, you need to buy a lot of pink and purple just to get those girl minifigs in the first place (which as I noted above don't have completely compatible bodies in the first place), and if you want other colours you need more sets. This seems like a stupid expense to get what you want. There are also minifig packs but they appear to all be blind packs, and I don't know if there are even any girls in there. Further, the selection is usually very limited.

Finaly, to the whole imagination thing, a lot of the pieces for those "for girls" sets are details like flowers, cookies, etc. There's a lot of waste there if you just want the blocks. The point of the playset is slightly different than the point of a tub of Legos. Why should it be girls' fault for not wanting the same type of experience boys get out of the box?

HBaskerville:
This should read : "7 year old girl's PARENTS accuse lego of being sexist." Kids don't see these distinctions unless their parents put those thoughts into their heads.

So girls don't want to go on adventures unless it's drilled into them?

Kuala BangoDango:

More than likely the girl made an off-handed comment in the store about wishing there were more girls in the kits and her mother saw a way to make her daughter famous.

Yes, because shares on twitter equal fame and are both easy and reliable to predict. Seems legit.

Several people mention the possibility of swapping heads. Just wanted to add that it's actually possible to just buy a load of 'female' - style heads from Lego's own website! Just find any set that includes at least one decidedly female minifigure, punch its order number into the 'missing parts' menu, find the head on the list and order as many as you want!

Slow news day, huh?

The only gender definitive things on most mini-figs is their hair and face. Some have breasts, but bringing those into the discussion is just opening another tin of worms.

An Ceannaire:
Slow news day, huh?

The only gender definitive things on most mini-figs is their hair and face. Some have breasts, but bringing those into the discussion is just opening another tin of worms.

As the old saying goes damned if do damned if you don't. I'm just amazed this is a thing It's lego. Maybe I should wright a letter that there not enough male main cast pony on MLP.

Nimzabaat:
From what I recall; City Lego has a lot of genderless characters and a lot of the licensed product (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, The Lone Ranger) is restricted to characters seen on screen (though SWTOR Lego has some female characters). On the other hand, Lego Marvel and DC aren't doing a lot to bring in female characters from those properties. The Lego Marvel sets that aren't tied into the movies don't have any female characters in them and there's a lot to choose from.

That's not unique to Lego, Any toy maker will tell you that for the most part the female Superhero's don't sell as well. At least not in the target age groups. Lego has made vast efforts to improve things in recent years. Their City line has a wide array of female minifigs these days. The Collectable Blind Bag minifigs tend to be somewhere between 50-50 and 60-40 splits M to F. And they are up to 12 or 13 series of 16 each of those.

The "Action" Themes like Ninjago are still very much sausage fests. But those really are targeting into that 7-11 year old boy market that really does not like playing with girls in any way shape or form.

As far as their licensed stuff? Star Wars really has not had a broad cast of female characters until very recently. In the 6 movies you essentially have Leia and Padme. Both have been well represented in Lego form. The newer Clone Wars cartoon gave Lego a lot more to work with and there is a vast army of female Jedi and such these days. The Middle Earth Stuff? Tolkien's books were like a San Francisco nightclub on Margharita Tuesday. Nary a female presence in sight. Heck in the Hobbit book there are no named female characters (the movies tacked on the new female elf. She appears in Lego form). There are really only 3 women in the Lord of the Rings. One has been made as a fig. One is known to be in a summer release set, and the entire fan base has been screaming at Lego's lack of the third. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? 2 female characters. April O'Neil and Karai. Both have appeared or are appearing in multiple sets. Pirates of the Caribbean? 3 named female characters. Two have appeared. (The exclusion of Zoe Saldana is a deep omission.) Harry Potter had pretty much every major female character in minifig form. Some a few too many times. Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Prof's Mcgonagle, Sprout, Trelawny, Hooch, Delores Umbridge, Belatrix LeStrange, and Malfoy's Mother, Ron's Mother, Snape dressed as Neville's Grandmother, have all been made as minifigs. So if the sourse material is there, they have no issues making female figs.

The main issue is this letter, much like the recent "letter from a real scientist" on the subject, not to mention Anita Sarkeesian's similar older presentation on the subject, seem to be applying today's standards to products from 10-20 years ago. Stuff that they (or in this girls case her parents) remember from growing up. This is further compounded by the feeling that Lego is sold in the "boys aisle" while the "special Lego for Girls" is sold over in the "Girls aisle". And following the color coding rather than simply looking at what is on or in the box. This is not to say that Lego is perfect. The lower priced and impulse minifig type sets do still tend to be much more heavily weighted towards boys, with the exception of the blind bag collectible minifigs. But it is yet another example of a societal solution in search of a problem.

I think "sexism" is a bit of a strong term and I'm sure that's not what the little girl had in mind. I have an 8 year old girl who plays with Lego and I'm sure she'd not consider the Lego corp as being "sexist". While I agree that they do need more diversity in female characters, i don't think it's a stumbling block for most. My daughter puts the female characters in race cars and has them save the boy characters, etc. She improvises and creates things as she wants them and isn't that the whole point of Lego? I've seen Lego making a more concerted effort to address the gender balance in their figures over the last couple of years so they're already making a change.

I'm not dismissing the girl's genuine concerns, but really sometimes adults need to put their socio-political hobby horses aside and see things from the kid's perspective; rather than looking upon things with jaded, cynical adult eyes. Some people say that Lego Friends is sexist but my girls love it. I've never told them that Lego Friends is for girls and the other is for boys, that's just their preference. I'm sure Lego did it's market research before launching that line, so I think that's something that certain adults flipped their wig over without even thinking if it's a problem for the kids.

I wasn't aware that Legos had vaginas, or for that matter genitals. This looks like she's projecting her gender values on them unfairly, and should probably just let these Legos decide for themselves what gender they feel they are according to their spectrum and not the spectrum of gender norms society has deemed acceptable.

Zombine3D:

Shamanic Rhythm:
This girl speaks the truth. What Lego girl figures exist are mostly sold in sets that resemble hideous pastiches of Barbie and Bratz, where you get to enjoy such exciting things as brushing their hair or riding ponies.

Outside of that, the only time you see them are as housewives in the city sets, or as licensed characters in the various trademarks Lego is milking. Chances of finding a female cop, pirate or astronaut are practically zero.

Or, you know, you put a female looking head on a gender-less body.
You also sound like a person that doesn't know her(bitchy)/his(spineless) LEGOs.

Besides, I distinctly remember playing with a female astronaut when I was a kid. Then again, that was the 90's, and the actual figure may have been from either a megablocks set or a lego set that could have been as old as the 80's, but still. Heck, I'm not even sure if the original figure was an astronaut or if a female head just wound up on a genderless astronaut body, but that's kind of the point. If lego has really made the female figures hard to get in the intervening years, that's sad, because it's such a gender neutral toy.

On one hand: It would be simply better if they made more female figures. She didn't ask for more "female toned" play sets, she asked for more female figures(read: heads). She wants girls to be part of the normal "adventure" sets. I can't blame her for that.

On the other hand: I sometimes feel that not all toys are catered to everyone, and it's not the companies responsibility to make sure everything they produce is completely unisex and appeals to everyone. They sell to whomever they wish to sell to. They aren't responsible for making anyone feel included. If you do not feel included, you should probably move on to something else.

As you can see, I am of two minds on this. I mean, this is implicit egotism at work. She isn't calling it sexist (contrary to the article title), she is saying she wants more females figures that do the things she likes to do. She isn't a "foofy" little girl who is only interested in preparing for prom and motherhood (not that there is anything wrong with liking or wanting those things, it's just not her). She is a young Lara Croft who is looking for adventure. Lego does hurt itself by making the two "categories" of Lego toys so different from each other. They could literally make a third set that would be cheaper for them to produce because they could simply make it more neutral. It's also a much smaller risk for them rather than making sets that appeal specifically to some sort of of gender stereotype.

In the end, it's probably not worth anyone's time to pursue this. They will only make what they want to make.

Girl, you know that LEGO genders only exists in their exchangeable hairstyle-part, do you?

Damn! Not even blocky toys are safe from accusations of sexism. Is it really healthy to have a 7 year old child finding sexism in Legos?

BloodRed Pixel:
Girl, you know that LEGO genders only exists in their exchangeable hairstyle-part, do you?

Don't forget out can also swap out bodies and heads. It's not that there are more male minifigs. Most of them are actually gender neutral leaving their gender up to the imagination. In fact if you look at it that way there are probably more minifigs designed to deliberately be female than male. You also can't really count minifigs from franchises like Star Wars. It's not like they can just make up new characters exclusively for the legos to not be sexist. On top of that if somebody can't imagine a girl having short hair then there is something wrong with the way they were raised.

HBaskerville:
This should read : Kids don't see these distinctions unless their parents put those thoughts into their heads.

Not true. I was 7 when I first encountered Eowyn from LOTR and I still remember that being such a watershed moment for me, how I'd finally found a female character who did "boy" stuff, the stuff I wanted to do. My parents didn't put those ideas in my head. In fact, they got pretty exasperated with my rants about how things were categorised as "boy" and "girl" stuff and how I wanted them to buy me clothes that they wouldn't because they were "for boys."

If anything, kids don't see things as gendered unless the people around them put the ideas into their heads.

Josh Engen:
Over the last few days, Charlotte's letter has become a minor phenomenon on Twitter and other social networks.

Ugh... of course it did. I could have told you that just from the headline. It's two things that people on the internet go apeshit over, regardless of actual merit; hot controversy (sexism) and something that a kid did. Now I don't know, I don't pay a lot of attention to Lego. Maybe she's right, maybe she isn't, but she's a 7-year-old who made a stink about a controversial subject that's popular to back, so of COURSE everyone is going to trip over their own feet in their haste to back her up, regardless of whether or not she actually has a point.

This is so weird to me... Back when I was a kid I plenty of lego girl heads. I had more boy heads but that's because I inherited both my sister's, and brothers' years of lego sets. COMPLETELY anecdotal but I just never found this to be an issue. I'm thinking the parents just haven't bought her the right sets.

This letter was in the paper, here in Denmark(origin of LEGO, for those who doesn't know.) So it did raise a few eyebrows.
LEGO is usually pretty cool about stuff like this, they go a long way to please kids and they have people who write them back.

First of all, LEGO has responded directly to the family, but lets it be up to them whether it is to be published or not.
The official response I read, was that they flat out deny a lack of female figures and boast a few specific ones.
They've spent a long while on the argument of sexism, and it's no surprise that they're taking a neutral stance over this, it's far from a new accusation.
The thing is, that they faced complaints of a lack of specific content for a while, that there wasn't any LEGO aimed at girls. So not only was there an untapped market, but they were being asked to delve into it.

So as a company, they're faced with accusations from both sides, when the fact that there are plenty of girls out there who are perfectly content being stereotypical "girls".
I don't see a right answer here, even if I was to entertain the silly notion that everything has to be gender neutral in some way, LEGO still offers that choice: Don't buy pink LEGO.

Meanwhile, this is raising a bandwagon crowd muttering agreement and cold stares against this obviously heartless company that's out to turn girls into docile housewives. Well, we all need to have something to bitch and complain about and I don't see any serious questions being raised here, more than indulging in a pet peeve.

Twenty years ago, when *I* wasn't satisfied with the kind blocks I got, there was a wide variety of single blocks, plates, heads, bodies and so on, that you could mix and match and have them send to you. As far as I know, this is not only still an option, but now has a much larger variety of shapes and colors.
There is absolutely no excuse not to take advantage of that, rather than complain about how a company should run its products and accuse them of sexism.

Eh, not sure if "make more girl lego" is accusing them of sexism, but wev.

And, yeah, they do have distinct female pieces, and they are much fewer than male.

I miss the old days when they were all just gender neutral smiley faces in a colour that represented no skin tone that exists. When they made female heads as distinct from the normal ones, it meant the default was male. When they made brown heads as distinct from normal ones, it meant the default wasn't brown, and we can guess which one it was.

Same as that "why do anime characters look European?" question that gets tossed around. When black smiley face on yellow looks like you, "default" anime characters will look like you, even if you aren't the intended default.

Zombine3D:

Shamanic Rhythm:
This girl speaks the truth. What Lego girl figures exist are mostly sold in sets that resemble hideous pastiches of Barbie and Bratz, where you get to enjoy such exciting things as brushing their hair or riding ponies.

Outside of that, the only time you see them are as housewives in the city sets, or as licensed characters in the various trademarks Lego is milking. Chances of finding a female cop, pirate or astronaut are practically zero.

Or, you know, you put a female looking head on a gender-less body.

You need to have enough heads to do that in the first place. Also those Barbie Lego sets aren't compatible, they all have massive heads for some random reason. Either way, it seems a little perverse that the solution to the problem involves collecting more female heads...

You also sound like a person that doesn't know her(bitchy)/his(spineless) LEGOs.

Que? I've been playing with Lego since before I could crawl.

WeepingAngels:
Damn! Not even blocky toys are safe from accusations of sexism. Is it really healthy to have a 7 year old child finding sexism in Legos?

I think it's perfectly healthy identifying a disparity between your gender and its portrayal. I think the opposite would be less healthy.

Epicspoon:

Don't forget out can also swap out bodies and heads.

Except if you're talking the ones that are aimed at girls, which are most of the female minifigs. Minidolls, actually. There is some compatiblity with 'normal' Legos, but the heads are not part of that.

Eamar:

If anything, kids don't see things as gendered unless the people around them put the ideas into their heads.

As is evidenced by the way the reaction to pink has changed since it became a "girl" colour. It's almost like this stuff is socially enforced, since it matches whatever society dictates is the "right" colour/activity/status for someone.

Developmentally/psychologically, kids start to become inquisitive about gender differences very young, so it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask "why do the boys get all the cool stuff?" You know, assuming that's what you're into.

Although in a more gallows humour sense, I'm wondering where my parents went wrong if this specious line of "it must have been the parents' doing" is to hold weight. I've identified as a girl since first memory, and my brother (the "normal" one) was the one who played with dolls. Man, they really went wrong somewhere. It gets worse, too. My brother knits and cooks to this day! And I write bad action and fantasy novels.

th3dark3rsh33p:
I'm thinking the parents just haven't bought her the right sets.

Or your experience is not typical. Going and looking at the Lego aisles, I'm inclined to believe that.

Smilomaniac:

Twenty years ago, when *I* wasn't satisfied with the kind blocks I got, there was a wide variety of single blocks, plates, heads, bodies and so on, that you could mix and match and have them send to you. As far as I know, this is not only still an option, but now has a much larger variety of shapes and colors.

I can't speak for everyone, but I've looked and I'm not seeing it. Others have said more or less the same. I'm seeing more broad claims (The ones I inherited had a lot, or this "as far as I know" stuff), but nobody who's actually got any present, specific knowledge.

I'd also say that you're kind of demonstrating the underlying problem by saying you have the choice to not buy pink. The options are default or girls.

Also, I remember you complaining about how Bravely Default was censored (voluntarily, by the people who made it). If it's okay for you to complain about how a company runs its business, why is it wrong when girls do it?

thaluikhain:
Eh, not sure if "make more girl lego" is accusing them of sexism, but wev.[quote]

She's pointing out a disparity in treatment based on perceived identity and role of one gender in respect to another. Even if she's not saying the word sexism, she's talking about it.

Not every sexist is out there saying women are asking to be raped, after all[1]

[quote]Same as that "why do anime characters look European?" question that gets tossed around. When black smiley face on yellow looks like you, "default" anime characters will look like you, even if you aren't the intended default.

You mean normal people don't have yellow skin and black eyes? Has Lego lied to me all these years? I...I think I need to see a doctor.

[1] Not that I'm saying you're saying that, but I've been dealing with this recurring theme of late where something is okay because it's not like the worst form of discrimination/ism ever. It seems like if it's not "make me a sammich!" it's not sexism, so this I think needs to be touched upon as the elephant in the room.

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