Et tu, Lego?

December 20, 2011

LEGO Systems, Inc.
555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138

Dear Lego,

This is a big Christmas for my family. With our children being almost six years old and three years old, we have graduated into the world of “big kid” toys. This was the first year our children were going to get real Legos from Santa. Not Mega Blocks, we’re giving our big tub of those to the little girls across the street. Not Duplos, because we’re big kids now. Legos. Real, bona fide, build-em-up but don’t-step-on-them-in-the-middle-of-the-night Legos. We were going to take the kids to Legoland in Chicago. I was so excited.

And then you broke my heart just a little bit. You sold out. You sold my daughter out. You shortchanged my son and now contribute to the skewed and narrow way girls are portrayed in media and toys. You became like every other toy maker and drank the pink Kool Aid. You stated some research  about girls needing girly Legos to build and create. Something about needing to project themselves onto their toys. Most little girls I know want to be doctors, teachers, vets, scientists, explorers, and moms when they grow up. I suppose I was a little foolish to think you’d make the Ladyfig Space Station, Ladyfig Emergency Room, Ladyfig Trek Explorer Caravan, and the special edition Ladyfig Doctors Without Borders Field Hospital and UN ambulance.  But your busty Ladyfigs in their short skirts and the gender-coded pink, turquoise, and purple bricks come as a pop star, a socialite (seriously?), and a beautician. Because nothing tells our girls to dream big like a Ladyfig in a hot tub with a fruity cocktail.

Your research showed girls like to project themselves onto the toys they are playing with, so instead of giving them Dr. Sally Ride or Hilary Clinton or Dian Fossey or Septima Clark or Margaret Mead or Amelia Earhart or Dr. Hattie Alexander, you gave them Kim Kardashian.

How is my almost six year supposed to project herself onto a socialite or pop star, when the women in our family and friends she knows closely are university deans, international humanitarian workers, teachers, nurses, business owners, and writers? I suppose I could get her Olivia’s Workshop for her January birthday, as the power tools and microscope and equations on the blackboard are more congruent with how I am raising her than the beautician sitting poolside with a Orange Mojito in her giant Ladyfig hand.

I think it is very important for little girls to build, compute, and problem solve. To actually construct things, mind you, not just move their Ladyfig vet around the vet clinic that doesn’t require much building. For spatial aptitude and mathematical skills, Legos are superb. But when I look at your “girl” sets, I see that you don’t expect much from girls. Maybe pink bricks will draw in girls who wouldn’t normally build/play with Legos, but they are still getting the short straw once they arrive to Lego in comparison to what you offer boys.

About boys, for a minute. They are raised from birth to be little masters of the universe. Girls are, by and large, told to be sweet and pretty. Your advertisements don’t show girls playing with Legos. The Legos for girls you will soon offer reinforce these gender stereotypes that boys are picking up from our culture about what to expect from girls, and what girls are capable of. I know the selection of Legos is huge, and I know that I have other Lego set options to purchase for my home. As the mother to a son and a daughter, the stereotypes found within the Lego world for girls bother me greatly. I can still hear the whooosh sound that the tub of Legos I had growing up made with my brothers and I would dump it out all over a bedroom floor and sit for hours and build. I wanted this for my children.

I was so excited to bring Legos into our home. Now, my feeling at most can be described as “meh”. Maybe we’ll give Lego a second chance. Or maybe I’ll just get the kids Bristle Blocks instead. I don’t think those come with boobs and mini-skirts.

Melissa Wardy


Melissa Wardy, age 7 in 1984, with her Legos.



  1. I used to have the ‘Paradisa’ lego collection when I was little. It was my favorite and I wish my mom kept them so my daughter could play with them. They were just like boy legos, the same concept, same people, same blocks with different colors and themes. If you can find the collection I mentioned above, I know they sell the old sets for a nice price now adays online. Just can’t believe that there is dwindling on nothing for our girls to play with that is not sparkly/pink/inappropriately dressed!
    P.S. We got our daughter, who will be 3 in March a set of Lincoln Logs. She loves to build, but I was not about to buy the new set for ‘girls’.

    Thanks for all you do!

  2. Stephanie Caldwell says:

    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!!!

    I always loved playing with my lego sets and lincoln logs when I was a kid. I was sad to see that little girls now need pastel colors, hairbrushes and skirts to do the same. The coolest accessory any lego man came with was the awesome spaceship, car, truck, etc. that you were building for him.

    I’m sure Lego realized it was treading on thin water when it was coming up with this marketing ploy, but it should have had a few more women on the board. Who aren’t heiresses.

    Thanks for your awesome letter to them 🙂

  3. Fantastic letter! I have been meaning to gather my series of LEGO blog posts into yet another letter to the company. You have motivated me to get it done!

  4. I coach a bunch of Junior FIRST Lego League teams at my kids’ school. I’m working with kindergardeners now. We just use the standard set of blocks we got from Lego Educational when we started the program last year. I have 4 boys and 2 girls in the current group, and that’s a pretty set ratio across the grades K-3. One girl has built a great “ship”, some sort of airship. There’s a guy feeding the birds (which she also built from scratch) at the landing pad. The other girl is working on a zombie haunted house. Nobody is making a socialite or a pop star scene. The idea didn’t even come up.

  5. Great letter. Writing letters is the way to go if we want corporations to make changes.

    And “research,” yes. They did lots of research to figure out how they could sell stuff to girls. No one should be under the impression that their research was directed in any way toward determining what is best for child development. No. It was profit-focused.

    I’m not a friend of Legos, anymore:

  6. It took me awhile to figure out how I felt about the new legos. But your letter tipped the scale. I am disappointed in Lego. Whatever their “research” says, I know that girls are interested in more than pink miniskirts and fashion. Lego, you let my daughter down by only including one token interesting girl and making the rest of the sets polly pocket clones. You say that you are just trying to get girls interested in building but in truth it seems like you are just interested in making more money. What a wasted opportunity.

  7. I actually like the new legos. I played with Legos as a child, and my understanding is that the new sets are compatible with basic building sets, just like the more stereotypically “boy” sets, and that is why they don’t come with extra basic pieces. Duplo is like that too. I’ve read up on the new marketing, and the impression I got was that Lego started out as “for boys and for girls,” but in the last few years their thematic sets have been drifting more to “boy” type interests on the range and many more feminine girls were completely left out. The new sets address getting more stereotypically feminine girls into a play type that will help build spacial awareness and creativity. Girls can play with Lego dragons, Lego Star Wars, Lego Harry Potter, Lego space stations, but SOME girls want pink. Some girls WANT this type of toy and I am okay with that. I won’t buy my niece barbies, but if she wanted a Lego popstar (she is obsessed with Disney Tween shows, which drive me crazy), and that would get her into building things, then that’s okay with me! I would buy that toy. I respect your opinion, and I often agree, too, but on this one, I just wonder if you are missing the mark on what they are trying to accomplish. It’s okay to not want the new “girly” Legos, but I think it’s important to let the girls who DO genuinely enjoy this stuff to have their fun too.

    And that Olivia set is AWESOME.

  8. Well said, Melissa. From the ‘research’ link you provided: [“The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them,” says Rosario Costa, a Lego design director.] And 5-12 year old girls have boobs and drink cocktails? I just don’t understand this logic. And then [“Especially on television, the advertising explicitly shows who should be playing with a toy, and kids pick up on those cues,” Eliot says. “There is no reason to think Lego is more intrinsically appealing to boys.”] SO CLOSE…. they had the answer right there, but ignored it. Market to the girls, Lego!! Don’t sell them a dummied-down version of your existing line! 30 years ago, Legos were for both boys and girls. If that’s not true anymore, talk to your advertising department. Don’t short-change my daughter.

  9. Fiid Williams says:

    Of all the toy manufacturers out there, Lego provides by far the most stimulating and education spectrum of products. They certainly could have better gender models, but in the main, it’s one of the best toys out there.

    I really think that before you attack Lego; the one thing that my kids find stimulating that allows them the freedom to be creative _and_ be engineers _and_ to play, that you go after the millions of toy companies that truly do cater only to the princess market. I mean; why Lego ahead of Barbie? And why demonise them, almost the last company to cater to the princess-ified reality that is the modern toystore?

    This is sort of like chastising MLK and Nelson Mandela for not ridding the world of racism quickly enough. If Lego aren’t the good guys in this fight, they are certainly the among the least bad.

    • It’s easy to make anybody look like a good guy by pointing to someone worse. The fact that other toy manufacturers are taking MORE advantage of our girls does not make okay for Lego to do the same, as long as they are doing it to a lesser extent so they look comparatively open-minded. That leads to the kind of dangerous logic where you can justify any action with a sentence that bleatingly begins ‘Well at least they’re/you’re/I’m not…’

      Our children deserve for their world to be improved, not a string excuses for why their world isn’t better.

      • I love MapleJack Kate. Brilliant!

      • Fiid Williams says:

        I don’t think Lego is trying to actively be bad here, I think what you see is a microcosm of the society and market they operate in. Don’t forget that Toys R Us will control where their product sits in the store, and thus has huge power in dictating the exposure that Lego’s products will have.

        Barbie, on the other hand promotes a role model for women that would not have enough body fat to menstruate, in their toy which has almost zero educational value. (Source, University of Finland via Wikipedia entry).

        Buried within all this is your assumption that someone at lego is out to oppress women and subjugate all females to a life in the kitchen, which I simply don’t think is true.

        I think this is sort of like comparing recycling theft with shooting rampage. Neither is “right”, but it’s not really in the same league, is it?

        I only learned about the body fat thing today, and I’m still in shock – thats just horrible.

        • But the problem is that Lego isn’t trying to be actively good either. They aren’t supporting our daughters. They are in short “selling out” especially when it was a brand that we thought we could trust. By being passively bad, they are just as guilty of discriminating against our daughter, of selling our daughters short. Yes, the Oliva set is cool, but there are only pink and purple in the set, no other colors were prominent, thus playing into the stereotype.

        • I agree with you on that, Fiid Williams, I don’t think somebody at Lego HQ is scratching their head about how best to oppress little girls and aggravate the adults who care about them. They’re just looking for the smartest way to make money. But unfortunately the end results of both strategies are the same – boys and girls get handed limited options for who they can aspire to be. Whatever the reasons are for that happening, it isn’t good enough and it needs to stop. Period.

  10. ::slow, deliberate clap::

  11. Totally agree with your fab letter. I feel especially sad looking at old lego ads like this×621.png and realising how much lego has sold out 🙁

    And it’s not just their girls range either. I was very disappointed recently to buy a pirate ship set for my kids – which came with 6 male figures (soldiers, pirates, a captain) and 2 female characters. What were the female characters? The ‘captive’ wearing a skirt block instead of actual legs, and shown on the box walking the plank; and a mermaid figurehead for the boat – with tail instead of legs and a small bikini. Hey Lego – heard of Anne Bonny or Grace O’Malley?! How about a rip-roaring female pirate character??

  12. Wish we could go back to this extremely appropriate ad from 1981.

  13. great email. My mum read it and immediately wrote her own and sent to Lego, and had me read both your letter and hers and well, now I’ve written one too!

    (my letter)

    I have a question, Lego. When did one of my favorite toys need a special set just for girls? And what made you think that those freakish “friends” sets are at all what girls should be playing with?

    Legos never seemed like a boys toy when I was a kid. I had masses of legos, my brother had masses of legos. The lego characters had boys and girls and zombies and whatever else you came up with, and you could pop the body parts off and make new characters to fit into whatever ship or house or castle or battlefield or whatever the heck we were building.

    When I was young I hated Pink. why? because that’s the color girls are “supposed” to like. And I know for a fact that most girls are the same. Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t and am not some “tomboy” girl that hated anything girly. I had barbies, my favorite princess was Belle and sparkles are the greatest. But Legos were one of my favorite toys. My floor was just as littered with foot death traps as my brother’s room. I roughhoused as much as my brother, climbed tress, got dirty and wanted to be an overlord or scientist when I grew up. Not a celebrity. Not a model. Not a pretty pink and turquoise princess. Not even a mom.

    Looking at your new “friend” sets I’m filled with a sense of nausea. Is this how you see girls? Glitzy, creativity lacking bimbos that aren’t good enough for your main Lego line? Boys can have Princess Leia and the millennium falcon set (I owned that set btw and it was awesome.) but us girls are stuck with the what’s her name kardashian?

    My Legos looked like Legos because they /were/ Legos and I never questioned if they were boys or girl toys because they were neither. They were just awesome toys. When did the company forget that?

    I always held Lego in high regard and it’s terribly disappointing to find that I was wrong in how cool you are.

    And lastly, even boys know that pink and turquoise clash so which colorblind fool came up with that color combination?

  14. I’ve thought about this and have conflicting feelings. On the one hand I am really disappointed that Lego felt they had to make “ladyfigs” with curves and miniskirts. For 5-10 year olds? Really? As my daughter slips into that age range I am more and more frustrated by the fact that nearly all girls’ dolls and “action figures” are in this category. On the other hand, I feel that it is an uphill battle to get any toys I really feel comfortable giving to little girls in the toy department at the local discount megamart. There toys are divided into “girl toys” and “boy toys” and all the girl toys seem to be princesses, Barbie, and similar toys. One little girl I shopped for recently loved horses. The only horses were My Little Pony. With these sets, I could get her Legos, as one of the sets is a horse academy. I remember friends who collected really wonderful horse models when I was a kid, but that’s no longer an option. So in deciding where Legos go, the toy retailers have assigned them a place in the “boys’ toys” regardless of the fact that anyone can play with them. In Bloomberg Businessweek they wrote that Lego is saving their marketing push for after Christmas so they can get end displays in the “girls’ toys” section of the toy store. I’m not thrilled about their stereotypical choices, but this at least will get Legos into the hands of girls whose grandmas will only buy them “girls’ toys”. Lego isn’t out to be subversive, it’s out to make a profit, but if more little girls end up developing mathematical and spatial skills because of this that seems to me to be a good thing. In other words, it’s a mixed bag. It’s quite possible I will buy Olivia’s workshop for my daughter. Both my daughter and son would love it. Whether she will also get Olivia is a different story.

  15. Oh, this is heartbreaking. My daughter’s just under 2, so no big kid toys for her just yet. I would totally have thought Lego someday. She loves blocks & such. I guess I’ll rethink that! What about Spirograph? Do they still make it? I remember loving that as a young girl. I think your daughter would be old enough.

    • That is so funny you mention a Spirograph, I was just looking for one this weekend for my daughter. I couldn’t find one, but I need to check a few other stores.

  16. I saw that they had come out with “girl” legos, but I had not really paid attention to the sets. I had made a mental note to check it out, but haven’t had time. I don’t mind so much the pink and purple blocks because I think that would make my daughter more interested in playing with them. Pink is her favorite color. I do mind that they have have limited the possibilities with the “girl” sets. I get that girls can play with the others, but now that they have put the labels on them what exactly is that communicating? Where before they could have been for anyone now they have their “spot.” I don’t like being told to stay in my place.

  17. I also find the new Lego disappointing, although we did end up with a set of it (Argh… don’t ask). My daughter and I both prefer Jawbones to Lego — … they feature lots of bright colours and can be used creatively or to build different things by following the directions in the book — both important skills IMO, and a lot of the Lego sets (as opposed to a big box of bricks) are very restrictive in what you can make with them as well as in terms of gender.

  18. Love your letter! Was just telling my partner (here in Australia) about your letter and what Lego we were choosing for our two year old boy for Christmas. He told me it was on the news here tonight and I looked it up and found this quote…

    Lego senior creative director Nanna Ulrich said the range was the culmination of years of research about what girls wanted from the product.

    “What Lego Friends does differently is deliver the beauty, details, accessories, real world themes and need for strong interior play that research revealed would make all the difference,” Ms Ulrich said.

    “We understand that girls really want a Lego offering that mirrors what the boys experience but in a way that fulfils their unique desire for remodelling and redesign, combined with realistic themes in community and friendship.”

    Read more:

    Not real world for my children either….

    Thanks for your thoughts

  19. So disappointed… we love lego and with two boys and two girls (twins aged 8 and 4 year old and 18 month old boys) we already have a lot of it in our house. My girls have never had a problem with the current lego offering. They LOVE Star Wars and the star wars lego, they also really like the castle lego and just the plain old packets of blocks.

    I really don’t want to give up on Lego, but I won’t be buying these new sets for my kids.

  20. My daughter showed no interest in Lego until her school offered Lego Engineering after school this year. Now she’s designing bridges and catapults but she didn’t like that she was one of two girls of 15.

    Legos don’t need to be girled-up for girls to like them, sometimes they just need to be given the opportunity to build something amazing.

    It wouldn’t be so offensive if Lego were marketing pink legos to boys, too. That would be awesome.

  21. This is such a bummer. Playmobil Little People did this too–when I was a kid, they came out with “girl” figures who had swoopy dresses that made them look pregnant and white arms and legs (never armor or a color that looked ready to head off into a wild adventure). The curve of the dress also meant they couldn’t sit on the horses very well. I used to pry the hair off a “girl” and “boy” and swap the hair, so I had a normal looking figure with cute hair (a girl…plus a boy in drag, ha!) who could actually *do* stuff. If they made little Legos figures like that, the girls could build a hot tub to put her in if they wanted, but I bet they’d come up with something a lot cooler.

  22. Great post. When I first heard about this, my first thought was “what’s wrong with the Lego blocks that are already on the market?” My sister and I both played with “normal” Lego as kids, creating houses, hospitals, and anything else we thought of. There were times we played with them more than our brothers! I LOVE the Lego my boys have – any excuse for me to play with them.

  23. THANK YOU!!! I’m stunned to have learned that Lego has sold out like this! I’ve long been frustrated with all of the issues you’ve mentioned in your letter. Thank you for voicing such an important point!!!! Kudos to you!

  24. Well, when the lady at the toy store said they were bringing in more “girl” lego next year I certainly did not imagine this! My girls love lego – and love having all kinds of minifgures, all they want is more girl minifigs, not “girly” minifigs, just .. you know… normal girl minifigs that do all the same stuff as boys. We took to buying the collectible ones so that we could get some girls, and most of the time their hair ends up on the boy ones, girl minifigs in builders, city workers, police, and fireman bodies – girls can do anything. I will just continue to get the normal lego and stick with the other minifigs. Why do things have to be so changed-up to “cater” for girls, just chuck a few more minifigs with cool wigs in your city packs.. don’t pink-and-purple everything!.

  25. Dena Sharpe says:

    MAt my local Toys R Us they have Hello Kitty Mega Blocks, they are the same size as the origional Lego’s without the sterotypes

  26. Melissa, I also emailed Lego and cancelled my VIP account.

  27. Ann Garth says:

    This is a copy of a letter that I sent to Lego:

    Dear Lego,
    My name is Ann Garth, I am 14 years old, and I love Legos. Some of my fondest memories of preschool are of the giant “Lego pit,” which was basically a container the size of a small table completely filled with Legos. Whenever we had free time I would rush over to the table and start constructing something, usually a spaceship or some sort of vessel, because you had all those little ladders and hoods and flippy things that I didn’t quite know what to do with but could make into windows, doors, and windshields. I would carefully construct walls, making sure to stagger the edges like real bricks so they wouldn’t fall apart, and when I was done I would set my creation carefully aside, making sure that no one else touched the masterpiece. Legos inspired me, helped me become more creative, and gave me something fun to do on countless long afternoons.

    This is why I was so disappointed when I recently heard of Lego’s horrible, totally misguided decision to make and market a line of (very pink) Legos for girls, complete with a girl brushing her hair in the mirror, a bottle of perfume, and more. This is problematic for only two or three MILLION reasons, but let me pick the first, broadest, and most obvious: the idea that if you want to market a line to girls, it cannot involve any movement, adventure, or activity.

    Quite honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with you painting your new Legos pink. Lots of girls like pink, and while that fact is an inditement of our popular culture in itself, it’s not your fault. In addition, adding pink might encourage some girls to try Legos. My problem is with the theme of the collection, and the ideas it enshrines. You are telling girls that they can do, or should do, nothing more than sit and prink. You are telling girls that the boys get to have all the fun, while they have to stay home and be bored. You are saying that all girls care about is makeup and how they look, when in reality there is so much more.

    I promise you, girls are do more. Girls ARE more. As a kid, my favorite things to do were read and write (incidentally, I’m not seeing any library Lego sets coming out lately), but what I loved almost as much were building forts and climbing trees. There is nothing as nice as sitting in the crook of a big green tree with your book and listening as the leaves flutter in the passing breeze on a quieter day, or scaling the heights and climbing out far past what your parents would be okay with on an an adventurous one. And, of course, there is always the fun of piling up the pillows for a fort, figuring out a way to hold the sheets up (I devised a complicated system involving three of my dad’s spring clips, our yard stick, and the space between the headboard and the wall, which worked fantastically), and then settling down with a book, bowl of popcorn, or even a set of Legos to relax after my labors.

    And I am not the only one. Ask your daughter(s), Mr. Knudstorp. Or, if you’ve raised her (them) to play with only girly toys, as any one of the girls subscribing to New Moon Girls magazine. Ask those affiliated with Pigtail Pals or Reel Girl, be they parents or kids. Ask Lise Elliot, whose research has shown almost no differential in the play styles of boys and girls when they are young, but a substantial difference as they get older- a result of your company and others playing up stereotypes. Ask Peggy Orenstein, who wrote an incredible book about the “girly-girl culture,” Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Ask Jennifer Shewmaker, Amy Siskind, or any of the other incredible mothers, fathers, scientists, and doctors who are helping shape the movement to take back our girls.

    I am sure that by now others have shown you your own company’s 1981 ad, the one with the adorable little girl in the overalls with the red braids holding up something she has made all herself, no pre-fab mirrors and perfume bottles needed, with the slogan “What it is is beautiful.” I am sure that someone (likely millions of someones) have brought your attention to the sick, horrible irony of what you gave that girl back then- the same as the boys, the same as everyone- and what you are giving her today- six new shades of lavender and pink; dolls who do nothing but sit by the pool; bottles of perfume and beauty parlors. More telling to me, though, is what you are not giving her today- tools, weapons, trees to climb, or spaceships, boats, and houses to make. Back when your first ad was made all of those things had to be made with blocks; there were endless opportunities. Now, there is nothing to do except climb in the pre-made tree house, shop in the store that is already there, and drive around in the car built by machine.

    Please, Mr. Knudstorp. Please bring back real Legos. If you want to appeal to girls, create more sets. Expand your horizons. But instead of expanding into stereotypical girl territory, try hooking a bunch of boys as well by creating a library set, a computer room set, or a boat set. What about one with a soccer field, or a pool? Or- and I know that this may be shocking- what about simply giving kids the same old blocks in the same old colors and letting us make beautiful?

    I think you might be surprised at the results.

    Ann Garth

    P.S. If you take your current sexist set off the market, or even just market your new sets to boys and girls, I promise I will go buy some of your regular Legos.

  28. Excellent and thoughtful comments! Just to let you know that long-time LEGO fans have been busy and taking LEGO Friends into their own hands and transforming to something really awesome! I wish LEGO would hire there guys and gals. I mean, seriously, this is what we should have! See here:

    • I don’t see how that in any way relates to the children this line is targeted at, and my friend, the “feminists” have far from quieted down.


  1. […] letter was inspired by Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals. You can read her letter here. Please write to Lego as […]

  2. […] Pigtail Pals You sold my daughter out. You shortchanged my son and now contribute to the skewed and narrow way girls are portrayed in media and toys. You became like every other toy maker and drank the pink Kool Aid. […]

  3. […] at SPARK that Lego has not responded to our petition with 51,600 signatures from Lego customers upset over the gender stereotypes represented in the new Lego Friends line. They’ve issued press […]

  4. […] Pigtail Pals You sold my daughter out. You shortchanged my son and now contribute to the skewed and narrow way girls are portrayed in media and toys. You became like every other toy maker and drank the pink Kool Aid. […]

  5. […] media. We’ve seen this before a dozen times (think JC Penney t-shirt gate, Chap Stick, LEGO, sexist Abercrombie tees, SPARK girls vs Seventeen), so this in and of itself is not phenomenal or […]

  6. […] “girly”. Correlation is not the same as causation. The line would have sold without the gender stereotypes and pink-washing. LEGO Friends is selling well because inexplicably for over a decade LEGO ignored […]

Speak Your Mind