LEGO Gets It And Seems To Not Care: The Elves Spa Edition

When the new LEGO catalog arrived I tossed it at my kids and said I needed birthday present ideas. While I love that my kids create and build with LEGO, I have really come to despise LEGO as a company and hate giving them my money. I want to love them, so badly I do, but I just cannot. I dislike toy companies that attempt to instruct kids on how to be kids. The “build it this way” boxed sets and gendered marketing give me hives.

Once a favorite toy of my youth, I look at the pink and blue LEGO world of today and part of me wonders where they went so wrong. In the 1990’s they painted themselves into a corner by solely marketing to boys. It worked so well they lost the girl market and struggled to get it back until their recent run away hit with LEGO Friends + Disney Princess license. But to get the girl market back LEGO went with the lowest common denominators of femininity. The Friends line has improved since the initial sets of hair salons/beauty, cupcake bakeries, and shopping malls. Now we have jungle rescue, multiple sports, hot air balloons, sea planes, lighthouses…..at least girls are getting the message they can go out into the world and take up space (and by ‘world’ I mean Heartlake City, where Friends live separate from the rest of LEGO world). Separate but equal, right? Wrong.

The new LEGO Elves line seems promising, and much of it is. You’ll still find it in the pink “girl’s LEGO aisle” and you’ll still see the hot pink and purple LEGO coding “for girls” in the bricks, but you’ll also find sets called Creative Workshop, Crystal Hollow, Adventure Ship, Treetop Hideaway……and then you’ll fine the requisite beauty spa and magical bakery.

Lego Elves spread in new catalog.

Lego Elves spread in new catalog.

You know if I were creating a mystical, completely imaginary world for girls where I could think up absolutely ANYTHING, baking and beauty are two things I’d probably move right past on my way to Unicorn Training School and Lava Ball Factory.

The requisite beauty spa for LEGO.

The requisite beauty spa for LEGO.

But good ol’  predictable LEGO – what is a ‘girls LEGO set’ without a little spa magic and cupcake charm? It’s as if LEGO knows exactly what is hard wired into the DNA of our girls. In fact, the LEGO Elves set “Naida’s Spa Secret” comes with ‘beauty cream’  – a nod to all little girls knowing beauty comes from a jar you spend your paycheck on and their worth comes from that beauty. And the number of sparkles on their purple pet dolphin.

The set is marketed with the text “Pamper yourself at LEGO Elves Naida’s Spa Secret….”. I think if I were a kid today playing with LEGO I’d be less worried (and most likely completely unaware) that I need pampering and more concerned about getting more pegasuses (pegasi?) for my army so that I can defeat the invading trolls….or whatever it is that attacks elves.

(Related must read: “Beauty Tips for Girls, from LEGO” on Motherlode.)

Whenever I read posts like the one from Motherlode or lead discussions on Facebook about the gendered, sexist marketing by LEGO I see so many people ask “Doesn’t LEGO get it?!” And I think LEGO does get it. I think they do not care.

It is probably unprofessional for me to write “Bite me, LEGO” in this post, so I won’t do that. Instead, I would like to say that while I see some improvements from LEGO with the shift in focus of the Friends line to girls doing things and I like the Elves line including male and female characters ready for adventure, I’m just really finding it hard to understand the undying LEGO commitment to beauty spas and bakeries for girls.  Why does LEGO hold that stereotype when consumers have so clearly said that is not what our kids want nor what we want for our kids? If the wold’s largest toy maker were paying attention to the girls apparel and toy market in the past 36 months they would see run away hits and crowd funding darlings focused solely on building girls up to be smart, STEAM-focused diverse adventurers and parents can’t get enough of it. Let’s not forget the massive petitioning and then consumer demand for the LEGO Female Scientist set which LEGO will not keep stocked nor commit to expanding or keeping long term.

Ideas like Ruth Bader Ginsburg LEGO? Yes, that is a choir of angels you hear singing. LEGO rejected the concept for its IDEAS fan page, saying it will not accept “politics or political symbols”. Ironically, the Supreme Court along with the need for greater, more inspiring representation of females in LEGO isn’t about politics. It’s about equality and justice.

Legal Justice League, created by Maia Weinstock, Deputy Editor at MIT News.

      Legal Justice League, created by Maia Weinstock, Deputy Editor at MIT News.

supreme court lego

Legal Justice League, created by Maia Weinstock, Deputy Editor at MIT News. 

 

 

MAW Profile PicMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

 

Comments

  1. And nevermind the fact that the two celebrity-status bakers on television networks focused on food are BOTH MALE. (Duff and that other guy I can’t remember the name of.) So, it’s almost like the bakery sets are trying to distract girls from that crazy idea that girls can do anything and remind them that really, they should just be in the kitchen.

  2. I like the new set. It seems to have a bit of something for all types of girls. Some girls want grand adventure, some girls want to bake, and some girls want both! I like how they tried to include everyone into it.
    The spa doesn’t even bother me. I’ve worked with kids for many years, and there are many little girls who love the idea spas and pampering. It goes along with any other “grown up” play they do. Sure they don’t need to be pampered, but they also don’t need to fight fires or need to build robots, but they can play at doing anything and everything.

    I am also impressed that, while it is being marketed toward girls, it is more friendly toward both genders than the earlier sets. The colors are less the stereotypical girl looking, and they even have some boys thrown in. One of them apparently works in the bakery.
    When I spotted them in a store over the weekend, and they weren’t even stuffed into the “girl aisle” like the other friends sets. Instead, they were set apart on a space directly between the blue and pink aisles where any kid could see them. I can easily see this one being liked by more boys than the other girl-marketed sets.

    Personally, I think they did a good job with this set. I’m also mighty tempted to get one or two of them for myself!

  3. i know a boy who would love this set. It could have been made far more unisex by the inclusion of a couple more boys on the packaging.

  4. The first Friends set I bought my daughter was Olivia’s Lab. I was pretty excited that they put a female Lego figure in her own Chem lab. Nothing wrong with that. My daughter loves horses & animals, so we tend towards those, but she has the Heartlake pool as well. She plays with her younger brother, so at any time, the Friends are hanging with Batman, Han Solo and Captain America at the pool. (Thankfully there’s not a Speedo Batman version!). They drive around in cars & typically the hero is in the back seat or passenger seat while one of the girls takes the wheel. I think it’s all about mixing it up and letting the kids go with it.

    • legolover 2000 says:

      I absolutly love lego friends n lego elves I have over 50 lego sets I love the lego friends mini dolls because they are more real looking n cuter i don’t like the normal box lego figures because they r so fake looking I also love the elves mini dolls for all u people out there that r saying the lego friends n lego elves sets is sterotyping girls y can’t u understand that for all those years when lego was making legos for boys n there was only crime fighting police stations fire houses n monsters y can’t u understand that that was sterotyping boys they still sterotype boys as a mater of fact all tots sterotype bots n girls like dolls n action figures n train sets n barbie I am a girl n love lego I have mostly lego friends n lego elves but i also have lego chima lego creator to

  5. Adrienne says:

    Growing up I always wanted the sets with animals, so the medieval set with Dragon and horses, the pirate set with an alligator and shark. I did feel embarrassed to like it since they were “for boys”. I remember getting the pink girly “horse ranch” set in the 90s.. Loved the horses but was not a fan of pink so I just mixed in normal legos to build the stables.

  6. I’m not sure what is so bad about fostering entrepreneurship in young women.

    – Natasha is the proprietor of Heartlake Hair Salon.
    – Stephanie’s owns a Pizzeria.
    – Emma owns a pet grooming salon, but moonlights as a TV news reporter.
    – Mia is the head baker of the Downtown Bakery, and also runs a lemonade stand.

    There are many other back stories, but these are just a quick few I found on the LEGO store.

  7. Yeah, it’s great that they include adventure stuff in the LEGO Friends sets, but here’s the thing. The Friends can’t actually ride the horses. They don’t fit. They can’t drive the camper either. Once again, they don’t fit. LEGO truly has painted itself into a corner with the Friends as well by not making them compatible with the other sets. How hard would it have been to use the same minifig model on these so that if we wanted, the Friends could fly the Millennium Falcon? How hard would that have been? But they just keep doubling down on this stuff. They start out iffy, then it gets bad, and now, with the beauty advice, they’ve gone and bought a house in Awful-ville.

  8. I’m avoiding the spa set, but I’m considering the bakery because one of my daughter’s favorite things is playing restaurant/store. I guess I could actually see a place that bakes bread existing in a fantasy realm, but the spa…..that’s not something that screams fantasy to me. Why wouldn’t they have called it a lagoon hideaway or something? That would have fit the theme a lot better. My daughter is particularly interested in the ship and Pegasus set.

    I don’t like that the mini-figures changed, but I do like the fantasy adventure direction this set is going in.

  9. The thing is Lego knows what sells. They are in the money business and while they have done alot to move girls into STEM in a positive way, many little girls still gravitate towards spas and bakeries. My little girl is one of them. I am a karate doing, jeans and hoodie wearing, outdoor adventuring mama who has been pro-girl power my whole life. I hate baking and love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I thought out of my 5 kids and one and only girl she would be right there with me as I have never once sent a message to the contrary. Yet she is a cupcake baking, princess dress wearing, pink loving girl who adores the spa set. As do many of her little girl friends. Just watch the sets on 50% off as they are retiring….it is always the tree house and the adventuring sets and not the beauty salons, animals sets and bakeries. Little girls love this stuff. The thing is…even I the most subtle ways we as moms send a message. Melissa I loved your post and agree with it but couldn’t help noticing your picture is lovely and so is your make up. Does your significant other wear make up too? Just you as a female? I do too. My husband does not. What I am trying to say is we inadvertently already send messages to our girls that differentiate us. Plus…my little girl popped out of the womb loving all things frilly much to my dismay. She gravitated towards tutus and dolls like a moth to a flame. I say all this because as much as we want to steer our girls we also need to allow them freedom of expression and that might mean a spa day between science experiments 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] Mar. 17, 2015 Annnnnd…Lego Group failed girls AGAIN…Read this excellent indictment of Lego’s repeated pattern of framing external beauty and stereotyped fluff-n-stuff over […]

  2. […] has let girls down with these beauty tips and their new Elf spa set. Instead of taking the opportunity to use their toy line to support girls’ love of creative […]

  3. […] market demand, opting to blitz the retail shelves with beauty duty once again with the new floofy Elves line parroting the much maligned Friends line of ‘salon and bakery’ […]

  4. […] LEGO offers an interesting contrast to My Little Pony. Whereas My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic embedded a seemingly simple toy with empowering meaning, LEGO Friends has done quite the opposite: it has dressed up an inherently educational toy into clothing that matches basic gender stereotypes. You can read all over the internet how more gender-conscious parents reluctantly buy LEGO products because they want their children to be building, and at the same time detest the stereotypical marketing and themes that LEGO is using. In the words of one such parent: LEGO gets it and seems to not care. […]

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