Lego: Magical Prince Kisses Instead of Adventurous Mermaid Princesses

While visiting the Chicago Lego store this weekend:

“MOM! They have Merida and Ariel Legos!” -7yo Original Pigtail Pal Amelia

“Really? Oh yeah, there is Merida and the bear cubs and her bow, that is cool. It says Highland Ga….” -Me

“Oh I beg your pardon! That isn’t Ariel. That is when she is a human. She isn’t even a mermaid there!” -OPP

“Um, let me look at the box. Yeah, you are right, she isn’t a mermaid. This is after she has given away her voice and her tail to go on land as a human to kiss some dude she’s never spoken to before.” -Me

“Right? Who does that? I wouldn’t give up my dad or tail to chase some hot guy on a boat. I don’t want this. And I can’t have a boyfriend because I’m seven. But can I get Merida? Because she is a girl like me. You know, someone needs to talk to these people and tell them the business. This is not how you make smart girls. All ‘oooh, oooh I see a prince and now I’m going to be his wife’. GIVE ME A BREAK! What if she wants to keep swimming in the ocean? Or do science? Who makes this stuff? I need to tell them the business. Ariel is a mermaid who wants adventure. That is what all mermaids want.” -OPP

“And she was curious and collected things she discovered around the ocean. But that isn’t what they are selling to girls with this set, is it?”-Me

“Oh. Oh ho ho. I’ll tell you what they are selling, alright.” -OPP

The big Ariel set focuses on a magic kiss, not the adventurous, curious princess.

The big Ariel set focuses on a magic kiss, not the adventurous, curious princess.

I did go on Lego’s website and they do have a small set with Ariel as the mermaid coming January 2014. Nowhere as elaborate as Ariel’s Magical Kiss, however. Much to the disappointment of my mermaid-loving, head-exploding seven year old daughter.

Also? Does the row boat seriously need to be pink?

Some great comments from our Facebook Community when we discussed this:

“The unholy alliance between LEGO and Disney is really upsetting. You have to wonder, will we soon have Disney princess tinker toys and Disney princess Lincoln Logs and Disney princess chess sets. I know all those things are already available in pink “for girls” editions, and it’s just a matter of time before, say, the only way a girl can possibly be taught chess is if the pieces are princesses. This train is not slowing down.”  – Lori Day, author of  “Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More”

“Nothing says age-appropriate marketing like selling a set (aimed at young girls) that essentially says guys kissing ladies who don’t have the voice to give consent is okay… if you want to be a princess who lands the prince, anyway. The whole “Magical Kiss” set isn’t really age appropriate. Why are retailers selling kissing and romance to a young audience at all? Personally, I am a fan of Merida: she wants to be a girl first and doesn’t want to be rushed into an engagement or marriage immediately. She is a positive female character that girls can look to that doesn’t require love at first sight or a happily ever after with a prince. The ending highlights the importance of family and being adventurous and full of awesome just as we are. Most other Disney princesses (Ariel among them) do not carry this same message. This isn’t to say other princesses don’t have great qualities (they do!), but just that the romantic element shouldn’t be what retailers focus on for our youngest consumers. ” -Erin Wolf

“We got the LEGO catalog in the mail the other day. The LEGO Disney sets include: Cinderella’s Castle ($70.00), Merida’s Highland Games ($19.99), Ariel’s Amazing Treasures ($12.99), Cinderella’s Dream Carriage ($29.99) and Rapunzel’s Creativity Tower ($39.99). This is another reason why we buy mostly bricks and not sets.” -Chris Singer

“I got my daughter a tree house kit from the LEGO Creator line. She squealed and hugged me so hard, I nearly cried to see my kid so happy.” -Gabrielle Tenn New

“Wasn’t she wearing blue during this scene? Can’t they at least have her in the correct outfit? Or would blue be too masculine?” -Elizabeth Dale

The other (considerably smaller) set for Ariel that (barely) highlights her positive qualities.

The other (considerably smaller) set for Ariel that (barely) highlights her positive qualities.

For The Love of Warriors and Mermaids

For the past two weekends our family has held a big garage sale and the kids, 7yo Amelia and 5yo Benny, have been incredible helpers so they have earned a bit of spending money. With no independent toy store in town the kids headed to Toy R Us to spend their hard earned cash. Benny was all over the Angry Birds plushes, making weird bird noises the entire time he shopped. Amelia strolled through the Barbie aisle, the Princess aisle, the Star Wars aisle, art section and the science kit section before finally deciding on LEGO.

We compared LEGO City sets, Stars Wars sets, and Friends sets as she tried to stay within her budget. She had finally made her choice when she saw the box of collectible Minifigs where a mermaid and a Merida-looking figure were featured. All bets were off, and she started feeling every little foil packet for the two female Minifigs hiding inside.

LEGO Minifig series 9, with Merida and "Forest Maiden". I called her a Celtic warrior.

Amelia and I stood in front of the display for close to twenty minutes feeling every single package in the hopes of finding two little adventurous Minifigs for Amelia’s expanding LEGO collection. The child is obsessed with mermaids and Merida, I didn’t have the heart to tell her no. That is what a girl has to do these days for adventurous female Minifigs, if she wants something other than LEGO Friends and doesn’t want to spend extra time and money ordering special parts online.

As we stood there feeling the packages, we talked about why there were five females out of 16 Minifigs and what was special about each female featured. We talked about why roller derby is awesome and how tough derby girls are. We talked about the alien and starship fighter possibly being girls. We talked about women being able to be police officers, judges, and mad scientists.

While we stood there a grandmother and her granddaughter walked up, the little girl wearing a sparkling tiara. Amelia asked if it was her birthday, and the little girl answer shyly, “No, I’m just a princess today.” Amelia smiled at her, then returned to her LEGO hunt. The grandmother then said, “You are a  princess every day, aren’t you, Princess?”

I mustered a fake smile for grandma and then looked down at the little girl and said, “I love your tiara, it is beautiful. Maybe you could pretend that you are a queen one day. Queens have all the real power. You could rule over all of the adventurous princesses.” I said it as much for grandma as I did for the little girl.

The little girl giggled and then spun around to show off her shoes, but lost her balance and crashed into a display of LEGO boxes. The grandma grabbed her quickly and said, “Sweetie don’t get your clothes dirty, now. We don’t want that.”

At that moment a store employee walked up and commented on the girl’s tiara, but did so in an interesting way. She said, “Wow! I like your tiara. Are you pretending to be a princess today? What will you pretend to be tomorrow?” I loved how she left room for the girl to be other things besides a princess, but made being a princess okay, too. Just one slice of the pie.

The employee then noticed what Amelia and I were up to, laughed, and asked which Minifigs we were after. “The mermaid and Merida, because I like brave things,” Amelia answered and then stared a conversation with the employee about her LEGO collection and what kinds of things she liked to build. The employee and I said we both wanted the roller derby girl.

Mr. Pigtail Pals walked up at that point as asked what was taking so long, and Amelia explained what we were looking for. I caught him as he looked down at his little girl, bouncing in excitement over having two new heroines to play with. His eyes softened and he looked up at me, knowing I wasn’t about to give up or tell her it didn’t matter and that we needed to leave for dinner.

While Amelia went on and on about her LEGOs and how much she loves building things, I found both the mermaid and the Celtic warrior (LEGO technically has her labeled as ‘Forest Maiden’, but I’m taking a more Boudica-like approach and calling her a warrior) after going through 75 packets or so. Happy dancing commenced.

I was pretty sure I had guessed on the correct packets, so I knelt down and told Amelia that I thought I had them, but in case I got them wrong we wouldn’t be coming back in to the store to buy more. It was a one shot deal. I asked her what things she would build for her mermaid and warrior. She answered that she would build two fortresses, one underwater and one in the woods and the two would be “queens who are nice to each other”. I said that sounded like  a plan.

“Mama, thank you for taking the time to find me some brave girls,” my seven year old looked up at me and smiled.

“Any day, every day, Smalls. You are worth it,” I said and smiled down at her.

Twenty minutes and $7 later, my daughter had the heroines she so desperately wanted for her LEGO stories.

Happy ending, but wouldn’t it be great it LEGO made it easier for families like mine who have kids who want more female Minifigs to just go out and buy them, in say, little packets or building sets? Sign our petition asking LEGO to do just that.

 

LEGO Friends: It is the song that never ends.

My kids' LEGO table. I'm told we're looking at a city, a mine, and a science lab.

Bunches of folks are sending me the link to this NPR piece, and I’m not sure it provides any new insights that we have not covered here time and again. In a nutshell, NPR reports that LEGO did market research that it passed off as child psych/development research saying girls played and built differently from boys and therefore needed different LEGO sets instead of being included in the already existing LEGO world.

The market research results were highly gendered and not representative of any girl I know who plays with LEGO, my own 7yo daughter included.
In the article from NPR we see a quote from LEGO blogger David Pickett about the Friends moving differently than a traditional Minifig. “That sort of sends a message about what we expect women being able to do physically,” Pickett said. That said, some critics are reportedly praising “the complexity of their sets and their overall message of empowerment.”

I don’t know how empowered cupcake shops and brushing a poodle leave me feeling, which is why I loved the diversity shown in the Female Minifig Series suggested on the LEGO CUUSOO site, which will go under review this fall.

SIGN THE PETITION for LEGO to consider making more Female Minifigs HERE: http://www.change.org/LEGOwomen

Ironically, in the NPR interview a LEGO brand relations manager says that girls are very detail orientated and that fact was very important in designing the line….which would lead one to think that girls might notice their little LEGO person’s arms don’t actually move correctly to engage with the accessories sold, whether it be a hair dryer or a bike. DOH!

So why does all of this matter, and why am I talking about LEGO again? Because LEGO is the second largest toy manufacturer in the world. That matters.

It matters that millions of boys are playing with LEGO sets that are virtually absent of any female characters, and that the sets offered to the main LEGO customers are created and packaged for boys. Girl LEGO fans are sent several aisles over to the Pink Ghetto to find their Friends sets, ready to great them in inviting pink and purple colors.

Problem is, never the two shall meet and kids pick up on that quickly. Girls are missing. Girls play differently. Boys and girls are separate. For more research on why that is a problem, visit here and here.

After enormous public outcry in 2011 when the Friends line was first introduced, LEGO promised to move away from the beauty salon-let’s bake cupcakes-and comb kittens equation and moved to create some really cool sets that show girls doing things like camping, flying planes, studying nature in a tree house, and working in a science lab. My daughter has numerous sets from the Friends line (so does my son) and really enjoys them. You can see in the photo above, all the bricks and LEGO people intermix.

And that’s the problem. Whether it is my kids, comments from parents from the PPBB Community, or you reading the several hundred comments on the NPR piece, people don’t really understand why LEGO insists on separating boys and girls when boys and girls don’t insist on separating boys and girls. LEGO was a giant in the 1970′s and 80′s, back when they were a unisex brand with free play and imagination as the cornerstone. Now they seem to be about movie licenses and following directions.

My kids love LEGO, and we’ll continue to buy bricks. We like the big boxes of random bricks that come with no instructions, and leave my boy and my girl to sit side by side to create high schools and cities and aquariums and graveyards and monster houses and hedgehog mansions.

I love this comment left on the PPBB facebook page today:
“I just signed the petition for Legos to create better and more female Lego characters. I wanted to acknowledge Melissa Wardy for her well-worded petition letter she wrote at change.org. As a women who has always worked in male-dominated jobs and just graduated with an Associates Degree in Welding Science and Technology (yes, I tooted my own horn), it made me proud to read something like that. Thank you for looking out for the next generation of women.”  -Tara

Thanks Tara!

Here’s the text to my petition. C’mon LEGO, we all know you can do better. We’re ready to buy your “better” like crazy, so get to it!

As the parent of a young son and daughter, I am tired of the gender stereotyped toys marketed to my children. My daughter is oversold pinkwashed redundant themes. Families are looking for multi-layered, diverse and strong media characters to enrich our girls’ imaginations. It hurts my heart to hear my seven year old ask why there are not more girls represented in LEGO, her favorite toy.

Luckily, one of the entries in LEGO’s own public contest (CUUSOO) to design new building sets featured an inspiring and creative new Female Minifigure series including a paleontologist, robotics engineer, geologist, astronomer, chemist, judge and fire fighter. This series, which received the 10,000 votes necessary for it to be considered by LEGO for production, shows smart, adventurous, and strong women with a focus on STEM jobs. We are asking LEGO to produce the entire series so that our girls and boys can play with Minifigs such as female paleontologists studying their dinosaur bones.

My son and daughter both love LEGO and both want every piece of the Female Minifigure series. I would jump at the chance to purchase something like this for my family. During a recent trip to the store both children were looking for these sets and were disappointed they were not for sale.

Currently in all of the sets offered by LEGO, female characters make up only 16% of the Minifigures. (This number drops to 11% when you don’t count the Friends line, marketed only to girls.) LEGO can do better representing females in its building toys, and this proposed Female Minifigure series widely supported by consumers is a positive step in reaching gender balance. Girls can’t be what they can’t see and we demand more examples of girls and women that celebrate our intellect, courage, and creativity.

I am looking forward to being able to buy this series several times over for my own children and as gifts. This is exactly the type of media I want to see for girls, for all children.

Melissa Wardy

Founding Member – Brave Girls Alliance

CEO – Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies

LEGO Minifigs are only 16% female, 11% if you don't count the Friends line.


SIGN THE PETITION for LEGO to consider making more Female Minifigs HERE: http://www.change.org/LEGOwomen

Fathers Playing Toys With Daughters

My husband and I are some of those “hypervigilant parents” as described in the article from the New York Times. You know, we encourage our daughter to play with toys that help her develop as a whole person, and this includes math and science skills. Neither my husband nor I deem math and science to be “boy subjects”. We have not bought into the gender stereotypes being sold to our girl, and she is a better person for it. Her interests are diverse and her imagination knows no bounds. She is a science and mermaid loving, glitter-sparkle shoe wearing, mud puddle jumping first grader who likes to walk through grave yards and never met a lip gloss she didn’t like.

During these six years of her childhood, I’ve never had to prod or plead with my husband to play with her. He just does it. Why? Because he is her father. He doesn’t find her dolls or tubs of plastic whales or tea sets or art projects or dinosaur towns or puzzles or Legos boring. She is his daughter. She is his world.

Most of the dads I know are engaged, hands-on papas who share responsibilities around the house, share in the care of the children, run errands, and are generally great with their kids. My husband doesn’t get a ticker tape parade when he bathes the children, makes dinner, or washes the dishes. He is my partner, I expect his involvement in these things.

While my husband may not sit down to a fancy tea and little cakes on his own, when Amelia asks him to play he happily obliges. Benny is fast to be in on the action, too. And I’ve never had an issue playing blocks or Legos or pirates or cars with Benny. I’m not sure when we started thinking of the sexes and separate species, but somehow I’ve found a way to make excellent fake explosion noises and I am one fierce pirate, let me tell you.

During the discussion on the PPBB facebook page the NYT article was described several times over as a “steaming pile of crap”. I agree. It was unclear from the article what the Mattel psychologist and the NYT writer deemed “man territory”, but my husband sees the whole world as open to his children. I think someone from our community (waves to Julie Smith) said it perfectly, “Clearly, they are jumping on the ‘girl power’ bandwagon without really understanding what it is really all about.”

My husband gets what it is all about. This is what it looks like when fathers play with their daughters, no Pantone 219 or marketing gimmicks needed.

The Gendered Lines of at Legoland Chicago

Last year I blogged several times about my issues with the new LEGO Friends line aimed at girls. If you are new to this discussion, the problem is that for most of the 1990′s and early 2000′s, LEGO marketed girls right out of their brand. They have made several attempts to win them back, most recently with feminine-colored bricks (pale pinks, purples, greens, and turquoise blues) and the Friends line, complete with the lady figs that do not fit with the rest of the Lego world. During the giant discussion that ensued last winter, many parents argued that their kids would just mix up all the sets and bricks and not have a problem integrating the lady figs with the more traditional mini figs. On a case by case, family by family basis, that is probably correct. The LEGO table in my home looks like a LEGO explosion.

But when we look at the big picture, we get a different story. The LEGO Friends sets for girls are often stocked in a different aisle from the other LEGO sets, presumably for boys. This gives the message that girl LEGO builders are different from or outsiders to the rest of the LEGO world. This also gives the message that kids have to cross the gendered lines in the toy store should a boy want Olivia’s treehouse or a girl want the Pirates of the Caribbean, as is the case with my boy and girl.

I visited three LEGO stores this weekend and at each location the Friends line was stocked in its own corner in the store, not mixed in with the other sets. Every time the Friends line was stocked next to the Duplo products, which is LEGO’s line for preschoolers. This sends the message that the building required for the Friends set is simple in nature, restricted to girls and maybe little kids. What if the Friends line was stocked next to the Harry Potter or Creator series? The Friends products were clearly separate from the rest of LEGO world, both in physical location and in physical appearance, as nowhere else in LEGO does so much pink and purple exist. There are precious few bold or primary colors seen in the Friends line.

I also visited Legoland Discovery Center Chicago this weekend with my husband and two children (ages 6 and 4). In fact, it was our first trip to a LEGO store and to Legoland. Both of my kids were in heaven, and we had a really great visit. The staff was super friendly, and there were enough activities to keep the kids entertained for hours.  There is a jungle exhibit that leads into a somewhat empty hall, which that day featured a large project area under a banner that said “Help Build Heart Lake City” (where the Friends line is based). Benny didn’t hesitate to dive right in to the girly colored bricks and begin to build a bridge for cats, and Amelia was hard at work building a skyscraper that later became a sea side cafe for sea plane pilots. The staff member there was awesome with the kids, encouraging them to reconsider their design if it seemed wobbly, or telling them their creation was a great idea as they handed over a little tower of plastic bricks to add to the city scape. It was great to see boy and girls working together on this project, especially when boys who are LEGO fans were using bricks in colors they would know are marketed to the girls.

Upstairs is a different picture altogether. There is a brick factory tour and a 4D movie experience that featured a predominantly male mini fig cast. There were several statues made of LEGO (all male): Barak Obama, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Indian Jones, Harry Potter and a big furry thing, and Batman. The second story also offers a play center with several activity stations and……you guessed it, a separate corner to promote the Friends line, build cupcakes, and play with pastel colored bricks. The toddler section is also located within the Friends corner. The rest of the upstairs activity room featured an Earthquake Table, City Construction Site climb and play, Racers Build & Test, and a Technicycle Ride.

When you walk into the activity room upstairs, the Cafe is off to your right, the Earthquake Table and Racers project areas are in front of you and behind them is the climb and play area. The far side of the room features a project-of-the-day area and the Technicycle ride. And to your immediate left is the walled-off, only-space-the-requires-a-separate-entrance, pink and purple LEGO Friends area and Duplo Village. On the brochure, the Duplo Village looks like a tiny preschool uptopia, in real life it consists of girly colored Duplo cupcakes on short tables and life-size LEGO bricks for castle or fort building inside a play pen-like area.

It was painfully obvious that the girl LEGO builders belonged in their separate area, and that area would include the little kids. There were girls sitting in the other project areas, unless they were with a birthday party, in which case all of the girls would file into the Friends section, play for a bit, and then file out. I was in the room for over two hours, and not once did I see a girl attempt to build a car at the Racers table and send it down the racetrack. Aside from Benny, not once did I see a boy venture into the Friends section to sit down and build.

And that is my issue with LEGO. Yet another company that trains the message into boys and girls that they are different from each other.

The room was crowded when Benny and I entered, and the only seat we could find was inside the Friends area. We sat down, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Why are these the girl LEGOs?” I reminded him that colors are for everyone and asked what we were going to build. We happily worked at our spot for about 30-40 minutes when my daughter and husband walked in. Amelia wanted no part of the Friends section, and took off for the climb and play, where she remained for over an hour playing some dramatic chase/rescue game she created with some boys she introduced herself to. Benny finished his project in the Friends section, and then said he wanted to go out into the main part of the room so that he could build with different colors. After lunch both kids worked together to build a fort from the life size Duplo soft bricks, and then scampered back into the climb and play. Mr. Pigtail Pals and I stood there people watching: observing how the boys and girls were building, how parents were reacting to them, and if any boys ventured into the Friends section (none did). It should also be noted that I never saw bricks (and colors) from the Friends section be carried or sought out by a little builder to intermingle with the primary colored bricks. In every way, the pastel world for girls was segregated from the bolder and brighter LEGO world.

I think LEGO is a wonderful toy. I loved them as a child, and still enjoy building with my kids. My daughter and son make incredible structures with the LEGOs we have at home. I will continue to be a LEGO customer.

I just wish LEGO would treat my daughter as an equal builder to my son. She does not need separate colors or spaces to be a part of LEGO. History has taught us that separate is not equal.

Boys and girls working together to build Heart Lake City.

 

The separate entrance and walls of the Friends section in the upstairs activity center.

 

4yo Benny hard at work inside the Friends section. He is the only boy I saw go in.

The girl colors of LEGO. This is from a bucket on the work tables inside the Friends section.

 

The tables inside the Friends section in the upstairs activity center. Pink, pink, and more pink.

 

Building instructions from the Friends work area: glass slipper, heart, cupcake.

The tables at the Earthquake Table in the main room of the upstairs activity center.

Girls Build Giant Cake Out of Legos, Which Is Not The Same Thing As Baking Lego Cupcakes

 

Remember my little pal Callie, the young girl who wrote the amazing letter to Lego regarding their sexist Lego Friends line?

I’m hoping when members of SPARK meet with Lego next month, they show the execs the contrast in these images.

Apparently awesome runs in Callie’s family….check out the birthday cake made of Duplo blocks that Callie, her grandma, and her cousin built for their great aunt’s birthday.

The women in Callie's family celebrate a birthday with an amazing Lego Duplo cake.

 

Not quite the same building experience you’d find, say….. at Lego Friends “Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery”.

Lego Friends "Stephanie's Outdoor Bakery" marketed to girls.

I think Lego needs to change the way it thinks about our girls. I think Lego needs to Redefine Girly.

Sexism is included in the ticket price at Legoland

This just in from a Pigtail Pals Parent after a weekend trip to Legoland:

“After being there I realized the problem is far bigger than their friends line. The shows we saw have not one respectable female character (they manage to portray even cleopat…ra like a kardashian sister). Their kids meals and collectible cups come in pink or blue. The blue ones have several lego characters (ninjas, pirates, etc) on one side and a huge pirate ship scene on the other. The pink ones have 3 “sassy” looking girls (not lego figures) on both sides. They’re not doing anything, or supposed to be anything. They’re just standing there with big doey eyes being,……I don’t know……..”cool” girls, I guess? And then there’s still this. In fun town (which was pretty fun before I saw this), there are two life size characters built entirely from legos. there’s a male police officer and a female firefighter. Cool, right? Except the man is talking into his walkie talkie, while the woman is………wait for it…….not putting out a fire, but……….putting on lipstick!!! WTH???” -Sarah L.

 

Next, check out the second installment of this fantastic video series by our colleague Feminist Frequency.

(Skip to 8:30 if you are short on time, but the whole thing is well worth it!)

Dear Lego, ___________(you fill in the blank).

I’ve just heard from my colleagues 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 releases battling our talking points, but they have not responded to 51,600 voices. Nor has Lego responded to the two certified letters SPARK and sister orgs have sent requesting a meeting.  Maybe Lego is unaware of how a brand’s identity can become easily and quickly tarnished by people on the internet (see: JC Penney, Chap Stick, and Komen).  

As I sit here in my family room watching my kids play with their Legos (they are building a house for whales with an art room), I find myself wondering how big Pigtail Pals would have to get where I wouldn’t care about 51,600 people being upset with my product and feeling no sense of responsibility to answer them. Maybe “meet in the middle” is lost in translation on the Danes.

Let’s heat things up. Let Lego hear what you have to say. Give your kids a voice, and let them write a letter or color a picture expressing their feelings. This is far from over, especially as I’m getting numerous reports from parents that they bought the a piece from the Friends line with an open mind, and were discouraged when their daughter lost interest in about 20 minutes. I don’t think that has anything to do with girls and their interest or ability in building as it does more reflect the lameness of these Friends sets.

Lego could have done have hit one out of the park with this line. Instead we have a wall of purple boxes representing what I think are an outsider’s stereotypes of what American girls are like. I think girls worldwide deserve better.

Let Lego hear your voice, and if you would like your letter published here, please send me a copy at info@pigtailpals.com. Children’s letters and pictures are most welcome as well!

michael.mcnally@LEGO.com
Jørgen.VigKnudstorp@LEGO.com
Charlotte.Simonsen@LEGO.com
Mads.Nipper@LEGO.com

or

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

More Correspondence Between Kids and Lego

*the formatting on the blog is acting up today, please just ignore and enjoy the content!*

Lily and Noah’s mom emailed the following correspondence to me. The kids had asked her if she was going to write a letter to Lego regarding the new Friends line that their family was unhappy with. She suggested they do it. And so they did.

?To Lego,
  
I’m writing about the Friends sets. Can you add powerful girls? I would like you to make the girls go in outer space and meet aliens, or be fire fighters, or architects.  I also think you should have a set where girls make cars.  Please make real mini-figs and not all girly clothes.  I like to wear a Duke t-shirt and my brother’s old sweatpants. Also, could there be more real building in the Friends sets?
  
Here’s what I’ve made recently out of Legos: a robot, a deserted island, and a log cabin.
I think the inventor’s lab and treehouse look cool.
  
From,
Lily H.
7 Year Old Lego Builder and Powerful Girl
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
?Dear LEGO Fan,
  
Thanks for your interest in our products.
  

I think your More Powerful Friends Themes idea would make a brilliant LEGO® set, but for legal reasons we can’t use it! We have a team of experts in Denmark whose job it is to dream up new LEGO sets, themes and toys. They tell me it actually takes years to plan everything. They need to test all the new ideas, talk to the factory about how to make them, work out what sort of box is needed and then deliver the new sets to all the shops in 130 countries! This means that there’s a good chance they’re already working on something similar to your idea.
?
We are working on lots of other themes for the Friends line. I think that you will be very please where this story goes and what happens to the friends.  We are very aware that girls are very powerful and need to be represented as such.
?
We’re really sorry but since you’re under 13 years of age we’re going to have to delete your email address and comments from our LEGO database after we’ve sent you this email.
We’re not being mean, there’s a law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and it’s been set up to keep you safe when you’re on the Internet. One of COPPA’s rules is that it’s against the law for us to save your emails.
Remember you can still find out all about our cool events and new LEGO products at www.LEGO.com

 

Thank you again for contacting us.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to call one of our friendly Customer Care Advisors at 1-800-835-4386 (from within the US or Canada) or 1-860-749-0706 (from outside the US or Canada). We are available Monday through Friday from 8AM – 10PM EST and Saturday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM EST.

Cheryl
LEGO Direct Consumer Services
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

And then the letter from Lily’s big brother, Noah.
 Dear Lego,
I am writing to you about the new Friends sets. Let’s have some REAL mini-figs. And all the girls should be more POWERFUL. Not all, ‘Mom, I’m going to get a makeover. Dad, I’m going to the mall.’  NO WAY. I know a lot of girls who would think of that as TORTURE. My friend, Grace, plays music and loves history. My friend, Kate, is great at basketball. My sister, Lily, is really creative and is the best tree climber in the neighborhood.

 I would like the girls going to the moon and making friends with aliens, or crawling through creepy underground tunnels, or exploring ancient Mayan temples, or traveling the world.

 Thanks,

Noah H.  (Brother of Lily H.)

9 Year Old Lego Builder

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear,

Thanks for your interest in our products.

We’re really sorry to hear that you’re disappointed with your new LEGO Friends line. We try really hard to give LEGO fans what they want an we are glad you let us know when you feel we are not getting it right.

We have a team of experts in Denmark whose job it is to invent and test new LEGO sets, themes and toys. They tell me it takes years to check everything. They need to test all the new ideas, talk to the factory about how to make them, work out what sort of box it needs to go in and then deliver the new sets to all the shops in 130 countries!

As you can see, a lot of thought goes into your toys and although LEGO toys aren’t the cheapest in the shop, I hope you understand we invent and make LEGO sets to last a lifetime, or even longer!

We’re really sorry but since you’re under 13 years of age we’re going to have to delete your email address and comments from our LEGO database after we’ve sent you this email.

We’re not being mean, there’s a law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and it’s been set up to keep you safe when you’re on the Internet. One of COPPA’s rules is that it’s against the law for us to save your emails.

Remember you can still find out all about our cool events and new LEGO products at www.LEGO.com

Thank you again for contacting us.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to reply to this email or call one of our friendly Customer Care Advisors at 1-800-835-4386 (from within the US or Canada) or 1-860-749-0706 (from outside the US or Canada). We are available Monday through Friday from 8AM – 10PM EST and Saturday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM EST.  Please have your reference number handy if you need to get in touch with us: 030232427A

Shawn
LEGO Direct Consumer Services

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 I am again left with several questions for Lego:

1) Why do you not address the specific concerns expressed by children and consumers when they take the time to communicate with your company?
2) Is it too much to ask that you address children by their name when you reply to them? Respect their personhood.
3) It took a team in Denmark years to dream up a beauty shop and outdoor cupcake bakery and a puppy washing station? Why does the team in Denmark have such a stereotyped image of American girls? Why is the sexist Friends line not sold to Danish girls?
4) If you are “very aware girls are very powerful and need to be represented as such”….why does the Friends line, completely dedicated to girls, show none of the five new characters doing anything powerful? With the exception of Olivia’s invention lab, why is the majority of the line and marketing focused on aesthetic appel and chilling with friends and not positions of power? You don’t seem to have a problem representing power for the boys.
5) May I suggest you come up with a couple different versions of canned form letters with which you respond to your customers? That way, when you send a nearly identical email to members of the same household, you don’t make the childen feel like they’ve been brushed off.
 

Interestingly enough, Noah has had some practice corresponding with a company when he didn’t like something. Noah’s mom told me this story: “Noah wrote a letter to the publisher Usborne a few years ago about a mistake/oversimplification he found in a book about Egypt. It turned out to be a really wonderful letter exchange involving a publisher and one of their Egyptologists.  The whole thing was very gratifying experience and we are to this day big Usborne supporters and encourage all of our friends to check them out.  Lego seems very shortsighted in their responses to these kids.”

 

I’d now like to ask for ten minutes of your time to watch this incredible break down of Lego, the Friends line, and the marketing around it. The video is kid-friendly and from our friend Anita and Feminist Frequency.


10 Year Old Girl tells Lego they are a piece of the fault. Lego says it’s her.

A letter from Callie, age 10, to Lego Company. Dated January 5, 2012:

Dear Lego Company,

Rosalind Elsie Franklin, Lise Meitner, and Grace Murray Hopper. Do you think those great women scientists spent time playing with vintage style dressing rooms when they were girls? Do you think they decided to sit and look at a girl brushing her hair? No. They would be walking in museums, reading, conducting experiments, researching, and doing creative thinking. Legos are a great way to do the latter and I congratulate you on that. Legos are amazing and a great idea. They’re fun, brain building and easy to use. But when you turn them into a stereotypical toy, that’s just destroying the individuality so many people have been working for. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for blacks and whites to be equal. Today people are fighting for the equality of gay people. Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem were fighting for women’s equality. And when I walk into a toy store and an attendant leads me to an aisle plastered with putrid pink I think you just swept all those people fighting for equality out of the way and ignored what they said.

Generalizing is saying any group of people is all one way, or likes one thing. Even if it’s complimentary, saying a group of people is all the same is just not true. Every person is unique and has a spark, different likes and dislikes, and faults of their own. You must respect that.   

There are plenty of smart and creative girls out there eager to play with Legos. Do you want that to be ruined, by giving them only a beauty salon to create? Please don’t. But I’m not proclaiming you should stop making those products, because they make generalizations about girls. But why just give us one option? There are plenty of girls ready to play with your ‘girl’s’ Legos. Plenty eager to pretend to comb hair and such. But then the girls who want superhero toys or adventure toys or dinosaurs or space toys or Harry Potter toys or Egyptian toys are forced to go to the boy’s aisle. They shouldn’t have to do that. Are you saying toys they want are for boys only? It’s not right to make a girl feel like she’s not acting like a girl should or is different. Are boys the only people who can do constructive things? No! But forcing a girl to go to the boy’s aisle, making her feel like she shouldn’t use Legos that aren’t pink and girly is just plain stupid. Why don’t you even have a boy’s category on your website? Are you saying boys can play with everything they want, unlike girls who have pink beauty salons? You have a girl science lab Lego set, yet it’s still pink and calls the things included “accessories”. The other themes, such as Ninjago call them staffs, or weapons. So even girl science lab appliances are called the same girly thing as jewelry. Why do that? To make money? That really makes me feel so much better about the world I live in.

And there’s another thing that makes me more secure about today’s lifestyle. If the girl  does go to the boy’s aisle what meets her eyes is the sight of war. Legos you can use that create a war scene, or spies shooting at each other or a spaceship with guns to shoot aliens. Does this seem right? Do we need more war in our bloodstained world? It gives kids the idea that war is funny or nothing to be worried about. Movies surround us with people fighting each other with powers and guns. Little boys like my cousin see people getting blown up, but then just singed or bouncing. Getting hit with lasers and just looking wounded but then reviving quickly or pretending to be dead than sneaking up on the bad guy because they missed. This isn’t real life. Many people have died in war, families torn apart, torturings of innocent people and betrayal driven by fear. This is war. Children need to understand that.

You say, ‘I’m just making a living. The kids like it, it’s not your fault the world isn’t perfect and they don’t understand it. Or that some girls feel like they’re weird or that they should be making beauty salons instead of whatever they feel like.’ But it is in a way. You’re just a piece of the fault. You are a part of that thought growing in a kid’s mind about how they should be and what to think. Make it be the right idea. Please. Make a kid’s world a little less narrow-minded and stereotypical. Make some of it right.

Callie W., age 10

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lego’s response, about two weeks following Callie’s Letter:

Dear Callie,

Thank you for writing to us with your concerns about the design of our LEGO (R) Friends product line.

We listened very carefully to what girls around the world told us in four years of concept development for LEGO Friends: and we’ve used their input to create a theme that invites girl who appreciate these qualities to the LEGO building experience.

Many girls told us they had trouble identifying with the LEGO minifigure’s unrealistic appearance. As role play is central to the LEGO Friends experience we designed a figure with a more realistic appearance. While we understand that this theme is out of the norm for LEGO as, like you said, we are a gender neutral company. We feel it’s a step in the right direction to get girls more involved with LEGO products. Sadly, over the year, many of our girl fans have diminished and moved onto toys that appeal to them. For this reason, we decided to conduct studies with children in this age group. We found that little girls really enjoyed having male and female minifigures in their sets, while the little boys would take the girl minifigure out before playing. Boys tend to like to create “good guy versus bay guy” types of scenes, while girls enjoy role play, such as going shopping with their minifigures.

If you would like, Callie, you can take a look at our recent official press release in regards to our new Friends line. It may be something that you’re interested in. If you visit Aboutus.LEGO.com and click on Press Room and then Corporate News, you will be able to view our recent press release. I hope that this is of interest to you.

We appreciate you taking the time to share you thoughts and concerns with us. Listening to what our fans have to say helps us improve our current and future products, so I’ve passed your comments on to our design team.

Thank you again for contacting us………

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lego – Girls left your company because you stopped making gender neutral toys, and focused on boys and movies licenses. You pushed girls out. Girls didn’t lost an interest in building, they lost in interest in a boy-centric company. You gendered your toy, not little girls.

Lego – Little girls don’t go shopping with their friends. They are little girls with wild imaginations and a sense of adventure. You gave them beauty shops and cupcake bakeries. Science laboratories do not come with accessories, they come with science equipment and tools.

Lego – You are correct, Friends is out of the norm for Lego. Why do girls need out of the norm Lego? Why do girls need a different version?