Legos, spaceships, breasts.


An engineer friend of mine recently extolled to me the virtues of Legos for teaching math and engineering concepts to children.

As he talked, I thought back to my experiences with Legos, which had been somewhat limited and mostly involved building square house shapes and furnishing them with benches and tables.  I realized that even as a girl raised in a fairly feminist, evolved family, my first real experience with a schematic really didn’t come until I was a teenager when for a while I built and painted model airplanes.

My daughter, who’s seven, has lots of Legos.  They’re in enormous bins that live under beds or in closets, and mostly get dumped out in a sea of pointy plastic.  They stay on the floor like a huge spreading oil spill with as much collateral damage, like when I inevitably step on one in an entirely different room of the house, yell and then wind up cleaning up all the Legos myself.

My daughter inherited all these Legos from my son, who was big into Legos when he was little.  We got him endless sets, and he’d build the stuff or build half of it or something else entirely and then, you know. Dump the Legos on the floor.

I realized I personally had never bought my daughter a Lego set.

So we were at Target.  We were buying a present for her friend’s birthday and as usual joking about the “pink aisle” and the “blue aisle,” and I said “you better not go in that blue aisle, you know, those toys are only for boys.”  And at seven she totally gets the joke and she walked down the aisle with a scornful face and said “Yeah, I’m a girl, I’d never want to play with any of these yucky blue toys.  Bleah.  Like that car.  Or that castle. Or that… OMG mom ALIENS this is so cool, look, look, look!!!”

And there was a display case with lego aliens and spaceships and even alien hats you could put on the Lego peoples’ heads so you could tell they had been assimilated. Lili was enchanted. “Mom, mom, look at the experimentation pod at the back of the spaceship!”

I looked at her, I looked at the flying saucer kit, which was twenty bucks, and looked back at her again. “You want it?”


The next day, we sat in her room and carefully sorted all the piles of colors out, like the instructions say. She started randomly grabbing pieces and said “this is too hard,” and I said “no it’s not, look at the instructions.  Just do one number at a time.  Which one’s first?”

“One,” she said, in that “derp, obviously” tone. Then looked at the pieces needed for the step, snatched them up out of the right colored pile, and put them together. “Done, mom,” she said.

“Okay, now do two.”

Eventually I wandered off and I didn’t hear from her for a while. At least until she was on step twelve and couldn’t figure out which end of a peg thing another dealie-bobber should go on. A visual logic thing, and when I showed her, she smacked her head. “Oh, of course,” she said, and went off again.  It took her a couple of hours to build a flying saucer, with that being the extent of my help.  She played space invasion, and her brother showed up and sat down and started playing with her, and they built a landing pad and part of some structures for the aliens to destroy and L wouldn’t let him do the talking because apparently he doesn’t do alien voices right.

She learned. So. Much. She accomplished something really interesting, and fairly difficult (I know because I’ve helped out with a number of those things myself). She played aliens with her twelve year old brother, and built things with him, and they so very, very rarely play together anymore.

So this is what we missed, in the pink aisle.


This set has 130 pieces, the majority of which are the doll’s “accessories.”  The construction of the car is limited to simple, large pieces, most of which make up large parts of the car so that it is clearly easier to put together and less assembly – and thought – is required.  This toy is supposed to be for 7-12 year olds, the same age group Lili’s spaceship is.

Also, this isn’t a Lego block person of indeterminate gender. It’s a girl. With big hair. With eyelashes.

And breasts.

Yes, breasts.


Meanwhile, the UFO Invasion Tripod set has 166 pieces, all devoted to the construction of a complex, interesting and fun toy. There are a few traditional Lego figures, and, you know, alien head hats to convert them to aliens.

No accessories. No breasts.

I want you to go to Target. I want you to go to the Lego aisles and just go look at the toys, for a minute.  And think about it. Think about young women who don’t go into science and engineering, even now, who struggle with math for reasons that have nothing to do with their innate intelligence, potential, ability.

I want you to think about how many female engineers you know.

And I want you to get pissed.


93 thoughts on “Legos, spaceships, breasts.

  1. I love you for so many reasons. This post just gave me about ten more.

    I struggle with raising boys to be civilized, sensitive, and kind—which they *inherently are* unless life and social norms knock these qualities out of them. You have both challenges, raising a boy and a girl. Your daughter is so lucky that you see through the girl bullshit and can articulate it so clearly. I applaud you for buying her the aliens. I was so disappointed to see LEGO turn up in this crappy pink aisle in such a spectacularly lame fashion.

    • Dawww. I love you too. I see how you guys are raising the boys and and I know you both as people (whom I admire and love) and it gives me massive hope for the world.

  2. Let me throw another ray of hope into this. I was in the nerd store to buy DnD stuff for my older son. I hadn’t been in one of these stores for years. There were the rows of comic books, the blister packs full of figures, the red and black stacks of game boxes with names like Domination! Enslavement! and Imperialist Exploitation! There was dice. There were girls playing Warhammer 40K. What what? There were FEMALES in the nerd store. Playing the games, arguing about superheroes, and working behind the counter. Now, women were not proportionately represented, however, the fact that women were represented at all and accepted into this traditionally boys’ club, gives me some hope. Things have changed since the 80s.

    • They really have. Hugely.

      A long way to go, though. I think the nerds have progressed, but that nerd culture and moreso nerd marketing has a way to go, ultimately.

  3. The only role we enforce at our home is to be a good person. A gender neutral role many of today’s parents are embracing. Toy manufacturers will start to take notice, or at least they should after movies like Pixar’s The Brave helps push forward positive female role models and helps boys embrace them in their charge.

  4. One of the best experiences I have had in the last year is sitting outside during a break between lunch and wheel throwing to begin and we were talking video games. Mass Effect, to be exact.. one of the best RPG’s out there. All the geek boys are 15-20 yrs my junior. They weren’t surprised that I played the games – what they were surprised about was that I got achievements in the second game they were unable get.

    I talk GMing with these guys constantly. One of them comes to me for advice in his D&D campaigns. It’s weird, compared to the crap I got in high school when I RP’d, that now they come to me for solutions or ideas for their games. Questions about certain ideas.

    Despite there being shitty girl legos (what a load of crap, that is) it is improving – you just have to be brave and point it out, like you did. Hell, I have math insecurity and as an admin I have balanced budgets, crunched numbers and did forecasting and everything with millions of dollars. Why do I think I’m bad at math? Because stupid outside stuff convinced me I was and I believed it.

  5. I love reading everything you write! I’m glad you pointed this out in a way most of us aren’t able to communicate. My children are 26, 23 (girl) 12, 9 and we have every Lego set possible girl and boy. The girls are flat pieces with a few walls and places to put your accessories…”boys” legos are AWESOME!!!

  6. If you want to, check out FeministFrequency on YouTube. She did a couple of segments on this exact issue.

    This post is great.🙂

  7. If there was no market for gender-oriented toys, they wouldn’t exist. Thanks to parents like you, Kate, who are teaching their kids to refuse to be pigeon-holed into some box defined by marketers (and the parents who support such differentiators by throwing dollars at them), maybe one day this kind of “thinking toy” segregation will go away. As always, I love your posts and your point of view.

  8. Thanks for a well written, entertaining and thoroughly true insight into the toy isles. You are a champion!!
    I think as adults we all needs to follow your lead more especially when purchasing gifts, so that we open up imaginations. I believe children love interesting and less sterotypical toys when given the opportunity anyway🙂

  9. Complain to Target for Blue and Pink aisles, sure, but these sets are a great idea. My daughter (8, and definitely not raised in a pink-is-for-girls household) has a couple of them now, bought by her with money from her last birthday, which nicely complement the bucket loads of other Lego she inherited and has bought or been gifted. She has her engineer Lego girl (nice job not showing that one in your blog post!) flying around riding the creator-set dragon she also has. Or building spaceships out of the rest of the Lego. Or just having a nice make-believe story time with two girl sets together. She has aliens, she has Harry Potter, she has medieval village and now she has engineer and vet girls. It’s a great balance.

  10. I don’t normally read blogs much and I enjoyed reading this a lot. I believe that toys do shape a child’s future. I hope the message gets somewhere. What a great mom, you are!

  11. The Lego friends are less ridiculous than they first appear. I helped my four year old build one and was really happy that even though they’ve got all this dollhouse nonsense the complexity of the sets is quite high. The house has a bathroom with an alternating tile floor which is up there with the most complex Lego sets.
    I was against them at first, but if they get some gender obsessed parent to buy their daughter a Lego set I’ll get behind it.

  12. I’m a *big* fan of Lego Friends.

    Before Friends came out, it was always a struggle to find sets that my (then) 4 yr old would play with: the options were pretty thin on the ground, even where it would have been a natural fit (Castle Lego, but barely a princess in sight – wtf?)

    Lego City was all Police cars, fire engines and the like: we ended up with a Camper Van, which she liked, but that seemed like an isolated case.

    Since Friends came out though, she’s got a few of the Lego Friends sets (the engineer and the designer🙂, and she has combined both the City and Friends sets and is building some pretty fantastic stuff. I think she relates more to the Friends minifigs, but otherwise it’s all good: she’s still playing with Lego, and that’s a win in my book. I’m glad Lego addressed the problem.

  13. We’ve bought a number of Lego Friends for my 4 year old and she loves them, plus I consider myself cautious in matters of body image and honestly didn’t notice they had breasts. They seemed far less offensive than other girls’ brands, and there are workshop, design studio and vet clinic sets as well as the cute car and beauty salon. Also, the boys stuff is often adversarial in tone. I look forward to seeing more diverse sets for the Friends as the range grows – mechanic, anyone? Thanks for a great read.

  14. I had the same reaction when the Lego Friends line was announced, but have come around to the opposite conclusion. I have to agree with the later comments… My 8yo daughter didn’t play much with the alien Lego sets I bought her, until she combined it with the Lego Friends sets that she saved up her own money to buy herself. She’s building stuff, she wasn’t before, and it’s thanks to these new options in Legoland. They’re a vast improvement over so many other “girls’ toys”… I see them as part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  15. I’m enjoying the discussion and the thoughtful comments, thanks everyone!! It was mentioned up above but I’ll link it again:

    Feminist Frequency does a two-part look at this, and talks about the gendering and why it’s problematic. She goes into a more in-depth discussion of the feminist issues this raises, including why we’ve got little girls who are attracted by princess and pink things, and how that’s problematic in the first place.

  16. I have to admit to getting annoyed while reading this article. Growing up in the 80’s, I collected a lot of LEGO. My sisters had Barbie. LEGO as a “stupid boys toy” was promoted by my sisters and mother. None of them ever showed any interest in LEGO. They had the choice to play with it, they never wanted to.

    LEGO has always been a “boys” toy, with 90% plus of customers being pre-teenage boys. Is the low number of pre-teenage girls buying LEGO because their parents won’t allow them buy it, or is it that the girls have no interest?

    LEGO Friends competes with the likes of Poly-Pocket and Sylvanian Families. What do these toys teach girls? Friends, on the other hand, is a Trojan Horse. It teaches basic engineering, construction, object identification and dexterity, all disguised and wrapped in “girl-friendly-pink”. It’s a brilliant toy.

    If you have a pre-teen daughter and want to try an experiment, get them the Friends convertible above and a City fire truck. Trust me on this, the vast majority of girls will lean towards the Friends set or will combine the two. Very few will play with only the fire truck. This is their choice.

    Stereotypes are prominent in our society, a lot of the time they’re enforced by our kids peers. If there are toys out there that teach non-stereotypical skills while still being disguised as stereotypical toys, do you really think that’s a bad thing?

    • I strongly feel – and this is my issue that I’m getting at, above – that those “choices” you’re talking about are not somehow biological, but culturally shaped. And that shaping is damaging. It’s funny you mention a fire truck. I desperately wanted to become a firefighter and I cannot TELL you how difficult it is for a woman to get that job.

      She fights the perceptions of others, she fights the boys club of firefighting as a male-dominated institution, and she fights her own internalized sexism. That sexism, that damaging sexism comes from being told repeatedly that firefighting isn’t for girls.

      My point in the above rant is that women must be included in all things, not given “separate but equal” status that reaffirms the worst of how society programs us. Pink is not a “natural” color for girls to like. Princesses are not natural thing for girls to like. We are socialized to choose those things.

      As a result, we miss out.

      That’s what I’m saying.

      • I agree with you that there is a cultural pre-disposition for stereotyping, but this seems to start as soon as we are born – newborn girls get pink blankets, newborn boys get blue ones. Our kids are initially influenced by their parents and their friends. Most parents do not take an active stand against stereotyping, for the most part they probably encourage it, even if it’s on a subconscious level. And kids just want to do what their friends are doing, playing with whatever toys their friends are playing with.

        In my house, growing up, there was definitely sexism, but it came from my mother. My father encouraged both my sister and I to become engineers as we were both technically minded. My mother encouraged my sister to become a beautician (she wasn’t very bothered about what I did!). My sister became a beautician, which she gave up due to boredom and I run a software development company. My sister had the choice to do either, she chose the “pink” option.

        The point I’m getting at is that stereotyping begins from the moment we are born by the people we are closest to. If you want to change that, then you need to start with parents before they even have kids. And that’s going to be very tough. Most parents have enough to deal with, keeping their children healthy and happy without having to consider the political ramifications of every toy they give their child.

        To me, LEGO Friends is an excellent way of promoting non-stereotypical skills in what would appear to be a very stereotypical toy. Who knows, if more young girls who would normally only get “girly” toys started getting LEGO Friends, they might be inclined to get other LEGO toys that aren’t from the Friends range. Could we see more women engineers in years to come as a result? I wonder if my sister had played with LEGO Friends as a child (had they been around) would she have made a different career choice? Would my mother have recognised an engineering toy underneath all that pink and pastel colours?

  17. I know dozens of female engineeers😉 But its taken 50 years to find them, and lots of talking to bright happy looking old ladies on trains, and hanging out at girlgeek dinners, working in engineering school, and attending online courses like coursera and udacity. I used to crave lego and (even better) real metal meccano as a kid and would be quite obsessed whenever I got the chance to play (mostly at the house of a math lecturer friend of parents).
    I hate that the pink version also has limited reusability. My daughter got one small pink set with flowers etc (for adding finishing touches) among several sets of haunted houses, aliens, castles, cars with motors. They were a standard item in the xmas stocking along with the sweets, cola and orange.
    Start young with the larger pieces to teethe on.
    Kitset robots are also a great toy. And get colouring books that are also puzzle books! (Draw a reflection, join the dots, break the code etc)

    • Oh! I hadn’t even considered the reusability issue… you’re quite right.

      Why can’t we have better integrated, better marketed legos – sorry Lego – for both genders??

      Oooo, I remember the meccano sets.

      Also I love the idea of you randomly approaching ladies on trains.😛

  18. I stumbled onto your post via twitter, but glad I did. It is an awesome post. Thought provoking. Why do we have that mental block of our girls struggling at math and science? You are right it has nothing to do with intelligence. In my opinion it is just exposure. As in your case, exposure to the blue aisle. The larger problem is classical stereo-typing. Thanks for a great post.

  19. If “girl” Legos bring more girls to the Lego world, then I see nothing wrong with it. Both my kids (daughter and then son) played with Lego’s when they were younger. If they ever stop marketing toys to specific genders, what a dull place it will be! They’re not forcing girls to buy only the pink ones, but at least girls finally have an option that they might find more appealing…

  20. I love lego! There are a ton of possibilities of what can be built, just let your imagination go. I agree about the exposure comment. As a female engineer I’m thankful I didn’t have boy legos and girl legos when I was growing up, I would have missed out on too much fun.

      • I have never been interested in saasonel specials’. But they do seem necessary, it brings the Christmas, Halloween or whatever festive spirit to the LEGO BrickFilming Community.For Christmas I would like to get a lot of the Old Star Wars Sets, I’ve always itched to get my hands of the Older Sets :3

  21. Reblogged this on Complexity is a matter of perspective and commented:
    She learned. So. Much. She accomplished something really interesting, and fairly difficult (I know because I’ve helped out with a number of those things myself). She played aliens with her twelve year old brother, and built things with him, and they so very, very rarely play together anymore.

    • Baterra headsBaterra armorNikila’s mask (after contest cludonces) (as with other characters from art contests)Mask of Adaptation, Aging, Biomechanics, Conjuring, Fusion, Incomprehension, Rebounding, Sensory Aptitude, and Undeath. Definately the Mask of Undeath!That’s all I can think of ATM.

  22. Thanks for the insightful post. Challenging children to step outside their gender bounds is a challenge. I am father of a girl and a boy and let me tell you, the preference seems to have been baked in at birth. My daughter will not touch Lego but ha always been attracted to bunnies, dolls and the color pink. My boy is the exact opposite. So I don’t think evil marketeers are to blame, rather than a deeply rooted preference most children have. When any one steps outside this boundary it’s a great thing, be it a girl playing with alien Lego or a boy playing with dolls.

    • There are biological differences between women and men. I am the first one to agree with this, as it really annoys me that I can’t deadlift the same weight a guy can, with the same amount of training.

      That said, a predisposition to liking pink is really, I promise you, not biologically determined. Really. Somewhere along the line, she learned it.

    • I bet you’re still good at sewing things.😀

      I’m a knitter, and you wouldn’t believe the sexist assumptions and general BS male knitters get. From women as well as men. It’s crazy, seriously.

  23. In my town there is a LEGO store. There is a huge ‘Friends’ display case, displaying all the stuff supposedly aimed at girls. I don’t think the store staff like it, as they have positioned a dinosaur (from LEGO’s new ‘Dino’ range) rampaging through the scene, eating one of the girls.🙂

  24. My sister and I are both engineers, and I think it is precisely because my parents did an excellent job of what you did; provided enough encouragement so that we were never intimidated to try something that wasn’t spoon fed to us via gender stereotypes. It’s not like they didn’t let us be girls; I wouldn’t wear anything but pink dresses untill the age of 8 and had a shamefully large collection of American Girl dolls, but we were encouraged equally to consider “boy” toys, play sports, and be good at math. Actually…being good at math was not optional, it was required🙂.

    I am very VERY thankful for this, because I have never felt that the way I was socialized is something that I’ve had to fight against to be successful, and it’s made me quite fearless as a woman in a male-dominated field.

    Excellent post! Keep up the good work (with both the blogging and the parenting)!

    • “provided enough encouragement so that we were never intimidated to try something that wasn’t spoon fed to us via gender stereotypes.” That! Yes! I wish now I’d played more team sports, too. If I knew back when I was trying to become a firefighter what I now know from hockey, I think I wouldn’t have failed.

      And thank you!!😀

      • Your edit turned out abolsutely wonderful! I love the burst of color you added and yet you were able to keep the skin tones even. Very nice!

  25. Perhaps you’ll consider the comments I always made to my son and daughter, starting when they were very young, as we passed through the checkout line at the grocery store, “Now the women on these magazine covers don’t look like this in real life. Someone changed the pictures to make their skin and hair perfect and added lots of makeup. Real women don’t look like that. They look better!”

  26. This is so funny. My wife was just talking about this for our daughter. She had read something about how toys can alter development at a young age and how boys play with these so there good at that and girls play with those so there good at this. One thing that kept coming up was that the boy toys sparked more imagination and creativity. Of course my wife decided to buck that system, lol!

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  28. You’re so right. We should be angry.
    Did you know, scientists wanted to see which toys girls/boys preferred and ended up taking Lincoln Logs out because “too many” girls were playing with them. Nice science, bozos.

  29. I’m probably going to go down in flames for this, but here we go.

    what’s wrong with the pink lego?

    Why do you care so much? If you have a problem with it – don’t buy it. Teach your daughter why you don’t think it’s okay for them to play with that. And if they can understand logically why it shouldn’t be a boundary for them, great! I applaud you for your awesome parenting/communication skill.

    Now, let’s think a little out-of-the-pink-box – what if your boy wants to play with the pink lego? what then?

    I’d like to think that my kids will develop their own sense of who they are. Not through toys or what I think they should be. I bought my daughter a set of these “girly” legos – why? because she loves animals and it had a vet hospital version of it.

    I would love my daughter to grow up without her thinking that she should be a certain way because she’s a girl, but I don’t want her to grow up thinking what she likes is wrong because she’s a girl either.

    • “what’s wrong with the pink lego?”

      Here’s another question: Why are they pink?

      More importantly, why is ‘pink’ the go-to response for companies wanting to appeal to females? Trying to sell tools to women? Make ’em pink. Trying to get girls to play with Lego? Make ’em pink. It’s all pink.

      Along those lines, why is a vet hospital set a ‘girly’ kit? Why isn’t it just a kit? Why do we have a pink aisle set up for girls, and a blue one for boys, and never the ‘twain shall meet? Why can’t we just have an aisle of TOYS and leave the gendering out of it.

      If the kits just happened to be pink (and shelved among the non-pink sets) it would be one thing. But they’re pink specifically as gender-coding. There’s no need for it.

    • Yep, that’s interesting to me too. Why do you suppose that is, that in general the women have a different experience of this issue? Women who are in tech in particular?

      Sometimes maybe it’s good for men to be willing to listen to a woman’s perspective as having some experience with this that you, while quite knowledgeable, don’t have.

      I wonder if it occurs to any of the men here with strong opinions that maybe there is a strong perspective difference that keeps them from understanding the damage and ramifications of this issue… because they don’t live it?

      • It’s an issue because you’re making it an issue. I just don’t understand why it makes you so angry?

        LEGO most likely decided to make “friends” because kids wanted it – not to shove down their throats. I don’t understand why you get so offended by the segregation of toys?

      • My wife is also OK with the new Lego. I posted here because I saw the link first. But no, you go on and tell me how I don’t listen to what my wife has to say because you know all about my circumstances that must’ve made me blind to the evils of Lego Friends.


      • Can’t edit replies so I’m just gonna post a new one. I apologise for the tone of my previous comment. I’m gonna leave this alone for now because (as someone who isn’t just +1’ing your post) I don’t think I have anything useful I can say.

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  31. As a science educator (chemistry professor at a small liberal arts college) and the father of both a boy and a girl, I find the post and the discussion quite interesting.

    I tend to find myself conflicted on the gender-specific marketing of toys. I am more disturbed by the “pinkification” of things for no inherent reason. For example, why does a baseball glove or a basketball need to be made in pink? These are functional devices for which the color has no purpose. In contrast I do see the value of the stealth approach offered by the Lego Friends, assuming parents use them as a vehicle for interesting a child in the joy of Legos (of which I am a huge fan).

    In a larger view, the perception of gender balance in the science/engineering realm is intriguing to me. With respect to chemistry, my local view is the exact opposite of what is hinted at here-namely the student population of our department is majority female and was so even before we hired women faculty in the last five years (replacements at schools like ours only happen through retirements or death, so they take time). In some years we have even been 90% female. The national view is not that much different, with over 50% of bachelor’s degrees awarded to females. My recollection of the statistics in other tech fields is that the numbers at the bachelor’s level are not as skewed as people think any more. In fact most colleges have a gender imbalance tilted toward majority female overall to the point that there is a slowly growing concern about what we are not doing with boys educationally that leads them to non-college paths (gender stereotyping of professions probably plays a role here as well).

    That said, I think the post gets at an even more important point about education and accomplishment. When your daughter said “this is too hard” you answered by refuting that claim, giving gentle encouragement and then expecting her to put in effort and time on the task. From my view, this kind of encouragement and expectation is missing too often in the lives of all children, boys and girls. We too often let kids say “This is too hard” or “I am no go at math” without saying “learning and being good at things takes real effort and practice” Why do we seem to think that learning how to throw a football or hit a baseball requires time, practice and effort but learning how to do math, build lego creations, design buildings, write novels (or stories of any type) are matters of innate talent or abilities, let alone with a gender basis. I constantly tell my students that learning chemistry is no different than the sport they participating in; mastery requires dedication, time, effort, practice, repetition.

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  33. This is why we love the Harry Potter lego sets so desperately even though they are wicked hard to build and have eleventy billion pieces and cost eleventy billion dollars. My daughter, age 8 and a lego builder since 5 or 6, just loves the girl characters. She wants the different hairstyles and colored clothes. She has some Friends sets (I have a love/hate relationship with them. Some kids are really nifty like the science lab one with little bottles, unique lego pieces you don’t see in many sets, but others are so freaking stereotypical I want to sic a hungry lego dino on them like a previous poster described.😉 But she plays with those mostly on her own.

    The harry potter (and Prince of Persia and Star Wars and other special themed sets) sets are what she and her 10 year old brother play with. He, incidentally, still gets completely fired up at the opportunity to build a new set. He things the Friends sets are kinda cool (beyond the pink thing, another feature is that they use brighter colors than some of the more boy-oriented sets use. More white and bright green, less gray and beige.) But they still play “lego school” where all the minifigs are either learning to be jet piots, dragon riders, or going to spells classes to become wizards. Girls AND boys. And for that, I will continue to love Lego forever.

    I’m a girl technologist (grown, but still a chick with computers) and I am passionate about helping more girls find their way to technology careers. My challenge to you and your readership is to keep TALKING about what actual careers in the sciences, engineering, tech, math *look* like. Because designing usability studies for new corporate employee benefits systems can be extremely interesting work and way different from the stereotypical male programmer hunched over a glowing computer monitor. We have to SHOW these kids (girls and boys, but particularly girls) what the world of tech is like (and other STEM fields) so they can make an informed choice about what field of study to pursue.

  34. Oh I sooo have to go and buy some of this Lego now. I always wanted a Meccano set when I was a girl, but my Mum wouldn’t get it for me😦 No matter, I still went on to be an Engineer.

  35. This has been a big topic of conversation in our house. We have 2 girls and 2 boys, all of them into Legos. Some have graduated to First Lego League, so they can add robotics to their Legos. But the Lego people really annoy us. To the point where my kids recently tallied, by gender, the minifigs available on the Lego website. I knew it was bad, but the results were REALLY shameful. 69% identifiably male, 16% female, 15% gender not identified. If we remove the Lego Friends sets, which I’m tempted to do because they’re not interchangeable with the other Legos (and they’re just stoopid), the percentages are 71% male, 13% female, 15% unknown. That’s right – more aliens and masked characters than identifiable females in the Lego world.

    The Duplos were much better: 59% male, 41% female, but we still don’t see why the figures can’t mirror reality more. How hard is it to make more female hairpieces???

  36. Maybe it boils down to this: parents want their children to be secure, when they become adults. Do you want your girl to become:

    1) a “Real Woman”, i.e. attractive, feminine, well-dressed, sexy, able to obtain and hold on to an attractive, providing and caring husband.

    2) able to fend for herself, with her own education, opinion, skills, career, etc., maybe picking someone intelligent over someone handsome or rich?

    Which horse to bet on? Most parents seem to bet on both, but the opinions differ on how to divide the money.

    Toys are often bought as presents. Even when you known the girl is into sports, you have to take her parents into account, where they are on the betting scale.

    Buying a pink baseball bat is a great way to get around the issue: somewhat useful, somewhat feminine. Safe choice.

    For manufacturers it’s easy to produce all kinds of children’s baseball bats, each catering to a different kind of parent.

    “We” want our girl to obtain her Master of Science, but we still want her to know what to wear to the graduation party and look great in her dress.

    Our boy child should learn how to communicate, express his feelings, handle conflict, but we want him to be strong, ambitious and a leader as well.

    Why blame companies for exploiting our ambiguity?

  37. Pingback: Lego for girls | Remco's weblog

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  39. Wow, this is eye-opening! I had no idea they made “girl Legos” – I had no idea that “we” (girls) needed them. My sister and I were perfectly happy (and capable) with the crazy complex pirate ships and castles they made when I was little. Makes me grateful for my parents – and makes me want to go out and buy *real* Legos for my 2 nieces!

  40. I find it interesting that most of the indignation comes from the “pink” aisle. What about boys? My son wanted a kitchen and play food. At the time, they were all pink and purple, so that’s what he got. He also wanted a doll house and Littlest Pet Shop toys. His favorite collection of toys to this date are his Webkinz, which are mostly marketed to girls. BTW, he also loves Lego and Hot Wheels.

    My younger self also used to be kind of militant about the “pink” aisle – I majored in Math because there were mostly men; and not for the dating potential, but to “prove the point” that women are just as good as men. Having a son has opened my eyes to the opposite side of the coin, but I rarely see anyone get upset over that.

  41. I have two young sons, the oldest being five years old. We’re very much into the LEGO phase right now. Actually, my thirty-something husband never got out of that phase, and has received numerous LEGO sets for recent holidays. We also spend a lot of time at Target for various reasons. My son always wants to visit the LEGO aisle, so we spend a lot of time there, too. Just yesterday, as we were walking past the various toy sections, I noted the LEGO “Friends” set (the pink one, obviously for girls, that you mentioned above) no longer exists in the general LEGO aisle. It’s now in the “girls” section of the toy department–the very pink and purple section full of dolls and dress-up clothes and all the other stereotypical “girl” toys. And, you know what? Every time my son sees those sets on the LEGO website or at the store, he always thinks they’d be cool to make. He’s fascinated by them just as much as the sets that are now clearly being advertised for boys.

    LEGO didn’t pander to the stereotypes not so long ago. I remember building a LEGO castle with a friend back in the 80’s and loving every minute of it–and we were both girls. I still enjoy putting LEGO sets together, and have a few Harry Potter sets of my own. I wish LEGO would stop following the hype, step up, and show the world that toys can be enjoyed by both genders equally.

    • Supercoollegodude ..your an idiot. The Friends series isn’t for guys it’s for girls to give them a theme that carets more to their needs! Of course your not going to like it, your a guy, it’d be disturbing if you thought you were going to like it. From what I’ve seen, the sets look great. The sets are of same quality and value of a Lego theme set and the figures are the size of mini figures NOT freakishly huge like Belville which did indeed flop. Lego is long overdue catering the female crowd to a theme that is worthy of being a a Lego theme. I’m actually excitged to see if the theme does well.

  42. I totally agree with everything you wrote!

    My daughters (3 and 6) own tons of their own lego sets (not to be combined with their dad’s sets) and NONE of them are Lego Friends. They have Pirate, Dino, City, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Ninjago and Batman. I do have to admit though, she wanted the Pirate set that came with the mermaid.

    You know, I just realized that while we often buy Legos for boys for birthdays, I don’t get Legos for other girls (usually go crafts). I might start doing that to help other families break down those gender barriers.

  43. Also, it would be nice if you could get a female minifig in any set that’s under $75!!!! Usually, the first 3 minifigs in a set are male and a female mini is only included if it’s a larger more expensive set that comes with 4+ minis. Boo!!😛

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  46. Am I the only one who does not understand why it’s bad to depict a girl who has breasts?

    Other than my puzzlement over that, this is a great article. My only child is a 7-year-old boy who loves bright colors and variety of colors, especially purple, so is frustrated that the pink and purple Legos come only in the less interesting sets (and the expensive Harry Potter purple bus).

  47. i never owned legos growing up b/c they were a “toy for boys.” So I just used every opportunity spent with my boy cousins to take advantage of their massive lego collections. Every holiday they received a pirate ship, space shuttle, airplane, etc and it turned into them watching as I put it all together for them. I YEARNED to create and flex my spacial muscles. Fast forward 20 years and a masters in architecture later and I finally received my first lego set that my husband bought me. Encourage the growth of your daughter’s spacial skills and creativity as much as you can!

  48. And please, never get rid of them. Five years ago, I made the mistake of selling thousands of legos with instruction sets taped together for $100 on craigs list. My adult sons had both moved away, and I was packing my house of 30+ years for a long distance move. I have regrets about the sale. After all, it was only a couple more boxes to move. I know they would love to have them now.

  49. Just a quick comment. I was lucky that my parents encouraged me in math and science, and bought me lots of legos (when I failed to play with any of the Barbies they got me). Then I spent 13 years in a successful IT career, before moving on to write speculative fiction. So yes, this is so important. When I saw the “girl” legos, I died a little inside.

  50. Pingback: Legos, Spaceships, and Breasts « Rachel Marie Stone

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  52. Why should we get ticked? Both toys are equally available to children of both genders. Also, your daughter got the one with aliens in it, not the one with the doll and simple car. Also, guess which one is advertised more! Yep, the one with aliens.

  53. I justlike stumbled across tghis blog and have to cheer on your daughter. Yeah, who would want a smelly boy toy. LOL. I didn’t realize that about the car, but then many Lego cars are that simple. I like the new Friends line. I don’t think I would have wanted to buy many whenI was younger though, partially because I was the one collecting Space sets. I will be comparing the Friends sets to the other lines though. It strikes me as odd that a simple set should cost the same as an expensive one.

  54. I’m not mad, just moderately annoyed. It’s not like LEGO pigeon-holed girls into these simple, “girly” kits. A lot of market research went into these kits. Apparently, girls on average want to play more than build. I’m annoyed that girls don’t get more complex and diversified kits aimed at the ones that want something more complicated, but…well, the author’s daughter very vehemently wanted the UFO kit. If anything, I blame parents that pigeon-hole their children into “gender appropriate” toys more than the toy makers. My folks let me have girl toys when I wanted them, and I turned out just fine.

  55. Hey there this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if
    blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to
    manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog
    soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi, Leanne – most major hosts like WordPress allow you to do both.

      There’s a very good editor where you can get in and just type and insert media as you would with something like a word processing program.

      You can also get behind that and wrangle the code yourself. These days HTML is generally used less than CSS, and while the editors are great, sometimes it’s good to know what’s under the cover. HTML and CSS tags are really easy to learn — CSS in particular is flexible and intuitive.

      If you want to learn a little CSS you could try writing a dummy post and putting some pictures in it, then taking a look at the code behind the post, and tinkering with it. If you break something, it’s not a big deal because you can fix it in the editor.

      I recommend WordPress for being really easy to use, flexible and robust.

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