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Maybe LEGO doesn’t run unisex ads because little girls actually want to build pink stuff

February 17, 2014

The HuffPost’s Jessica Samakow is unhappy that LEGO doesn’t do ads featuring little girls in scruffy jeans the way it did 33 years ago:

Pay attention, 2014 Mad Men: This little girl is holding a LEGO set. The LEGOs are not pink or “made for girls.” She isn’t even wearing pink. The copy is about “younger children” who “build for fun.” Not just “girls” who build. ALL KIDS.

In an age when little girls and boys are treated as though they are two entirely different species by toy marketers, this 1981 ad for LEGO— one of our favorite images ever — issues an important reminder.

This is actually not a new issue for the HuffPost, which has been harping for two solid years about LEGO’s “Friends” line–introduced in 2011–of building toys designed specifically to appeal to little girls. The Friends sets, like the classic LEGOs aimed at boys, feature lots of building ideas: for beach houses, “puppy playhouses,” teeny stalls for teeny horsies, etc.Yup, the puppies and horsies wear bows. Yup, the predominant colors are pink and purple. Yup, the “friends” in the Friends sets are five cute and super-fashionable tweens who seem to enjoy dressing up and fixing snacks for each other–in a teeny kitchen. Horrors!

Feminists hate the Friends line. Actually “hate” is too mild a word. In 2012 a couple of them launched a petition to get LEGO to get rid of Friends:

After 4 years of marketing research, LEGO has come to the conclusion that girls want LadyFigs, a pink Barbielicious product line for girls, so 5 year-olds can imagine themselves at the café, lounging at the pool with drinks, brushing their hair in front of a vanity mirror, singing in a club, or shopping with their girlfriends. As LEGO CEO Jorgan Vig Knudstorp puts it, “We want to reach the other 50% of the world’s population.”

As representatives of that 50%, we aren’t buying it! Marketers, ad execs, Hollywood and just about everyone else in the media are busy these days insisting that girls are not interested in their products unless they’re pink, cute, or romantic. They’ve come to this conclusion even though they’ve refused to market their products to the girls they are so certain will not like them. Who populates commercials for LEGO? Boys! Where in the toy store can you find original, creative, construction-focused LEGO? The boy aisle! So it’s no wonder LEGO’s market research showed girls want pink, already-assembled toys that don’t do anything. It’s the environment and the message marketers have bombarded girls with for over a decade because, of course, stereotypes make marketing products so much easier.

Meanwhile, the Friends sets are selling bigger than ever two years later–here’s the new Friends swimming pool!

So…maybe, just maybe, that little girl in the sloppy bluejeans back in 1981 didn’t sell a lot of LEGOs. Maybe, just maybe there’s a reason that girls have been playing with dolls, dollhouses, and toy kitchens since time out mind. Maybe they actually like those girly toys. Maybe they like to pretend-decorate rooms and pretend-mother little animals. Maybe it has something to do with female nature, not gender-“stereotyping.” Maybe those four years of research at LEGO actually showed the company something–that the market for conventional LEGOs consists mostly of little boys, who love to put things together because of their spatially oriented brains. The executives at LEGO aren’t stupid.

And, hey, moms and dads–if you think your little girl would prefer a conventional LEGO set over a Friends model, there’s no law preventing you from heading over to the “boys'” aisle to pick one up for her.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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One Comment
  1. I yield to no one in my contempt for every form of feminism but that “let’s go to the pool!” commercial was MORONIC. I suppose I’d have dug it at age 10. If it makes feminists angry, though, I’m fer it.

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