LEGOs Could Use a Makeover.

Construction worker Lego with sticker that says, "Hey Babe!"

LEGOs are some of the most creative toys around for kids. When I was growing up, I loved mixing together sets and building whole worlds (including assembling a perfect replica of Jurassic Park whose quality I will defend to this day) and never saw them as a toy meant for either boys or girls. 

But recently, LEGOs have come under fire for two reasons. One is the collection of stickers seen above, which writer Josh Stearns of blog Talking to Strangers spotted on Amazon last week. The stickers portray only men working on construction and clearly promote the kind of routine hollering that is otherwise known as street harassment. The only way this sticker would be appropriate is if it was used by an actual baby to say “hey!” to another babe. And then you have to worry about LEGOs being nasty choking hazards so, nevermind. Anyway, Stearns contacted LEGO and they responded noting that—good news!—the product was discontinued in 2010, though you can still add your two cents with a punchy Amazon review

Bickering about LEGOs might seem silly, but they’re great toys for introducing kids to jobs. That makes this faux pas all the more annoying. In 2010, women made up only 2.6 percent of the nation’s 8.4 million construction workers. When women do work in construction, though, their wages are far more equal to men’s wages than any other industry in the country. Even though that specific sticker set has been discontinued, it’s hard to find specifically female LEGOs among their sets. Instead, “girls” is a category of LEGO products set off from the rest

That brings us to the second complaint about LEGOs: The lack of female figures. LEGO has a well-documented gender gap in its sets—more than half of the toys actually come off as gender neutral, but there are three times as many clearly male figures as clearly female ones. The company totally botched the chance to include more female characters last year in its Barbie-inspired LEGO Friends line. 

What we need are more LEGO sets like this one proposed by a geochemist and LEGO fan

women in science lego set

Now THAT would have been a great addition to my homemade Jurassic Park.

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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8 Comments Have Been Posted

lego cuusoo

Anybody can make an account on CUUSOO and vote for that project! (Please do! It needs more votes!)

Another great set on CUUSOO is Ladyada's workshop: .
It doesn't add to the percentage of female vs male minifigs, because it isn't minifig scale, but it's a pretty great "open-source hardware electronics company" set, with a lego laser cutter and soldering iron...


Stop being so darn sensitive about everything. Seriously? You really are bitchy.

Lighten Up...

FYI...babe is a term of endearment used by men and women. I have several male friends that i refer to as "babe" all the time. Lighten up...there are bigger problems with the world.

They say BABE all the time in

They say BABE all the time in Baltimore.

Channeling your inner AFOL

Thank you for you post, I enjoyed reading it but, dosen't your graphic belong NOT to current cultural attitudes espoused by the Lego Cooperation, but RATHER to the buying category and subject known as COLLECTABLES?

Do kids by collectables, they do. However, I believe that Amazon has instead placed this ad to appeal to AFOLs.
and not the school aged children who, along with their culpable parents, way out spend the sorry no good AFOLs.

Want to know about AFOLs, feel free skip to the bottom of this post.

Let me also add that I am the father of one of those young men that the Lego Cooperation tried to sell this particular product to in 2010. Perhaps I can shed some light on the issue from that perspective

If you go to a place called LegoLand, and I have by the way because as my son is one of those nintyfifth percentile BOYS, and you go into the gift shop, which every child and parent MUST, repeat MUST do because this is the only way out of LegoLand, you will see all kinds of kids my son's age and older (and younger too) plunking down all kinds of cold hard cash for that next Lego DethStar iteration

What % are girls... about 5 I'd say. Only a guess on my part, didn't stay there long, couldn't afford too. I, however, believe to be accurate.

Lego has introduced sets designed to appeal to this under represented group only to see these efforts fall flat (as in not profitable) almost every time. You'd think that with all the money they have made on parents like myself, this particular toy manufacturer would be able to knock this one out of the park... and yet they don't. Go figure?

Ask a 9year old boy about his Lego set collection and you will, in about a half a nanosecond see a barely flickering flame suddenly kindle into a bone fire. And as a parent, I more than happy to buy that next set 100 dollar, which I've done more times than I can count, just to see that happen one more time.

For my daughter I buy decorative duct tape... much cheaper by the way in case your wondering. Lots and lots cheaper.

When I was a girl, I was

When I was a girl, I was reluctant to ask for the big, expensive lego sets, but my family bought sets and pieces that combined well, and by the end, we could, and did, create complex worlds that were many feet across.

One thing I've noticed is an observation Lego also had - girls think of them as cool blocks, to create with, and then as play sets to have characters run around in for a while. I occasionally remember getting a set with instructions that I tried, and I've bought them as an adult, but it's not the same style of play. I'm not terribly tempted to keep following instructions for hours. Sets that absolutely have to be built a certain way, and then preserved in that condition, can be cool, but they start to feel more like a chore than a toy.

So if she's seen your son treating legos like kits, learning that they're not could be a very pleasant surprise...

It might be a lot of fun to grab a big pile of legos together, and just sit down and make random stuff. In my opinion, doing this with castle pieces is the best way to come down from the rush of watching an awesome movie. You can quickly start to remake the scenes as you remember them, and then throw some new characters into the world, and play around. We did Robin Hood and Adam's Family, and various adventures.

support a a gender neutral look at work

Great article. Love the female scientist Lego prototypes. I feel like careers, or life passions or what have you have a lot more to do with left brain, right brain disposition rather than gender. Fostering a gender neutral look at work is a positive social step IMHO.

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