I don’t have too much of a problem with the Lego Friends line. I don’t mind that it has lots of pink and purple pastels, and the themes seem perfectly nice for the most part. A tree house, cool car, vet clinic, home, and cafe are all pretty normal settings that don’t necessarily scream “You’re a girl – stay in your place!” (Sure, the beauty shop is a little iffy, but then again, I have to admit my girls spent an awful lot of time doing their ZhuZhu Pets’ hair when they were given a salon for them.) My biggest problem with the Lego Friends line is that the segregation exacerbates and may be used to justify Lego’s marginalization of girls in their other toys. (And it also tends to exclude boys from playing tree house or vet clinic, which seems unfair.) Sure, girls can play with Lego sets that don’t include female figures, but I think it’s better for girls to have the option to play with figures that are “like them.” And Lego’s more adventuresome sets don’t offer that.
For example, Lego’s Airport set comes with five figures. There’s one female. Guess what her role is? Yep, flight attendant. Similarly, Lego’s licensed movie products tend to fail the Bechdel test just like the associated movies – The Avengers set has one woman, the Star Wars set has one woman, The Pirates of the Caribbean sets have up to one woman, etc. One brighter spot comes with the Harry Potter sets, which may actually include more than one female figure, and offer an array of female hero and villain figures across the line.
Meanwhile, the Lego City sets make a few stabs at equality by occasionally including one female figure. Which I do appreciate. But how come the boys are guaranteed someone like them in every cool action-oriented set, but girls will be lucky to find such a set with one female character, and more than one is out of the question?
Recently, when Chloe decided she’d rather have a police set than a Friends set, I came up with my own solution. I’ll demonstrate with her latest set – Raptor Chase.
Step 1: Get yourself a cool Lego set. This one comes with two dudes.
Step 2: Go on Ebay and buy a set of female minifigure heads. And/or some female hairstyles. Like so:
Step 3: Now you can do home gender reassignment on your Lego guys. Chloe chose to have one man and one woman hunting raptors:
My girls have a lot of fun exchanging heads on various Lego sets, playing with different hairstyles, and inserting more females into the narrative of Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars. They tend to play with a mix of male and female figures, but use more females than those that come with the original play sets.
At one point, Chloe was considering the pirate-y looking lady head. I approved, saying, “She looks a little bit mean, but like she can get things done.” Chloe responded, “Yeah . . . like you!”
I’ll take that as a compliment.