LEGO’s appalling response to a 10 yr old girl

Callie, a ten year old girl, wrote to LEGO. She was upset about the sexism of LEGO’s new Friends sets created  “for girls.” Callie wrote a beautiful, well thought out letter. Her mom emailed Callie’s letter and LEGO’s unbelievably dimwitted, impersonal response to Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals.

Here’s how Callie’s letter begins:

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.

Here is part of LEGOs response:

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 bad guy” types of scenes, while girls enjoy role play, such as going shopping with their minifigures.

LEGO, do you think boys might take out the girls because they’ve been conditioned to? Because they rarely see females in kids’ media doing anything adventurous or fun at all? Do you even read what you write: good guy versus bad guy? You know what tools help to act that out? Good guys and bad guys. Please take a look at your own minifigs. What about your brand new sets coming out in 2012: Lord of the Rings and Superheroes? How many females compared to males are included in those sets? (If you’re going to complain that this sexism is not LEGO’s fault but J.R.R. Tolkien’s or Hollywood’s or DC Comics, please read this post: When Hollywood excludes girls, how can LEGO market to them?)

That good/ bad duality you’re writing to Callie about? It’s not a boy thing. It’s a human thing. It’s also “role play” by the way. (What do you think role play is?) And shopping– that would be a cultural phenomenon. Not innate. LEGO, do you honestly believe that girls are born loving to shop? REALLY?

It’s so great that, as an educational toy and all, LEGO has decided to finally allow females into front and center roles by creating sets with girls baking cupcakes, drinking cocktails in hot tubs, and going to the beauty shop. (See LEGO’s TV ad for the Friends sets here.)

To sign the petition against LEGO “for girls” on Change.org started by Powered by Girl and SPARK please click here. So far, this petition has gathered over 50,000 signatures but no response from LEGO when PBG and SPARK sent a letter (which I signed as well, you can read it here) with the petition enclosed, requesting a meeting to discuss the concerns of unhappy customers. Just yesterday, SPARK sent LEGO a second letter by certified mail requesting a response by February 6. It seems strange that LEGO would ignore 50,000 customers after spending four years “researching” what girls want.

Here are the full letters from Callie and LEGO reposted with permission from Pigtail Pals:

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………

Update: If you are concerned over how much help Callie got from her mom on her letter, you can read specifics here in the comments section.

8 thoughts on “LEGO’s appalling response to a 10 yr old girl

  1. Pingback: ReSoMe | Relevant Social Media Kids These Days: Talking directly to your customer - ReSoMe

  2. First of all, the 10 year old had some help with this letter. Hey mommy. ;) I gotta wonder how much of this fight is the little girl’s and how much is her mom’s. I have 3 sons that ‘LOVE’ LEGO and one daughter who ‘LIKES’ LEGO. My daughter used to take the boys’ Bionicle pieces and make rather skeletal-looking horses, pegasus, and other animals out of them, but there were no sets/themes that she was especially keen on. Part of the difference is LEGO and part is my girl. Lego wants to sell to little girls. Their study said “this is the way to do it” and they tried to implement it. I’m not thrilled with the girly LEGO sets either, but at least they are trying. The create-your-own site is a great start. Play nice and don’t write them off just yet.

  3. I suppose I’m a bit confused too. There will always be gender differences, both coded into our DNA as well as behavioral. Fact is, The LEGO Group did do market testing, and even consulted a 14yr old girl (who is a close community friend of ours) who actually created mock-up sets and gave a presentation to the community prior to LEGO speaking with her. I think the LEGO Friends: Piano set, Chemistry lab and Cupcake/Bakery kitchen are a positive reflection of what girls enjoy doing these days. Their evaluation of what boys want is accurate as well. They would rather role-play from within their imagination, not fabricate scenarios where they are interacting with female characters. Of course boys toss out the girlie figures, or customize them to look like something else.

    So you want LEGO to make sets that represent a minority of the population where a tiny fraction of boys help their moms cook and girls help their dad work on a muscle car? They are in the business to make money and such sets, only appealing to a minority, will go bust.

    The good news is that LEGO has a new system out called CUUSOO where you can submit ‘My Own Creations’ to be made as actual sets. It requires quite a few votes to make it through the various stages but is quite fun.

  4. So I am a bit confused, is Feminism about equality of opportunity or about obliterating gender differences? Telling a company they shouldn’t allow their customers choices in how they choose to interpret their word through play, seems counter to the original goal of allowing women the freedom to choose their own path in this world.

    Maybe, just maybe Callie’s mom should teach her that there is no shame in being a hairdresser, makeup artist, fashion designer or any other “traditional” female professions. Just like for a man there is no shame for a man to be a carpenter, plumber, or even custodian.

    There is a fiction telling every little girl that she won’t be a good “Feminist” unless she is in a traditional male role.

    This ignores the reality that given their choice many women enjoy things that are viewed as “girly”. The reason for small “f” feminism in the first place was to create a world where the values traditionally associated with women were given equal footing to those associated with men.

    It seems that capital “F” feminists have completely forgotten that the point of the movement was to give freedom to those who had been oppressed by having a role forced on them, not to oppress others by impressing their own vision of how roles should be treated.

    • Hi Thomas,
      Couldn’t disagree with you more. LEGO’s agressive, segregated marketing denies girls choices. If the anorexic supermodel were one of many images of women in the media, it wouldn’t bother me. Girlworld is way too limited.

      MM

      • oh it segregates them does it? so the lables on the toys specifically say ‘boys 3-12′ and ‘girls 3-12′ and they actually prevent a girl buying a boy’s set and vice versa do they? as to ‘girls world’ is to limited, no shit sherlock. the old style (that’s always appealed to boys more, hence this new line) has been around for decades, not months. seems a bit unfair to winge about the smaller product line when its only just come out.

        get over yourself.

  5. Wow, the answer people at lego gave is actually kind of funny. They “found” that all clichés are true, lol, how much would you bet that they found that in their asses rather than any type of research?

    If they just said straight out what they wanted to rather than cuty it up with rosy prose we would be reading:

    Dear Callie

    We’re not gonna take into account anything you said or give you a real answer, as in actually addressing some of your points. Because

    we don’t care
    we’re making money
    we don’t care
    people are gonna buy this shit anyway
    we’re making a lot more money
    did we mention we don’t care? Lols fuck you bitch.

    Sincerely, lego friends ;)

    • so you dont think companies like lego actually do research, and then act on the results of that research? you think they’re simply acting on instinct and their own selfish ‘dated’ views and just hoping that they’ll continue making sales? I mean, look at cadbury. they never test their nmew chocolate ideas on anyone. they just put out new chocolates all the time and ‘hope’ that people will like the flavors. yess surrr eee.