LEGO’s new Town Hall shows potential but falls into gender stereotypes

It’s so great that a female architect designed and gets to intro the new LEGO Town Hall set. Here’s the video.

Do you think this architect is grateful she didn’t have to play with the ridiculous Friends set when she was a kid?

But my enthusiasm waned when the architect introduced the minifigs. First comes the Mayor, the boss and the most important one, the star of the set. He’s male. (We see his cool office inside as well.) Next comes his secretary, guess what gender?

I was spacing out listening to this video and the reason I even started to pay attention was I heard the architect was going on and on about “a new print on her torso and there is this old tradition that you have to wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. And she’s wearing a new necklace and yeah, a new print.”

I did a double take and realized she was talking about the bride. Specifically, her dress and accessories.

LEGO deserves kudos for letting a female intro this set. When she comes on she says: “I bet you’re surprised to see me,” so I’m thinking its the first time she’s gotten this role.  I hope she had a big role in the Town Hall design as well. But LEGO, please try to break out of the gender stereotypes with your minifigs. Remember, you’re marketing these characters to kids. You’re giving kids tools for fantasy play and showing children what they can be when they grow up. Except for the “lady reporter” the adult figs are all limited to “traditional” gender roles. What about a female mayor and a male secretary? Would LEGO ever consider that?

Reel Girl rates LEGO Town Hall ***G/SSS***

10 thoughts on “LEGO’s new Town Hall shows potential but falls into gender stereotypes

  1. I feel that the only way I can deal with what is, is to not get over-involved with consumerism. I am lucky to come from a line of women who are strong of courage and soft of heart. It is sometimes tricky to be hard and soft at the same time. But what keeps me going is a poem my son wrote for me, “Mom, you are a woman made of silk, soft and strong. My daughter, noticing a little moisture at the edge of my eyes said, oh come on Mom, he thought that one up while sitting on the toilet. So as things turn out, it’s my son who gives me the courage to be soft and my daughter who gives me the courage to not shed tears of joy, at least for not more time than it takes for us to bake a pie and enjoy it together. Then clean up the mess together afterwards.

  2. It doesn’t apply to the set seen here, but there are some good female minifigs being made available in the very popular Lego Minifigures sets (the random-packed ones, where you get one from a selection of sixteen different figures, and can easily feel the bag to see what you’re actually getting), lately. The ratio is still iffy, of course, the vast majority of the females in these selections are pretty good, and mostly not stereotypical. I’ve listed them all below;

    In Series 1: Nurse, and Cheerleader. The latter is a bit of a stereotype, but the Nurse is clearly a positive figure.

    In Series 2: A somewhat stereotypical Pamela Anderson-style Lifeguard and pink-clad Pop Star are present in this set, but they’re offset by the pretty neat Witch (who’s in there right alongside a male monster, which is a Vampire).

    In Series 3: Tennis Player (who, apparently, is the very best there is at the game, and has a racket forged from alloy from a rare type of meteorite :P), Hula Dancer, and Snowboarder. The same number of females as Series 2, but clearly less stereotypes overall.

    In Series 4: Kimono Girl (a quite nicely-designed Legofied representation of a geisha), Ice Skater (a little bit girly-girl-looking, but not a girly-girl dressed in pink, for once), and Surfer Girl (a teeny bit of pink, but quite cool).

    In Series 5: Cave Woman (the female equivalent to the male Caveman from an earlier set, whose bio mentions that she’s the one who gets to do all the fun stuff like fighting man-eating dinosaurs!), Egyptian Queen (blatantly Lego Cleopatra!), Fitness Instructor (all-pink, blah), and Zookeeper (someone with a normal-but-cool job!).

    In Series 6: Flamenco Dancer, Lady Liberty, Surgeon (I really like this one – they could have just gone with a stereotypical male surgeon, but didn’t), Skater Girl, and Intergalactic Girl (she’s an astronaut with a cool design, but she’s also wearing nothing but pink, which I personally found a little bit off-putting).

    It’s also noteworthy that, again, whilst the ratio is a bit poor, there’s always been at least one female on the packaging, and in the more recent line-ups there have consistently been two shown on the packets, instead. Perhaps they’re getting somewhere, slowly but surely.

  3. Playmobil is such a great alternative to Lego where all of the sets are accessible to both boys and girls. Sure there are still gender stereotypes to an extent, but it’s a MUCH better alternative to Lego.

  4. My so-called fiancé is a huge Lego fan, and I’ve spent more money than I should on buying him sets for his birthday, Hanukah, and various other holidays and occasions. He got me into Legos as well. While I’ve been with him, I’ve enjoyed building things like a Medieval village, a dwarves’ mine, a fort, spaceships, and trains.

    When I was much younger, I played with Duplos which we still have, and they were rather gender-neutral. I was the girl who always complained that Smurfette was too girly and carried my dolls under my arm like a football, so I probably would’ve been bored off my rocker with the new “Lego friends” set. Lego executives need to rethink their strategy if they think girls will only want to play with Legos if they’re pink and stereotypically girly. That insults everyone’s intelligence, and encourages girls to have their interests dictated by marketing and commercialism. (I also had a subscription to Zillions magazine when I was a preteen, so I was wise to how these people make commercials and marketing campaigns to try to appeal to young people and make them believe they need to have a certain thing.)

    I used to post on a message board about silent and early sound film where the moderator had a similar anti-feminist attitude, and was always throwing around the term “radical feminist.” It was so clear from her comments and attitude that she didn’t have the foggiest idea what feminism is actually all about, let alone what the radical feminist school of thought is and how it’s different from other main schools of feminist thought. It was just some canard she bandied about when she didn’t really know what she was talking about and was just sentimentalizing a past that never was.

    • Carrie-Anne: I do know what I’m talking about. I was one of the first female helicopter pilots in the US Army. Don’t think I don’t understand feminism. Now you get to enjoy a better life off “this bridge called my back.”

      You assume far too much when people oppose your views. Plus, LEGO is meant to be built & re-built with your imagination — never mind the themes — just create your world as you see it, with any color bricks. Just because Friends don’t appeal to you doesn’t mean there aren’t girls out there right now opening a box of bricks for the very first time — because they ‘do’ relate to Friends. Can’t you be happy for those girls?

      • LegoMyMamma,

        Of course LEGO can be rebuilt and the secretary could run a campaign and get elected mayor, but this is about MARKETING. Specifically, the limited roles and stereotypes that LEGO sells to kids and parents. Kids don’t have to buy the Friends set, but its on commercials, they’re making videos starring the characters. Kids look for images of themselves out there. Girls are obsessed with princesses not because they are born drawn to frilly and pink, but because kids are self-centered. When girls are princesses (or brides) its one of the rare moments they get to be a star in the show.

        MM

      • I was not assuming anything other than what I normally assume about people who spout off “rad fems” and other terms. Why again do you believe those of us who are against these sexist Legos are radical feminists and throwing hissy fits? You were the one opposing those of us who are against these sexist new Legos. Have you ever read why many feminists are against these sexist pink Legos? We’re not against the color pink or girls choosing to play with them, but against the marketing of such things to the exclusion of anything else, not giving girls choices as they had when I was growing up. My parents raised me as a person, not a set of stereotypes erroneously based on biological sex, which is exactly how I’ll raise any future children. I actually would prefer not having a daughter, because it’s so hard to raise girls in the current climate of Disney princess culture, sex-segregated toy stores, sexualized clothing even for 3-year-olds, etc.

        The Lego Friends line is very narrowly focused on stereotypical “girl” things, not like the more interesting sets I mentioned. That’s not giving girls choices, and perpetuating the modern stereotype many children unfortunately believe, that girls can only do certain things, and boys get to do other things. There’s not much imagination in the Lego Friends set. It’s all centered around boring stereotypically girly stuff.

        What exactly do you think radical feminism is? It definitely isn’t merely speaking against the current Disney princess culture and the marketing of pink, passive toys and clothing to little girls! Have you read any of the many arguments against the Lego Friends line, and did you listen to their points with an open mind and understand why the arguments were being made?

  5. The reason she said she bet people are surprised is not because she’s a female — it’s because another designer (who actually started the Modular building line) usually gives the Introductions to new Modular buildings in the videos. They aren’t just “letting a female” intro the set — she’s the designer. Why do you have to twist that around?

    She’s an architect, she’s worked for TLG for 3 years and she most certainly likes Friends!

    That any of the RadFem groups think her presenting the Town Hall has anything to do with their hissy fit & petition just goes to show, once again, you know little of LEGO products. The video was made before the Friends release.

    Also, true LEGO fans saw this video 2 weeks ago — I actually blogged it then: http://legomymamma.blogspot.com/2012/02/town-hall-presented-by-astrid-lego.html

    Friends is doing fine — more girls are building now than ever!

    • LegoMyMama,

      Sorry if somehow I wasn’t clear in my post– I did not think she was saying people are surprised that she’s female, but that she was not the usual person introducing. God, that would be totally tacky if she was saying, “Bet you’re surprised I’m a woman.” Nor did I ever write they’re just “letting a female” introduce the set. Are you sure you read my post??

      She may like Friends but she certainly wasn’t marketed it when she was a kid.

      What does RadFem mean? Hissy fit? still don’t get what you;re talking about….

      I was a fan of LEGO, I’m not anymore.

      MM

    • “That any of the RadFem groups think her presenting the Town Hall has anything to do with their hissy fit & petition just goes to show, once again, you know little of LEGO products. The video was made before the Friends release.”

      “Hissy fit” is a delicate term, it’s supposed to be insulting, but it gives away that the person using it is out of arguments. I’ve never read anyone with a good counter-argument in their hands pull “you’re just having a fit”, basically the equivalent of “whatever, you’re wrong and I’m right because I say so”.

      To clarify things, the petition only whishes that girls would be included in the normal lego sets rather than given their own marginal set, it doesn’t get any simpler than that, really, just read what it says, if you have the time.

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