It's a good thing Lego's promo pic for their new Friends set, which targets girls, shows a scene that includes power tools, a science set, a robot, and some math. Otherwise, we might be feeling some serious outrage at the insinuation that girls don't like regular old Legos, and instead need curvy minifigs and pastel colors to have fun.
"Lego Friends" is an entirely new line of Lego toys designed from the ground up to give girls what they want when it comes to Legos. How does Lego know what girls want? Research. Bear with me, 'cause I'm going to quote a bunch here from this lengthy Bloomberg article about how Lego came to decide that it needed a new set just for girls:
Lego sent its team back out to scrutinize girls, starting in 2007. Lego confirmed that girls favor role-play, but they also love to build--just not the same way as boys. Whereas boys tend to be "linear"--building rapidly, even against the clock, to finish a kit so it looks just like what's on the box--girls prefer "stops along the way," and to begin storytelling and rearranging.
Then there are the lady figures. Twenty-nine mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012, all 5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard dwarf minifig. There are five main characters. Like American Girl Dolls, which are sold with their own book-length biographies, these five come with names and backstories. The key difference between girls and the ladyfig and boys and the minifig was that many more girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig--she became an avatar. Boys tend to play with minifigs in the third person. "The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them," says Rosario Costa, a Lego design director. The Lego team knew they were on to something when girls told them, "I want to shrink down and be there."
The Lego Friends team is aware of the paradox at the heart of its work: To break down old stereotypes about how girls play, it risks reinforcing others.
Hrm. I mean, it's great that Lego is doing all this research and stuff, and I guess arguably these new sets could serve to help girls get interested in Legos in general, overcoming the masculine perception of the toys. At the same time, though, when you've got some sets of toys that are "for girls" (including ponies and baking and fashion), you end up with a bunch of other sets of toys that become by default "for boys" (including the fire trucks and pirates and spaceships). And when you get a girl who wants to play with spaceships or a boy who wants to play with ponies, the concern is that it would make that stereotype more difficult to break. I'm no girl, of course, so maybe I'm not really the most qualified person to talk about this, but for those of you who are: do you think curvy and pastel Legos for girls are a good move, or would you be happier to just stick with the regular old bricks?
Take a look at the gallery of new sets below and see what you think. Lego Friends should be available in the U.S. at the beginning of January.