When it comes to toys and stereotypical representations of gender roles, Barbie takes most the flack. But in recent years, a seemingly far less divisive toy has come under fire for reinforcing gender stereotypes: Legos.
Traditionally, Legos weren't overtly gender specific because they functioned more as "blocks" than anything else: kids used them to build stuff. But the Denmark-based toy company began growing and diversifying its mini-figure collection (like Barbie, they started getting professions). In 2011, the company launched a line of Legos aimed explicitly at girls. This, unfortunately, translated into slimmed down female mini-figurines equipped with pink and purple wardrobes and sets for bakeries, shopping malls, juice bars and the trips to the beach. You know, girl stuff.
The line provoked plenty of backlash, but the most effective critique came from 7-year-old Charlotte Benjamin. Earlier this year, she wrote to the company requesting more active female Lego figurines because “all the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs, but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people … even swam with sharks.”
In a few months, Benjamin will get her wish, thanks to Dr. Ellen Kooijman who submitted a project proposal asking the toy company to create a line of figures that could “show that girls can become anything they want, including a paleontologist or an astronomer.”
“As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available LEGO sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures,” Kooijman wrote in a blog post.
Lots of people agreed with her – Kooijman's proposal gained over 10,000 supporters and designs for a female scientist, paleontologist and astronomer figurines have been approved by the toy company. In the place of shopping bags and cupcakes, each character will come with the appropriate scientific equipment, including a chemistry lab, a telescope and a dinosaur skeleton. The characters will be released this August.