When LEGO Friends first came out, I ranted a bit. It’s not that I don’t like the toys—if my daughter were a bit younger, I have no doubt they’d be all over our house. What bothered me was that LEGO Friends didn’t solve the problem of so few female minifigs in regular LEGO sets. In fact, it created a new line of LEGO sets that were dominated by females, with only one dad to represent all males. I know of several boys who would love to play with pink and purple LEGO sets with cute little animals, so this was just another kind of exclusion based on gender.
Flash forward a few years. The latest catalogue recently showed up in our mailbox, and it made me really happy. The LEGO movie introduced a ton of female minifigs (sometimes more than one in a set!), plus in other sets there’s a female thief, several female police officers, a female train engineer, and even a firefighter who appears to be female but that they didn’t feel the need to identify as such. Then I got to the LEGO Friends section, and there are two male dolls now, and they aren’t dads! (There are also a bunch of princes in the Disney section.)
I know there have always been a few female minifigs, but they’ve been relatively rare and often only part of sets that cost at least $40, usually much more (this is why we don’t have a LEGO Black Widow).
But in stores I’ve recently seen a new little LEGO set that has a princess minifig and is fully compatible with regular LEGO bricks. And adding Arwen to our cast of Lord of the Rings minifigs didn’t break the bank.
Many of the sets in the new catalogue are $30 or less—often much less. You pick out a cool LEGO set that’s affordable, and you just happen to get a female minifig. If you’re playing with LEGO Friends, boys now exist in that world.
No, it’s not perfect. Female characters are notably lacking in the Ninjago line, for instance. But I feel like it’s still a significant step in the right direction.
Does it really matter if LEGO sets are more inclusive? Yeah, I think it is. And while I could illustrate that through my own kids, it was a couple kids I don’t even know who really proved the point for me. Before the holidays, I was browsing the toy section of Target. A woman with two young girls walked through the LEGO aisle, intent on getting to a different aisle—but the girls got distracted looking at the City sets.
“Come on,” the woman said a bit impatiently, “don’t you want to get to the toys for you?”
“But there’s a girl on this set!” one of the girls pointed out.
“Well, yes, of course you could play with these toys too,” the woman backpedaled a bit.
And then they all moved on to a different section. No, they didn’t buy a City LEGO set. Maybe they never will. But the presence of a female minifig was enough for a young kid to challenge an adult on her unconscious gendering of toys, and that challenge was enough for the adult to step back her thoughtless comment. It’s often through these baby steps that real and lasting change takes hold.
So, way to go, LEGO. While I’m still hoping for an affordable Black Widow set, these changes make me really happy.