Do lego figures influence children’s gender stereotypes?

I recently contacted lego about two topics, one was asking for donations of lego motors to support my request for lego motors for building scientific equipment.

The second was asking why was there a ‘normal’ female scientist model and only a ‘crazy’ male scientist?  Mainly as, embarrassingly, I wanted a ‘normal’ male one for my desk.  Interestingly today’s bbc news magazine report the range of female scientists it to be extended.   Overall there does appear to be inadequacy in figure frequency when comparing male and female figures, but does this matter?   The bbc news magazine article and other articles fail to ask the question whether these figures actually have any influence over children’s gender stereotypes?  From the brief scan and limited scientific literature I can see mentioning lego there are no studies (I could be missing some) indicating that lego influences childrens gender stereotypes, we as adults just think that it must.  A lack of studies doesn’t not indicate that lego does not influence children’s gender stereotypes (It could be that no one has studied it in detail).  Or other stereotypes for that matter, lego have alien figures, which if exist, we have no idea what form these would take.  I don’t think however that we are too worried about the portrayal of aliens as lego figures and whether they are an accurate representation, or actually whether they even exist.   I am in favour of gender equality and portrayal of women in roles that they occupy and the potential beneficial effect to society of such role models.  However if we are talking about gender stereotypes and equality then why not (in no particular order) a transvestite, homosexual, a drug addict, a ‘crazy’ lego figure that externally looks no different to other lego figures, a serial killer or any other manner of permutations that make up humanity.

Below is an exert of the response I received from lego.

An exert of the response I received is below.

LEGO Service <SERVICE@lego.com>

27 Jul (10 days ago)

to me
 Dear Adam,

Thanks for getting in touch with us.

For 80 years, our core values have been Fun, Creativity, Imagination, Learning, Quality and Caring. We take these values very seriously and we really care about our fans, so I’m grateful that you took the time to share your views with us. We believe LEGO bricks are for everyone – age or gender is of no importance in creative building and self-expression. As we take the feedback we get from our fans very seriously I have forwarded it to our product specialists to consider the design should there be another male scientist minifigure in the near future.

I think the response from lego was a reasonable one and highlights an important point that age or gender is not of any importance in creative building and self-expression.  I am all in favour of gender equality, accurate portrayal/representation of women or any other sub division of humanity and the potential beneficial effect to society of such role models.  However lets not assume it makes any difference, I would just like to see them make a ‘normal’ male lego scientist, whatever that may look like.

 

 

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2 Responses to Do lego figures influence children’s gender stereotypes?

  1. Agnese says:

    In my opinion the reason is the the acceptability of only male roles in a comic guise. We can laugh at a male, but less at a female character. This is the reason why there are more male comic actors than female ones (and their humor is different from their female counterparts). Moreover, the figure of the crazy male scientist is quite conventional. An unkempt women is not amusing, as women should always be perfect and appealing. Only witches or bad characters may be ugly. A crazy women scientist may be associated with a witch. This is only my opinion and experience.

  2. Interesting thoughts, thanks. This is something I wrote about a while ago that was topical at the time. That aside you raise a valid comment about stereotypes beyond purely male versus female. If I understand correctly your comment relates to the relative perception of the two genders and how certain characters are more societally acceptable, even if they are based on stereotypes. Do you think we need to embrace any humour of female stereotypes more, even if they are a stereotype? I think you are also correct in that a male crazy scientist is more conventional, even if I disagree with the portrayal of a crazy male scientists stereotype. I would also be interesting to know where this may have stemmed from and how this perception can be changed both in terms on conventional male roles that may be ridiculed but accepted versus female roles which are ridiculed but not as well accepted. Interesting.

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