‘So ridiculous’: Lego to remove ‘gender bias’ from its toys in a bid to make brand more ‘inclusive’

Danish toy company Lego has said it will remove ‘gender bias’ from its toys after commissioning a worldwide survey that found boys feared they would be “made fun of” if they played with products geared towards girls. The company, which is the largest toymaker in the world, began manufacturing its famous interlocking toy bricks in 1949.

Lego’s success has been nothing short of a global phenomenon, and films, games, competitions and eight Legoland amusement parks have been developed under the brand. The company has long found that its products are more popular among boys than girls.

In a press statement released on Monday 11 October, the company wrote: “Girls are ready to overcome gender norms but society continues to enforce biases that hamper their creative potential.

“New research commissioned by the LEGO Group reveals that girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society’s ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older. The study was carried out by the Geena Davis Institute in recognition of the UN’s International Day of the Girl and to mark the launch of a new LEGO® campaign, ‘Ready for Girls’, which celebrates girls who rebuild the world through creative problem solving.”

The Lego-commissioned research surveyed nearly 7,000 parents and children aged 6-14 years old in China, Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, UK and USA. According to Lego, their research “highlights the need for society to rebuild perceptions, actions and words to support the creative empowerment of all children”.

Following the research, Lego said it would shift its focus to creating products aimed at both genders. The toy giant, which had sales of some €5.8bn last year, revealed that their research showed 71 per cent of boys would not want to play with girls’ toys because they worry about being teased for doing so. The same was true of girls; the report found that they were happy to play with toys aimed at boys.
The report also revealed that parents were more likely to encourage their daughters to do activities like dancing, baking or dressing up, while boys were more often encouraged to take part in ‘STEM’ activities: Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths.

Lego called on parents and children to “champion inclusive play” and wrote that, “Ensuring more inclusive play in the debate around gender norms is critical, not just for girls but for any child”.

The company also claimed that both girls and boys are “battling prejudice” when it comes to creative play, pledging to make their products “more inclusive and ensuring that children’s creative ambitions – both now and in the future – are not limited by gender stereotypes”.

Lego Group said they would work closely with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media (who conducted the study) and charity UNICEF to “ensure LEGO products and marketing are accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes”. The California-based institute was founded by actress Geena Davis and has teamed-up with several big multinational corporations including Ford and YouTube. The Institute received a 1.2 million dollar grant from Google in 2016 to develop initiatives aimed at tackling ‘gender bias’.

On its website the organisation states that “Our research examines intersectional onscreen representation of six identities: gender, race, LGBTQ+, disability, age and body size.”

 

Lego’s LGBTQ+ Advocacy

Its move to tackle perceptions of gender follows Lego’s launch of its first rainbow themed LGBTQ+ set called “Everyone is Awesome” at the start of ‘Pride Month’ in June. The set has no gender assigned, except for one person. The colours blue, white and pink represent the transgender community, while black and brown represent the different skin tones of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

 

According to designer of the product, vice president of design for Lego, Matthew Ashton, the purple figure included in the set is the only one assigned a particular gender, and the figure’s beehive wig represents “the wonderful drag queen there”.

Lego’s move also follows  Hasbro’s decision to make Mr. Potato Head gender-neutral.

‘1% think this, so then it happens’

The response to the move was not as enthusiastic online as the Lego press statement indicated. Many online felt the move was unnecessary, and propagated a problem that was not there to start with. Some labelled the move “so ridiculous”, “woke” and “sad”.

“I was never aware until today that there was any sort of gender to a Lego,” one person wrote in response to the hot topic on social media.

One female Facebook user wrote “I’m all for breaking down gender bias, but I’d just like to submit that I played with legos allllll the time as a young girl. Girls like dump trucks, castles and laser guns just as much as boys do.”

“What a boring world we’re gonna live in very soon with everything being gender neutral,” someone else speculated. Others applauded the move, however some held the view that there was no demand or necessity for it.

“1% think this, so then it happens,” one comment read. Another said that too heavy a focus on an agenda of inclusivity “diminishes critical thinking and respect for others”.

Lego’s announcement comes as the company’s sales and profits surged to record highs this year. The toymaker proved itself to be one of the winners of the Covid-19 lockdown, witnessing sales and profits achieve dizzying growth in the first half of 2021.

It cemented its position as the world toy leader after it increased revenues in the first half of this year by 46 per cent to 23 billion Danish Krone (€3.1bn) with its net profit soaring 140 percent to 6.3 billion Danish Krone, both of which were records for the company.

Its net profit was a staggering 10 times greater than rival Hasbro, makers of My Little Pony and Transformers, the industry’s number 2 performer.

 

‘Virtue-signalling’

However, the response online to their seemingly agenda-driven move raises questions as to whether their focus on gender-neutrality will help or hinder sales. “5 years later: Lego commissions study to understand why sales have collapsed,” one person predicted while another accused the company of “virtue-signalling”.

“Idiots. How about just making toys? My daughter loved building Lego when she was little, and also play[ing] with dolls, etc […] Virtue-signalling by corporations is likely to be counterproductive as it makes many people annoyed,” one social media commenter wrote.

In response to the announcement on Lego’s Instagram, some people viewed the move as cynical and accused the company of “using topical subjects to sell products”.

“Very sad to be going on this path, actually unfathomable” another said while someone else admitted: “I’ve never really considered plastic building blocks as having any particular gender bias”

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are open

The biggest problem Ireland faces right now is:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...