Lego Club membership – are you a girl, or are you normal?

I have been sticking up for Lego recently, arguing that their new Friends sets aren’t necessarily them insisting that girls MUST play with these new sets, or must NOT play with existing sets – it’s them trying to increase the proportion of girls playing with Lego at all by reaching out to the Polly Pocket and Bratz markets as well. Since the Friends sets are made up of perfectly normal Lego bricks put together in perfectly standard ways, it would introduce the building, creative side of Lego to those tempted by the dolls and the themes. I was willing to call this a Good Thing.

In fact, I had a (silent) criticism of the commendable letter to Lego written by a 14 year old girl. I mean – good for her for writing it, but her statement “IF you take these of the market [...] THEN I will buy some of your regular sets” is a bit of a shame. I mean, what was stopping her buying the regular sets before? There are plenty of them – 59 fairly generic brick sets on the web store alone, that’s before you get into things like the Architecture sets, Harry Potter, or my favourites, the Creator sets. Lego haven’t removed these sets from the market to make space for special girly drivel.

However, my sympathies for Lego in this tirade have dissolved a little with the arrival of today’s post.

We had previously signed Polly up for Lego Club Jr, which basically just means we get a magazine delivered four times a year. It usually contains some comic-type strips based on some of their sets (usually Police or Ninjago), some little puzzle games, photos of kids with their Lego creations, and a set of instructions on how to build some random thing out of bricks (for example a bird or a car). It is, unashamedly, a big advert for Lego products.

Today, we didn’t receive Lego Club Jr. magazine. We got Lego Club Girls. It’s decorated with hearts, stars and butterflies, and is overwhelmingly purple. Two pages are taken up by introductions to the five Friends characters, Olivia, Andrea, Mia, Stephanie and Emma. Two are taken up by a comic strip featuring the City Park Cafe, where Andrea (the musical Friend) is portrayed as ditzy (unable to make a decision) and greedy (eating many different items). There is then a two-page spread on the new Forest Police theme, two pages featuring Harry Potter sets, two pages on Spongebob Squarepants, two dedicated to the Lego Champion game, one to a Creator set and one for Stephanie’s convertible – she’s lost her puppy, can you help her find it? The usual two page spread dedicated to kids’ own creations is still there – but every photo shows a girl. This concerns me, as it implies that the other magazine will never again feature a photo of a girl, they’ll be saved for the Girls magazine. Two things are conspicuous by their absence – Ninjago, which Lego have been focussing heavily on recently, and any building instructions. It’s been confirmed that in contrast there ARE building instructions in the boy/normal version of the magazine. Girls don’t build anything other than their existing sets, obviously.

The letter which came with the magazine says, at the end:

P.S. If you would prefer to still receive your regular LEGO Club Magazine instead of the Girls issue then please call the telephone number above!

Ah. Well. There we go. It’s not boys and girls. It’s girls and ‘regular’. You can be a normal child, or you could be one of those others. You know, the girls. The ones who can’t understand until something’s painted pink or related to kittens or service provision.

This is not what I want. What would have been wrong with having a single double page spread about the new theme in the standard magazine that everyone gets? Why do I have to ‘opt out’ of the pinkification (or just plain othering) of my daughter’s Lego experience? If I had two children but had decided to keep one membership (in, say, my eldest son’s name) to reduce paper waste, would I ever have known about the Girls issue? Would my daughters “miss out” (ha!) on this magazine? I mean, heaven forbid a boy might see it. He might be put off Lego for life – or, worse still, turn into a sissy. Incidentally, I have previously discussed why girly pink crap is bad for boys and girls alike – you may want to read it. Another discussion of the othering of girls explains why it’s all about dogs and Smurfs.

At the time of writing, the Lego Club website doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the Girls magazine (here for example) – though of course this may change.

I will certainly be writing to Lego about my misgivings and disappointment. I’ll let you know what response, if any, I get.

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51 Responses to Lego Club membership – are you a girl, or are you normal?

  1. Matt says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to transpose the word ‘regular’ with ‘normal’, it has more than one context.

    • impeus says:

      In this context though, there is their normal magazine for children, and their special girl magazine for special girls. With no building instructions. I think I’ve been entirely fair here.

      • Chase says:

        No. Just no. “Regular” in this context means the “usual Lego club book we give out”. Anyone who takes it otherwise, including the writer of this story, is an idiot.

        Not once does it imply that girls are girls and boys are normal. It doesn’t say “Special Girls Edition for Special Girls” it’s just an edition for girls, period. Nothing special about it, and since it’s a girls-focused magazine, the original style magazine is considered “regular” because they never released a boys magazine (Lego Club talks about sets for both boys and girls.)

        • impeus says:

          That would be the case if all club members continued to get the standard edition. They don’t. Anyone who checked the female gender option on sign up gets the new, different, irregular, other version. Anyone who checked the male option gets the version with building instructions and no girls. This doesn’t strike me as a choice that a company who doesn’t market their products based on gender would make.

        • Lucy says:

          Wow this comment could not come from more of a male vacuum really, could it?

          It must be nice to live in a world where you are not othered all the time. It’s not “not releasing a boys’ magazine”, its releasing a girls magazine because they are The Other.

        • Tegan says:

          Look at this way:

          The author’s daughter opted into the club because they want to read the newsletters. They enjoy the content and that is what they want.

          By deciding to give them new content the absolute SOLE BASIS of gender, they are dismissing the idea that the gender has any interest in the normal/regular newsletters and instead wants this one SIMPLY, ONLY because of their gender (which totally defines an entire person’s interests amirite?).

          Had the Lego company sent this out WITH the typical newsletter, and gave the option for ANYONE to opt in (meaning boys would have received it to), they would not be creating this ridiculous stereotyped gender gap. By creating separate products and assuming personalities on the only basis of gender, this becomes an issue.

          One thing is gendered, while the other remains neutral. Hence, normal and girls.

        • Colleen says:

          There is something worse than putting different connotations on words that may or may not have been intended and that is instead of simply making a point starting to directly call people idiot, moron, etc. in a post because you have a point of disagreement. The level of maturity and intelligence ARE indicated by someone being able to disagree without insulting the one with whom they disagree.

        • Adam Smith says:

          Chase, you’ve missed the point. By creating a girls magazine, and involuntarily opting in all female subscribers, they have introduced gender segregation and made the “regular” magazine the de facto boys edition. Because this is not specifically called the boys edition, the implication is that boys are the default LEGO consumer and that girls are a different market that needs separate, Barbie-fied product presentation.

          It is this segregation, and the way it is presented, that the author of this article is objecting to. And I agree with them.

    • Arthur says:

      Matt: Normal’s the only context that works here, isn’t it?

  2. Juxtabook says:

    I think you’ve been fair. I was a bit stunned by the change when my 8yo opened it. I don’t mind the inclusion of the girls and daughter liked them but do they have to have curves and such girl-typical personalities? Likes animals? One said, “Love your outfit”?? There is an inventor but the general atmosphere and lower practical content are disappointing changes. It was the one consistent bit of non-pink in my daughter’s life.

  3. I think you have been fair too.

    I also think this removal (if it has happened) of girls from the ‘regular’ (aka Boys’) magazine makes the boys’ lego club look kind of …gay!

    As Mark Simpson has written about, ‘machismo’ and all-male environments end up being incredibly faggy.

  4. Sam says:

    This is quite sad. Sending out ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ versions of the magazine (advertorial…) just enforces gender separation. For something as neutral as little plastic bricks, I can’t see why there needs to be any kind of separation. It sends out the wrong message to both girls AND boys :/

    Thanks for posting this! Seems that the Lego Friends thing is developing into something more than just a little pink annoying product.

  5. Meagan Bagley says:

    I’m very eager to see what kind of response you get from LEGO,
    I’ll be following this!

  6. Kelly says:

    I’ve read a few blog/forum posts on the subject of the hateful Lego “Girls” magazine (have got a bit of a bee in my bonnet). The one thing I haven’t seen anybody comment on is that the regular mag has no direct advertising (granted the whole thing is a brand advert – but there’s no specific “Here’s what to buy”-type marketing). The pink tripe however contains a double page advert for Lego Champion board game and a single page ad for Lego Creator – for some reason this has annoyed me just as much as their decision to opt my daughter (aged 6) into their gender-specific guff.
    For the record – despite my misgivings – I gave my daughter the magazine on the understanding that she could choose to receive this or return to the regular. She flicked through it and despite loving the Harry Potter page, opted to return to the original.

  7. Beck Laxton says:

    I’m in complete agreement! My five-year-old (boy) is currently besotted with Ninjago, but I banned the videos (yes, this household is a strident feminist dictatorship, thanks) after he quoted some lines of dialogue. Kay’s (or someone else’s) sister had been captured and so the Ninjas were off to rescue her. (It’s not clear why she couldn’t escape by herself or why she wasn’t a Ninja too, natch.) Before agreeing to go, Jay (or someone) asked: “Is she hot?”. No, but this mummy certainly blew her top. Grrrr.

  8. Beck Laxton says:

    I’m in complete agreement! My five-year-old (boy) is currently besotted with Ninjago, but I banned the videos (yes, this household is a strident feminist dictatorship, thanks) after he quoted some lines of dialogue. Kay’s (or someone else’s) sister had been captured and so the Ninjas were off to rescue her. (It’s not clear why she couldn’t escape by herself or why she wasn’t a Ninja too, natch.) Before agreeing to go, Jay (or someone) asked: “Is she hot?”. No, but this mummy blew her top. Grrrr.

    • Seth says:

      Kai’s sister is Nya (who is also a ninja). She just doesn’t wear the same head wrap as the others. I’m not too familiar with the actual story, but I know 4 ninjas have elemental powers. I’m sure Nya has one too, but I don’t know what it would be.

      So the fact that she had to be saved, doesn’t really mean anything. Boys get into trouble and need to be saved also.

      Nya is actually a big part in the series from what I can tell. There is a new version of her which is much more inspiring than a ‘damsel in distress.’

  9. Trolly McTrollington says:

    You ARE Other.
    You bleed 7 days o fthe month and don’t die of it.
    Vaginas exist only to swallow erect members and regurgitate them flaccid.

    There. Now your rage is justified, continue on.

    • impeus says:

      Favourite comment of the day! Made me smile anyway. You’re wrong though, I’m not experiencing rage here, just surprise and disappointment in a company who I generally think a lot of.

      • That was a great comment!

        I do think bleeding regularly does make one a bit ‘other’. But as far as I know, pre-pubescent girls and toddlers don’t have periods. So the point is redundant.

    • Laura says:

      Ummm — vaginas exist also as handy escape hatches for babies ready to leave the womb.

  10. MTFF says:

    Not surprised, but further disappointed by the magazine, and utterly disgusted that you have to ‘opt out’ of the girly version when you never asked to be dumbed down into losing your puppy or your blueprint because you committed the original sin of owning a vagina. As to the first commenter calling you an idiot because you disagreed with him, I think he might need to consider how name calling and ill-considered aggression detracts from his points rather than bolsters his position.

  11. Jay says:

    There’s a very obvious flaw in their marketing logic: any girl that was on the mailing list before the introduction of pinkified sets clearly bought one of their “regular” sets. So the recipient was guaranteed to be interested in “regular” sets but not guaranteed to be interested in the pinkified ones. Switching their subscriptions would be presumptuous and could easily be misguided. If, perhaps, they’d thrown the magazine in as a one-shot supplement introducing the new line, with opt-IN instructions for those interested, that wouldn’t have been quite as bad.

    Generally speaking, if you had a magazine subscription “A” and that company started another magazine “B” they should not assume that you suddenly want “B” instead of “A” no matter what demographic data they had.

    • RedEd says:

      Now this is the most sensible non bias post I’ve seen yet ! Yes Lego should have asked before automatically switching the girls to a different magazine and yes a lot would have probably stayed with the original (read.. normal, regular whatever) but having difernet girls and boys magazines is really not that that big an issue for most. Even with the heavy handed aproach by Lego you still have a choice. I have many friends with young girls and they love the new mag ! Lego should have just sent out both to everyone.

    • Seth says:

      I agree completely. That is the best marketing strategy a company could have. Offer both with the ability to opt-in to the second one (or both).

  12. Jen Kendall says:

    My vagina doesn’t play with Lego, my hands do. Lego is a non gendered play item, and should remain so. Shame on Lego for trying to “pink” things up, I think they have a large enough fan base without going down the princess path…

    Advertising being what it is, I am sure there were many focus groups who thought that this new “girlified” magazine would attract a new market. I have been following the Lego debate fairly closely, and I think what it boils down to is buy it, or don’t.
    Like any other toy, if it doesn’t sell, it will be destined for bargain bins everywhere, no matter how they market it. For myself and my family, I could care less what colour my daughter’s toys are, if she is dying for a princess doll, or not. It is not the toy that makes my child, it’s me.

  13. Rachel says:

    I spent fifteen minutes on the phone to Lego yesterday after our magazines came through. I can confirm that, should my girls opt out of the ‘girly’ mag and take the regular/boys’ one, then if they choose to send in a photo, it will only appear in the ‘girls’ edition, even if that’s not the one they get.

    This seems crazy.

    I have no problem with pink. It’s a bright, cheerful colour. It’s the segregation that bothers me.

    Why oh why couldn’t Lego have brought out a Friends range, but included boys as well as girls? It would still have appealed to the same demographic, but in a much less exclusive way.

  14. Shena Macdonald says:

    ‘Snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails’ thats what Lego management are made of!

  15. Exactly the problem. It’s all about girl/woman/female as “other.” The “other” being also secondary. We see this in the names of sports organizations: the PGA vs. the LPGA. The NBA vs. the WNBA.
    Lego’s argument that with LEGO Friends they are just reaching out to girls that otherwise wouldn’t build is certainly discredited by this action.

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  17. Elaine Hamel says:

    So good to stumble on this. Great read and comments. I feel validated now by how much anger is triggered for me when I see pink tools. Women and girls do NOT need tools or anything else for that matter ‘scaled down’ for them. We do not need pink or flowered or even smaller versions of anything that is out there. What we need is the opportunity to step up to the plate and prove to ourselves and anyone else that we are more than capable. I run a non profit called Girls at Work, Inc. and we teach girls and women how to safely use power tools to build. I can assure you that after having had over 5000 girls go through our program I doubt there is a girl out there that will not only step up but will blow away herself and others by how capable she truly is! Bag the pink and bring on some real power tools.

    • tig says:

      Um, some of us DO need smaller versions of things. My hands are smaller then my husbands by quite a bit, and it makes using his tools difficult. Granted we wouldn’t buy pink tools if they were the last tools on earth, I hate pink, but we did end up buying me a smaller sized tool set so I wouldn’t have anymore trouble. They are NOT pink or purple or girly thankfully, just smaller.

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  22. yamori says:

    I am a woman (who played with legos) and I would agree that the assumption that Lego is categorizing females as “not normal” in a broader sense by removing them from the “regular” magazine is less true, than that they are categorizing females who would be interested in the “regular” (or boys) magazine as not normal. There are normal girls and normal boys (equal but different), and the normal Lego customer (of “regular” lego sets) is male. Equally offensive, but slightly different in its meaning. I find it interesting that no one is offended that their sons weren’t given the option of the “other” magazine. Some boys may be interested and Lego also seems to be implying that boys who opted for that one are not normal either.

    The existence of the “girls’ magazine” is not so awful if you look at it as a niche magazine for a specific product line (and other tangentially related ones), but automatically switching customers who signed up for the original is wrong (as mentioned by another commenter), and segrating the pictures of boys and girls to one or the other is just sad. I would divide it by product lines, so if a boy builds something great for his “Friends” he goes in that magazine, and if a girl builds something great with the “regular” lego sets, she goes in the “regular” magazine.

  23. Marianne Zurbrigg says:

    Whether they meant it as boy are normal and girl’s are not I think is irrelevant!

    It’s LEGO, the one toy that give’s you the most option’s to be creative in the world! ALL KIDS SHOULD GET THE SAME MAGAZINE NO MATTER THERE GENDER! Maybe a new section in the old magazine just for this new stuff could be okay, so long as they don’t word it or depict it in a way that those Lego’s are just for girl’s or that girls can only use those Lego’s. I’m 28, Female and have played with Lego since I was 4! I still play with Lego, but if there going to be sexiest like this I just may stop buying new set all together!!!

    • Marianne Zurbrigg says:

      Also I’d just like to note that Mega Block’s has been making “girly Block” since I was 12, Including a full Mega Block’s Doll house. They don’t market it any different than there original block, In fact I do believe when the first released the house there was a picture of a boy & a girl playing with it together on the box…..

  24. Sara Munoz says:

    No disagreement here. And don’t think little girls don’t notice!

  25. ellmardo says:

    Yes, I also think that having a “girls” Lego magazine separate from the “boys” or “normal/regular” magazine is wrong. Why don’t they just combine the two and leave it at that? My brother and I both grew up playing with Legos, and had hours of fun, and there was no distinction between the genders then – the Legos we used had numerous colors, although pink wasn’t one of them. I didn’t mind, as I was a Tomboy, and didn’t like girly colors anyway! I’ve learned to embrace my “feminine” side however! ; ) I now have a daughter who loves Barbies, Gymnastics, UFO’s, Science, and is good in Math (and loves iPod game apps!). I’m “schooling” her in enjoying the toys of either gender – but that doesn’t stop her from liking pink (oh well), even though we didn’t really steer her that way, it just happened.
    Anyway, my take on the magazine is that Lego should just combine the issues – for both boys and girls, and yes, save some paper!

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  28. Carol says:

    I’m just happy to get the FREE magazine for the child. I don’t understand the uproar. Sign up for both if you want to receive both. My daughter is happy to be able to get a magazine about Lego Friends as she loves to play with them. I think the only change Lego’s needs to do is add the Lego’s Friends magazine as an option, so it’s not a surprise when you get the one you do not want.

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