LEGO and gender segregation – what’s really going on here?

This week I posted my most ridiculously popular (notorious?) blog post ever, on LEGO’s decision to switch all existing female LEGO Club members onto a new girl version of the magazine – in the process, turning their original magazine (still delivered to boys) a girl-free zone.

This has generally been seen as an offensive move, and the marketing logic is questionable since existing subscribers already like the current content, or they wouldn’t be getting it. This can’t therefore be seen as an effort to attract new customers.

So what is it then? The othering of girls? Well yes, that’s what’s occurred, but I’m not sure that was the intention.

I suspect this move was simply out of fear that they would lose existing (male) customers by polluting their experience with contagious girl stuff.

Having witnessed a father’s distinct anger and concern at his son’s choice of pink horse in Toys R Us recently, and read about a father’s distaste for his son’s choice of a video game with a female character and purple controller, I can imagine LEGO might be worried that the same might happen if the pink fluff landed next to the Ninjago products, or a cafe scene with butterflies appeared in his magazine.

Lego are not sanitising their “girls’ range” to prevent girls from accidentally playing with something inappropriately masculine (or active or colourful or aggressive or competitive or whatever) – they are sanitising their “boys’ range” to avoid the worry that a macho man’s precious son might turn sissy after exposure to too many purple butterflies or a depiction of a beauty salon.

To me, the biggest problem is that in producing a specifically girl focused edition, all female content is sidelined there. As LEGO have confirmed, regardless of which version your daughter may subscribe to, if she sends in a photo of herself with her own LEGO creation it will appear in, and only in, the girl edition. While I can see some positives in showing lots of girls enjoying LEGO, this means that the standard edition contains zero girls. They are erased from the male experience of LEGO. The intention may well be to avoid any faggy connotations, but the irony is that an all male environment potentially has the opposite effect.

George Robb in British Culture and the First World War, quoted here by Debbie Swann, talks about all male environments (in this case WW1 trenches) enabling, encouraging, creating, male homosexual intimacy, both physical and emotional. This isn’t a new idea (Freud mentioned it as part of his ideas about latent homosexuality) and it’s certainly not an old one, taken to extremes by Mark Simpson and Quiet Riot Girl in her Death At The Mall project (neither of which are safe for kids, sorry).

I have no issue with the new Friends themed sets, and little problem with their interpretation of their research into girls’ play habits in contrast with those of boys. Perhaps Lego have stumbled onto a new range which is both accepted by existing fans and may bring new customers into the fold. Great, but they have clearly had issues with how this new range should be marketed, and have upset lots of people in the process.

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8 Responses to LEGO and gender segregation – what’s really going on here?

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