Today, as a belated twenty-somethingth birthday present, M. bought me LEGOs. These LEGOs:
Okay, technically the set came with Batman and a streetcorner and some crates, too. You can see the set here on LEGO’s website. But frankly, Bruce and his stoplight don’t excite me much. You know what excites me?
Catwoman. ON A PURPLE MOTORCYCLE.
I’ve had gender relations and toys on the brain a bit lately, ever since a fantastic Wiscon panel that C.D. and I attended about the common excuse for misogyny in products, “But it’s not for girls!” For C.D.’s full write-up of the panel, see Part 3 of her WisCon report. Or just read the snippet that I blatantly stole, since this discussion is what prompted me to a) investigate the LEGO website, b) drag M. into Toys ‘R’ Us, c) receive Catwoman and her awesome, awesome purple motorcycle as a totally age-appropriate birthday gift, and d) write this post.
Pat Murphy, a Nebula Award winning author and the cofounder of the Tiptree Award, talked about her current experiences working at Klutz books (she just put out a book called Make a Mummy, Shrink a Head and Other Useful Skills. I want it).
She was working on a project with Lego, and according to her: “[Lego] kept saying “we want to attract girls… we’ve tried pink! We’ve tried jewelry! And now we want to try ponies and shops!”
Who the heck is Lego hiring?
The problem with this extremely gendered marketing is that it’s all based on what marketer’s think femininity should be. So: pink. Glitter. Shops.
And don’t get me wrong, I love glitter. I love ponies. I love shops. But I also love spaceships and explosions and superheros. [I also don’t particularly like pink, but that’s just me].
I’m so-so on the pink myself, and the ponies. But I love glitter and animals and suchlike. But yes, like C.D. I like spaceships* and explosions and superheros. So I was pleasantly
surprised astounded when I was looking through the D.C. Universe section of the LEGO website and saw that the “Catwoman Catcycle City Chase” set was the first listed. The rest of LEGO’s website leaves a lot to be desired, as do the rest of the D.C. Universe sets**, but that’s a topic for a future post (trust me, it’s coming.)
Because this is the way to get girls to buy LEGOs. Give them an awesome female minifig with awesome accessories who clearly kicks @ss and will make a great addition to any LEGO collection. Don’t give them a bunch of pastel pink crap with minifigs that don’t even match your other sets.
Seriously, guys. Girls have so many pink dolls-and-puppies-and-beauty-parlor toy options to choose from; why on Earth would they buy it from LEGO when there are so many other brands with established cachet (Polly Pocket, for example). There’s nothing wrong with making sets with more colorful bricks and animals and female minifigs – hell, I encourage it! Because I will buy them faster than you can say Secret Feminist Cabal. And I will mix them with all my other “boy” LEGOs and make buildings and people and things that are awesome.
And I will buy the “boy” LEGOs as well because I can mix in the awesome things from the “boy” LEGOs with the awesome things from the “girl” LEGOs and make EVEN MORE AWESOME.
That’s the real problem with LEGO’s approach towards its potential female customers. They try to segregate us out – here’s the pink and girly stuff for you; here’s all the other stuff for the people with the dangly bits.
Make LEGOs. Make them in “girly” sets and “boy-y” sets and “neutral” sets – but put female minifigs in the “boy” sets and male minifigs in the “girl” sets and BOTH in the “neutral” sets. Getting more female customers is easy: TREAT US LIKE THE BOYS. Don’t make us hunt for the special “for girls” sets in hopes of finding a minifig we can relate to. Don’t make us settle for only male minifigs in the sets that have cool things like spaceships and explosions and superheros (and dinosaurs and monsters and ninjas and knights and…). It’s hard to tell a meaningful story*** with LEGOs when all your characters are one gender, whether that gender is male or female^.
LEGO (and most other toy companies) is doing itself a disservice by trying to separate out its ‘girl’ products. It’s discouraging girls from buying 90% of its products (and discouraging boys from buying the other 10%). So, LEGO, how should you appeal to girls?
Like this. Don’t separate us out; toss us in with the boys. I promise, we don’t have cooties. Give us awesome chicks with awesome accessories along with the awesome dudes with awesome accessories and SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. The Catwoman set is fantastic – NOW DO MORE.
And seriously, what girl doesn’t want a kick-ass LEGO woman with cat ears and purple lipstick and A PURPLE MOTORCYCLE and a whip and diamonds? I may even give her Batman’s jetpack because, really, Catwoman deserves all the cool stuff.
Holy post of longness,
Batman Catwoman! Time and past that I played with my LEGOs instead of ranting about them…
*There is a LEGO Space Shuttle/Hubble Space Telescope kit and I WANTS IT PRECIOUS.
**In what universe, fictional or otherwise, is it okay to have the one set with a Wonder Woman minifig be one where Superman is supposed to rescue her from Lex Luthor? RAGE. I HAS IT.
***Yes, sometimes I still tell stories with my LEGOs. I’m a creative person, okay? Stop mocking my inner child!
^I realize I’ve been playing fast and loose with the term ‘gender’ in this post, and treating it as an either/or construct rather than a continuum. But since that’s how the world of marketing insists on viewing it, it seemed the easiest way to treat it in this post.