Lego Movie creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller suggested in 2014 that more female characters were needed for the movie’s sequel. “It’s important to us that the movie plays broadly and that we inspire young women as much as we inspire young men,” said Lord.
So despite the “everything is awesome” tagline, the “female issue” has managed to find its way into the Lego world, and it is attempting to close the gender gap – though it makes a small dent to the problem of stereotype-based toys. Our difference in attitudes, however, can perhaps be explained by Moore’s law, which describes the exponential growth of computing power; men are obsessed with form, technicalities and speed.
“Technology to boys starts very young,” explained Dave Wallace, CEO of Heath Wallace. “It’s the very definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy; technology is male dominated, so it makes things that appeal to the male mind.”
If this theory is correct then it stands to reason that we need to hit them while they’re young. And a few recent incidents highlighted that toys have a large effect on children.
For example, when it comes to Lego builder kits “boys went on adventures, worked, saved people and even swam with sharks,” while female sets had figurines dressed in frilly pink dresses that “sit at home, go to the beach and shop.” The quote comes from seven-year-old Charlotte Benjamin who made a plea to Lego for more female figurines. It prompted the company to release a set of female science figures.
A recent study by sociologists Carol Auster and Claire Mansbach has also found that we may, in fact, be more stereotypical in the way we market toys than we were in the 70s! The study claimed that all toys sold on the Disney Store’s website were explicitly categorised as being “for boys” or “for girls” – there was no “for boys and girls” option, despite a handful of toys being found on both lists. And, shockingly enough, is the fact that in a Sears catalog from 1975, less than two per cent of toys were explicitly marketed to either boys or girls.
More importantly, there were many ads in the ‘70s that actively challenged gender stereotypes, with boys shown playing with domestic toys and girls shown building, playing doctor, carpenter and even scientist.
And despite the feminine agenda being of massive debate across the entire globe, marketers have seemingly yet to learn their lesson.
If you’ve seen Star Wars then you’ll probably know that Darth Vader is not in “Force Awakens”. Similarly – small spoiler ahead – Luke Skywalker plays an incredibly small role in the latest movie. You might also be aware that the main character of the movie is Rey, and arguably the title of the movie literally refers to her. Ultimately, she is the hero of the movie. So the problem with Hasbro’s latest Monopoly set was picked up rather quickly and the situation can be personified in the single hashtag that has bee gaining rapid attention: #whereisrey.
— Mike Caulfield (@holden) December 22, 2015
In fact, its entire line of official merchandise seems to be drawing rapid ire for prioritising less prominent male characters over Rey. For example, Rey mans and repairs the Millennium Falcon, however, Hasbro’s toy version of the vehicle was only accompanied by a Chewbacca figurine, as well as Finn and droid BB-8 – neither of whom pilot the ship.
— Alex M Langenfeld (@CorporateMalice) December 29, 2015
I get it. You can’t have a Rey action figure. Some boys might let her fly an X-Wing. Next thing you know, she’s wanting to vote. #WheresRey
— Jamie Ford (@JamieFord) November 12, 2015
Read more about how an eight year old chastised the company for neglecting Rey.
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