Seven year-old Charlotte Benjamin became an internet hero last week when her letter to the LEGO corporation went viral. Unfortunately, LEGO's company response has shown that they're still not listening.
In the now-famous hand-written letter, Charlotte wrote:
Dear Lego company:
My name is Charlotte. I am 7 years old and I love Legos but I don’t like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any LEGO girls.
Today I went to a store and saw Legos in two sections — the girls' pink and the boys' blue. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.
I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun, ok!?!
Charlotte's father sent an image of her note to Sociological Images and it soon went viral.
LEGO initially declined to comment, but they finally responded to the letter yesterday, saying:
LEGO play has often been more appealing to boys, but we have been very focused on including more female characters and themes that invite even more girls to build, and in the last few years, we are thrilled that we have dramatically increased the number of girls who are choosing to build. While there are still more male characters than female, we have added new characters to the LEGO world to better balance the appeal of our themes.
In other words, they didn't hear a word.
This is not the first time LEGO has responded badly to girls' calls for inclusion in their building sets. In 2012, ten year-old Callie wrote the company a letter that said in part:
Martin Luther King Jr. fought for blacks and whites to be equal. Today people are fighting for the equality of gay people. Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem were fighting for women’s equality. And when I walk into a toy store and an attendant leads me to an aisle plastered with putrid pink I think you just swept all those people fighting for equality out of the way and ignored what they said.
LEGO responded to Callie's letter with this cringe-worthy reply:
We found that little girls really enjoyed having male and female minifigures in their sets, while the little boys would take the girl minifigure out before playing. Boys tend to like to create “good guy versus bad guy” types of scenes, while girls enjoy role play, such as going shopping with their minifigures.
Ironically, LEGO was applauded for a 1981 ad campaign that embraced girls in their building sets. Over thirty years later, the company seems to be going backwards when it comes to gender roles and how they treat their female customers.
Indeed, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood named the LEGO Friends line the number one worst toy of 2012 with the TOADY award for Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children. They said:
“Get primped and pretty at the posh LEGO Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop,” implore the folks at LEGO. Because the plain old building of things is so boring, apparently, and heaven forbid children should have to tap into their creativity and actually rely on simply constructing something for fun. Fortunately, we now have the LEGO beauty salon where girls can wield unnaturally giant tubes of lipstick, sharpen their consumer habits with fake LEGO money blocks, and generally hone their pampered princess shtick.
In 2012, another girl wrote an open letter to LEGO about the subject. Fourteen year-old Ann Garth wrote about the Friends line at Reel Girl, saying in part:
This is why I was so disappointed when I recently heard of Lego’s horrible, totally misguided decision to make and market a line of (very pink) Legos for girls, complete with a girl brushing her hair in the mirror, a bottle of perfume, and more. This is problematic for only two or three MILLION reasons, but let me pick the first, broadest, and most obvious: the idea that if you want to market a line to girls, it cannot involve any movement, adventure, or activity.
The point that LEGO seems to continually miss is such a simple one: Girls want to feel included in regular LEGO products.
They don't want a token "girl" line to play with, while the boys play with the category of "everything else in the LEGO universe."
They don't want to have to build with pastels and hot pink, as if girls can't like colors like red, brown, black, blue and grey.
They don't want a separate "for girls" line of LEGOs where they can shop and primp while the line for boys involves doing absolutely everything else.
As Charlotte wrote, "All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks."
The girls want to swim with some sharks too.
Are you listening yet, LEGO?
Want to stay in the loop? You can subscribe to my column to be updated when I post articles. You can also find me on Pinterest and on examiner.com on the topics of homeschooling, green living and my national attachment parenting column.