Media is eating up LEGO’s announcement about Professor C Bodin, the newest LEGO minifigure. Bodin, in her STEM role, complete with test-tubes is to be celebrated not only because she is female (with lego minifigures being 75% male), but because she a female LEGO character that isn’t the stereotypical wife, mother or struggling girl with the broken down car.
Quite rightly, most articles are pointing out how very important this new minifigure is to girl children.
But why should it matter if there’s one female scientist in LEGO’s collection? Well, Weinstock reports, “the ratio of all-time minifigure models is roughly 4:1 in favor of males. And the female characters LEGO has produced are often laden with stereotypes. A quick glance at some typical female minifig torsos suggests that girls/women are predominantly into pink, hearts, and excess skin.”
The toy world’s ratios and stereotypes are played out in real life: Women only make up 24 percent (PDF) of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs, despite making up nearly half of the workforce.
And it matters that girls see figurines who represent what they might become. There’s evidence that reinforcing gender stereotypes can be formative to how a little girl or boy views him or herself. Numerous studies show that girls lack confidence in mathematics if their parents enforce gender stereotypes around the subject.
I would argue that this figure (and her sisters that will hopefully follow) is equally as important to our male children. Boy-kids see the same lack of female characters in their LEGOS. They see the same injection of pink and sparkles into most ‘girl’ toys. Our sons internalize the reduction of female characters to the trope of ‘girl who needs rescuing’ or the princess who is hunting for her gallant prince charming. These socially constructed paradigms, set up in their play by manufacturers, impact our male kiddos and their understandings of girls and women. Boys need to see that girls are brilliant in math, capable in science and as able to drive a race car as the next minifigure.
Play matters. Toys matter.
Photo credit: ThinkProgress