LEGO Science Minifigure Set, to celebrate or exasperate?

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In August 2014, LEGO launched a new set of toys, female scientist figures. Though these toys may be small, the impact made is not. They follow this fascinating movement that is currently happening, by organisations such as Let Toys Be Toys, which are addressing issues that occur in gendering of toys for boys and girls.

These toys are a landmark for more than one reason, they are not only a mainstream example of a toy aimed at all genders that feature strong female representation but they also represent women in a non-sexualised form. Most examples of female scientists in general media shows them in an aesthetically pleasing or sexualised form, and you can also see this in a lot of the toys representing women in science, such as the rather famous doll toy shown below. In this depiction of a female scientist, the white coat has been altered and shortened to hug the unobtainable figure of the doll and the stiletto heels are clearly not regulation laboratory footwear and would not pass health and safety policy!

The science toys for girls also don’t seem to reflect typical science areas in a similar way to the science toys marketed towards boys. The science toys for girls often are belittling depictions of ‘science for girls’, where the impression is that girls would only be interested in the scientific topics that revolve around the beauty industry, such as make up or perfume (see examples below). Even the traditional science toys for children are altered to needlessly also market them towards girls, most often changing them to pink alternatives, giving the impression that girls can only fathom how to use a microscope if it is pink.

The new LEGO toys show female scientists as actual human beings (imaging that?!), and show ‘true’ depictions of realistic women that also exhibit them in various areas of science including astronomy, chemistry and geology. 
 
Toys like this are incredibly important as children begin to develop an idea of what boys and girls are capable of from a very young age. They absorb these ideas from the media and the world around them. The current representation of women in a variety of role and occupations is lacking (and this is especially poor for women of colour), contributing to the idea that young girls cannot aspire to these roles as they can’t see themselves doing them. Therefore the impact of these toys is more than a statement. They are toys suitable for all genders and therefore can introduce the ideas the ideas of female potential to all children.
 
However, there are also problems with these new additions to the toy shelves. Firstly, none of the figures represent a women of colour. So, even though the toys do an excellent job of introducing the idea of female potential to young girls, they fail to also address the poor representation of women of colour in science. These toys are also limited edition, therefore their potential influence will also only be limited. This raises the question whether LEGO released these toys as a statement of improving the toy market or whether they are simply riding on the back of the current (and incredibly important) movement to improve gender toys as a form of self-promotion.

 

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