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posted by azrael on Saturday August 09 2014, @01:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the gender-neutral-articles dept.

Lego has become a hotbed of controversy regarding plastics/petrochemicals and gender politics.

In response to the (rather silly) Lego Movie, its annoyingly catchy tune and star cast, Greenpeace placed the 3D advert Everything's Not Awesome in cinemas to highlight Arctic drilling, general poor record and long-term product placement of Royal Dutch Shell in Lego kits. And from the Greenpeace blog comments, the 120kg of Lego required for the advert was sourced without directly funding the Lego company.

Lego is also involved in a separate controversy regarding gender representation. Although some toy shops have been ostensibly gender neutral for a few years, Lego's choice of female characters over the same period has left people divided. The BBC News reports that:

A palaeontologist, an astronomer, a chemist - into the pantheon of children's toys stride three new Lego characters. Not so surprising. Except the scientists are all female.

In the context of criticism of endless pink-branded items for girls and sexist child marketing, Lego's new range - Research Institute - could be significant.


The Danish company was heavily criticised for Lego Friends, a range aimed at girls launched two years ago. It features five women who live in the fictional area of Heartlake and includes a salon, a vet, swimming pool and convertible car. Critics attacked the pastel colours and life of leisure led by the characters. They said the range lacked the educational "construction" element of equivalent products aimed at boys. And in February this year, seven-year-old Charlotte Benjamin wrote an angry letter to Lego - soon widely publicised - about the lack of strong female characters.

The new range of scientists was released online last week and has sold out, with another batch to be made available later this month. The company denies the set is designed to mollify feminist critics. It points out that the new range was an idea voted for by the public.

The Research Institute set was proposed by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman and backed in a public vote on a Lego crowdsourcing website. Kooijman has written that she wanted to counter "a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures". She is pleased with the result.

Lego hardly altered her designs although it did add make-up, something "she strongly discourages" in the lab. But she has no objection to tweaking it for children in this way, she says.

Although it is refreshing to see female minifigs which do not emphasize breasts, some of the female scientist minifig pieces appear to be unchanged from the cheerleader minifigs.

[Submitter offers 'full disclosure': I've stood for election as an environmental candidate, campaigned against discrimination, watched the Lego Movie in cinema and own Lego products.

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by dyingtolive on Saturday August 09 2014, @04:02AM

    by dyingtolive (952) on Saturday August 09 2014, @04:02AM (#79225)

    And here I was, thinking they were just yet another toy company making shit from plastic for the enjoyment of children. I'm literally running downstairs to grab my pitchfork and social justice warrior hat. Eyes totally opened. Totally.

    Don't blame me, I voted for moose wang!
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by davester666 on Saturday August 09 2014, @04:42AM

    by davester666 (155) on Saturday August 09 2014, @04:42AM (#79229)

    "Although it is refreshing to see female minifigs which do not emphasize breasts, some of the female scientist minifig pieces appear to be unchanged from the cheerleader minifigs."

    Of course, the exception being the scientist minifig's don't have pompoms for hands...

    Also, they have different drawings for their clothes, and their faces don't have that "pop a dick in my mouth" expression I guess.

    The actual minifig itself [if you buff off all the paint for the face/clothes] doesn't appear to objectionable at all. Except for the hair, it appears to be as featureless as a male minifig.

    So, I guess the complaint is that some of these scientist minifigs have "cheerleader" hair?

    • (Score: 2) by dyingtolive on Saturday August 09 2014, @04:57AM

      by dyingtolive (952) on Saturday August 09 2014, @04:57AM (#79231)

      I think it's because whoever is complaining is a solution in desperate search of a problem.

      Don't blame me, I voted for moose wang!
  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Saturday August 09 2014, @05:41AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Saturday August 09 2014, @05:41AM (#79237) Journal

    C'mon people! Women scientists? Lego mini-figs? We can do better than this, like pointing out that metrosexual is better than ammosexual, or oilsexual! If we all descend to the level of Ethanol-Fueled on a bad day, this sight is destined for a collision with homophonia that will beggar the question of what are we doing here. Anybody who says "political correctness" will be mercilessly down-moded by a gang of republican geese from the reign of Julian. (Look it up, if you do not get the reference.)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09 2014, @02:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09 2014, @02:19PM (#79323)

      I didn't have any luck tracking down the reference, but seriously, I'm getting tired of the "political correctness" bullshit. While I believe that women can do pretty much any thing men can do (and vice versa), though there are a few exceptions ... it's annoying that women keep insisting on being included in absolutely every currently or previously male-only space. Then when men try to say that it is only fair that men be included in women-only spaces, they get attacked for it. Why is it okay for women to have women-only spaces but not okay for men to have men-only spaces? Yes, I know this is a bit off-topic, but let's take a look at, say, schools. Everybody seems to be perfectly fine with women-only schools, but whenever there are men-only schools, there's the women, insisting that they be allowed in, because otherwise it is discrimination!! So discrimination is okay as long as benefits women and/or harms men, but noth the other way around? Seriously, society, what the fuck is wrong with you?!?

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by cafebabe on Saturday August 09 2014, @05:33PM

        by cafebabe (894) on Saturday August 09 2014, @05:33PM (#79382) Journal

        Most people would benefit from a personal space and most people would benefit from a gender-specific space. However, there are a large number of people that just don't get this concept. Even when they fail to get this concept, they expect the world to revolve around them. From a magazine and forum for alpha hetrosexual men []:-

        I wouldn't enter a women's group or a gay club and demand they make chances to accommodate my needs as a straight man, I expect that women and gays wouldn't enter male-only spaces and demand they change to accommodate the needs of women and gays, yet that is precisely what has happened in every historical male space that has been socially integrated.


        In recent times, women have attempted to ban the word "bossy []" in the workplace, ban sexual jokes in the workplace and at tech conferences, even when privately whispered [] between male attendees, ban masculine design and thought from wikipedia, [] ban certain types of characters in video games [], science-fiction, and fantasy, ban grunting in gyms [], ban deadlifting in gyms [], and ban peeing standing up in Sweden []. These are just the few, and I’m certain readers could easily supply additional stories and links.

        FFS, when does a man get an opportunity to be manly?

        Regarding your comments on schools, they are entirely on-topic in the Careers & Education section of SoylentNews []. I find it perverse that someone can be denied a place in an educational institution due to their genitalia. This is particularly incongruent with efforts to encourage [] education of girls [] around the world. A beneficiary of an advanced education noted the disproportionate economic and social cost this could incur []:-

        I'm a doctor and a mother of four, and I've always practiced medicine full time. When I took my board exams in 1987, female doctors were still uncommon, and we were determined to work as hard as any of the men.

        Today, however, increasing numbers of doctors - mostly women - decide to work part time or leave the profession. Since 2005 the part-time physician workforce has expanded by 62 percent, according to recent survey data from the American Medical Group Association, with nearly 4 in 10 female doctors between the ages of 35 and 44 reporting in 2010 that they worked part time.

        This may seem like a personal decision, but it has serious consequences for patients and the public.

        Medical education is supported by federal and state tax money both at the university level - student tuition doesn't come close to covering the schools' costs - and at the teaching hospitals where residents are trained. So if doctors aren't making full use of their training, taxpayers are losing their investment. With a growing shortage of doctors in America, we can no longer afford to continue training doctors who don't spend their careers in the full-time practice of medicine.

        It isn't fashionable (and certainly isn't politically correct) to criticize "work-life balance" or part-time employment options. How can anyone deny people the right to change their minds about a career path and choose to spend more time with their families? I have great respect for stay-at-home parents, and I think it's fine if journalists or chefs or lawyers choose to work part time or quit their jobs altogether. But it's different for doctors. Someone needs to take care of the patients.

        The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that, 15 years from now, with the ranks of insured patients expanding, we will face a shortage of up to 150,000 doctors. As many doctors near retirement and aging baby boomers need more and more medical care, the shortage gets worse each year.

        Returning to Lego, my concern is that, due to market pressure, Lego has swung from one extreme to the other but has done so in a way which specifically impinges on the composition of future STEM graduates and that a traditionally masculine toy is signalling career options to girls in a manner which may be to the detriment of everyone.

        I don't have a good answer this situation and it is possible that medical advances may make the situation worse rather than better [].

        • (Score: 2) by cafebabe on Monday August 11 2014, @02:53AM

          by cafebabe (894) on Monday August 11 2014, @02:53AM (#79884) Journal

          Apparently, prospective civil servants in Brazil undergo medical examination to ensure 25 year ROI prior to training but women find it the most invasive []:-

          'The health inspections are intended to ensure, beyond technical ability, the physical and mental ability of candidates to keep their jobs for an average of 25 years.'

          While the department requires other health exams, such as a mammography for women and a prostate test for men older than 40, the gynecological exams were criticized as particularly invasive.

          The issue came to light this week after a news site interviewed a 27-year-old woman who said she was ashamed to ask a doctor for a note declaring she was still a virgin to escape the other tests.

          The bar association of Sao Paulo said the practice was unconstitutional. The group Catholics for the Right to Choose also complained about it, saying in a statement 'We are living in the Middle Ages!'

          Last year, a similar incident sparked anger in the state of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, when female candidates for police jobs were asked to take the tests or prove their hymens were not torn.

          The government subsequently asked that such tests be eliminated.

    • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Sunday August 10 2014, @08:14AM

      by darkfeline (1030) on Sunday August 10 2014, @08:14AM (#79599) Homepage

      Ammosexual? Pleasuring oneself with ammunition? That doesn't seem particularly safe, although I don't see anything politically incorrect about it (unless there's an ammunition rights group that I don't know about?).

      Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Sunday August 10 2014, @08:19AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Sunday August 10 2014, @08:19AM (#79601) Journal

        In some human activities, best not discussed with the very young, rate and vector of discharge are of the essence. But I think the term "ammosexual" was coined by Bill Maher referring to gun-nuts. You may NOT ask me how I know so much about the pleasures of release at +/- 25,000 psi.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Saturday August 09 2014, @03:47PM

    by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Saturday August 09 2014, @03:47PM (#79350)

    I still see Lego toys for sale in stores, especially around Christmas, and it's a shame that they're not what they used to be. The sets I see are so specific that you could only build the toy on the box. The pieces are so specific to the set that it's just a toy you assemble. When I was growing up, Lego sets had a bunch of generic, interchangable parts. You could build the thing on the box, or you could build whatever you wanted. If you bought two sets, you had even more possibilities. Lego used to be about awakening your imagination. Kids could dream up new things to make. The sets I see aren't like that. A lot of them are branded with licensed properties (like Star Wars). If I was a kid again, I wouldn't have any fun with today's Lego sets. But I guess today's children don't need imagination. They need to be trained to consume things (especially licensed properties).

    (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11 2014, @12:12AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11 2014, @12:12AM (#79842) []

      This might be Brickbay.

      If so, eBay might have
      forced them to change their

      If not, Brickbay went under.

      Anyway, this site appears
      to be 'eBay for LEGO'.

      Years ago I had generic LEGO
      and made my own 'homemade' copies
      of stuff I saw in movies and
      TV shows. :D

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11 2014, @11:55AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11 2014, @11:55AM (#80013)

      I guess you haven't seen the movie, as what you said was pretty much the message it conveyed. Okay, it obviously wasn't complaining about the sets being sold in shop, but it did have a message of not sticking to the instructions and using your imagination when playing with Lego.

      It may be a kids movie, but its still entertaining for adults, you should watch it sometime.

  • (Score: 2) by emg on Saturday August 09 2014, @06:18PM

    by emg (3464) on Saturday August 09 2014, @06:18PM (#79396)

    Is there really anyone on this planet who takes this kind of crap seriously?

    The only real problem is when some company sees an astroturfing Twitter campaign, and actually believes large numbers of their customers do. Usually followed by changing their products and seeing a dramatic reduction in sales, because the people complaining weren't customers, and their changes have annoyed the real ones.