Dear Lego, where are the women?

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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The New Zealand science communicator of the year is obsessed with Lego.

Auckland University microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, recently awarded the 2013 Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize, has fallen in love with the plastic blocks all over again since becoming a parent. Her seven-year-old daughter now knows “the best way to get my attention is to suggest we play Lego together”, she writes at Sciblogs.co.nz.

Her affections, however, are tested by the disproportionate number of male figures, she explains in an open letter to Lego HQ.

“We spend a lot of money on Lego. We eagerly await each new series of minifigures. But with each series comes the inevitable questions from my daughter: ‘Why are there so many boys?’ ‘Girls can be [mechanics/painters/divers] too, can’t they?’ ‘Of course!’ I tell her, my heart sinking as I see the same old gender stereotypes being reinforced.”

Wiles, who has launched a petition urging Lego to issue their figurines a la Janus, with a female face on one side of the head, and a male on the other, is not the first to challenge the toy-maker over gender portrayals.

A 2012 petition challenging Lego over its “girl-friendly” range of figures that “are pink, wear short skirts and frequent nail salons” attracted more than 65,000 signatures at the US site Change.org.

Earlier this year, the company apologised following complaints over a series of Lego “Construction Crew” stickers, which included a Lego worker waving and hollering, “Hey, Babe!”

See also: The Hobbit in Lego.

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