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Sex Roles

, Volume 79, Issue 5–6, pp 285–298 | Cite as

Constructing Difference: Lego® Set Narratives Promote Stereotypic Gender Roles and Play

  • Stephanie M. Reich
  • Rebecca W. Black
  • Tammie Foliaki
Original Article

Abstract

LEGO® construction sets are a staple in many children’s lives. Given worldwide distribution, generations of children have grown up playing with these brightly colored, interlocking plastic bricks. Historically marketed to all children, the LEGO® Group has begun targeting male and female consumers differentially with the introduction of product lines such as LEGO® City and LEGO® Friends. Although the packaging, marketing, brick colors, and characters have changed, little is known about whether these product series encourage differences in the way boys and girls play. This content analysis compared the play narratives of sets marketed to boys (LEGO® City) and girls (LEGO® Friends). Our analysis found distinct gendered messages that encourage boys to enact various skilled professions, heroism, and expertise, whereas girls are encouraged to focus on having hobbies, being domestic, caring for others, socializing, being amateurs, and appreciating and striving for beauty. Although LEGO® City and Friends sets offer opportunities for construction, they also promote stereotyped gender roles for enacting femininity and masculinity in play. Parents, educators, and practitioners often focus on the educational affordances of LEGO® construction. We recommend that they also consider the other lessons, both explicit and implicit, being taught through gender-specific LEGO® sets.

Keywords

Gender Toys LEGO® Marketing Gender stereotypes Play 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Partial funding for the present project was provided by UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP) Program. We greatly appreciate the assistance of Dorothy Kozina, Emily Dmytryk, and Ksenia Korobkova.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study involves content and discourse analyses of marketing materials associated with LEGO Friends and LEGO City sets. It does not involve human subjects.

This manuscript is not under review with any other journal and we take responsibility for the veracity of the content of the paper.

Conflict of Interest

We do not have any affiliation, financial agreement, or involvement with a company that could pose a conflict of interest to the publication of this work.

Supplementary material

11199_2017_868_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 22 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie M. Reich
    • 1
  • Rebecca W. Black
    • 2
    • 3
  • Tammie Foliaki
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Department of InformaticsUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  3. 3.School of Education, Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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