When a 7-year-old would rather write a letter of complaint about her toys than play with them, you know there's a problem. Last week Charlotte Benjamin spotted inequality in an aisle of Legos and did something about it. In a handwritten note to the Lego company, she expressed concern over the large number of "Lego boy people" and the limited options for girls at her local toy store. After her letter went viral, Lego posted a response Monday evening, claiming to be "very focused on including more female characters and themes that invite even more girls to build.”
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It's not often a letter-writing campaign gets such a quick response, but most letters aren't as succinct as Charlotte's. The note — originally sent to the website Sociological Images by Charlotte’s father and posted to its Twitter account — reads:
Since the letter first arrived on the Internet last Tuesday, it's been retweeted over 2,000 times and shared on Facebook by over 5,000 users. On Twitter, lots of people seem to share Charlotte's opinion.
On Monday, Lego responded to Charlotte with a mea culpa of sorts. "LEGO play has often been more appealing to boys," read the statement, "but we have been very focused on including more female characters and themes that invite even more girls to build, and in the last few years, we are thrilled that we have dramatically increased the number of girls who are choosing to build."
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It continued: "While there are still more male characters than female, we have added new characters to the LEGO world to better balance the appeal of our themes." Lego says it's had female characters including “a warrior, a surgeon, a zoologist, athletes, extreme sports characters, rock stars and a scientist,” but its current offerings don’t seem to include the role models Charlotte and others are seeking.
In 2012, preteen McKenna Pope petitioned Hasbro to create a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven for her little brother. The company conceded to her call to action and created the famously pink oven in black and silver. In 2013, a Change.org appeal asked for the United States to join European Toys R Us stores in committing to ending gender-based marketing.
While older toy companies may be struggling to reduce the gender gap, some newer outlets are ahead of the curve. Take, for example, GoldieBlox, a toy company with the explicit goal of getting young girls building. "For over 100 years, building and engineering has been a boys club. I created GoldieBlox with the specific goal of getting girls interested in engineering,” Debbie Sterling, founder & CEO of GoldieBlox tells Yahoo Shine. All GoldieBlox toys star Goldie, a kid inventor who solves problems by building simple machines, and hopes to inspire women in science, technology, engineering and math. “[Goldie] is a much-needed female role model that girls can relate to and aspire to be like,” she says.
Meanwhile, companies like MindWare, which makes puzzles and games, and Roominate, which boasts a DIY wired dollhouse kit, are building products anchored in gender neutrality. Of course, not everyone is ready to give up on their Legos. "The Lego Movie," which hits theaters this Friday, is expected to earn $40 million in its opening weekend, and it already has a sequel in the works.