Gender stereotypes exist everywhere in our communities. LEGO is no exception to this trend. We looked at every female LEGO minifigure torso produced to examine some of the stereotypes perpetuated in one of the most popular building toys of all time.
Gender Stereotypes in Female LEGO Minifigures
Female minifigure torsos are distinguished from their male counterparts in a few main ways: most female torsos have hourglass figures while male torsos have no defined waistline, and some female torsos have bustlines and a few have cleavage lines, while male torsos do not. We investigated these traits that are characteristic of female minifigure torsos further to get a better sense of gender stereotypes in LEGO minifigures.
For this analysis, we collected data from Bricklink in July, 2020, and examined every female minifigure torso released and listed on the site as of then (a total of 470 torsos). We developed a rating system for the waistline, bustline and cleavage line severity for the female torsos, as shown below with examples of each presence level.
This rating system helped us quantify the waistline, bustline and cleavage line presence on female minifigure torsos. We then went through each female torso and assigned them a presence level on each of these three rating systems for waistline, bustline and cleavage line.
In the following chart, we summed the number of torsos in each level of waistline presence. The vast majority (94%) of female torsos had a waistline, and a majority (62%) had a moderate to significant waistline. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the minifigure torsos, all or very nearly all of which have no waistline markings. Significant waistlines often represent unrealistic body types and may perpetuate harmful body image expectations.
The chart below shows the evolution of waistline presence over time, since 2010. Very few female figures released each year have no waistline, besides the year 2014. The year 2017 saw an unusually large percentage of torsos with a moderate to significant waistline. Please note only 20 female torsos were made before 2010 and 3 of the female torsos were not listed with a year on Bricklink and were not included in the following graphs.
The next feature we looked at was bustlines on female minifigure torsos. The following graph shows the distribution of bustline presence on all the female torsos released by LEGO. About 33% of female torsos had no bustline whatsoever, and 42% had moderate to significant bustlines.
This chart below shows the evolution of bustline presence on female minifig torsos over time. 2017 stands out again as a year with an unusually large proportion of moderate to significant bustlines.
Finally, we investigated cleavage lines on female minifigure torsos. There were very few torsos with cleavage lines (only 13 in total, or 2.8% of all female torsos), as shown in the graph below. We didn’t create a graph over time because of how few torsos with cleavage lines there were.
After examining all the female LEGO minifigure torsos released to date, we have gained a little more insight into how women and female bodies are depicted in the LEGO community. Here are three key takeaways from our analysis:
- Nearly all (94%) female minifigure torsos had some kind of waistline, whereas non-female specific torsos have no waistline.
- The majority (67%) of female torsos had bustlines, and a large fraction (42%) had moderate to significant bustlines.
- Very few female torsos have cleavage lines. 13 torsos in total have ever been released with cleavage lines, and of these, 5 of them have significant cleavage lines.
With these results, we would recommend that LEGO ease up on the significance of waistlines on female torsos. Such waistline proportions are often unrealistic and may encourage harmful body image expectations. The same recommendation can be made for bustlines – not only can these images be unrealistic, but also limits the use of how these torsos can be used.