Recently, Lego announced a new set that will feature female scientists, which is very cool. Lego’s women representation isn’t great; most of their licensed sets are male-centric, and their own sets tend to put female minifigs in stereotypically feminine positions. A new set of female scientists is a great development, and hopefully signals a change in Lego’s approach to their women characters.
Lego’s been in the nerd news a lot lately, particularly with the announcement of a third Lego Batman video game. The second Lego game is a particular favourite here, seeing as you can play as Wonder Woman, and she’ll be featured in the third game as well. But something in the game’s publicity images surprised me. Take a look at this picture of Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Cyborg:
In particular, look at her torso. The Flash and Cyborg’s costumes go right out to the edge of the minifig, but Wonder Woman’s is pulled in to create a smaller waist. It stands out starkly as well, with the black contrast colour, which is perhaps why I’d never noticed that Lego’s been doing this for a while.
Consider this Wonder Woman minifig from a set from a few years ago:
The pulled in, smaller waist is there as well, but more subtly coloured. I own this minifig, and I never noticed that. Nor did I notice the same thing on the Man of Steel Lois Lane minifig, from a set I also own:
Again, there’s a more subtle colour variation, but I think that’s only part of the problem. The larger issue may be that I am so accustomed to seeing women depicted with smaller waistlines, not only in comics but in pretty much every medium in the world, that seeing them on a minifig never registered until it was so starkly presented to me in that Lego Batman 3 image. Sometimes you internalize this foolishness and don’t even notice.
This pulled in waist is a common feature across Lego’s superheroes lines. Here’s a recent Batgirl minifig:
And a Black Widow:
And it’s everywhere else as well. The Tauriel minifig from The Hobbit sets is similarly figured, as is Princess Leia in the Star Wars sets and Wyldstyle in The Lego Movie and its sets. Getting back to female scientists, here’s the only female scientist minifig that Lego had produced before their recent announcement, complete with a smaller waist:
This just seems entirely unnecessary. Lego minifigs are stylized toys; most human torsos are not trapezoids and most human legs are not rectangular, nor are our heads cylindrical. Giving the female minifigs smaller waists only serves to perpetuate the dominant cultural depiction of women that focuses on their bodies and values thinness above all else. It’s a harmful body image that has no logical place on a minifig. Just let them be the fun, stylized toys they are; there’s no need to highlight a waistline.