In regards to the previous Legos article a friend of mine posted his thoughts on the whole Legos for girls situation.
The Friends controversy caused a bigger change in marketing but the way they have marketed to girls had been fairly consistent. Lego had done a “Homemaker” series & the Paradisa series that could integrated into the basic set but was very much based on gender stereotyping and in no way gender neutral. In the 80s most of my blocks had the face to the left. Gender was pretty much defined by putting a ponytail on it. In the 90s the faces started to have more beards but rarely did I find/get one with lipstick. Lego really started to have multiple hair and face styles that were more like women for what I would call the base sets in the late 90s around the time they started doing the Star Wars sets.
I really think the Research Institute Lego Set had such pent up demand is because of how long Lego has used gender stereotyping in marketing to girls. It is more that the basic Lego sets are still bought, regardless of gender but marketing makes a huge difference. If I remember correctly a lot of the dip came from the way they changed their designing because their patents were getting ready to expire. They went to one time use, special purpose blocks starting in the 90s so Lego moved away from the way you can build ANYTHING with their blocks model. At the same time K’NEX came out using the same model that you can really build ANYTHING, however it is more stick oriented. This meant that Lego had direct competition from MegaBlocks, but anyone can tell you their blocks aren’t quite right, when compared to Legos.
My pre 90’s Lego sets didn’t have much gender defining aspects to their clothes or faces. Most of the gender aspect was ambiguous unless it was a ponytail. You could try to make some assumptions for things like the knights & castle sets, however that is based on historical norms not really the blocks themselves. Even then they were still 80% purchased for boys. They could have changed their marketing to gain market share in “the pink toy aisle” instead they entirely changed the minifigures, more pastels, changed the colors of the boxes, and reinforced gender norms.
(My mom actually liked Legos because they didn’t have guns, but I still built guns for my Legos.)
I also had a set similar this this but it was scuba diving not Coast Guard (but I thought you would like the Coast Guard example) the only thing they would have needed to market to girls would have been a different hat and/or not a beard and maybe a “cute” animal for the Lego minifigures to explore. If I’m being stereotypical the boy might hunt the cute animal while the girl might save it but it could be done from the exact same set depending on the marketing and the face/hair on the Lego set.
Previous article: https://libertariandad.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/legos-for-girls/