LEGO's newest mini-figure is attracting a lot of attention
thanks to his job. And, no, he's not a superhero, astronaut, Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtle or even Chris Pratt.
He's a dad.
That might not sound revolutionary—LEGO has made family sets
before—but, at last week's New York Toy Fair, LEGO unveiled their first-ever stay-at-home
dad figure. And, speaking as a dad, that's kind of a big deal.
Because the modern family has undergone some massive changes
over the past 30 years, and one of the major shifts is that more and more
fathers are choosing to be stay-at-home caregivers. According to the Pew
Research Center, the total number of stay-at-home dads DOUBLED between 1989 and
Personally, I didn't know any stay-at-home dads when I was a
kid, but I know plenty now. In fact, some of the most engaged, active
caregivers I know are fathers who have chosen to remain at-home with their
children, while their partners assume the role of working parents. So I think it's
kind of wonderful that the children of those stay-at-home dads will now be able
to introduce a new figure, who shares the same occupation as their fathers, into their sprawling LEGO worlds.
It's a small but significant step toward gender equality when any major brand is intentional about representing fathers, or men in general, as capable caregivers.
In an interview with Fortune Magazine, LEGO president Søren
Torp noted that the new figure was inspired by the company's desire to "stay in
tune with the world around us. … We aren't responding to demand from anyone. We
are trying to portray the world around us and listen to our consumer base."
(The new LEGO City set that includes the new stay-at-home
dad figure also includes a "working mom" in professional attire and the
first-ever wheelchair-bound LEGO mini-figure.)
The public first got a glimpse of the new figure at the New
York and International Toy Fairs, but a group of influential dads also got a
preview of the LEGO stay-at-home dad at the recent Dad 2.0 Summit, a popular annual
conference where engaged dads, writers, marketers and social media
professionals "connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern
By all accounts, the new LEGO dad received a warm reception
at Dad 2.0. One of the attendees was Chris Routly, an author, blogger and the
current president of the National At-Home Dad Network, a growing advocacy and
support organization for caregiver fathers. When I asked Routly about his
impressions of the new stay-at-home dad figure, he said:
"One of the things that makes LEGO so great is that you
can pretty much make anything that you can imagine with them. So the ability to
use any male minifig in play where the figure is a stay-at-home dad is not
really new. But the same was always true of using female minifigs as scientists
and engineers, and yet it was still certainly worth recognizing the
significance when LEGO released their first official minifig of a female
scientist, just a few years ago, and then release many more minifigs of females
in various STEM fields this past summer. In the same way, it's a small but
significant step toward gender equality when any major brand is intentional
about representing fathers, or men in general, as capable caregivers. I can
only speak for myself, but I can't wait to get a set."
Neither can I.
Because, as campaigns like #WheresRey have repeatedly shown
us, representation matters.
It might seem trivial to be excited that LEGO is calling a
new male figure a "stay-at-home dad" when, really, a child could decide that
ANY male figure could represent a stay-at-home dad. (A surprising number of
press outlets are calling it a "hipster dad" figure, due to the beard, even
though he looks way more like a lumberjack than a Park Slope barista.)
But, by simply labeling this one dad figure as a primary
caregiver, LEGO is, in some small way, acknowledging the make-up of the
21st century family. And, while that might not matter to everyone, it
certainly does matter to stay-at-home dads and the children, friends and
relatives that love and respect all that they do for their families.
One of the great things about LEGOs has always been that
they allow kids to build whatever worlds they could possibly imagine. With this
new figure, it's nice to know that stay-at-home dads can now be a part of those