In a two-part article at Sociological Images, David Pickett traces the history of LEGO and the toy's male-female dichotomy. The toys were pretty much gender-neutral before the introduction of mini-figs in 1978. Even then, the figures were generic and ambiguous -until 1989.
I discussed the introduction of LEGOs the invention of gendered minifigs, and early efforts to market separately to girls and boys in Part I of this series, covering 1932 to 1988. The segregation of LEGO into feminine and masculine sets would escalate beginning in 1989. That year the LEGO group introduced gender to the minifig in a big way with the new Pirates theme. The masculine figs sported copious facial hair and the lone feminine pirate had lipstick and a curved shirt that implied a busty chest.
This pioneering pirate was the first in a long line of token females in otherwise male-dominated action-centric themes. The imbalanced ratio of masculine to feminine minifigs persists today, though it has lessened over time. I have seen several different numbers for this ratio, so I decided to do my own count. I gave TLG the benefit of the doubt and counted as gender neutral any minifigs lacking definitely masculine (facial hair) or feminine (lipstick, eyelashes, cleveage) traits, even when LEGO marketing materials clearly delineate them as male or female.
The imbalance is huge, even when you discount people's tendency to look at "gender-neutral" figures as male by default. Link to part one. Link to part two. -via Boing Boing