On Christmas Eve our family skipped holiday traditions, and went to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I won’t spoil the movie, only to say it was awesome, and I am so excited for our kids to be truly part of the Star Wars tradition with stories, characters, and plot twists that belong to them.
(Think about it, we are raising a generation of kids who KNEW Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father!)
In particular I’m excited about the new main character Rey, a strong, smart, capable woman. (And that’s all I’ll say about her).
The Star Wars universe has always had characters our daughter could relate to – specifically, Asoka Tano, a Jedi Padawan we met as a youngster assigned to Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and who we’ve seen grow into a capable, smart, brave Jedi in Star Wars: Rebels.
But while these strong female characters may thrive on the big and small screens, they, like so many other female characters, are underrepresented (or simply missing) from toy shelves and other merchandise. Black Widow, Gamora, Asoka are rarely seen – and now Rey is missing, as with this pack of action figures featuring “favorite characters” from the movie.
Because when asked, most people say “the First Order Tie Fighter pilot is my favorite!”
I’ve read many explanations for why Rey is missing, my favorite being “because showing her may spoil movie plot points.” Here’s a tip – if the character is featured prominently on the poster, there’s a pretty good chance she’s similarly featured in the film.
Other accuse Hasbro of being straight up sexist – I can’t/don’t want to believe that a group of toy designers and executives sat around a room and said “girls only like glitter” or “boys don’t like girl characters.” That being said, I do believe those running the system fell victim to unconscious bias which informed them to stay with what they knew. Action figures = boys.
But do they know what that says to the girls going in search of Rey? Or the boys who dare want to recreate scenes from the movie, including the main character?
You are not welcome here. This is not for you. Boys only. No girls allowed.
Is that what Disney, Star Wars and Hasbro wants to convey to my children? Is that what Toys R Us, Target and Amazon wants to say to me?
I expect better, not just for our daughter, but also for our son. I want my children to grow up in a society where men and women are treated equally. Where a movie with a strong woman lead isn’t a sign of progress, but just another day in the life. Where what is extraordinary is their effort, their progress or their skills, not their gender.
Clearly, we are not there yet. And while to some these missing women – Rey, Black Widow, Gamora, Asoka – is just about toys, to me and many others it is about so much more.
It’s about expectations of equality.
Where did you get the light saber I was asked. My bookshelf I replied. Because everyone should own a light saber.