After studying gendered marketing I’ve become more aware of gender bias in children’s products. The Disney store is one of my favourite places and I am unashamed to admit it despite being a so-called ‘adult’ – or at least according to my driver’s licence. However during recent stops in this retail-sized portion of the ‘happiest place on earth’ I’ve noticed a distinct lack of representation when it comes to female characters in the Star Wars universe. I am a firm believer of the force and am anxiously awaiting episode VIII with bated breath however when browsing through the multiple rows of Finn and Kylo Ren figures I found only a single row of figures featuring the main character, Rey. I would love to think this is merely a product of high demand as Rey proves to be the bad-ass breakout star of the new chapters. Unfortunately I’ve seen this lack of female representation on multiple occasions and this is also evident on the shelves of Rogue One paraphernalia. Once again figures of the courageous heroine Jyn Erso seem to be sparse on the shelves amongst the overpopulation of other (male) figurines.
Now fast forward a few days to me venting my frustration against the Disney store to a couple of my male colleagues. One in particular seemed determined that it must be merely based on marketing statistics, the male characters sell better and therefore are kept better stocked in stores. I don’t deny this could absolutely be the case. I would have let it go but then the following statement was uttered: “I’m not sexist but…” – As soon as that but appears you know you’re in for a completely contradictory statement. My colleague then proceeded to go on to say if (hypothetically) they were to have a boy and a girl later in life they would only take the boy to see Star Wars. Apparently they would also only buy male action figures from the series for said hypothetical child. I was lucky that my parents have never raised me with the expectation to conform to stereotypes and I am proud to say that I love Star Wars. It baffles me that people would deny a child the opportunity to explore new things merely because it doesn’t fit into their idea of gender norms. The Star Wars universe in particular is full of strong, brave women from Rey to Leia – when did it become a ‘boys’ film?
“I’m not sexist but…” – You my friend have just proved to me why we need feminism. Thank you for the clarity.