No Country For Female Superheroes
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, besides the fact that the designs aren’t exactly museum level quality. Do you see it? The wheel of “traditional” gender roles continues to turn despite the assumed great lengths we have come as a nation regarding women’s equality.
Last week the Huffington Post featured a story about boys and girls shirts sold by the Disney Store online. The offending articles of clothing were a children boy’s shirt that depicted Iron Man and the phrase “Be A Hero”, while a girl’s shirt (which is actually meant for teens) shows the entire Avengers team and the caption “I Need A Hero”. Argue all you want about how it was “unfair” to compare shirts aimed at different demographics, however the larger point would be sorely missed.
First, The Avengers is a team of both men and women, consisting of a rotating roster of super beings. The original team was comprised of Thor, Iron Man, Henry Pym (Ant Man), The Wasp, and Iron Man. Throughout the years the heroes, from both genders, were switched in and out. On the women’s side there was Ms. Marvel, She Hulk, Invisible Woman, Scarlet Witch, Mockingbird, and a slew of others that, at this juncture, I don’t have to name. And these aren’t even “one-off” type of characters. These are heroes that have, on several occasions, been stars of their own books, story arcs, major events, etc.
There is yet another argument that the T-shirts Disney are selling are only meant to be representative of the Avengers seen on-screen for the Avengers movie and not the full gamut of literally hundreds of people involved in the overarching Avengers universe. Also maybe only dorks like me may actually be so involved as to invoke the Comic Book Guy voice when correcting others. That’s half valid. But please explain the mysterious disapparence of Black Widow. Go on, I’ll wait.
Not only is it annoying that two shirts are ‘aimed’ at two different genders and promote opposite view points; I’m personally over the fact that a boys shirt would inexplicably leave off Black Widow from the Avengers group shirt. Was she not in the movie? Did Widow take a hiatus? Bad hair day? I checked the rest of Disney’s Marvel clothing store for women and what I found was either laughable or ridiculous, depending on your point of view. For one there’s no “Girls” gender filter for the Marvel store. You can sort by age (Kids or Adults), or by Gender (Boys, Men, Women). Uh ok. I’ll let that slide since just the Marvel section and the Disney Store has an entire category devoted to girls for other sections. Odd though that in the gender sort area its a four squared box and the fourth square is just blank.
I checked out the offerings for women and the choices were somewhat sparse. I could choose between the numerous Tokidoki, chibi-styled shirts featuring Storm or Spiderman (and no one else for some reason). Or a few tees with the phrases “I Only Kiss Heroes” (showing Iron Man), “I Love A Man In Uniform” (showing the Avengers), and “I Love Guys Who S-A-V-E The World” (with Spiderman, Iron Man, and Capt. America). The easy answer would be not to buy any of the shirts and be on my merry way, especially considering there are better options elsewhere. But at what point do we hold companies accountable?
I am not easily outraged, nor do I feel the need to call for the blood of Mickey Mouse as penance. I am, however, part of the growing vocal group that is beyond the corporate and marketing shenanigans that perpetuates the ideology that women are not leaders, nor architects of their own freedom. Hell, a simple inclusion of a female would probably allay half of the people mad about this situation. A better fix would be to take a good, hard look at messaging and how it affects people of all ages. The question “why in this day and age do things like this still happen?” begs repetition. It also should spur action for people to do something about it. In fact, there is a petition on change.org that, as of the time of this writing, has over 7,000 signatures urging Disney to “stop selling sexist avengers t-shirts”. While I wasn’t planning on buying the shirts or giving Disney any more money than I already have (but will eventually give — gotta see Avengers 2 !). It’s things like this that require a call of attention.
Be distinctly aware of what you are telling yourself and children around you and question it. Whether its written or stated, conscious or otherwise the messages you surround yourself with tend to define your reality. There are female superheroes in mine.