Advance Performance | Where are our female superheroes?
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Where are our female superheroes?

Where are our female superheroes?

There are just under four months until Christmas and the stores will be stocking up on the new Must Have toys. If you have a child who is a Star Wars fan you need to be quick to buy your Rey or Princess Leia mini figure, as they will be scarce.


If they had been male superheroes, their characters would have inspired a huge amount of toys and merchandise just like the merchandise for Captain America, Spiderman, Batman (clearly not movies aimed at children) and The Hulk. However, you’ll struggle to find their female counterparts on the shelves – even the movie’s iconic Rey or Princess Leia.

TED has just released an excellent new talk “Bring on the female Superheroes!” by Christopher Bell who explores the lack of female superhero toys referring to his daughter’s love of Princess Leia. He explains that when Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars merchandise, they actively chose not to release a Princess Leia range. Even though this led to a social media campaign #WeWantLeia the company ignored the demand and even omitted the new heroine Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens from their Star Wars Monopoly set. The movie’s director J.J, Abrams said the toy’s absence was “preposterous and wrong.

An industry insider told the website that toymakers were “specifically directed” to exclude Rey from Star Wars merchandise, due to fears the products featuring female characters would not appeal to young boys. They claimed the consensus was  “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”

John Marcotte, founder of Heroic Girls (an organisation dedicated to the promotion of strong female role models) spoke to Disney about the lack of Rey toys from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He said: “they were completely blindsided by the reaction to the new Star Wars characters….. They were completely surprised when it was Rey everyone identified with and wanted to see more of.

The issue is not the lack of superheroes within movies but the transfer from the characters on screen to the merchandise specifically toys aimed at younger children rather than collectors’ items. Scarlett Johansson’s characterBlack Widow is integral to the Avengers team and movies. The character was actually not only omitted from Hasbro character sets but eliminated. The cool toy with Captain America riding the motorcycle that Hawkeye dropped from the Quinjet replaces Black Widow’s own stunt scene from the movie

In 2016, the conditioning over gender specific toys is still a major part of our children’s lives. It is forming the beliefs and conditioning in their childhood which then influence their thoughts, attitudes, decisions and behaviour as they are growing up.

As our business academics research the issues facing Women in Leadership. There still continues to be a lower number of women who become CEOs, leading politicians, and the ongoing topic of women’s equal pay – interestingly led by actresses who play superheroes such as Scarlett Johansson. If our children are being brought up that with the conditioning that the female can be eliminated, omitted, or changed to a male role, it does send out a very disturbing message.

However, as we move towards the next Star Wars movie and future Avengersmovies as well as Wonder Woman, we can look towards change for our children. John Marcotte says: “It’s up to the public now, to make it happen.  It’s all about the carrot and stick of economics. If people buy products featuring strong, heroic female characters, it will happen.” You have the power for change as the consumer. Your purchases will direct the toymakers’ future decisions which in turn, affects the toys your child grows up with.

You can enable your child can play with the female superhero who saves the world in their imagination, so that they grow up  with a view that men and women can make an equal impact on the real world.