Truly, this is not just about Disney. But this post is related to the Sexism and Marvel post from a few weeks back and since most of the toys The Boy has are Disney related, they are going to get picked on here. This could really be a rant on most toy companies and attitudes in general towards what should be boy and girl toys.
The Boy absolutely loves the following three movie franchises in this order: Toy Story, Cars, Planes. These are Pixar/Disney films but it is Disney that handles the merchandising. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised when we looked for the 20″ Toy Story dolls for him that we were able to find a Jessie doll. At least those were something we could find. Maybe because both boys and girls are allowed to love those movies. But let’s look at Cars and Planes.
When The Boy let us know he wanted the characters from Cars (he is unaware Cars 2 exists except as a short-story that I edit as a read to him) we started looking for them – they made great potty training rewards and Christmas was coming up. It took awhile, but eventually, we found all of the Radiator Springs members. This was an old movie. We expected it would be difficult to find the cars. It was not impossible. Though, the only set we could find Miss Sally in was with her having dinner with Lightning.
But when it comes to the Planes movies, we noticed something odd. We could not find any of the female characters easily. These are PLANES, they are not gendered in real life. But it was very difficult to find Dottie. It was nearly impossible to find Lil’ Dipper – we finally had to settle for a larger, expensive version of her from the Disney store rather than finding the smaller version (like the other characters have) available at other stores. Pinecone (one of the Smoke Jumpers) is easier to find – but I think that might be because unless you pay close attention to the one line she has in the movie, you might not realize she’s female. But Dynamite? The leader of the Smoke Jumpers? The obviously strong female character? Impossible to find in any store. Oh yes, she’s available if you want to pay an arm and a leg from a collector on Amazon, but she is NEVER hanging on the shelf at Walmart or Target, or Kroger, or Toys R Us, or any of the other stores we diligently check to try to find female Planes and Cars characters.
I was even willing to buy the $100 set (later reduced and then discontinued) from the Disney Store that included all the characters in Planes Fire and Rescue in an attempt to get Dynamite. But, since many of the toys sold by the Disney Store are terrible quality, we had to return it after I dropped one of the cars on our rug while carrying it to the Christmas tree and it broke.
Note to Disney: I love most of your merchandise. I love the quality of the t-shirts, kitchen items, beach towels, etc. But your toys are often pieces of junk. It’s depressing thinking I can find a better made toy at Walmart than I can at the Disney Store.
I was very glad I’d over-bought for his Christmas since this happened on Christmas Eve and we decided to not give him that set.
Not being able to find female characters in “boy” toys is common to all toy manufacturers, but it is really obvious in Disney and Marvel toys. Years ago, you could buy adorable prince outfits at the Disney Store that were similar to the princess costumes you see today. What do you see at the stores now? The Avengers. Hot, bulky costumes that a boy would never be able to wear to Disney World and would get uncomfortable wearing for the length of time it takes to Trick or Treat. If they have one of the other male characters, like Jake from The Neverland Pirates, the quality of the costume is so bad that it makes a not-very-creative mom like me decide to learn to sew it myself. (That Jake vest I made out of felt is still in use two years later and one of his favorite dress-up items. Thanks for the pattern!)
What about at the actual parks? There are plenty of dress up opportunities for girls. They can go to Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and get multiple versions of being a princess. Boys can choose a knight – that only includes the sword and not the outfit. At the Pirates League, boys can be a pirate (that usually includes scary face make-up) while girls can choose pirate princess or mermaid look. Why are girls always required to be a beautiful princess and boys are always required to be a protector with a weapon or a villain with a weapon? Yes, I know, boys can make swords and guns out of sticks. One of The Boy’s and my favorite games is to fight dragons in our front yard with special sticks we’ve collected. But boys and girls want to be able to do other things too.
This indoctrination happens young. We brought The Boy to the local Disney outlet a few weeks ago. He was picking up one of those cheap fans they have near the checkout counter. It had Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf, but was obviously geared more towards a feminine aesthetic. A little girl of about 5 years old explained to me that he shouldn’t play with that since it was a girl toy. She then picked up an Iron Man fan and said he could play with that one. How sad. There were other toys at the store that were so frustrating. Boys had bowling ball sets that were Mickey Mouse and blue. Girls could have the garden set that was Minnie Mouse and pink. What if a girl wants to bowl or a boy wants to garden? I think Disney actually does make opposite sex versions of these – but they are hard to find. This store certainly had none. Why not make them neutral?
Are we so afraid that by letting a boy play with a doll or letting a girl pretend she’s a firefighter that we are going to cause society to crumble? Sadly, many people in charge of toy companies either believe this or believe society feels this way to such an extent that they have to constantly categorize everything as feminine or masculine. Even things that shouldn’t be. I think things are changing. Slowly, but it’s beginning. Many parents are tired of the stereotypes.
I think our toy companies need to realize this. Wouldn’t it cost less to make gender neutral toys in some cases than specific boy and girl versions? Why alienate half your population who might buy a toy by making them feel like they shouldn’t get it for their child? Why are superhero toys or cars and planes considered to be boy only toys? Why is it such a terrible thing to think that a boy might want to play with a female car or superhero <or gasp!-> plant a garden or cook? Or a girl might enjoy race cars or want to pretend she’s a superhero, or play sports? The sexism goes both ways.
Stop offering only toys that have weapons to boys. Stop telling boys they can’t have feelings or take care of children. Stop suggesting that girls need to be either sexy or maternal but can’t be a hero and that they must ALWAYS be beautiful and smile. Just Stop It.