When I posted the first Rey action figures we bought on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, friends jumped on my update right away, asking me to please notify them the next time I was able to get to the store for a few more.
Each request came from a mother looking for a Rey for her daughters. The figure, based on the lead character in arguably the best franchise movie to date from Star Wars, was ironically discounted by Disney in their initial marketing plans.
Sept. 3, 2015 - London, UK - Daisy Ridley and John Boyega with their respective characters' action figures at the Disney store in London for Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys, part of the global event called "Force Friday", the release of new Star Wars toys and other merchandise of the new movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (Credit Image: © Jonathan Brady/PA Wire via ZUMA Press)
I live in the land of moose and Amish, and the closest Target is two hours away. Each time we find ourselves in its hallowed walls (because angels will sing when you’ve driven two hours for the dollar bin, y’all), we are stunned silent by the utter chaos and destruction of the Star Wars merchandise aisle in the toy section.
Everything is picked over. Only scraps are left. We tiptoe through the wreckage as we search for survivors, whispering to each other as we scour for any sightings of the elusive Rey. She is nowhere to be found.
Back home, though, the demand just isn't there. We know only of one other local family that made the two-hour drive to the movie theater to see the movie. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that The Husband found Rey among the barely disturbed aisles of our local Walmart. In that respect, I'm lucky to live in a bubble. But our situation is unique.
The #WheresRey hashtag exists for a reason. Disney failed to recognize a hugely underserved market in its female fans with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, apparently assuming that little girls are still stuck in the gender-rigid toy aisles that Target has already discarded.
Rey doesn’t wear pink. There are no frills. She is badass. She is a game-changer. She stands on her own two feet, and she is a force to be reckoned with.
Our little girls want to be her. We want them to want to be her. How could something so obvious -- the need for imaginative play to reflect the reality of our changing world -- be missed? Our girls are ready to be counted.
And so are we.
The toy landscape is changing, y’all, and it’s a beautiful thing. When I was a kid, I got to play with the Princess Leia action figure at my neighbor’s house. He had the entire Castle Greyskull set from He-Man, and that meant I got to be Evil Lynn and Tela while he overextended himself pretending to be every single male character. It was exhausting to watch. Wonder Woman was the one shining beacon of hope on the female empowerment front.
While I rocked my Underoos in their heyday, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing among the Rainbow Brites and many variations of Smurfette.
Even Barbie—who has always tried to tell me I could be anything I wanted to be—had a hard time convincing me, because I never saw myself in the skinny blonde doll with the cookie-cutter smile.
And then, without warning, that changed, too. Barbie suddenly “got back”—and long legs and elegant necks, and blue hair, Afros—and her singular face in its many incarnations suddenly reflected personal identity.
What Rey did for leveling the playing field for female action movie heroes, Barbie and her recent jaw-dropping revolution did for the rest of us on the body image front. Instead of one face and body (poorly) representing the beautiful plenitude of individuality and the shared experience of being female, we now have many faces and body types, complete with their own takes on style.
Bonus? No more cookie-cutter faces. As a body image and self-love activist, I am beyond thrilled to see this.
But hear me out, okay? Because I don’t want Barbie’s evolution limited to being solely about hips, ass, and highlights. Time Magazine's cover says "Can We Stop Talking About My Body Now?" because, it seems, that Barbie's hips are seen by some as the grudging concession made simply to shut the people like me up, already.
I can't help but hear the voice of a frustrated teen tired of being lectured for doing something stupid when I read the the TIME Magazine article or other posts because OKAY MOM I GET IT. CAN WE JUST MOVE ON, ALREADY?
No, actually, we can't. Just like we can't let go of Rey and what it means to our daughters to have the opportunity to take part in creative play with action figures based on her strong and capable character, Barbie’s evolution is just too important to just let go without all the pomp and circumstance. Why? Because we cannot move on until we are absolutely certain that everybody taking part in this conversation understands hips and body type alone are not the actual point.
Diversity is the point.
Inclusion is the point.
Representation is the point.
Anyone, regardless of race, who says how much they needed this, to see themselves and their particular body type (and hair style and skin tone, of course) in Barbie, needs to step back and realize THIS is what minorities mean when we push for diversity in books and in movies and in television.
That’s why when friends asked about the Rey dolls, The Husband and I made another hour-long trek to Walmart for three more action figures. I'm sure we could be making a fortune on eBay, but this isn't about that. This, very simply, is about the mothers I call friends looking for a little validation for their daughters.
Sit back for a moment and pat yourself on the back, Internet. The fight is far from over, but we found Rey with a hashtag and then new Barbie found us. Validation … it just feels good.
Pauline Campos is the author of BabyFat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops, & Trying to Stay Sane.
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