If you’re dead-set on getting your daughter a Star Wars toy — because what little girl hasn’t fallen in love with Star Wars’ powerful new female lead? — you may be sorely disappointed by what you find on the toy store shelves.
Just in time for Christmas, social media is calling out the all-too-common sexism that we often see among boys’ and girls’ toys, and this time, it’s happening with merchandise for the new Star Wars movie. #WheresRey is buzzing through Facebook and Twitter to ask that very question: The beautiful and badass Rey that little girls have started looking up to has been left out of the Target-exclusive toy six-pack for The Force Awakens movie. In the box, you’ll find plenty of male leads — like Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and a random Storm Trooper and First Order pilot. But no Rey.
After fans also discovered that Rey was left out of Hasbro’s Millennium Falcon set while Finn and Chewbacca were included, it appeared the joke was on us. Toymakers have done it again, but thankfully, this time there are enough fans who feel passionate about the new blockbuster movie to notice their sexist slipup.
Sexism among children’s toys is incredibly common, but toy manufacturers keep getting away with it. These sexist toys that often leave female characters out or are confined to “boy” and “girl” colors like pink and blue are influencing our children, but most parents feel uncomfortable rocking the boat by asking for gender equality in the toy aisle.
This subject of sexism in children’s toys is so taboo, in fact, that it sent parents into an uproar when Target decided to remove their gendered signs in the children’s toy section earlier this year. Some parents vowed to never shop at Target again after boy and girl labels were taken from toy aisles (though we suspect they weakened their resolve by Christmas), but this is a practice that has been going on without any hiccups in Sweden for decades. In Sweden, gender-neutral toys for kids are the norm, with a Stockholm Toys “R” Us encouraging free play for all kids without the pink and blue, and their children aren’t any worse for it. In fact, many would argue that Swedish kids are better for it, living in a notoriously family-friendly society that promotes gender equality and work-life balance.
Back here in the good ole US of A, we’re slower to embrace this gender fluidity for our kids. And as a result, sexism in children’s toys continues on because most of us aren’t comfortable enough to speak up about it. That’s why we’re seeing a few more specialty toys for girls sneaking through, beyond the typical Barbie, as a grassroots effort to keep our girls on the radar. GoldieBlox came out three years ago to tip the balance and encourage a new generation of female engineers. And boys aren’t left out of the gender equality fun either — just weeks ago, a new Barbie commercial featured a little boy for the first time.
This omission of a strong female character is an especially big blow to all of the young girls out there. We already know that strong female leads in Hollywood are almost impossible to come by. And now that we finally have a powerful and complex character that we’d be proud for our daughters to emulate, she’s nowhere to be found in the toy aisle.
Let’s not let this happen again. Social media users have started speaking up about the clear gender inequality in our children’s toys, and we can too. This may be a strange problem that many American parents aren’t used to arguing about because — hey, girls like Barbies and boys like Legos. But it’s much more complicated than that. Our kids are influenced by everything that they see and hear at a young age, including the toys they play with. Ignoring what’s going on with these Star Wars toys is teaching our daughters that it’s OK for women to be overlooked.