Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

19 November 2010

Star Wars can help Katie & other girls by doing more than just blogging

As a blogger, I am still constantly amazed at how fast some of our stories spread around our world. The story of first-grader Katie being bullied for liking "Star Wars," hit a chord with many SW fans. It went viral with such fury that Star Wars blogger Bonnie Burton responded:

As any Star Wars fan worth his or her weight in midichlorians can tell you, there is no one single “type” of Star Wars fan. Star Wars fans are both genders, all ages, all races and all nationalities. [...]

My point is, ladies love Star Wars too, and we should all support their right to geek out just like the guys. Little girls need to know they have every right to pick up a lightsaber as the rest of us.

Star Wars itself is full of strong, independent female characters who wouldn’t have taken any guff from 1st grade boys who clearly don’t know their Star Wars characters. 
To that I say "Hell yeah!"

But I also want to say to Star Wars & George Lucas...You can do more. You can show the world, boys and girls, that you really do mean the words that Burton writes. If Lucas & Co. are strong enough to get paid each time someone uses the term "droid," then they can insist that companies who use Luke, Leia, Darth & Yoda to sell us things from bedding to clothing, do it in a gender neutral manner. You gonna slap Yoda on a t-shirt? Sell it in both departments or a special Star Wars section. If you are going to hurray the return of Classic Star Wars on bedding, you need to control how it impacts kids. How can a little girl know that she can pick up a lightsaber if Star Wars bedding is located in the boys section of the Pottery Barn Kids catalog and not the girls?

If you head over to Target's online store, do a search for Star Wars. 116 items are under "Boys Toys" and 15 under "Girls Toys." Oddly, a girl can find MLB & NBA bedding at Target, but not Star Wars. Hint, it's located in the boys section.

Kids are kids. They are constantly learning and as anyone who has spent time with a kid for 10 minutes knows, they pick up everything you say and do. They might not show it right away, but a few days later when your precious 7-year-old throws an F-bomb, you flash back to your own f-bomb from Monday in traffic. How else does my daughter know to yell at cars to "move it!"

I can already hear people mumble or yell, "This doesn't matter!"

Tell that to the boys in Katie's class who think that Star Wars is a boy thing. Where do you think they learned it? From other boys, parents who say "Don't play with that, it's a girl thing!" and from stores that so cleanly label girl things with pink & glitter and boy things with black & red flames. Hey! That's kinda how the Leapster Star Wars handheld looks!

Yes, girls can shop in the boys section and I can buy things online from boys categories. That's not the point. The point is that each time we separate out toys, clothing, any item between girls & boys we send a message to kids. And they are freaking listening. Then we get stories where first graders are bullying and harassing a classmate over a freaking Star Wars water bottle because she is not confirming to what they believe girls should do and act. And when that happens, you break Master Yoda's heart.

PS: Dear Katie: You are an amazing young person. My daughter is 7 and has been Princess Leia for Halloween 3 times. Don't stop being you for anyone. Ever. Not when you're in first grade or when you are in college. I'm 35, almost 36, and I still try to do my hair like Leia. Much love and strength my fellow Jedi!

3 comments:

Oh, I so agree with this! I was an absolute Star Wars *freak* as a kid in the early 80s and got teased mercilessly myself, aggravated even more by not wanting to always play Leia when the boys would deign to let me play Star Wars with them (Leia is fantastic, but I just wanted to mix it up a bit, play from a different perspective). Gender stereotyping needs to end, every time I pick up one of the catalogs mentioned I just get angry and depressed, remembering how much I felt lost among girls and girly things. Still do, most of the time.

Thanks for this piece and I hope people at Lucas are listening...

I hadn't heard about this! I'm in total agreement. I adore Star Wars, which means Maybelle has now been Yoda twice for Halloween (she's not old enough to choose her own costume). I hate all this gendered marketing crap.

Thanks for the comments!

I hope that by drawing attention to the role stores/merchandising does to maintain gender lines, we can see that it's not just the boys who need a talking to.