One could think that tying a “toy issue” to a hashtag created in the aftermath of a misogynist and tragic event is far-fetched. It isn’t. All of this is linked.
#YesAllWomen and #YesAllGirls denounced how misogyny is hurtful in our culture, and is since childhood when wrong and damaging “models” and “behaviors” are learned, if not outright encouraged. A better mindset, a better culture, which encourages equality between all, must be attained, no matter how long and trying this can be.
The fact that Disney Stores don’t plan to include Leia in upcoming Star Wars products is heartbreaking and extremely disappointing. I encourage you to read the article on the Daily Dot, whether you are familiar with the topic or not. Checking the #WeWantLeia hashtag on Twitter is also extremely telling.
I previously talked about gender representation in children and youth media, and I am a firm believer in inclusiveness for gender, ethnicity, generation and disability. In this case, Disney Stores show a misogynist stand that I don’t understand on so many levels. Not only is Princess Leia one of the most emblematic characters in the Star Wars franchise, but Disney has presented very engaging female characters in the past while, and others can even be traced earlier in the company’s production history.
I am still sitting on a blog series about the media characters I considered role models when I grew up. The first name on the list is Princess Leia (right before Dana Scully. I mean would you suddenly decide to create X-Files products that only feature Mulder and totally forget about Scully’s existence?!) Up to this day she is a great inspiration to me and is another reason why I have wanted to see more female characters in Star Wars, which was also another concern raised up even now that Episode VII cast welcomed two more actresses with Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie). I even chose to open my upcoming book Women in Science Fiction Television with a Leia quote from Star Wars: A New Hope, because she was the starting point for me, just as Star Wars altogether was the starting point of why I went to media studies and have a strong interest in female character representations.
Just a few days ago, the official Star Wars blog featured an article about the influence of Star Wars on parenting. It once again shows a disturbing dichotomy with what is going on in Disney Stores. This situation also looks contradictory with the whole Force for Change initiative that supports the UNICEF.
Not including Leia in new Star Wars products in Disney Stores is a big deal. It erases one of the most important characters of the whole universe (no matter whether you include just canon or what is now called “Legends”). It sends out a very wrong signal to both boys and girls. All children needs to have interesting characters to engage with. Narrowing their options to (often white) male characters isn’t right. By erasing Leia, you tell not just these children but also their parents and any fan who might still have a kid’s heart (I would still buy new Leia products if I liked them, and I’m turning 30 at the end of this year) that Leia only exist in the movies or elsewhere, but isn’t “good enough” to have her own dolls or assorted products.
I have several Leia items and would love to see more. After all, other Star Wars female characters had toys and products too in the past decades (and I hope to see such things develop even more in the years to come, once again to gain better represenation), so why erasing Leia as Disney does?
We speak up through #YesAllWomen and #YesAllGirls about how everyday sexism is hurtful. #WeWantLeia isn’t just a random hashtag that has little to contribute to changing minds. It is one of the countless ways when we choose to make ourselves heard and ask for what is deserved to happen: equality.
There is Balance in the Force. We need Balance in Representation.
EDIT: Natalie Wreyford let me know that Time announced that we did it. We said #WeWantLeia and Disney announced that there will be Leia items in the upcoming new products. I still stand by everything I said in this post, and seeing results come from this comforts me in my choice to join those who spoke up.