Here is a shirt I bought for my daughter a few years ago. I picked it up at Goodwill. When I saw it, I said (silently to myself), "Hey, my daughter likes The Incredibles, and she wears clothing, so this is a win-win!" Now, my giant, almost-2-year-old son wears it. But it wasn’t until last week that my wife and I saw something strange about it.
When I saw it at Goodwill, I saw that it said "Incredibles", I saw Mr Incredible, and there was some other movie stuff, but I didn't actually pay that much attention to it.
Last week when I was folding laundry, I laid it out flat and I finally saw the problem. Have you seen it yet?
- It has the Incredibles logo.
- It has Mr Incredible.
- It has Dash.
- It has Frozone (Including a logo and made-up tagline).
- It has the Omnidroid (and a message to "Face the menace of the omnidroid").
So what is lacking? Ok, Jack-Jack is a baby and is only in the movie for a few scenes, so it's understandable they'd not clutter up the shirt with an infant. And the bad guys are bad guys, so they don't belong on the "hero" shirt. But what about… any of the very important female characters in the movie?!
Where is Violet? Where is Elastigirl? She is a particularly important character in the movie. Much more important than Frozone and Dash.
I get that Mr Incredible is the main character, but then why include Dash and Samuel L Frozone when Violet and Elastigirl are missing?
I'm pretty sure the "explanation" is that this was supposed to be a "boys shirt", and so they left off the female characters. But is that really a good explanation? Would the presence of 2 female characters alongside the giant Mr Incredible really make any 5 or 6 year old boy not want to wear it?
This is simultaneously a big deal and not a big deal.
It's not a big deal since it's just one shirt for one movie.
It's not a big deal since the movie came out a long time ago.
It's a big deal because, even though there may be a few shirts featuring everyone, this shirt was felt to be necessary at all.
It's a big deal because it completely erases roles for women and girls on a shirt targeted to boys, giving weight to idea that to be female is to be weak.
It's a big deal because there's no official equivalent "girl" version (that I could find, anyway).
It's a big deal because the merchandising people think that boys couldn't possibly want to see female action heroes.
It's a big deal because the merchandising people think that girls couldn't possibly want to see female action heroes.
I grew up in a very rural area. When I moved away to the "big city" and had a kid, I began noticing things. Things such as people of all races just living their lives, and inter-racial couples walking down the street. It's perfectly normal. Every once in awhile someone will suggest I should move back, but back in my rural homeland, that's not normal (yet). It's still talked about. It's still talked about with an undercurrent of winking scandal, or even outright hatred.
I want my daughter to grow up thinking that it's normal to see a black man and a white woman married with kids. Right here right now it's normal to the point that she doesn't even notice it.
Similarly, I want my daughter to see female action heroes and not have to think about it being unusual. Not just action heroes, of course, but (well-written) female heroes of all kinds (but it is killing me that I have to wait a few more years before I can show her Aliens without freaking her out). I want her to see male and female heroes and not really think of them as anything but heroes.
But, almost more importantly, I want my son to grow up like that.