Female fans are used to being ignored by science fiction franchises. The lack of merchandise from recent blockbuster films has led to hashtag campaigns including: #WheresNatasha, #WheresGamora, #WheresNatasha (again), and most recently #WheresRey — a campaign targeting the fact that the two female leads of the new Star Wars film — Rey and Captain Phasma — were left out of a Target-exclusive 12″ action figure set.
That one set seemed like part of an ongoing problem. For the previous six Star Wars movies, if a girl wanted to get a Star Wars t-shirt, she had to look in the boys department. Lucasfilm had not licensed a single Star Wars product for women or girls.
Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy addressed the issue directly at the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in October.
Kathleen Kennedy: We have to make sure that we create products that are, in a sense, appealing to both boys and girls. What’s wrong with that? Even with simple things like t-shirts. There is a fantastic story with this young woman who came to Lucasfilm in 2009. She plays the character of Ahsoka in both Rebels and she also had a role in Clone Wars — and she came to Lucasfilm in 2009 saying, “Why aren’t there clothes that are tied to Star Wars for girls?”
She struggled for quite a while and then put a company together called Her Universe. And it’s doing unbelievable business. And it’s — in fact — the t-shirt that I ran down on the Comic Con floor and grabbed and put on before the Comic Con convention. It just shows that anyone who steps out and does something in quality; they find that there’s plenty of young girls and women out there who are just as interested as the boys.
But the changes went much further than Her Universe. With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens — for the first time ever — Star Wars is being marketed directly to women and girls. Action figures, clothing, hand-bags and even a make-up line have been licensed — even if they are sometimes a little hard to find.
Female action figures have been flying off the shelves, with some items such as the Captain Phasma Black Series figure already selling for premium prices on ebay. “We underestimated the demand,” said one Disney executive on condition of anonymity. “We’re rushing to get more product into retail channels. It’s a good problem to have.”
To help female fans find the merchandise that is still out there, Heroic Girls has put together this guide highlighting some of the best Star Wars merchandise made for women and girls.
We’ve broken down our guide into sections, you can jump ahead if you like to”
Still a favorite among both kids and adults, Funko has made a full line of Pops for Star Wars, including multiple Reys, a Captain Phasma, and quite a few Leias from the original trilogy.
Star Wars Black Series
The “Black Series” is Hasbro’s name for their line of ultra-detailed collectible action figures. Rey has her own figure that comes with lovable droid BB-8, but the early sought-after prize is the hard-to-find Captain Phasma figure.
Action Figures & Playsets
The most encouraging development is the prevalence of toys developed for children. There are Rey and Phasma action figures, and playsets fully integrated into the consumer line right along side the boys. While there are tons of female figures and sets, our favorite might be the Rey’s Speeder Bike set, which comes with a bonus Rey action figure, dressed to survive the harsh desert landscape of Jakku.
LEGO has always done an above-average job of prioritizing diversity, and they continue that tradition with their Star Wars sets. Our favorite — again — is Rey’s Speeder Bike, which comes with dual stud shooters, opening storage hatch and side-mounted bag, blaster, buzzsaw, electrobinoculars and an “Unkar’s Thug” minifig, that we will go out on a limb and say is a bad guy .
Build-A-Bear has a full line of The Force Awakens characters — no Captain Phasma, but they have this awesome Rey.
Disney Infinity 3.0, the latest iteration of the popular toys-to-life franchise, is all about Star Wars. The default set comes with Anikan Skywalker and Jedi-in-training Ahsoka Tano, giving kids a choice of gender, right out of the box. The Force Awakens playset is similarly gender-balanced, coming with both Finn and Rey. There are also sets featuring Leia, and the women from Star Wars Rebels.
While there are several to choose from, our favorite Star Wars plush to date has to be the “Itty Bitty Rey” from Hallmark. We won’t justify this decision. Just look at it.
The days of raiding the boys department are finally over. Disney licensed apparel for women and girls to a ton of retailers, including Target, Macy’s, Kohls, Amazon and Her Universe. Here are a few of our favorite items.
If there is one person to thank for the fact that Disney is now Star Wars making merchandise for women, it is Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Ashley pushed Disney to give her a license to make Star Wars merchandise for women and girls — and when they said, “no,” she went out, recruited experts in fashion and apparel — and came back and asked again, and again, until the answer was, “yes.”
Her Universe proved once and for all that there was a market for quality geek merchandise and apparel for women. Ashley is the woman that made executives wake up and realize that women love comics, science fiction and fantasy just like the guys, and Her Universe remains the gold standard for female-friendly Star Wars apparel on the web.
BB-8 Bomber Jacket – Her Universe
Rey Resistance Youth Tee – Her Universe
Stormtrooper Circle Skirt – Her Universe
Try Not Triangle Chiffon Tee – Her Universe
While Macy‘s doesn’t have much Star Wars clothing for girls, they have an incredible selection for juniors and women, with t-shirts, dresses and jogger pants.
Mighty Fine Juniors’ Star Wars The Force High-Low Graphic T-Shirt – Macy’s
Juniors’ Star Wars Jogger Pants from Mighty Fine – Macy’s
Plus Size Star Wars Luke and Leia Graphic T-Shirt from Hybrid – Macy’s
Juniors’ Star Wars Storm Trooper Sheath Dress from Hybrid – Macy’s
Target provides a wide assortment of entry-level Star Wars fashions for both women and girls. We buy a lot of stuff for the girls here because we want it to look good, but we don’t want to spend a ton of money on clothes they will outgrow in six months.
Star Wars Darth Vader Graphic Sweatshirt – Target
Girls’ Star Wars Leggings – Target
Girls’ Star Wars Trooper In Ya Face T-Shirt – Target
Girls’ Star Wars T-Shirt – Target
Kohl’s — the second largest department store in the United States — has some truly stunning Star Wars apparel that elevates your fandom above simple cotton tees.
Rock & Republic Star Wars Embellished Hoodie – Kohl’s
Women’s Rock & Republic Star Wars Poster Graphic Tee – Kohl’s
Juniors’ Star Wars Princess Leia Tee – Kohl’s
Juniors’ Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens Graphic T-Shirt – Kohl’s
Amazon partnered with Disney to license a fairly extensive line of Star Wars apparel and accessories that they carry right along side apparel made by other manufacturers. While many stores carry merch for women, online is still one of the best places to find apparel for girls. If you’re having trouble finding clothing that let’s your little girl’s geek flag fly, Amazon is a great place to look.
Star Wars Juniors’ Episode 7 The Force Awakens Rebel Graphic Tank – Amazon
Star Wars Girls’ Rey and BB-8 Walking Girls Short Sleeve Graphic Tee – Amazon
Star Wars Big Girls’ Galaxy Far Away Tee – Amazon
Star Wars Juniors’ Henna Trooper Tattoo Art Racerback Graphic Tank Top – Amazon
JCPenney has some cool designs that you can’t find anywhere else — including skirts, leggings and overprint tees.
Star Wars Short-Sleeve Burnout T-Shirt – JCPenney
Star Wars Bodycon Skirt – JCPenney
Star Wars Galaxy Leggings – JCPenney
Star Wars Long-Sleeve Reversible Sweatshirt – JCPenney
Jewelry & Accessories
Hip bag and apparel maker Loungefly has bee cranking out some really attractive Star Wars handbags, wallets, cosmetics bags and more. And they are quality products. The wallets are made from leather. The totes are lined, with zippered products. If you want to display your geek pride over your shoulder, but all the bags you could found were made from cheap vinyl and plastic — your days of waiting are over.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens BB-8 Embossed Wallet – Loungefly
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Captain Phasma Embossed Mini Dome Bag – Loungefly
Star Wars Tattoo Flash Print Coin/Cosmetic Bag – Loungefly
Next Star Wars Ewok Face Crossbody Bag – Loungefly
While there are inexpensive costume pieces at almost every retailer, Kay Jewelers has rolled out an entire line of exquisite gold and silver Star Wars jewelry. There has never been a better time to get a Darth Vader pendant made out of black diamonds.
Star Wars Earrings Stormtrooper 10K Yellow Gold – Kay Jewelers
Star Wars Onyx Bracelet Darth Vader Sterling Silver – Kay Jewelers
Star Wars Necklace Spinning BB-8 10K Yellow Gold – Kay Jewelers
Charmed Memories Star Wars Rebel Alliance Sterling Silver Charm – Kay Jewelers
Covergirl released a line of Star Wars themed cosmetics with six “looks” including “Droid,” “Mystic,” and “Chrome Captain.” Smartly, they also recruited Janelle Monae as their “Resistance Pilot,” and we pretty much buy whatever the Eletric Lady is selling.
When your little girl is a huge fan of both Chewbacca from the Star Wars franchise and princesses, figuring out a theme for a birthday party can be difficult — unless you are Mom-of-the-Year candidate Jamie. As she posted on Reddit:
My daughter wanted a Star Wars party, so I bought this Chewbacca doll hoping that I could find a bakery that would turn him into a Barbie cake. Because he was a full size doll and not a kit, I was turned down several times. My amazing friend, Megan, came to the rescue and offered to make Chewy a beautiful cake dress. She nailed it!
Why do I applaud the latest GoldieBlox video about heroes? Because my daughter thought Katniss was a boy.
Yes, GoldieBlox. YES! You are absolutely right that “all girls deserve to see themselves as heroes” but our girls simply do not see enough examples of female action heroes. The impact of that hit home when my daughter assumed one of the few examples out there, Katniss from The Hunger Games, was a boy. So if anyone thinks girls aren’t noticing (and being affected by) the gender disparity in our culture’s heroes, think again.
In their latest video, GoldieBlox re-imagines the heroes from famous action movies as women (think everyone from James Bond to Indiana Jones to Rocky). It’s a fun and powerful way to drive home the point that ALL of them were men. Then they share the statistics – only 12% of protagonists in big-time, blockbuster films are female. But you don’t need data to know that something needs to change. You just need to know this story about my daughter.
When my 10 year old daughter was reading The Hunger Games, she kept referring to Katniss as “he” – despite the language in the book making it pretty darn clear she’s a girl. My daughter had never seen the movie (or even a trailer), so the only clues she had about Katniss’ gender were the words in the book. But the messages she had been exposed to throughout her life – about boys being the main characters and the ones to save the day – were clearly stronger in her head than the female pronouns used on the pages. In her mind, Katniss was a boy.
I can still remember the look of utter disbelief and confusion on my daughter’s face the first time I told her Katniss was a girl. She was already multiple chapters into the book, and was telling me something about Katniss by saying how “he” did this and “he” did that. I asked her several times, “you’re talking about Katniss, right?” The answer was “yes” each time, with increasing frustration in her voice that seemed to say “Why isn’t my mom understanding? She read the book!” My daughter had clearly formed a mental picture of who Katniss was – and it was a hard one to change. We ended up having the same conversation about Katniss’ gender 3-4 more times over the next several chapters before my daughter finally starting talking about Katniss as a “she” and not a “he.”
During these discussions, I’m pretty sure I had the same look of disbelief on my own face! I had raised my daughter to believe that girls and boys are equals. I had exposed her to a variety of strong and ground-breaking women (real and fictional). I had even started Girls Will Be with my siblings to fight gender stereotypes in girls clothing, and we picked our brand name because we wanted to send the message that girls will be…so many different things (beyond sugar and spice and everything nice). Including heroes!
All-in-all, we had more than your average number of conversations in our house about gender stereotypes in clothes, toys, movies, and more. My kids seemed to ignore society’s messages about what they were “supposed” to like, with my daughter playing flag football and my son loving the color pink. Yet, here we were. If my own daughter could assume Katniss was a boy, I began to think that the messages kids receive outside the home about what it means to be a girl vs. a boy must be even more powerful than I thought.
So what can we do to change those messages? Watch the latest GoldieBlox video with the girls and boys in your life, and talk about it afterwards. Share the video with your friends. Support the work of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to make sure more movies are made with female heroes. Use resources like A Mighty Girl to seek out movies and books with strong female protagonists.
Together, let’s work to make sure all kids (girls AND boys) know that girls can be heroes too!
Target is having a rough month when it comes to gender and toys. After a fantastic announcement that they were removing gendered signs from the toy department, they flubbed badly by releasing an exclusive Star Wars action figure set that left out Rey, the main character, and Captain Phasma, the menacing female hench(wo)man in exchange for a generic Storm Trooper and Tie Fighter Pilot. This was quickly tied to a long pattern of Target excluding female characters from action figure sets.
It would be easy to place this as yet another slight by Target against girls and women, but honestly, it is so puzzling that I think I’m going to use Hanlon’s Razor to determine their motivation.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
I can’t imagine they wanted the backlash from girls and women on this sensitive topic. And they certainly don’t want to hear from the parents of boys when they find out they were accidentally cross-dressing.
We got a screenshot of the costume on Target’s website below before they inevitably fix it.
Elizabeth Sweet talks about gender and toys at a 2015 TEDx salon event at UC Davis.
Elizabeth Sweet is a sociologist whose research on gender, children’s toys, and social inequality examines this question. She has written about gender and toys for the New York Times and The Atlantic and her work has been featured in many national and international press outlets, including The Guardian, NPR, and MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show. Born and raised just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Elizabeth spent a decade living in Oregon before coming to Davis, California for graduate school. She teaches sociology at UC Davis and at Sacramento State and is currently working on a book based on her research. She is the proud mom of a 13-year-old daughter and three feisty cats.
This one is complicated. Mattel’s Barbie has entered into a partnership with Italian luxury goods designer Moschino to make exclusive Moschino-themed dolls. To announce the launch of the limited edition dolls, Moschino put out a commercial. In that commercial, they show a boy playing with Barbie right along side the girls.
I think this doesn’t do much for the majority of boys who are still likely to be uninterested in playing with ultra-feminine Barbie. The commercial relies almost exclusively on rigid gender stereotypes. Rather than moving towards more gender neutral imagery, they just included a boy that also embraces girl stereotypes. We also have some questions about whether it is a good idea to expose young girls (or boys) to the high-end consumerism of Italian fashion houses. While it does nothing to help the majority of girls and boys look beyond traditional gender roles, I suppose this commercial might mean a huge amount to a boy who identifies as female or just has a strong interest in fashion.
As we continue to fight for equal representation in the action figure aisle with campaigns like #WheresGamora, #WheresNatasha or the recent #WheresRey, sometimes it can be instructive to look back to where it all began — with Star Wars.
This classic toy commercial from 1977 is both a source of hope, and a bit depressing. The hope comes from the fact that is shows a way of marketing toys that is actually better than what we have now. But it’s depressing because we had it way back in 1977 and we’ve actually gone backwards since then.
Here are a few lessons that marketing executives today could learn from a commercial made almost 40 years ago.
Princess Leia is more important than a generic stormtrooper
Because of an erroneous belief that boys will instinctively avoid anything that has to do with girls, marketers putting together modern sets often replace important female characters with other male heroes, or generic male villains.
Back in 1977, they realized that the female lead of the film was actually pretty important, and young fans of the movie might want to play with her as well — both girls and boys.
“The assumption that boys are only interested in male characters has probably been a guiding assumption since the advent of action figures, although it seems to have gained strength in recent years,” said Dr. Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist and lecturer at UC Davis who focuses on focuses on gender and children’s toys.
While female action figures have become increasingly rare, it wasn’t always that way. “In the 1975 Sears Wishbook, the action figure lines for both the Star Trek series and the Planet of the Apes series included female characters. And, of course, the original Kenner Star Wars action figures had several different versions of Princess Leia,” she said.
Boys and girls can play together
The commercial is actually striking in that it shows a boy and a girl playing together with the same toys. Toy companies don’t do that very often anymore. “There are now far fewer non-gendered items available for children than in any prior era,” said Dr. Sweet. The idea that all toys have a “gender,” that they must either be for a boy or for a girl — but never both — is a recent invention.
In the Sears catalog ads from 1975, less than 2 percent of toys were explicitly marketed to either boys or girls. Rather than telling boys that playing with girls makes them look weak, or selling girls on the idea that boys were gross and stupid, toy companies used to actually encourage them to play together.
This is both a winnings sales strategy, and sociologically better for our kids. We want boys and girls to play together so that they can become well-adjusted adults, but if every single toy you can buy is heavily gendered, it inhibits play between boys and girls, and it is sending the message to our kids that boys and girls playing together is somehow wrong.
“This kind of marketing has normalized the idea that boys and girls are fundamentally and markedly different from one another, and this very idea lies at the core of many of our social processes of inequality,” according to Dr. Sweet.
The past isn’t what it used to be
As easy as it would be to paint an idyllic portrait of a more gender-equal time, Dr. Sweet cautions that things were far from perfect.
“I don’t want to overstate the gender diversity of historic action figures – while female characters were arguably more prevalent than what we see now, female-character action figures were still vastly underrepresented in historic sets,” she said.
But still, for all its flaws, it is hard to look at that commercial from 1977 of a boy and girl playing Star Wars together with action figures of both genders and not think we have taken a giant step backwards when it comes to gender neutral marketing to kids.