Target: Where “Exclusive” Means “Excluding Girls”

We have a bit of a “love-hate” relationship with Target at the moment. On the one hand, they were the first major American retailer to get rid of gendered signs in their toy department.  On the other hand, they continue to exclude girls and shortchange boys when it comes to action figure marketing — no matter what the signs say.

signTarget has an arrangement with Hasbro where they make exclusive sets of 12-inch action figures. The sets have generally related to Star Wars or Marvel Super Heroes. But regardless of whether the sets include a Jedi or an Avenger, there is one thing we know it won’t include: a woman.

Even when it is painfully obvious that a woman logically should be in the set, Target bends over backwards to find lesser male figures to include for no apparent reason other than to exclude the girls. It’s time for that behavior to stop.

Beyond excluding girls from the action figure aisle, leaving the female characters out shortchanges boy fans who love these characters as well. Boys will buy merchandise with female figures. The idea that they won’t is rooted in outdated marketing playbooks, not modern science.

“According to some studies, people buy what they are exposed to,” said Dr. Janina Scarlet, clinical psychologist and scientist who specializes in geek culture. “If boys see other people buying [female action figures], then they would likely want to buy them, too.”

Here’s a list of four sets that had to work very hard to make sure girls were not there.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars The Force Awakens

The missing women

Rey, who appears to be the main protagonist of the movie. This has provoked our friends at Legion of Leia to start a #WheresRey hashtag campaign to call awareness to the fact that Target is still excluding girls from their action-figure sets, even when it is ridiculous to do so.

Captain Phasma, the incredibly popular evil henchwoman of Kylo Ren.

Who we got instead

First Order Stormtroopert Officer

First Order Tie Fighter Pilot

Marvel’s The Avengers


The missing women

Black Widow, the only member of the team who was left out of the set

Who we got instead

Ultron, who is not only not an Avenger — he’s the bad guy!

Star Wars Rebels


The missing women

Sabine Wren, Mandalorian warrior and explosives expert

Hera Syndulla, the pilot of the Ghost and the heart of the crew

Who we got instead

Clone Trooper Captain

Shadow Stormtrooper

Marvel Super Heroes


The missing women

Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, She Hulk, Storm, Elektra, Angela, Gamora, Angela, etc.

Marvel has 17 female-led comics right now, among them sales powerhouses like Ms. Marvel and critically acclaimed titles like She-Hulk. They have so many popular female heroes, that you could only end up with an all-male assortment if your goal was to keep the women out. So that is exactly what happened.

Who we got instead

Two different Iron Men

That’s right. Rather than including a single female, they gave us two slight variations of the same guy.

We need to let Target know that this in unacceptable. Please write Target using their online form or call Target Guest Relations at (800) 440-0680 to let them know that it is time to put their money where their mouth is. It is not enough to change signs — behavior needs to change as well.




  1. Wait, what the hell? Two Iron Man figures in one set? That’s just silly. No thor, Black Widow, Vision, Ant-Man or Wasp, but another Iron Man? lol

    1. Rene, you are attempting to replace the 2nd Iron man with another man…well…a cartoon man…but man none-the-less. You argument is invalid.

      1. @Chelsea, think about it in a business-wise way: The fact Rene is pointing out, I.E. the fact of TWO Ironmen have NOTHING invalid. Sure, it´s unfair not to give the (statistically) not-so-many ladies of the big A-crew a shot, but the fact of the variations about the same theme/character is plainly silly, also, his list was pretty equal: two males, two females and a neutral-gender character, which is WAY more inclussive than most of consumers or writers does, since the neutral one is not even mentioned or cared about..

        P.S.: “your argument is invalid” is not an argument able to invalidate most of anything. Indeed, it makes you look as a militant fascist

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