Hey, toy makers: Where are the non-princess girls?

“The Evolution of Man” action figures

Most people are aware of the problems associated with the color pink.If you walk down the aisles at Toys “R” Us you will find at least one aisle that appears to be the victim of an exploding case of Pepto-Bismol. Everything is pink.

This is a somewhat new phenomenon. I’ve never been fond of that particular shade even as a child. I made sure nothing I owned was pink and, that wasn’t difficult to do back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.


Today’s girls have a much more difficult time avoiding the pinkification factor. Anything marketed to young females has to be bathed in it.

The problem, however, is far worse than battling a single color. Simply put, girls are no longer in style. Manufacturers oust female characters when using familiar pop culture subjects. The Justice League will often forget to show Wonder Woman. The Avengers will only highlight the male members. I recently read an article in the Pigtail Pairs & Ballcap Buddies Blog about a shopping trip looking for Big Hero 6 fabric to turn into pillows. To their dismay, all of the fabric choices left out two of the six heroes. Naturally, they were the female members of the team. When the shopper wrote to the manufacturer to ask why, she received a letter that said boys didn’t want girls on their merchandise because, and I quote, “…eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha”. With the help of a write-in campaign from the blog’s readers, the manufacturer promised to change.

It reminded me of a similar experience I had last year. I went to the Milwaukee County Museum and, as I always do, I dropped by the gift shop on my way out. I love the museum gift shop. It always has fascinating things like fossils, rocks, toys, games, books and much more.

On this particular trip I found an amazing group of figures representing mankind’s evolutionary voyage. It included Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo Neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens sapiens. They are a handsome bunch, and yet something was terribly wrong. I wondered why there was not a single female in our evolutionary history. Not even the most famous skeleton ever found — Lucy the Australopithecus — is represented. In fact, on nearly every television show that purports to show evolution, Lucy is spotlighted and then it’s all men from then on, no matter how many female skeletons have been discovered. I think it is fair to say that among thinking people it can be agreed that women did play a part in evolution.

The Evolution of Man figures [shown above] are a product of Safari Ltd. so I sent them an email. After discussing how much I enjoyed the figures I made a request:

“I do have one suggestion for a future set, if one occurs. Don’t take the title ‘Evolution of Man’ so literally and include a couple of females. I have it on good authority that females did exist in prehistoric times. If nothing else, you could model the Australopithecus on Lucy. And if you make the Homo Erectus female, one could avoid all those bad, dirty jokes when introducing them to people who are not as familiar with our ancestors. Most of all, it’s important for our daughters to feel represented. There is a tendency to pretend only males existed in prehistory, with the single exception of Lucy. In film, books, and TV one is far more likely to see males in every recreation with, at most, a blurry female cooking way in the background. You have an opportunity with these figures to let little girls feel connected to our past.”

Within a few days I received a response:

“Dear Joanna,

Thank you for your email. We enjoy receiving emails from Safari Ltd. customers and fans alike. Any information they can share with us, allows us to make products that they will enjoy.

I’ve forward [sic] your suggestion onto [sic] our product development team. […]

If you have any other suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.

Thank You,

Stacie “Beavs” Beavers
Data & Market Analyst
Toy Workshop

Although she certainly didn’t promise anything, I hope that they would at least think about including females in some of their toy sets in the future. The evolution set remains unchanged, but I did see a female pilot in a different series.

Please don’t take everyday sexism for granted. We need to write letters. We need to tell the people who make the toys that girls deserve every bit as much attention as boys. We need to tell them there are more colors in the rainbow than pink. We need to remind them “Princess” is not the only female profession. We need to demand that female characters in established teams have to be represented in merchandising.

It may seem like a small thing, but there is nothing inconsequential about it. Normalizing girls as being “icky” and unworthy of inclusion will follow the children who learn that lesson for the rest of their lives, male and female.