Why #WeWantLeia Is Another Proof Of Why We Need #YesAllWomen and #YesAllGirls

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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.

32 thoughts on “Why #WeWantLeia Is Another Proof Of Why We Need #YesAllWomen and #YesAllGirls

  1. Reblogged this on The Social Factory and commented:
    The latest in a long line of blogs supporting Natalie Wreyford’s campaign to persuade The Disney Store that girls like Star Wars and/or boys like female characters. So far, The Disney Store have been very dismissive, despite a growing campaign for Leia to be included in the first wave of Star Wars merchandise. If you support the cause, or just want to ask Disney to be more gender neutral in it’s toy manufacturing, you can sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/hey-disney-wewantleia

  2. They and Marvel did the same with Black Widow. They’re better than DC, who just refuse to do the Wonder Woman film, but there’s way too much memorabilia that leaves out BW even if it keeps Hawkeye. That does seem to have changed since Cap 2, though, especially with SHIELD name-dropping her as the most awesome spy in the history of the world and her own movie getting green-lit.

    1. I am not as familiar with Marvel’s memorabilia so thank you for pointing this out. I hope that more Black Widow products continue to come out in the future!

      1. :Yes. Irrational, I say. If we just assume for a minute that they only care about marketing to boys (and I don’t know that’s true, this is more for the sake of argument) — boys love Leia. Absolutely love her. It makes no sense.

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  4. I was so sad in the 70s that I could not buy Wonder Woman bracelets like Linda Carter. I had to “make” my own and was at a loss on the gold belt. It is poor business sense, just refusing to make $. When I was little I looked for Leia stuff then and it was virtually impossible to find when the original film was released. Again, I guess I will save money.

  5. This is ridiculous. Star Wars was one of the first movies I saw in a theater. Leia was not just a sidekick or “throw away” character. When I was young (in the ’80’s) Princess Leia was the most popular Halloween costume for girls! You’re absolutely right, it is emblematic of the larger problem. Thank you for writing this, I had no idea…

  6. I love Leia. When I saw her at age 7, I saw what girls can actually do. The guys may have rescued her, but then she gets exasperated enough to take matters into her own hands. Watching Carrie Fisher’s one woman show made me love her even more.

  7. Seems so weird that they would do that. You would think that it’s a perfect opportunity for them to have another princess to their roster. And a sci-fi princes to that.

    I remember as a young kid playing with my GI Joes (3 3/4″ figures) that they did have the female characters included. And since they were a part of the cartoon and movies I wanted to have them just as bad as any other character.

    Hope this really starts to change for Disney and anyone else with this same mentality.

    1. Thank you for your comment! It is surprising and disappointing for sure. This topic continued to be troublesome recently. Recently Hasbro, looked for a new brand developer for Star Wars and consider it a boy line, once again excluding girls. Simon at Man vs Pink had an interesting post about it and how they could change things for the better, by including girls in the audience (at last).

  8. What a weird decision. You might argue she is the central character in the story! Not much chance you’ll interest girls in the product without Leia, but perhaps they don’t care.

    1. They announced change since then, but this whole mess combined with how Hasbro looked for a new Brand developer for their Star Wars line, including in the job description that it is a “boy” line, leaves me really skeptical about how things might go.

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