Disney, Where is Izzy?

Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates

A couple of days ago I was out shopping for a special t-shirt for my 4yo son to start pre-K with next week, just something simple to help ease his nerves. I was happy to find t-shirts with his favorite characters Jake and the Never Land Pirates, on sale to boot, at JC Penney. My enthusiasm last twenty seven seconds, at which point I realized NONE of the 2T-5T tees carried by JC Penney featured one of the shows main characters – the girl pirate named Izzy.

This show is really popular with the preschool and early elementary ages, and while it fits nicely into the Smurfette Principle and only a couple of episodes pass the Bechdel Test, for the most part I approve of it for my children. There are episodes when a pirate princess (of course she’s a princess!) and mermaids help to balance out the gender scale. I talk with my kids about why there are so few girls in the show, and what more girl pirates could be doing in the episodes if they were on the show.

The situation with the t-shirts made me really sad. Not one shirt featured Izzy on it. Not. One. She is an important cast member, and the only female. I then remembered that I was in the Boys section, and thought surely they would have girl designs. I walked across the room to the Girls section (because boys and girls have to be segregated,  you know) to look for the girl version of the Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Nope. Nada. No Izzy, no girl pirate shirts.

What?! This show is super popular with boys AND girls right now, why would there be no shirts for girls, and no trace of Izzy on the shirts?

Your answer is: because of sexism and gender stereotypes. Did Disney and JC Penney think boys wouldn’t wear a shirt with a girl on it? When I showed Benny his new shirt, he got a huge smile on his face, immediately followed by a look of confusion. “Where’s Izzy?” he asked. I told him I guess she wasn’t on the shirts, and I thought it was the strangest thing. He got really mad, and said he didn’t want the shirt and to return it.

Disney's "Izzy" from Jake and the Never Land Pirates.

“I doun wanna wear a shirbt that doun has allub my frenz.” He didn’t want to wear a shirt that didn’t have all of his friends. He said Izzy’s feeling are probably hurt, and he wanted to be a friend to all of them and not make her sad. My 6yo daughter Amelia came in the room, and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Hey! Why is Izzy not on that shirt?”

Kids notices these things. Girls notice when they are missing, and so often they are missing.

What message does this send to little girls who love the show, saw the shirts, and realized there was no representation of Izzy? What does that teach these girls about the value a girl holds?

What message does that teach boys about girls?

Why is there only one girl character to choose from in the first place?

Why the ever-loving hell would a show built on cross-gender friendships and teamwork intentionally remove that element in its merchandise? Why only sell to boys? Why not market to girls, too? Why not market to children instead of sexes?

To be fair, there are selections exclusive to the Disney Store on their website that feature Izzy, and I’ve been told by several parents those shirts are sold out. No wonder.

But why does that not carry over to their licensed products to other retailers? The shirt selections I saw at JC Penney and Target had no Izzy on them.

 

Coincidentally, Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies has a girl pirate design for a tee, because we know that lots of girls LOVE pirates!

 

The cast of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, sans Izzy.

While I was shopping, the discovery of the shirt above made my head explode. Apparently whoever licensed and produced these tees for JC Penney decided boys would absolutely not wear a shirt with a girl on it, so in this depiction of the cast, they replaced Izzy’s head with a gold doubloon. The gator and the coin get a spot over Izzy. We get it, Disney. We know where females rank.

Thankfully, I’ve taught my kids to reject this kind of thinking, and after viewing the t-shirt choices from the Disney store, both immediately went to the kitchen table to color Disney a very strong message of complaint. I asked Benny if he was sure he wanted to return his shirt and he said now he wanted to keep it but also wanted a shirt with just Izzy on it, like the one we just saw from the Disney store. But even the Disney store has their apparel selections notes “For Boys” or “For Girls”.  Amelia said she wanted a shirt with everyone because you don’t exclude people when you are on a team. Benny then asked how to spell “Boss of Everything” and Amelia asked permission to use the word “jerks”.

Benny telling me why he is upset that Izzy is not on his shirt.

When we talked about this with the PPBB Facebook Community, there was lots of folks upset and expressing frustration. So many parents are sick and tired of the gender divide in childhood.

Janessa Hall: “This conversation reminds me so much of looking for Dora outfits when my oldest was a little younger. He loved Dora, and they only came in pink, sparkles, bows, etc.”

Katt Mikaboshi:  “My daughter loves Yo Gabba Gabba and saw a shirt in the “girls” section,but when she opened it up it only had the boy charters on it and no girls(?) I never encountered this before,but it hurts my head. My daughter asked me “why did they forget the girls?” :(

Comments

  1. We have found this same problem with Go Diego! Diego’s sister Alicia is one of the main characters, yet I can’t find anything with her on it. It drives me nuts.

  2. It’s the same with superheroes. My husband and I are big comic book nerds and my book of choice has always been Wonder Woman while his is pretty much anything Batman related, with particularly interest in Catwoman and Batgirl/Oracle. Our kids pretty much love all of the above. Over the years, the Justice League has included many female characters, but it is nearly impossible to find a Justice League t-shirt with any of them actually on it. I have yet to see one in the boys’ section. The closest I’ve come in the girls’ section were the few that Old Navy has carried the past couple of years with either Wonder Woman or a combination of the 80s version of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Supergirl on it. They usually have some stupid girly phrase and/or girlification on it. For example, my daughter has an Old Navy Wonder Woman shirt that is all pinked up and says “American Girl” on it and a pink shirt with the Batman symbol on it with a rainbow going through it. The one and only time I found a Justice League t-shirt with both male and female characters (and more than just one female character, to boot) on it was in the mens’ section at Kohl’s last year. My husband spotted it and I immediately snatched up a smaller size for myself. Perhaps by the time the boys turn into men, they can handle female superheroes. Or maybe it’s just because female superheroes can also be pretty sexualized depending on who the artist is.

  3. This reminds me of the trouble we had buying underwear for my daughter when she was first picking out her own underpants. The stuff she wanted only came in “boy” – First Thomas (which I expected only was boy underwear even though lots of girls like trains), then Cars. She didn’t know any of the princess characters – the princess movies were too scary for her at that time. I don’t remember what she picked but she was really disappointed by the choices available.

  4. Lisa Middleton says:

    Good to hear you are on the watch for things like this! I get upset too, when boys are allowed “special privileges” and the like, since I reared 2 lovely girls to adulthood, and now am lucky to have a beautiful and sassy 2-yr-old granddaughter loaded with attitude! Females always seem to get the short end of it! When my girls were in elementary, one was made to cover her shirt or wear it inside out because it said “I run like a girl, I throw like a girl, girls kick butt!” Never mind the boys’ shirts with Marilyn Manson being sported freely!
    On Halloween, one of our favorite holidays, I couldn’t find the Yellow Power Ranger, who wore the pants, but the Pink Power Ranger (with a skirt) was all over the place! We decided to sew our own, and ended up with a masterpiece costume, complete with soft helmet and screen-type visor, which really was one-of-a-kind! It also got loads of use just for fun long afterward!
    Maybe if lots of us sound off? Perhaps if we had a Disney email site we could write to…!
    PS… I have searched recently for girls toddler sz 2 underwear “Made in the USA”– NOTHING! All US companies import now :( Will you be having these on your site any time?

  5. Gabrielle says:

    We’ve had the same issue with Toy Story and Cars – where are Jesse and Sally and Holly? These are primary characters, but they’re always left off the shirts and other merchandise. They’re not even on their own shirts in the girls’ department. I had to go to the Disney Store to find anything with Jesse, and half of it was pink and/or covered in hearts, instead of talking up how tough and amazing she is. When my daughter wanted to have a Woody and Jesse birthday party, we had to hunt all over to find anything with Jesse on it for the plates and decorations.

  6. This is terrible :(

    I remember when I was younger, I enjoyed a lot of ‘girl’ shows (rolling my eyes just saying that…) So I’ve had quite a few let downs when going shopping and the stores only carried toys and clothing for girls.
    It upset me quite a bit when I was younger…
    And still does now that I’m a teenager and interested in other things too. My favourite disney characters (Merida…yaaay!!!) are never on mens t-shirts….even when I do find Mens disney shirts :/

    “because boys and girls have to be segregated” << love this xD

  7. I am so glad that someone is talking about this! When I was planning my four year old daughter’s birthday last spring (she wanted Jake and the Pirates) I was surprised to find that none of the birthday decorations had Izzy on them! I couldn’t believe it. I then googled the subject expecting to find Mom’s everywhere talking about this and found nothing. This is the first article that I have found discussing the lack of female characters in merchandise. There needs to be more done about this. So thank you! Love your site!

  8. thank you, as always.
    did you know that today is, apparently, ‘national talk like a pirate day’? factoid via my hubby at breakfast.
    also, as for looking for izzy in merchandise, i understand the slight. and, isn’t there a deeper level of not needing to buy branded stuff at all and still love the show? could the kids decorate plates with pirate maps and then glue candy treasure on it with frosting dots then eat it? or something participatory, co-creative instead of just consuming a more balanced image? i understand the wish to find and support the makers of integrated merchandise.

    • Hi Sarah –
      Kids can definitely enjoy the show and not have to get into the merchandise. But what if a little girl LOVES the show, and she is walking through the store with her mom, and sees the tees similar to what Benny and I found at JC Penney that have no Izzy anywhere? Even if they aren’t planning to buy her a tee, she still gets the message. Or what if she attends a birthday party and is so excited that her buddy likes Jake and the Never Land Pirates, too, and arrives to find Izzy gone from all of the decorations?

      Even if a family does not intend to consume the spin-off merchandise, it still matters. And yes, I’m always a fan of kids making things for themselves as opposed to spending $5 for a pack of eight plates.

      • thank you, melissa, for reminder about changing things ‘out there’. yes, it matters to make merchandise as empowering as possible, even if we aren’t into it. i know you are big into creative projects with your kids and admire you endlessly. i still sometimes think about the little house amelia made when her teeth came out and how wonderful that she has space, materials, confidence, and a free spirit to come forth.

  9. I am beyond mad about Izzy missing from merchandise! i first noticed it on the Jake and the Neverland Pirates Christmas ornament from the Disney Store. My son LOVES pirates and is a fan of the show, i thought I would get him the ornament this year, but there is no Izzy! I refuse to buy it..
    then I noticed she is missing from some shirts as well.. and that annoyed me a little, but there is one purple shirt that features just her on it.. I figure I can get my son a jake shirt and my daughter an Izzy shirt..
    but then… My sister tells me she wants to get my son a Jake and the Neverland Pirates blanket from Target for his 3rd birthday gift. She sent me the link so i could see it and NO IZZY!! I looked at the comforter and the pillowcase as well and NO IZZY!! I’m very upset about this. She is part of the show and my son doesn’t care if there is a girl on his stuff! ugh.

    thank you for writing about it. I had to do a google search on it to find out why, but Im not seeing anything.

  10. This really upsets me. My daughters love the Disney princesses but they also love Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I even debated on doing a Jake themed party but now that I know Izzy isn’t there I won’t. :(

  11. I’m glad you’ve written about this, but I think maybe it’s time for a petition on Change.org. My 2 yo daughter loves the movie Cars, and I was so sad to realize you can’t buy the female characters as Cars Toys, much less find them on clothing with any of the other characters. (Besides Sally, there’s also Flo). On the Disney store they do have a car of Holley Shiftwell, a spy from Cars 2, but it’s for older kids.

    Little girls like to zoom cars around. They should be able to get female cars in the gendered car toy world.

    I agree with what everyone else is saying about underwear, too. We just went shopping for that for the first time and ended up just getting the boys briefs of The Justice League superhero icons because they are bright and cute and she won’t know the difference until later. But seriously, where are the girl superhero undies for toddlers?

    We haven’t started watching Jake and the Pirates, but the situation with Izzy is pretty annoying too. Especially that shirt where she’s replaced by a coin.

    The toys our kids play with are what they use to practice interacting socially, and the clothes they see and wear seriously affect their image of the world. Erasing the female characters out of products for kids is terrible.

  12. I am experiencing this right now! I’m looking for Izzy sheets or blankets or something for her pink bedroom and I’ll be damned if I can find anything!

  13. Ugh! My daughter is fully (day and night… hip hip hooray!) potty trained and wants Jake and the Neverland Pirate undies as her reward. My mom’s suggestion of getting iron on transfers and plain white underwear might have to be the winner.

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