Mom Contacts Company Over Missing Girl Characters, Company Responds It Is Because Boys Think Girls Are Gross

*Please be sure to see Update 1 & 2 and the end of the post!

Veronica, a mom of two from Washington State, was shopping recently in search of Big Hero 6-themed fabric in order to make her two young movie fans some throw pillows. For those familiar with children’s media and the secondary product market, you might be able to guess what happens next.

The FULL cast of Big Hero 6.

The FULL cast of Big Hero 6.

Veronica would discover two of the movies heroes, two integral parts of the story and plot, two of the six Big Heroes, were missing from the fabric. As in, not on it anywhere. Which two characters are missing in action? Why, the female characters, but of course! Honey Lemon and GoGo were nowhere to be found.

Veronica and her children decided to pass on the fabric manufactured by Springs Creative and left the store. Her children were not interested in a choice that failed to include all of the heroes they loved.

It would have been easy to just leave it there, tell the kids they’ll find something else, maybe gripe to friends on Facebook. But Veronica felt she needed to speak out, and speak up directly to the decision makers who would have consciously left out the female characters. She was not only personally offended, she saw this as an injustice to her children and all children. Below is her correspondence with Springs Creative.

Hi,

I am the mother of two wonderful children who wanted some super cool pillows made out of their favorite characters in Big Hero 6. They love all of the characters, but their favorites are Baymax and Honey Lemon. Guess what’s missing from the fabric, not just Honey Lemon, but GoGo too. BOTH of the ONLY female characters, both equally as brilliant and smart and capable as Wasabi and Hiro, are missing. It’s not Big Hero 6 without them.

I can’t find a way to contact Disney to right this terrible wrong. As a woman, and an Engineer, I myself find this offensive. Put the Big Hero 6 back together on the same fabric. Even my children do not want the fabric without ALL of the heros on it.

Veronica

Veronica received the following response. It is a revealing look into how brands think about marketing their wares, assumptions made about children and gender, and the self-fulfilling prophecy they create for themselves training boys and girls to regard each other as separate and undesirable species.

Big Hero 6.2PNG

The missing Big Hero 6 heroes Gogo and Honey Lemon.

Hi Veronica

Thanks for your email! Here is a little background on how we develop our designs.  When designing for a new film, we are developing well before the film is released and long before we have seen the movies ourselves.  Thus, we rely on the filmmakers to provide a recommended target audience.  Disney’s target audience for Big Hero 6 is boys 5-12 and secondary are girls 5-12 and teens.  Since this is geared toward boys, we chose to focus either on the main characters (in this case Baymax and Hiro), or on just the boy characters.  We have found boys do not want girl characters on their things (eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha). Should Big Hero 6 continue to resonate in the market place I think you will begin to see more product and even fabric with all the characters including the female characters.

I hope this helps explain why you might see product this way. We enjoy hearing feedback like this. So please, continue to do so.

Best regards,
Emily Robbins Kelly
Licensing Manager
Springs Creative Products Group, LLC

As you may have predicted, Veronica was displeased with this response. The word Veronica used with me when we discussed this was “disgusted”, and my reaction was much the same. Worse, this response came from a woman. Someone who should get it, someone who should be an ally.  Someone who is part of a team who makes decisions that impact what tens of thousands of kids see and learn.

By the description from their website, Springs Creative is a clearly a rather big production: “Our distribution center ships to all states in the U.S., to 21 foreign countries, and to military bases worldwide. The distribution center houses more than 11 million yards of fabric as well as crafts and finished product. The facility is approximately 450,000 square feet with 32 dock doors.”

And those 32 dock doors ship 11 million yards of fabric from a company who tells its customers boys don’t want girls on their stuff because girls are “eeeeww girls! Yuck! Haha”. It is hysterical, if the systematic conditioning of children by marketers to be sexist and devalue girls is your kind of funny. If it isn’t, then you know this is just one more drop in an over-flowing bucket telling our girls they don’t matter, don’t count, don’t get to be present.

Well thank goodness for Veronica. Be not silent.

Emily,

First off, it’s Big Hero 6. Not Big Hero 4 and two others.

Women have just as much of a right to be here, be represented, acknowledged and idolized as men. Women have a place in this world too, and are capable of achieving greatness in math and science as well.

By eliminating the women in your fabric design, you are telling boys that it’s OK to think girls are yucky, unworthy and less than a boy. You are also telling girls they are unworthy, unwanted and that it’s un-cool to be smart and confident.

It’s not just your one design. It’s your design, with all of the other designs in the industry, in our daily lives, that tell girls and women that they are not worth it, they are not as important or capable. And even more dangerously telling boys that girls are worthless and yucky.

Colors, math, science, music and art are for everyone. Not just some for boys, and not just some for girls. For everyone!

But as for this design it’s a total failure, despite your target audience approach. It’s called Big Hero 6, and you are missing two of the hero’s. And I truly don’t think you will find many objections from any boy or girl to having ALL of the hero’s represented.

I will have to make my own designs for now,

Veronica

If you would like to contact Springs Creative to politely request they reconsider their thinking on this, you can find their info here. Use Veronica’s second email as a guide for tone and content, it is excellent. Let them know that kids love all kinds of characters, gender isn’t really a part of that coolness factor despite how convinced grown ups think it is.

Big Hero 6.3PNG.

I took an informal poll on our Facebook page today and the answers were refreshing, representative of what I was expecting from my community, and hopefully eye opening for companies and manufacturers who read it. Tomorrow I’ll put up a more formal poll on the blog for the community, the results of which will be compiled and made into a printable that can be downloaded and sent to companies who continue to insist on gender segregation in childhood.

Of the three questions I asked today, most people (out of 170 or so answers) replied with this pattern:

Question 1: Many popular kids shows and movie casts have a group of male characters (with a male main/title character) and one-two female side-kick characters. In the secondary-market toy and apparel products, the female characters are often left out (think Star Wars, Toy Story, Jake & Never Land Pirates, Paw Patrol, etc). This is because ____________

Top answers were B & C
B) manufacturers operate with the belief boys think girls are gross and don’t want girls on their stuff, even relaying this belief to customers, which influences what they think will sell and the products they make.
C) manufacturers operate with the belief girls are only interested in princesses and fashion and do not watch more action/adventure children’s media, therefore the female characters can get discarded from merchandise.

Question 2: If your child is the fan of a co-ed cast but the secondary market products leave out the female characters, are you less likely to purchase those products?
Top answers were B & C
B) I would not buy the product.
C) I want to burn this place down *

*Pigtail Pals LLC nor Melissa Atkins Wardy does not condone the actual burning down of things. 

Question 3: Think of the boys in your life you know, specifically ages 0-103. Do the majority of them think “girls are gross”, or do they have female friends and family members they enjoy, respect, love, learn from, and cherish?
A) The boys I know think girls are their personal kryptonite.
B) The boys I know think girls are cool and make good friends and role models.

The top answer for Question 3 was B) The boys I know think girls are cool and make good friends and role models.

So why don’t children’s products reflect this?

 

Update 1: The issue of girl characters gone missing from products is not unique to Springs Creative. They are simply one spoke in the wheel. Let’s call attention to and create meaningful change around the entire problem. Use hashtag #IncludeTheGirls to call out other products and media content creators who intentionally leave girl characters out. Need some examples to get your started?

Images from #IncludeTheGirls campaign.

Images from #IncludeTheGirls campaign.

Update 2: I received a call this afternoon from the nice folks at Springs Creative and they requested I post and share the statement below. I VERY pleased with their words and how effective all of you were with your emails. Well done all around today. And a sincere thank you to the team at Springs Creative for listening to consumers and being willing to make meaningful changes for our kids. Thank you!!

The following is the statement from Springs Creative:

Big Hero 6 fans, we at Springs Creative have heard you loud and clear! 

First of all, thank you all for your feedback about our products.  It is sometimes difficult to hear negative feedback but the message was clear and we intend to act upon your message.

Most importantly, Springs Creative does not condone sexism in any shape or form and does not design products to shine a negative light on females OR males. In fact, the majority of our licensed properties highlight strong female figures. We value the contributions of women greatly and are proud to say that over half of our corporate employees are indeed female.  We are well represented by females in our leadership and executive positions. This issue is not something we take lightly and this is not how we operate our business as a good corporate citizen.

Our Licensing Manager is a highly professional, competent and strong woman and we stand behind her as we do all of our associates.

The good news for you is that we will be talking with our valued long term licensing partner Disney immediately about additional designs for Big Hero 6 that in fact incorporate all of the characters you know and love.  We would never intentionally offend any segment of the population.  We are a strong company with positive morals and values and we respect and see both genders equally.

Thank you for your support, time and attention.  We sincerely believe you will be happy with the results coming your way soon.

 Springs Creative Products Group  www.springscreative.com

Now it is time to thank Springs Creative for being willing to make changes, send them a positive note on their Facebook page or send a follow up email of appreciation.

Update 3: Hey BoingBoing, thanks for featuring our post on your page!

MAW Profile PicMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

The Fantastical Mystery of Women Missing From History

Where do women in history go?

Where do women in history go?

Yesterday my daughter Amelia went on a field trip with her third grade class to see a play about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We talked a bit about the play and what her thoughts were, and one of the first things she said was, “Mom, there were five actors. Four were men and then there was one woman to play all the women. Just one woman.”

Now, you never really know how accurate information is coming from a nine year old, especially since she was able to give me great detail on the bus ride shenanigans but very little details about the play. But she did say that the male actors all stayed in character while the sole female actor had to flip flop between female roles. I asked her what she thought about there being just one woman to which she replied, “It just seems like they forgot that women were a part of all that history, too. There was just one woman for ALL those women. It didn’t feel right.”

In my head I started going through the names and faces of the women and girls from the Civil Rights Movement: Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mildred Loving, Daisy Bates, Myrlie Evers Williams, Septima Poinsette Clark and Dorothy Height…..

Oh the irony of Dorothy Height, well-known in her time as a great orator and a key organizer of the 1963 March On Washington, yet not allowed by her male counterparts to speak that day.

They didn’t allow any women to speak that day. And that wasn’t the first time.

No wonder the women in the play are interchangeable.

No wonder my daughter found the play to be boring.

 

 

Each of these women above may have been striving for the same goal and working together, but each woman was unique and different from the next. A sharecropper. A journalist. A mother of four who holds a degree in voice and violin from the New England Conservatory of Music. A prize-winning orator.

I asked my daughter to tell me more, specifically which women did the female actor portray and how did it make Amelia feel when the female actor would switch roles.

“First she was Rosa Parks, who had a pretty big job with the Civil Rights parades if I recall. Then they made her flip to his WIFE. And I’m all, ‘Uh no, that’s Rosa Parks, you just don’t mess with that business’. The men were just standing there like mountains because they. are. men. so that’s who they get to be forever like they’re sooooooo important. But the women were all flip flopping, like any woman could fill that role as long as it was a girl. It felt like the women were cut in half. And I was sitting in my chair squeaking my boots on the floor because at this point I’m angry, right? I’m sitting in my chair and I KNOW that Coretta Scott King did a lot of work herself to help the brown skin people. And I’m thinking, “Oh Coretta be like – jokers please, you need to hire more actors!'”

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

My nine year old is aware of when her gender is being left out, be it advertising, media characters and stories, politics, sports, or plays about the journey for equality.

And so I teach her, when history attempts to write us out we are to make sure we write ourselves right back in.

Women's history books we have at home.

Women’s history books we have at home.

The book in the center, “Lives of Extraordinary Women”, was given to my daughter for her birthday by my mother. It is what women have done for each other for centuries, we share and retell our stories to make sure our contributions that shaped the world are not forgotten nor credited to our brothers.

It is what we do so that when our little girls go to a play they question why there is only one woman on stage for the telling of a movement that had men as its stars but was carried forward on the backs of its women.

 

List of books as they appear in photo:

Who Was books includes biographies on Maria Tallchief, Jane Goodall, Sacagawea, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and more….

No Small Courage: A History of Women in the United States by Nancy F. Cott

Rosie the Riveter: Women Working On The Home Front in World War II by Penny Colman

Anne Frank In The World compiled by the Anne Frank House

Scholastic Encyclopedia of Women in the United States by Sheila Keenan

America’s Daughters: 400 Years of American Women by Judith Head

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt

I Am books include biographies on Cleopatra, Hellen Keller, Harriet Tubman, and Sacagawea

American Girl books

FlyGirl by Sherri Smith

Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel

American Women: Their Lives In Their Words by Doreen Rappaport

Demeter’s Choice: A Portrait of My Grandmother as a Young Woman by Mary Tonetti Dorra

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

The True Difference Between Raising Boys and Girls

Here’s the true difference between raising boys and girls:

1. While at a crafts & home store —-
To my son: “Hey Benny, here’s some super hero tin signs.”
To my daughter: “I’m sorry babe, they don’t have any girls.”

2. Still at crafts & home store —-
My son: “Mom, they have Star Wars signs here with the good ol’ guys not the new guys!”
My daughter: “If I turn around, am I going to see Leia in that stupid gold bikini??? Because YOU THINK she’d be wearing her white fighting outfit and holding a laser gun. Like the time she rescues Hans Solo and saves the empire?!”

3. While looking at movie posters as we walk into movie theater —
My son: “Mom, will you take our picture in front of the poster?”
My daughter: “There are no girls. There seriously is not one girl on these posters.”

4. After our movie, Night at the Museum 3 —
My son: “Well the part I liked best was when the monkey peed right on the little guys to stop the fire lava!”
My daughter: “Mom, how can they go back in history, literally to the ancient Egyptians and they can’t find one interesting woman to play an action hero in that movie?”
Me: “Yeah, I hear you. They had Sacajawea, though.”
My daughter: “All she did was carry around the monkey and kiss Teddy Roosevelt. She was so unimportant Larry didn’t even say goodbye to her. ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE EGYPTIANS!”
Me: “They could have had Joan of Arc instead of Lancelot, who wasn’t an actual historical person.”
My daughter: “Joan of Freaking Arc.”

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Even if you’re only eight years old…….

 

What my daughter did see: Sacajawea kneels down to read a horse shoe print off a newspaper, and it is literally the most action she has the entire movie.

Sacajawea, holding a monkey.

Sacajawea, holding a monkey.

 

What my daughter could have seen: Joan of Freaking Arc in place of Lancelot. A peasant girl turned warrior whose battlefield victories took France back from England. Surely she’d be able to keep up with Larry and the crew.

What my daughter could have seen: Joan of Freaking Arc.  (Image credit: Zahrahka Art)

(Image credit: Zahrahka Art)