“Just For Girls?” How Gender Divisions Trickle Down

I’ll say up front I am genuinely happy that DC is going to put forward their girl superheroes for kids. If the writing is great, this’ll be good stuff. Kudos. Huzzah. Hurrah. A PARADE OF PONIES AND GLEE. *flings ponies into air with catapult* *explodes ponies with cannons* *glitter everywhere* *also sequins* *also ice cream sprinkles because why the fuck not*

I’m happy anytime any publisher, creator or company thinks: “Hey, weird, maybe we should be talking to everybody, not just this one group who has dominated the conversation for a good long time.” That’s a good thing. The world is full of folks who have been grossly undernourished by pop culture because of exclusion. And this is true up and down the chain — from those who run the companies to those who create the content to those characters within the content. This is a top-to-bottom, nose-to-toes problem.

And that problem trickles down to the readers, too.

I’ve talked about this before — “Boy Toys, Girl Toys, And Other Cuckoopants Gender Assumptions” — and once again, the specter of this problem rears its exclusionary little head.

I want you to take a look at the DC Comics press release.

More to the point, I want you to gaze at some of the language therein:

“…an exciting new universe of Super Heroic storytelling that helps build character and confidence, and empowers girls to discover their true potential.”

Developed for girls aged 6-12, DC Super Hero Girls centers on the female Super Heroes and Super-Villains of the DC Comics universe during their formative years…”

“I am so pleased that we are able to offer relatable and strong role models in a unique way, just for girls.”

The underlined emphasis is mine.

I’m of a conflicted mind, here.

See, I want this comic to be about the girls. Not about boys. I want it to empower girls and maintain whatever aesthetic it must to appeal to an audience of girls. I hope it’s written by amazing women authors and put on the page by incredible women artists. Like I said, this is a nose-to-toes problem. It needs to be on the page but also beyond the page, too.

But here’s my conflict:

I want my son to read this.

And the response would be: “Well, he can, duh.”

To that, I agree! He can. And will, one day, I hope.

My problem is the signal that gets sent by identifying again and again that this is “just for girls.” That’s marketing speak, I know, but it’s also something that reaches the audience. It reaches the parents who buy this stuff and that means it reaches the kids who will read these books. This attitude trickles down and it bolsters poisonous gender typing. It says, “GIRLS LIKE GIRLY THINGS, BOYS LIKE BOYLY THINGS, AND NEVER THE TWO SHALL MEET.”

The problem isn’t that things are pink.

The problem is that pink is “just for girls.”

Girls need to be reading comics about girls and by women. Honestly, they’ve had to endure comics that have been about boys and by men for a very long time, and that needs to change.

But my son — now almost four, holy crap — and other boys have had to endure the same thing. That sounds strange, like it’s some kind of punishment — but boys also need to read about girls. Girls are always expected to understand boys (“Boys will be boys”) but boys are never expected to understand girls (“THEY ARE LIKE ALIEN ARTIFACTS AND IF YOU TRY TO UNDERSTAND THEM YOU WILL FRY YOUR BRAIN TO A CRISP CINDER now go play sports or punch somebody”). And this becomes the way men and women are to one another, too. Cosmo teaches women all the sexy sex tricks (“Try oral sex at a small town carnival with a mouth full of hot, deep-fried Snickers bar!”) and teaches men to, y’know, just be dudes, dude. Just bro it up. Be a bro. The ladies will come to you and then you might get to do that thing at the carnival I was telling you about. 

Society will get better when boys have to learn about girls the same way girls learn about boys.

Boys need to think about girls in ways that go beyond objectification or alienation.

Boys need to know who girls are and what they will go through.

All the toxicity between the gender divide? It starts here. It starts when they’re kids. It begins when you say, “LOOK, THERE’S THE GIRL STUFF FOR THE GIRLS OVER THERE, AND THE BOY STUFF FOR THE BOYS OVER HERE.” And then you hand them their pink hairbrushes and blue guns and you tell your sons, “You can’t play with the pink hairbrush because GIRL GERMS yucky ew you’re not weird are you, those germs might make you a girl,” and then when the boy wants to play with the hairbrush anyway, he does and gets his ass kicked on the bus and gets called names like sissy or pussy or some homophobic epithet because parents told their kids that girl stuff is for girls only, which basically makes the boy a girl. And the parents got that lesson from the companies that made the hairbrush because nowhere on the packaging would it ever show a boy brushing hair or a girl brushing a boy’s hair. And on the packaging of that blue gun is boys, boys, boys, grr, men, war, no way would girls touch this stuff. Duh! Girls aren’t boys! No guns for you.

My son plays the LEGO superhero games of both DC and Marvel (the Marvel one is better, let’s be honest) — and he plays the women superheroes as often as he does the men ones. He loves Wasp and Pepper Potts (particularly when she’s in the Iron Rescue suit). He got so excited to unlock Batgirl. He doesn’t even know who the fuck Batgirl is, he just thinks she’s rad.

One of my favoritest shows of all time is Gilmore Girls. And I still get people who give me this look (nearly always from dudes) as if to say, “Do you have a penis? Are you sure? Do you need to turn it in — like, are you done with it?” And I’m all, oh, what, it’s cool to like quick-talking Buffy because she stabs things with wooden stakes but not like this other show which oh yeah is basically Buffy just without the vampire fights? “Well, Gilmore Girls is a girl show. It’s right there in the name.” Whatever. Who gives a shit. It’s also an incredibly funny, sarcastic, sweet, sad, quirky show. (Run by a woman showrunner — at least up until it started to suck a little bit.)

Now, this runs the risk of sounding like the plaintive wails of a MAN SPURNED, wherein I weep into the open air, “WHAT ABOUT ME, WHAT ABOUT US POOR MENS,” and that’s not my point, I swear. I don’t want DC or the toy companies to cater to my boy. I just don’t want him excluded from learning about and dealing with girls. I want society to expect him to actually learn about girls and be allowed to like them — not as romantic targets later in life, but as like, awesome ass-kicking complicated equals. As real people who are among him rather than separate from him.

DC Comics making comics about girls isn’t the problem.

DC Comics telling us those comics are “just for girls” is.

Listen, if these comics are half-good, I’m giving them to him regardless. And this one particular instance isn’t going to ruin anything or change much at all — I think it’s a great initiative. I’m excited. But I do think it’s indicative of that larger patten. That larger division in gender. You don’t have to submit to a chromosomal test to read certain books or play with certain toys. Gender is a spectrum, not two poles at opposite ends of the globe. And the characteristics we associate with gender are constantly floating, shifting, changing. We need to embrace that, not the US VERSUS THEM attitude. Not the THESE PRODUCTS ARE FOR YOU, THESE PRODUCTS ARE FOR THEM declaration. Men can read books by women, about women. A boy can play with an EZ Bake oven because what the fuck? Why not? Why can’t a boy learn how to cook? Why can’t a girl learn how to use a screwdriver? Men can’t try to learn what women actually have to go through? C’mon.

I’ll be teaching my son all this stuff. I hope others will teach their kids the same, too. And I hope companies and publishers wisen up, as well — we need to stop that idea of gender roles trickling down from company to creator to parent to kids. Because this is where it all starts. This is when we have to catch it. It’s on us to fix it.

135 responses to ““Just For Girls?” How Gender Divisions Trickle Down”

  1. Omg! Thank you for saying this. I love that you get this. Gender is a spectrum. And boys should read about girls and vice versa. You’re speaking truth here.

  2. Excellent post Chuck! Thanks! Recently I read a post about the same subject. A writer was complaining that she went to speak at a school and only the girls were invited to her chat because her book was “for girls”. Like you, she was upset about this. She even commented how a very timid boy asked her for a copy of her book only after everyone had left so they wouldn’t call him names. That’s not cool! An anonymous commenter above says he doesn’t see the problem because smart parents will overlook the gender issue. I do. I see the problem. You may buy it for your son and he absolutely loves it. But then he takes it to school and the other boys mock him because he’s reading something “for girls”. Enter self-doubt. He will begin to question why he was into the “girly” stuff in the first place. No no no. I love that you wrote this. I love that you think like this and now I’m actually curious about Gilmore Girls (I have never… hehehe). I hope your frame of mind spreads.

  3. I agree that the “gender” only products are a bad idea. I also have an objection about taking something that already exists and trying to leverage its fan base to launch gender swapped versions. Why not market a new character or even a new brand. There are examples of graphic novels with strong female leads that have done well without leveraging another characters fandom. Basically it’s taking an AR15 and putting pink camo on it to market it to girls when they may like the black version just fine. Market kick-ass female heroes as for any reader, make them unque, make them stand on their own.

  4. There seems to be a basic misconception here. Males and females are biologically different. It is upon each specimen that the environment works to create our personalities. Even the environments to which each is exposed are different. Until males can become pregnant and give birth, they will not be exposed to the same environment as females.
    In our mixed-up attempts to maintain equality, assumptions that both genders are the same is misguided.

    • This comment is very strange, and I’ve no way to really parse it. Gender isn’t biology. Gender is a moving target and is given over to socio-cultural differences, not biological ones.

      Which is all rather disconnected from the point, anyway, because we’re not talking about that here. We’re talking about gender-based marketing.

    • Well, assuming that both genders are completely different is equally misguided, isn’t it? After all we are the same species, have the same brains with the same neurotransmitters and hormones – the latter only in different concentrations.
      Women and men certainly differ in their physiology and what comes to reproductive biology, there’s no denying that. But apart from that, I want to see scientific evidence, especially when it comes to such a vast gray area as personality.
      I’m going out on a limb here in saying most of the common gender stereotypes are entirely social constructs. Example: ‘Women can’t drive.’ That’s because we discourage them to, not because it’s in their genes (/biology). Based on these nifty misconceptions we assign values to people, and that’s where the problem really takes off.

    • So let me get this straight – because my 7-year-old son is (barring major medical advances) unlikely ever to get pregnant, therefore it is unthinkable for him to ever read a comic or a book that has female characters in it as something other than damsels in distress or eye candy? Because, what, he might realize girls exist and can sometimes do cool stuff, and that will for some reason make his brain explode?

      And yet, I don’t ever seem to see anyone arguing that little girls shouldn’t read The Hobbit or Harry Potter or anything else with male characters in it. So are boys going to be irreparably tainted if they read anything about female characters, but girls reading about male characters is OK?

      Seriously, your argument makes no fucking sense. When a little kid picks up a comic or a storybook, they are not thinking “But wait! Is it OK for me to read this? WILL I GIVE BIRTH AT SOME POINT AFTER I GROW UP?” Because that has nothing whatsoever to do with it. They are more likely to be thinking “Does this look like a cool story?” And whether or not something is a cool story bears absolutely no relation to the plumbing of the reader or the characters.

      It’s particularly ironic to see arguments like this in the context of speculative fiction: because it sounds like what you’re arguing is that men and women, or even little girls and little boys, are somehow so vastly, irreconcilably different from each other that they couldn’t possibly read stories about each other – and yet, being human and reading stories about elves, dragons, aliens and superheroes is totally legit, because those things aren’t different from us at all.

    • Oh, honey, no. That point shot straight over your head. This isn’t a biology lesson. This has nothing to do with having a penis or vagina, or the hormones that may subsequently come with them. This is about the social conventions that come with our productive organs that end up objectifying women and glorifying men, but only if they fit our stereotypes. This is way before hormones and lust. This is all learned behavior meant to separate us and keep morale low in society. Just because you’re born with a penis does not give you some biological aversion to pink. And being born with a vagina doesn’t give you some biological aversion to blue. No one’s trying to make the genders the same, just to allow people to be themselves within their gender. We’re just trying to destroy the social conventions that say we’re separate. Because we’re not. We’re supposed to be working together.

    • Also, just as gender is a spectrum/constellation/wibbly-wobbly-gendery-blendery thing, so is sex. Intersex folks are not as rare as people seem to think they are & shoving the binary down everybody’s throats hurts EVERYONE.

  5. Eventually, maybe, perhaps, some day ‘they’ will catch up with us. Boys will fold clothes and girls will mow lawns (I wasn’t allowed to mow lawns, it was a ‘boy’ thing. Instead I had to fold my brothers’ laundry) EVERYONE will be able to cook their own meals. Hmmm. Didn’t Heinlein already cover this? Why aren’t these people reading the master????? Hold on, I bet I can find it

    ***A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.***

    • Nice list… let me see how I’m going:

      change a diaper – check.
      plan an invasion – untested, chess & RTS games suggest no.
      butcher a hog – can butcher a sheep – check.
      conn a ship – I don’t even know what this is, so no.
      design a building – Sims games suggest this is a fail.
      write a sonnet – can write haikus/limericks. partial pass.
      balance accounts – hate it, but can do. Check.
      build a wall – I’ve been building emotional walls for years, so absolutely check.
      set a bone – never tried… going to say no.
      comfort the dying – …partial pass.
      take orders – I can remember 4 or even 5 drinks when I go to the bar, so yes I can take your order. check.
      give orders – I’ll have a gin & tonic.
      cooperate – I’ll actively get out of an effective person’s way, so check.
      act alone – I do. frequently. Alone. So very, very, alone.
      solve equations – simple ones sure. Check.
      analyze a new problem – I overanalyse everything, debating in a paralysis till action is too late and I am trapped by my inaction… so check.
      pitch manure – Check the first question. Yes.
      program a computer – does crtl-tab to hide facebook count?
      cook a tasty meal – my wife disagrees, but check.
      fight efficiently – running is pretty efficient, isn’t it?
      die gallantly – um sure. But not soon right? Please? I’ll do anything…

      • You don’t have to do it all by age twenty, or thirty, or forty…or be able to do them all in the same week. In fact, you can do something for some years (program a computer) and then quit and go do something else and realize that you’d have to start learning how all over again to program this year’s model. It’s OK–even desirable–to change tracks.

        It’s taken me longer than 40-50 years to get through the list except for one (and “dying gallantly” is one you can’t claim while alive…). However, at my age I can say yes to all but that one (though substituting “bull” and “sheep” instead of “hog” on the butchering end, but it’s the same basic process. Hold your nose, watch what you stick your knife into, don’t quit until it’s over and all the meat’s dealt with.) I will admit freely that the buildings I’ve designed and helped build were one chicken house and three pole barns, not a skyscraper in Manhattan. My mother designed houses and commercial buildings and (during WWII) was the engineer in charge of compliance in an aircraft factory.

        But on the gender thing–it’s silly. All the hoorah about what “real men” are like or “real women” are like…how about “real HUMANS?” I was a born tomboy far more interested in trucks than dolls (though I had my dolls drive tractors and trucks and climb trees and ride horses), loved science and math despite being told it was wrong for me to “pretend” to like them just to “get a boyfriend.” (Insulting assumptions there.) Programmed mainframes while in the military. Wanted to learn to drive a road grader (gasps of horror: NO!) and bulldozer (NO! NO!) and once got to dig a ditch with a small rented Ditch Witch (o joy! Snorty-growly diesel engine and the furrow of the ditch growing behind us. Fun.) But I didn’t want to “be a man” physically…I wanted to be allowed to like what I liked without being told it was wrong for a girl. I want boys to be allowed to like what they like without being told it’s wrong for them. And it would be a huge help if boys did in fact learn about girls as people early on.

  6. As the mother of a 3 year old son and a 6 month old daughter, I can only say: FUCK YES

    (Though obviously, if I were actually saying it, like out loud, it’d be without the swearing, because I have a 3yo and he hears & repeats *everything*. Our house is language level ‘Sound of Music’ these days.)

    The one thing I’ve learned since having a girl baby after having a boy baby is the amount of stuff that goes into gender-dividing them from day dot. Innocent stuff for the most part – do you know how many clothes come in pink for baby girls? I don’t mind dressing her in pink, but it’s everything. It’s the gifts of trucks given to the boy from babyhood to all the dolls given to the girl. It’s the lack of 3yo fun dance classes that aren’t all little girl ballerinas in tutus that my son might feel welcome in, because all 3yos love to dance, boys and girls both.

    It’s just constant. Everywhere. Girls are this, boys are that. Right from birth. Argh. Does my head in.

    So yay for DC marketing to little girls. But it shouldn’t be ‘just’ for girls.

    Anyway, now I’ve had that little rant, I’m off to go play superhero-princess-pirates-saving-the-world with my kids, boy and girl both.

  7. Thank you so much, Chuck, for this. I can’t even describe how much this post means. As a girl – especially one with tomboyish tendencies – the whole “just for girls” phenomenon drives me batty. And with the female superhero show, I get that they want to even the scales, but I kinda wish they’d throw a few boys into the team for the DC “girl” team too. Even just one, because how often do you see one boy on a team where the rest are girls? Hardly ever, and if it happens the one guy is either seen as a player, gay, or a wussie, RATHER than just another ordinary member. And yet a girl looks like a bad-ass if she’s on an all guy team. So silly. Anyway, thanks gain for this post.

  8. This actually caused an issue in my sister’s house. Her son (then three) really wanted to watch My Little Ponies (and he squealed whenever he saw the toys in a store). He clearly liked the show, but she was afraid that letting him get into it would make him a target of bullying later on in school. So she diverted his attention to Pokemon. Now he likes Frozen (and watches it obsessively). She allows this, but she’s pissed off that there aren’t any Frozen toys that aren’t “covered in glitter.”

  9. “Society will get better when boys have to learn about girls the same way girls learn about boys”

    When I win the lottery, I’m going to pay someone to skywrite that over every city.

    OK, so that’s probably not entirely affordable, but you know what I mean 🙂

  10. Nicely said. And might I add that there’s a sort of special “coolness” that girls can sometimes get for liking “boy stuff” that isn’t true in reverse. Girls still get told to act ladylike and be pretty, but we often feel proud when we’re told we do something like a boy (I had a flush of pride a while back when some stupid gender testing writing algorithm thought I was 65% likely to be male–which is totally dumb, because even if programs can tell stuff like that, who cares whether someone’s writing is more like most men’s or most women’s).

    Men still tend to feel deeply ashamed when they’re told something they’re doing or interested in is girl like. And the craziest thing of all? In this era of supposed gender equality, toys are even more gender divided than they were when I was a kid. Even toys that used to be “neutral” like play dog and legos are now heavily genderized.

    I agree. It would be great if there were more shows with female superheros and protagonists, and shows with even mixes of characters too, that were just for kids.

    • Totally agree! When I was a kid, I was proud to be a tomboy, and if someone had called me girly, I would have died (or beaten them up).

      When did “like a girl” become an insult?

  11. I think this is where parents have a responsibility to step in and mediate between the marketing message and what they actually tell and give their children.

    And it’s funny — we don’t often think of male toys as being “just for boys,” though they may be marketed as such; people actually encourage girls to play with “boy-only” toys because it’s seen as more gender-equal. But that requires thinking that “gender-equal” means “more male.” Women as well as men are taught to be ashamed of liking things that are too “girly.”

    So while I like that they are targeting girls specifically, because it’s an area that really needs attention…I definitely see and am troubled by the point you make.

    • Right. It’s not that I’m upset that there are books geared toward girls specifically — girl characters, girl authors, girl most everything. I’m upset about the segregation there. Because some boys will want that. All boys *need* that — they need to read girl books. And as long as that division is enforced by companies (publishers, manufacturers, retailers), that won’t happen without struggle.

  12. When I found myself hooked on ROBOTECH it wasn’t a boy show.. it wasn’t a girl show… .it was a GOOD SHOW.. it had mecha, romance, aliens, scifi, action, drama, good characters…. it was just a good show… and when that theme song started up in the morning I was sitting in the living room with my bowl of cereal , letting my heart thunder in my chest… because ROBOTECH! shows can have wide appeal… (Thundercats, Voltron, Starblazers, GI Joe, etc)

  13. You know how “racism” is always black versus white and then an asian person tries to get in on the ruckus and nobody pays any attention to him? Y’all are doing this with the gender thing. Like a certain person makes females get all melty or males get all hard? What does that for you shouldn’t be pink or blue or whatever. It is just what does it for you. That’s the Mother Nature deal. The rest is politics. Don’t argue.

    • I’m trying to figure out what you mean, and I’m having a difficult time of it. I am agreeing that it shouldn’t be pink or blue (or JUST be pink or blue). I’m saying that there needn’t be only a division of boy books and girl books (some, yes, just not all).

      So — ?

      • But of course. I think I was going for a “whatever floats your boat” kind of statement. I only got to read Hardy Boys cuz my brother was the shining prince. I enjoyed them.

  14. My friend’s 2 year old boy is really into Frozen. He turned up at my house the other night in is it an Ella? a Frozen dress anyway. I was jealous. McMini says Frozen is for girls. He is very clear that boys like guns and girls like pink. I have no idea why. He’s certainly never been taught to think like that by me. Maybe he gets it from TV, a lot of the stuff aimed at girls is unremittingly schmaltzy and awful. That said there’s an animated thing on TV here about some girl super heroes at high school. It’s sarcastic,funny and they’re flawed in a way the male superheroes aren’t always. Except Acqua Man who we both like because he’s a bit of a loud mouthed dunderhead.



  15. Hm, interesting thoughts. And an important topic for sure! I’m no pedagogue nor have kids myself, but I think children learn to form identity through exclusion from others. You can either be a tough bro – or a wuss, depending on what you own, who you hang around with, and how you behave. There’s little in between those poles. And of course the industry picks up quickly on anything that sells identity. So girls wanna play superhero now instead of princess? Great, new idols and merchandise!
    It would be so great to drop gender divisions from our collective thinking altogether (anarchy, yay!), like: kids, you can be anything you like!

    Superhero anecdote to finish my rant: I, as a dude, like DC’s Raven because she has a cool personality I can relate to.

  16. A lot of comments about the gender biases starting in school, and this is one of the reasons I am still a first grade teacher. I am CONSTANTLY redirecting comments about boy/girl colors, boy/girl songs, boy/girl toys, boy/girl books. Making my classroom a safe space to like what you like takes so much work, and then there is the fear that they’ll move on next year into a place that might not have the same values.

    I have two boys, and I feel such a responsibility to give them a blank slate to form their personalities. If they were little girls, I’d be completely fine dressing them in things from the boys section, and I’d probably feel cool to be such a rebel in the face of conformity. But it feels different to pick out a cute flowered shirt with pintucked sleeves, and that’s a hard truth for me to face.. I pick out all their clothes (they’re 2&3) based on what I like, so why am I only comfortable picking from the boys section?

    Toys, shows, books, activities, friends- ‘m already there on giving them as many options as possible. We have train tables, every G I Joe/Star Wars/superhero figure you can imagine, baby dolls, a shopping cart, lots of glitter in our art supplies…but sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. Gloria Steinem has a good quote on this: “We’ve begun to raise our daughters like sons…but few have the courage to raise our sons like our daughters.”

  17. I couldn’t agree more, Chuck. And don’t get me started on the tyranny of pink or I’ll go into rant mode, and I don’t rant in comments! 😀 But when I couldn’t get gardening gloves in ladies sizes in any colour but pink….. AAAGGH! the world has gone mad. Or maybe it’s just the english-speaking atlantic bordered part.

  18. I think you really hit the nail on the head — but I disagree on one point:

    “Girls need to be reading comics about girls and by women. Honestly, they’ve had to endure comics that have been about boys and by men for a very long time, and that needs to change.”

    Actually, everyone — men, women, boys, girls, dogs & cats — should be reading books and comics about girls and women. This doesn’t stop when you hit puberty.

    But I agree, they need to start when they first pick up a book. Read like a girl, motherfucker!

  19. On a related note, I’m interested to see what the general reaction is after the new Avengers film is on wider release. Being as vague and non-spoilery as possible, I… had a rather large problem with how they decided to use Black Widow this time that feels quite relevant to this post (and oh look, she’s still not on most of the merchandising).

    • A lot of people are taking what she reveals and then her comment to Bruce that they’re both monsters as her saying that she is a monster because of it. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about what they share. Both of them consider themselves monsters, and both don’t want/can’t have a certain something. She’s not a monster because of what is revealed, but a lot of people misunderstand that. If you take a look at Age of Ultron, you might notice a strong birth/rebirth theme. That’s what’s it’s about.

      • In all honesty, nope, I wasn’t talking about that. I was so annoyed at basically all of her dialogue being massively out of character from the start of the film that I was pretty much tuning out a lot of what she said by the time the whole ‘monster’ conversation came around (it was a midnight screening, there was only so much disappointment I could take on that much caffeine). I was already cringing so much at the rest of the dialogue I barely even registered that part (obviously I’ve heard it all rehashed later in great detail. It was one more low point in a whole sea of low points). Symbolism registers slightly lower on my scale of significance than character continuity.

        Honestly, that whole conversation was so badly written that I was more offended by the fact she had to be rescued from that bloody cage later. Nobody (including Joss Whedon, notably) has ever written Natasha as needing rescuing before in the entire MCU, especially not from something as basic as that.

        If you want *really* offensive, Tony’s ‘prima nocta’ comment was bewilderingly awful and served absolutely no purpose. At least Loki had some sort of context for ‘mewling quim’ in the first film.

  20. I have a 3 year old daughter who is insanely aware of gender divisions of characters. Just yesterday she told me her bike must be a “girl” bike, because it only has Anna and Elsa on it, and not Kristoff. Why is her tiny mind preoccupied with what makes something a “girl” item? This is not the first time she’s mentioned things like this. “There are only two girl Octonauts.” “Batman is a boy toy because he’s a boy.” Etc.

    I’m not sure how to address this. It seems like encouraging her to enjoy “boy” toys is the best route, but that feels oddly like encouraging the status quo. I don’t want to discourage her enjoyment of female characters, but I don’t want her to dislike males either. Kids are crazy.

  21. You hit the nail on the head from my point of view. One of the biggest problems we as a race have in our social issues is that everything we do, even in our quest for diversity, is aimed at pointing out the differences. There are a lot of lines in the sand, and those lines all point out “here is where we are different” which makes it harder to learn “here is where we are the same.”

    I fear that if DC were to do this as a “for boys and girls” it would quickly end up the same as all the other stuff. So I want the focus on girls, girl issues, and all that, but I also want everyone reading it. The thing is, whatever DC does with it won’t be the problem that stops children like B-dub from reading it. It will be the other kids in the schoolyard/playground/whatever. He’ll read it, someone will make fun of him for reading “girl stuff” and that’ll be the end of it. And that sucks so hard.

  22. Thank goodness it wasn’t just me. I read the press release today and the exact same parts leapt out at me too. Yeah, sure we should be rightly excited by the fact that the two biggest comic book companies on the planet have had the sudden brainwave that hey, GIRLS ARE PEOPLE TOO, maybe some of them would like to read our comics. On the other, as you say, by specifying that this range is FOR GIRLS and that it will exist completely separately FOR GIRLS then you aren’t addressing the issue, you’re just shifting the goalposts a little and hoping that nobody notices.

    Tell me that Marvel/DC have employed a consultancy to enable them to address female characters and their roles within the EXISTING universes and how to make those things better and I will weep tears of unalloyed joy. Tell me that they have made a nice pink alternate universe for the female characters to inhabit all on their own, safe from all the nasty, gritty ‘boy parts’ and I will just facepalm so hard I have a headache.

    • And also THIS: “Tell me that Marvel/DC have employed a consultancy to enable them to address female characters and their roles within the EXISTING universes and how to make those things better and I will weep tears of unalloyed joy.”

  23. THIS. “Society will get better when boys have to learn about girls the same way girls learn about boys.”

  24. As someone who read (and enjoyed!) Babysitter’s Club books as a kid, I wholeheartedly agree with this entire entry.

  25. Completely agree. ‘DC Comics telling us those comics are “just for girls” is’ – and this problem is true for all the industries, media and society.

  26. Be a fine day indeed when little ones can dream without that ‘just for $gender’ business. I’ve noticed this even more with regard to muh wee niece; One Christmas I was trying to find a Wonder Woman shirt just because she liked the superhero movies she’d seen so far. Granted there’s the animated movie, but finding merch from that was damn hard. I found one and she loved it. But I did catch meself looking at toys and seeking out ones ‘for girls’ and I had to give it to whomever, that was sneaky bit of business.

  27. Great post and I agree. It’s about time the balance was 50/50 for girls and boys but I understand the slight worry that this type of marketing retains segregation between genders. Same as my niece who loves FROZEN, she likes the girls and the boys characters; she likes OLAF the most and has a cuddly toy version – from the Boy’s section of a major retailer (WTF?!)

  28. This is a bad idea. This gender division will come with a lot of constraints around how girls ought to behave and be presented, and any girl who does not fit into these buckets will lose out. The fact that they have to create an entirely new division to address existing gender issues is baffling. Don’t quarantine the problem—treat it.

  29. This is so good. Hearing from like-minded people who can articulate this better than myself is refreshing. I was frustrated enough with Lego Friends, and the Lego Mag article explaining to my daughter that some haircuts make you prettier just set me on fire. I’ll forever be baffled at the fact that somewhere there is a marketing boardroom … with grown adults … educated adults … some of them parents … who continue to nod, smile and say, “Yeah. Let’s make this ‘just for girls’. That’s the ticket.”

    I’m left to consider nobody cool has gone into marketing. ever.

  30. I am sorry. I have no issue with little girl things for girls, and little boy things for boys…. I dont want my daughters miss treated, I dont want my sons treated poorly. But they are not the same. They have been made different. God/mother nature/whomever you attribute existance to decided to make males and females. In nature there are plenty of examples of gender specific roles. And no animal forced that to happen. They were created that way. Many mama birds stay with the eggs, some species its the male. But there is certainly a particular “role” that the male or female does. Lions, females hunt. In other species males do that. Why is it a problem for specific roles based on gender.

    You may ot like it, but boys and girls are different. A few years ago even Time magazine realized this and put it on the cover.

    I am a guy, dont want to wear pink. And thats ok. For me. You wanna wear pink, great. But dont tell me I am somehow less enlightened cause its not for me.

    As for checklists, I can, and have done many of the things in the quote. But you know, there are some things thst girls can do better than boys. And vice versa.

  31. “Society will get better when boys have to learn about girls the same way girls learn about boys.”

    Weeeeeeell, I find that in actual truth, most women, and especially feminists, have ideas about men that in no way, shape, or form, match how men really think and feel. So, the real truth is that women as a whole don’t actually understand men any better than men as a whole understand women. Men are just the ones being more honest about their lack of understanding.

    So, I doubt that society will actually get better if men are taught to become equally dishonest about their understanding of the opposite sex. If anything, the opposite is true: Society will get better when women finally start being more honest about their equal lack of understanding of men. Then we’ll maybe finally be able to make some progress on the whole matter.

    I mean, I do agree that the gender separation is why this mutual lack of understanding exists. Women like me who ignored the divide generally find ourselves with an *actual* better understanding of men, just like men who ignore the divide end up with a better understanding of women. I just disagree with this very false narrative that pretends the lack of understanding isn’t mutual.

  32. Look up the article “No girls allowed” at polygon dot com to learn why it’s all the fault of marketing, a world where everything must be hyper-targeted at one group and one group only, and trying to sell your thing to more than one group is the height of foolishness. The article is about video games, but I’m sure it applies to toys and everything else just the same. The worst part is when whole industries get accused of sexism over this, when really it’s about efficiency in advertising dollars. It’s still pretty unfair at the consumer level when we are trying to encourage some cross-gender sharing of fun things, though.

  33. If it is really hyper marketing, then why are there specific gender roles all the way back through time? There was no marketing during the far past when hunting and gathering was done. But because of need and the physical differences and demands women did the gathering, while men went hunting. Men tend to be physically stronger (yes a female olympic lifter could easily outdo me, but thats not the point) than women, and women give birth and are biologically made to feed the wee ones. You would not want momma going out to do the dangerous part, if killed the wee one could die as a result, no mom to feed from. Sure anothe female could possibly step in if already feeding, but again, you are focusing on a small specific. Point is, men were a bit more expendable…

  34. I think all that “gender” separations are based only on boys and girls interests and preferences. Girls read about princesses and play dolls because they like to and boys don’t. That’s why that “gender only’ products exist, not because boys are not allowed to play dolls just because they don’t want to.

  35. Interesting article but even more interesting comments. No model is perfect for any gender or race for that matter but we do have to make generalizations because of the greater population of a specific gender or race. That is okay and people need to stop being offended of this a get over it.

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