We're not sure what's wrong with Disney, but it seems the company has failed women again: merchandise for the company's upcoming Marvel film, Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to lack products featuring the sole female Avenger, Black Widow.
If you take a look at the merchandise now available on Marvel.com and DisneyStore.com, you'll see that Black Widow appears just three times in products available: a video game starter pack, one single men's t-shirt and a shopping bag (which feels a little sexist).
Of course, another female character from Age of Ultron is missing entirely: Scarlet Witch.
Perhaps, this wouldn't be so frustrating if this didn't happen over and over. There was a serious lack of Gamora products in Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise, as well. There was also a lack of Black Widow merchandise when the first The Avengers film came out.
It's also frustrating because Disney seems to want to market female characters specifically to girls (for example, the shopping bag) because the company seems to feel that men and boys don't want girls on their t-shirts or merchandise. Walk into any Disney Park or Disney retail store and you'll think that Black Widow isn't even an Avenger at all (but she is).
The move is a hypocritical one, as well, because both Disney and Marvel seem to brag about their inclusion of strong female characters in their films and are even planning on giving one female superhero, Captain Marvel, her own movie. But does that mean the merchandising for Captain Marvel will all be pink (ew) and skewed solely to women and girls? If that's the case, that's just adding insult to injury. But that seems Disney and Marvel's trend here.
So why does this keep happening? It's probably due to the fact that merchandising companies are still stuck on the boys vs. girls argument, otherwise known as the pink aisle dilemma. This is especially true in toy stores, where one or two aisles get devoted exclusively to pink, or "girlie" merchandise. The problem is that not all girls like pink and that not all boys hate women so much that they can't stand the thought of a woman being on their t-shirt with their favorite superheroes.
According to The Mary Sue, a former anonymous Marvel employee sums up why this problem keeps coming up:
"While working at Marvel post-acquisition, I saw a deck circulated by Disney's Brand Marketing team. I'm prohibited from sharing the slides, but the takeaway is that, unlike the actual demos, the desired demographics had no females in it whatsoever. I asked my supervisor why that was. Ever the pragmatist, he said, 'That's not why Disney bought us. They already have the girls' market on lockdown.'"
So what can we do? Of course, we can complain as loudly as possible, although that seems to get us nowhere: we've been complaining all along. Mostly, though, we can let our displeasure be known with our wallets. Don't buy Avengers merchandise, unless it has Black Widow on it (but not the shopping bag, because that's just insulting). Let retail establishments know that you want more Black Widow merchandise and buy it if/when it's made available.
It's also important to let those licensing the merchandise know how upset we are: you can find the names of those companies on the tags of the merchandise.
Of course, the most drastic step you can take is forming your own company and licensing your own merchandise. The success of Her Universe is a fine example of how marketing geeky merchandise to women works. Maybe someday, those larger companies will actually catch on.
Until, then, we'll just settle for our nerd rage until Disney and Marvel wise up.
[Photo Credit: Marvel]