Luke, I am your
father parent with no particular set of sexual organs.
Star Wars fan Izzy Cornthwaite wanted a Darth Vader costume and lightsaber for her eighth birthday. But, upon exploring the UK Disney Store’s website with her mum, Rebecca, she was devastated to see that the outfit was listed as a “boys’ costume”. “Her face fell,” says Rebecca. Her eyes “filled with tears and she said ‘I can’t have it, it says they’re only for boys.’”
But Izzy decided not to take it lying down and, following a quick chat with her mother about gender stereotypes, she wrote to Disney to explain her sadness about how the costume was labelled.
About a week later, she received a reply: “The description for this costume has now been amended as we understand that all our little Jedis enjoy Star Wars.” Izzy went online to check for herself, and was delighted to find that it wasn’t only the description of the Darth Vader costume that had been changed – the wording on everything from costumes to toys, Disney Princess tutus to Hulk outfits was now labelled “for kids”, instead of being divided by gender.
Izzy is not alone in liking toys such as cars and fire engines, as well as dolls, from a very young age. Yet all stores clearly define their products by gender – “If you visited a toy shop, you would actually see boys and girls going to their respectively gendered aisle,” says Rebecca. “Some might argue, ‘What does this matter?’” But Rebecca believes the impact of this early delineation doesn’t end in the toy aisle: “We know that women are underrepresented in many work roles and I feel very strongly that I don’t want Izzy to avoid a career later in her life because it is a ‘boy’s job’, when I know she is capable of doing anything she sets her heart on.”
We can take hope from this and the string of other incidents where companies have listened to young people’s concerns about gender stereotyping.