A recent Change.org online petition to get the Disney Store to "stop selling sexist Avengers T-shirts" has received nearly 6,000 signatures. The goal, as of this writing, is to receive an additional 1,617 signatures. The petition will send a letter signed by its many signatures to the Disney Store executives.
The superhero t-shirts in question include one for boys that reads, "Be a Hero," and one for girls that reads, "I Need a Hero," the juxtaposition of which has recently led many to criticize them as spreading a message that girls can't be heroes themselves; that hero roles are for men only and girls need to be saved by male heroes.
As the petition states,
We believe that women can be heroes too, and as one of the most recognizable children's brands in the world, it's especially important that Disney takes responsibility for the messages they deliver to our youngest and most vulnerable.
Said one signer of the petition:
My daughter LOVES superheroes, in particular she loves the Avengers. She doesn't need a superhero... What she needs is for corporations to stop telling her that because of her gender she couldn't possibly BE the superhero herself. Please think through the messages you send to our daughters.
Much to the maker of the shirts surprise, women are heroes just as much as men. Consider just a few prominent examples in U.S. history: civil rights activist Rosa Parks, whose act of refusing to give up her seat to a white person sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott; Harriet Tubman, whose Underground Railroad operation helped countless slaves escape to freedom; Susan B. Anthony, whose efforts helped secure women's right to vote; Molly Pitcher, who risked her life to bring water to soldiers in the Revolutionary War; and the unnamed and named women soldiers who pretended to be men so that they, too, could fight in battle for their country; and so many others.
And the irony here as one blogger pointed out, is that the Avengers are coed heroes. According to Marvel's website, the Wasp female, yes female, superhero character's powers include expanding or shrinking in size exponentially, as well as flying with wings and the ability to "fire blasts of energy."
Not needing a hero herself, Marvel's website notes a heroic defeat in which Wasp alone defeats the Magician character. The Magician character, by the way, was male.
And disregarding the discriminatory factor of it, one wonders whether it is even age-appropriate to have a shirt that reads, "I Need a Hero," catered toward little girls. Because the implication could also relate to a higher maturity level as many hero fairy tales relate to the girl finding her prince, her lover-savior. Does a young girl really comprehend that or should she have to comprehend that?
Were all those involved in the making and promotion of the t-shirts just that ignorant to have missed the sexist implications? Did they think there wouldn't be backlash?
Imagine this: Do you think the CEO of Disney, who walked into a Disney Store with his daughter, would buy a shirt for her that reads "Be a Hero" or "I Need a Hero" if he wanted her to be a future leader?
They say money talks. But, so does bad press and enough ticked-off customers. So, by refusing to purchase said t-shirts and getting the word out, Disney, you better recognize -- we will not tolerate sexist t-shirts.
Indeed, perhaps Disney should make a series of t-shirts on famous women heroes in history, like those mentioned above. Or, better yet, develop a whole set of new women superheroes from them. Certainly they deserve that status.