As news spreads that Disney will be adding Leia themed toys to its merchandise, I’m seeing more instances where others have noted how often Leia is shown as a slave in kidworld. Last week, Jezebel posted this:
Over the weekend we received a tip from a concerned mother who had come across something very disconcerting while perusing the aisles of Toys R Us. Apparently the only available toy or figurine of the Star Wars character Princess Leia is of her in the “Slave Outfit” from Return of the Jedi. Bikini? Check. Loin cloth? Check. Chain around the neck? Check. And in case you were wondering if it was actually geared towards children, it’s listed for kids ages 4+….This is a perfect and heart-breaking example of how ingrained sexism is in geek culture. It’s not like there’s a Chewbacca toy in a banana hammock
This makes me so mad. It’s so twisted. Taking the heroic Leia, one of the few females in the Star Wars franchise at all, certainly the most famous one, then showing her chained and in a bikini again and again and again.
Yesterday, I posted this picture of a LEGO set I bought for my daughter. I chose it because the salesperson told me it was the only one in the store that includes Leia. I regretted the purchase as soon as I saw this mini-fig. Now, I know to check more carefully.
I also posted yet another picture of an illustration from Vader’s Little Princess, where the distorted narrative depicts the slave outfit as Leia’s independent, rebellious choice:
The book has another illustration with the same message:
I haven’t yet been accused (that I know of) for slut-shaming Princess Leia yesterday, though whenever I complain about toys and media created for little kids where the females are consistently half dressed, commenters often put me in the role of Vader in these illustrations: I’m the one curtailing the independence, rebellion, and freedom of girls.
I’ve written about Polly- Pocket where the whole point of the toy is to dress Polly is various belly baring shirts, mini skirts, hot pants, and bathing suits. Polly is marketed to 4 – 7 year olds.
Desperate for female superheroes to show my kids, I purchased the DVD set of the Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter. My 5 year old daughter wanted to know: “Why is she in her underwear?” Here’s Wonder Woman as a LEGO minifig (not easy to find at a toy store or Target, even half dressed.)
When Pigtail Pals founder Melissa Wardy dropped her kids off at school, they were walking behind a first grader with a Winx backpack:
On her blog, Wardy writes:
Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.
I’m not saying that 4 year old kids know what being half naked has to do with adult sexuality, but these repeated images teach all children that it’s normal to sexualize girls. Sexualization is very different from sexuality. In her best-selling book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein quotes Stephen Hinshaw from his book The Triple Bind:
“Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.
In short: sexualization is performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. Sexuality is understanding and connecting to your own desire.
At the reading, Orenstein shared this passage from Cinderella Ate My Daughter:
Let me be clear here: I object– strenuously– to the sexualization of girls but not necessarily to girls having sex. I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage. I do, however, want her to understand why she’s doing it: not for someone else’s enjoyment, not to keep a boyfriend from leaving, not because everyone else is. I want her to explore and understand her body’s responses, her own pleasure, her own desire. I want her to be able to express her needs in a relationship, to say no when she needs to, to value reciprocity, and to experience true intimacy. The virgin/ whore cycle of the pop princesses, like so much of the girlie girl culture, pushes in the opposite direction, encouraging girls to view self-objectification as a feminist rite of passage.
That last sentence is again, exactly how Leia is presented in Vader’s Little Princess.
Older girls and women can choose to wear a bikini, or a even chain around their necks if they want, but girls and women should not feel like they have to be “attractive” to men all the time, 24 hours a day. Or even 12 hours a day. Or 6. Or any hours at all. Nor should they feel like they have to be attractive to all men. It’s this kind of fucked up mentality– be attractive to all men, all the time, that leads to men feeling entitled to women’s bodies. I could go on here about the legal ramifications of this as far reproductive rights, coverage for contraception etc, but that’s another post. The point of this one is that 4 year old girls should not be trained that it’s completely normal to be half naked most of the time. The females in kidworld should not be constantly baring their bellies. Please stop selling kids toys and media where females are half dressed. Parents, please stop buying these kinds of toys for your children. They set a dangerous precedent. That’s no slut-shaming but protecting childhood from adult sexuality.
I’d like to collect some images of Princess Leia here that you all think would be good for Disney to base its merchandise on. Here’s a couple to start:
More great posts on this issue from around the web: