Exclusion of women from Star Wars toys is unfair

In a galaxy far, far away, sexism remains. Developers for much of Star Wars: The Force Awaken’s toys and games have recently come under fire after much of their merchandise seems to have systematically forgotten Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, who is arguably the film’s protagonist.
While this may seem like a simple oversight, Rey has repeatedly been substituted for other lesser characters who appear including Storm Troopers, Darth Vader who is not actually in Force Awakens and – spoiler alert – Luke Skywalker, who has a total of zero lines. The only thing these minor characters seem to have over Rey is one distinct appendage – and it’s not a light sabre. In fact, the repeated exclusion of Rey from Star Wars merchandise can only be explained by one fact: she is a woman.

Hasbro, who market most of the available Star Wars games, have attributed Rey’s absence to a desire to keep the plot of Force Awakens a secret. This is despite her central appearance in all of the film’s promotional posters and its trailer. This flimsy excuse is made all the more ridiculous by the inclusion of the film’s other protagonist Finn in much of the merchandise, whose own plotline was kept equally under wraps until the film’s opening. In addition to Rey’s absence, Hasbro have failed to include Gwendoline Christie’s menacing Captain Phasma, instead opting for anonymous Storm Troopers who are essentially extras in the film.

Clearly Hasbro recognize their wrongdoing, even children have commented on Rey’s absence, but instead of owning up to their mistakes, they choose to deliver unsubstantiated lip service. Hasbro have since made a vague announcement that they will be including more Rey in subsequent merchandise but it is frankly too little, too late.

Furthermore, #WheresRey is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the under representation of women in this industry. Hasbro have garnered controversy before, after their Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy sets failed to include their respective female characters. Clearly then, the exclusion of Rey is symptomatic of the way that female characters in general are regarded – superfluous and unappealing to the masses, this of course could not be further from the truth.

Although in 2016 it should not be as amazing as it is that the highest grossing film of all time has both a black man and a woman in the lead roles, the decision to cast Rey as the film’s protagonist has done much to dispel the myth that men would be unable to relate to a strong female lead. However, Hasbro’s actions have completely undermined this positive step and remind us that there is still a long way to go before the role of women in film and as a result, the way they are regarded in society can ever be overhauled.

It may seem harmless, but by erasing Rey, Hasbro have essentially erased women from the franchise, a fact which is especially dangerous when we consider that this erasure is marketed as light hearted fun for children, who are ultimately the ones going to pick up on this subtly noxious oversight. As eight-year-old Annie Rose said in her brilliantly irate letter of complaint to Hasbro, “Boys and girls need to see women can be strong as men”, this is not child’s play, representation matters and in the words of Annie Rose, “Girls matter” too.

Image: Eva Rinaldi

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