January 4th, 2015 and I’m already tired. Why? Because I am sick of it. Because I’m sick of death of having to constantly fight and ask for female representation in merchandise when there’s absolutely no good reason not to include it. Are you a fan of Star Wars Rebels and love the ENTIRE team? Well good luck finding merchandise that includes Hera or Sabine let alone both.
If this is sounding familiar, it’s because we’ve been through this before. We wondered where Black Widow was in all the Avengers gear after the film came out in May 2012 and then we asked again in August 2014 when Gamora was almost nowhere to be found. (Amy Ratcliffe detailed the latter over at her blog.) At this point, it’s an easy choice to call it a pattern of marketing (especially Disney in this situation) purposefully eliminating female characters from their products. This is hardly also a new battle for Star Wars. Those in the fandom will likely recall the uproar when Daisy Ridley was originally the only new woman in the Episode VII cast and then again when Hera and Sabine were not announced with the first wave of Rebels action figures. (And hey, that’s just the highlights from 2014.) Unfortunately, it looks like it’s time to start up a hashtag for #WheresHera.
Let’s take a look at some of the Star Wars Rebels merchandise out there. Over the weekend, I found myself at the Disney Store, a calendar mall stand, and Jo-Ann Fabrics. While this is not a comprehensive listing of places that sell Star Wars gear, I found the products there to be fairly representative of what I’ve seen other times.
I found this set of kids’ PJs in the Disney Store. Notice who’s missing?I don’t recall seeing anything with either lady on anything in the store but I DID see a girl of perhaps five eagerly grabbing for a Star Wars lunch box. Much of the rest of the items featured Darth Vader, clone troopers, and the Inquisitor. (It took effort not to explain the Inquisitor’s lightsaber to the confused dad holding it.)
Next up was the calendar stand. I was excited to see a Star Wars Rebels calendar amongst the offerings and I was even more excited to see that Hera got a month and Sabine got two both with and without her bucket. I was less excited to see that Hera was excluded from the group shot.
The exclusion of Hera from the team picture is what ultimately made me decide against purchasing the calendar.
Jo-Ann Fabrics has a surprising amount of Star Wars products. There were at least four other Star Wars cotton fabrics available while I was there. I was pleasantly surprised to finally see Hera counted as a member of team in this print and excitedly bought several yards.
I was less excited to look at the next one which yes, includes Sabine but also includes Ezra twice and Hera zero times. Geek_Kay on Twitter pointed out to me that Hera’s outline is included amongst the others in the background print but I hardly count that.
And finally, if you wanted something simple like a no-sew fleece blanket kit with the entire time, tough luck because Hera is again nowhere to be found.
So where’s Hera? The answer certainly seems to be ‘not in the stores’ but online, it’s not much better. The Disney Store has an option to design your own item like a shirt or phone case or mug. Disney was kind enough to send two of these to my geek fashion blog, White Hot Room, when we hosted a Star Wars Rebels week for the premiere. I still use that Hera phone case to this day but that is literally the only design option available for her. Every other character gets at least two. It’s not nearly as inclusive as I originally though. A look through the rest of the Star Wars items in the store shows that Sabine appears in perhaps half of the group shots on items while Hera in none of them.
To be blunt, this is ridiculous and a bit disgraceful. It is 2015. Why must we continue to insist that Star Wars is a boy’s thing and that boys will not buy things with girls on them? I can almost guarantee you that kids won’t object to buying merchandise with the entire crew of the Ghost on it just because there’s a girl on it or, heaven forbid, two girls on it. Within the context of the show, Kanan may be referred to as the leader and have the call sign of Specter One but let’s be honest: Hera’s really the one in charge. She’s been at this rebel business a lot longer than everyone else, she’s the one who picks their crew and their missions, and most importantly? The Ghost is Hera’s ship. HERA’S. So why wouldn’t kids want gear that features her as a part of the team?
And no, we should not be content with Sabine making it into half of the team shots on merchandise. It’s awful that we tend to sigh and go “Well, at least Sabine’s there” when we find those items. I suspect she fares better than Hera given her status as a Mandalorian which, in the marketer’s mind, is more interesting to boys but honestly: Hera’s the FREAKING PILOT. What could possibly be cooler than that?
Aside from denying people the chance to buy merchandise with their favorite characters and the entire team, leaving out Hera and sometimes Sabine from products does its part in perpetuating a cycle of internalized misogyny, even if it is definitely unintentional. We should absolutely not be sending a subliminal message to young boys (and girls) that it’s not okay to like female characters and unfortunately, every time products like this are put out, we do exactly that.
Star Wars Rebels returns tonight with an all new episode and that seems the perfect time to continue the conversation. Let’s use the hashtag #WheresHera and keep an eye out for Rebels merchandise in stores. We all know the power of a vocal fanbase so let’s get Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren the representation and merchandise that they deserve!
UPDATE: Friend of the Blog Amy Ratcliffe also asks ‘Where’s Hera?’ and her own observations on the Rebels (and other Disney) market fails over at CBR.