If you hadn't guessed from my last big post on here, I have some thoughts on how women are treated in many areas. Not just the way I grew up, but realizing that in the broader culture, it's just as bad if not worse in a lot of areas. Though, in some, there are great voices and strong calls for more and better forms of gender equality.
However, there are a few areas that have been called to my attention the past few days, where this still isn't being put into practice anywhere. The modesty bit, for one. That's always a big one in the Christian realm. Outside of that, there's also the complete and utter removal of Rey from nearly every mass produced Star Wars toy (which I saw in person). Then there's the blog post I read about how people get offended when people post reviews that are critical of popular - in the sense that they are well thought through and point out uncomfortable truths (read it, you won't regret it). To top it all off, a great article popped up on USA Today about how equal coverage of women's sports is the first step to women's sports gaining fans, which leads to marketing money, which leads to better quality of play, which leads to better pay, etc. All of these things I feel very strongly about.
I think what it really comes down to is representation, which is what the USA Today article pointed out. They made the point that in situations where women's sports have been covered and promoted at the same level as men's, and normalized in that way, there is a distinct increases in interest. I feel like this applies to all situations.
For Star Wars, Rey was already a main character. She was already awesome, already SUPER well-written to be a strong female who was not a Mary Sue and didn't actually need anyone to save her, except for maybe a push or two to get her off the "I need to go back to Jakku and waste my life path!" She was representing all over the place in the movie. So why is she so under-represented in the merch? Especially the kid's toys? I saw it at Target. A whole aisle dedicated to Star Wars, and there was exactly ONE TOY that had any representation of Rey on it. It was tiny, most of it was her scavenger scooter, and you could barely tell it was her. The books were a little bit better. There was a whole book detailing how she survived on Jakku (which I super want to read). She was featured in some of the other compilations. But a lot of the ones focused on younger kids (young readers versions, etc) were solely following the male characters.
Still, this isn't a simple case of women in ensemble casts being left out of the merch runs (a la Black Widow in the Avengers, and Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy). This is the main character. Rey's it. She's the new Jedi. She managed to spank Kylo Ren with only minimal training in the Force, sometimes figuring it out as she went along because she is smart and resourceful and freaking POWERFUL. Why are there oodles of Kylo Ren toys, even toy packs that include different classes of Stormtroopers, and NO Rey?
People think that boys won't like playing with toys of women, but how will they know unless they make them and see? What about the tons of girls who love to play with action figures and would love to have a Rey figure to fight the First Order with? Let's be honest, I'm 26 years old, and I would probably buy a Rey action figure if it existed. She is freaking cool. More than that, I work with kids, and one of the huge topics of conversation with a lot of the boys this week has been about Star Wars. I had quite a few of the boys tell me that they really liked Rey, because she was awesome.
We can no longer make the excuse that we don't know what to do about this anymore. The answer is right there. Just acknowledge it. Acknowledge that inequity has dominated the culture, and still does in a lot of ways. Acknowledge that it is wrong and it needs to be fixed. And then acknowledge and support when someone goes out of their way to fix it. If a time exists when I have money (in my dreams), I will buy a ton of Rey merchandise. I will totally buy jerseys for women's sports, because I love the players and I want to grow the sports that I enjoy (and entice some NWSL teams to get better streams because, seriously, it's 2015, the fact that you're apparently relegated to equipment from the 90's is just sad). Until then, I'm over here in my little corner of the internet, speaking out because that's what I have the ability to do right now.
The first step is acknowledging. The next step is representation. The last step is support. All of these things we can do on a daily basis. Whether it's telling your kid that the movie that you've loved is great, but there are some flaws, or strategically buying things that support the sort of content you want to see. Or promoting people who have stated opinions really well. It all changes the culture just a little bit. It's starting to gain momentum. Do it well. Rule one of the internet (and of life, IMHO) is still, "Don't be a dick."
It's the end of the year, and 2015 has seen a lot of strides towards equality in many areas. Even if it's just things seemingly collapsing, which is a necessary (if painful) step towards rebuilding. Hopefully we can start building a better, more loving society next year. One that treats everyone as people, and values them equally.
Until next year.
[sermon] For the record, this happens to be one of the issues that I wish the Church would actually do a lot better on, if only to show everyone else how it should be done. When it's the other way around - as it very often is - we're failing at our calling. Point blank. We're called to transform not conform, and when other people are transforming better, we need to take that as a wake up call and figure out our crap so we can fix things. Pro-tip: Jesus will help, and He's generally better at it than anyone else, so it's not totally hopeless. [/sermon]