Sometimes, They Listen

Some of you might recall a year or so ago when Marvel got inundated with angry letters because they’d put up a couple t-shirts for sale. One for boys that said, “BE A HERO.” One for girls that said “I NEED A HERO.”

I’ll give you a nanosecond to figure out why the fuss. *massive eyeroll*

That same week, I got all excited over Under Armour’s Alter Ego line, a series of compression shirts inspired by superheroes. Eagerly, I went over to their website thinking that if they were so big with women’s fitness (see: Sweat Every Day campaign), surely they’d have them in my size!

Spoiler alert: they didn’t.

Just men. And boys. No girls allowed.

I took to Twitter, more to vent my irritation than anything, and I was rather surprised when someone from UA tweeted back. They apologised for my disgruntledness, citing “unanticipated demand” as the reason for not creating the shirts in women’s sizes. They said they’d be making women’s Alter Ego activewear soon, and that they were listening.

About a year went by, and I went to check it out. I saw about three Alter Ego things for women. All pink.

*massive eyeroll*

None of them were the compression shirts that they made for men. I tweeted about it again to the tone of “SERIOUSLY?!” and received a response that more were coming. By that point, I responded politely, but I thought, “Colour me pinkly dubious.”

It’s now been another year, I think. Or close to it. Today on a whim I went over and peeked, and whaddya know? They actually have some non pink, rather awesome sports bras.

Under Armour's Alter Ego sports bras for women.

Under Armour’s Alter Ego sports bras for women.

I’m still hoping they’ll get on the whole “full coverage compression shirts” thing, but this is at least progress. Most of the new items aren’t even pink! SCORE! (Note: I’m all for people loving pink if they love pink, but equating girl with pink is not something I enjoy, mostly because I’d rather not wear it myself. Variety is the spice of good.)

Good on Under Armour for listening. Here’s hoping there’s more to come. I plan on buying a couple of those bras myself as soon as my wallet holds something other than lint.

And another instance — earlier this month, Peter V. Brett wrote a heartbreaking blog post about his experience trying to play Justice League: Axis of Villains with his daughter and having to tell her that they hadn’t made any female playable characters for her. That hit close to home for me. Reading it hurt me, that this child, so much younger than I am, still has to face the things she loves and feel like they don’t love her back. That she is not welcome, and indeed, actively excluded.

To their credit, the game makers responded with what was, rather surprisingly, a sincere-sounding apology. Not the sort of Fox News “I’m sorry you didn’t think my sexist, inappropriate joke was funny” sort of apology, but one that actually admits they are in the wrong by excluding half the population from their game making.

However. There’s a however.

It continues to baffle me that things get from inception to completion without seeming to have people speaking up to say, “Erm, hey, so maybe we could have a female character in here?” or “Do you realise you cast all the people of colour as villains?” or “You put every woman in this in a refrigerator” or “Hey, man, rape jokes suck, they aren’t gonna fly, and we’re better than that.” Or maybe it’s just that there’s an epidemic of shrugging that happens and it just snowballs until the PR nightmare begins and they have to apologise/fix it/pretend to wonder how it happened.

While both of these things — Under Armour and Wonder Forge — are examples of companies listening and responding (sometimes quickly, sometimes not so quickly) to consumer pressure, I wonder what it’ll take for dev teams and marketing teams to ask those questions before they role out a shirt for girls that says “I NEED A HERO.” Before they create a game where the female characters are fridged or assaulted or reduced to bouncing boobage (assuming they exist at all). Before the PR machine grinds its gears and gets rust all over them.

Because I’d really, really like to one of these days walk into a store and see a Guardians of the Galaxy display (or an Avengers display) with Gamora and Black Widow and Nebula front and centre. If I tweet the bad stuff, you better believe I’ll tweet the great.

Now that that’s settled…where the fuck is our Black Widow movie?


*Again, can we try and move our society toward the capacity for empathy that doesn’t involve giving birth to a female-identified person in order to understand or try to understand these things? Then again, even that wasn’t enough to help Mark Millar get the clue that rape is not just a fun little plot device, so who knows. Every little bit helps, I suppose.