"The Avengers," man. What a great franchise. People go nuts over the licensed merchandise, buying cool t-shirts with neat slogans and stuff.
But what is this? Is there trouble in the world of Marvel? It seems some people have noticed a not-so-subtle difference between the boys' shirts and the girls' shirts sold at the Disney Store online, and they are none too happy.
Almost all the garments bear one or all members of the Marvel Quadrifecta of Masculinity -- Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. The boys' versions say things like "Be a Hero," while the ladies' shirts say things like...er..."I Need a Hero."
Well that doesn't seem fair. Ladies can't be heroes, too?
Petition site Change.org has hosted several petitions recently from women's and girls' advocacy groups, calling for Disney to stop selling the "sexist" shirts.
"This sends a harmful message about who can and cannot be a leader in this world," the petition from MissRepresentation.org states. "These shirts promote the idea that men and boys are meant to do the saving, and that women and girls are the ones who need to be saved."
"These shirts reflect the antiquated, sexist gender roles that Disney has worked so hard to move away from in the past few years," reads another petition from Powered by Girl. "I love Disney movies...What I don't love is seeing the same old assumptions and gender roles being taught to a new generation. The 'Be a Hero' t-shirt is made exlusively for boys, with no girls or even unisex version available."
A quick pass through the Disney Store site makes things even more interesting. To be fair, there is a womens' shirt available with assorted Marvel heroines that reads, "Not Just a Pretty Face," but that does little to offset other offerings like "I Love a Man in Uniform" and "I Only Kiss Heroes." And the Black Widow, the poor lone female Avenger? She is virtually nowhere to be seen on any shirt anywhere.
So far, neither Disney nor Marvel has issued a statement about the shirts, and they continue to be sold online. In all fairness, they are still pretty neat shirts, and the "Avengers" franchise is still red-hot. But is Disney cooling its female fans by pigeonholing its shirt-based statements? Surely, ladies love superheroes for the same reasons guys do -- they're cool, they're role models, and they're something to aspire to. No flirty, gender-baiting one-liners required.