Last time I checked, Black Widow was an important part of the Avengers team. But you wouldn’t know it by the way she’s being treated in advance of the new film, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
During the press tour for the film, stars Chris Evans (Captain America) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) called the Black Widow a “slut” and “whore” while laughing hysterically. Sure, it was a joke about a fictional character. And they both apologized later (even though Renner’s apology had a sorry-not-sorry feel to it), but it adds insult to injury about the way women on the Marvel team are treated.
The negativity around the female characters continues on store shelves. Parents in search of superhero gear can find lots of T-shirts, mugs and toys with the male characters depicted, but there are far fewer Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanova) items. Even if you want something with the whole team that includes the female super assassin, you’re out luck. This, sadly, is not a surprise as the new Avengers film is just another in a line of films that ignore the female team member once the film leaves the theatres.
It seems like manufacturers are going out of their way to avoid putting Black Widow on anything a boy might touch. There are T-shirts with the five male members of the team without even a shadow of Black Widow. You can’t walk into a big box store without tripping over lunch boxes, Kinder eggs and clothing with lots of Avengers action, but they’re usually missing one member of the team. Hot Wheels has seven superhero-themed cars coming out, but Black Widow isn’t one of of them—especially troubling since Natasha is usually the one driving the guys around.
Perhaps Black Widow is hanging out with Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy and Princess Leia, who are also hard to find on store shelves, despite their large roles in saving the world.
Still doubting that Disney is shutting out the girls? HitFix.com did an analysis of Avengers items available on Disney.com and Marvel.com and only found three Black Widow items. The new character Scarlet Witch was nowhere to be found. Marvel and Disney seem to have a stake in keeping gender boundaries very strict, despite so many of us trying to teach our kids that they can play with any kind of toy and grow up to be anything they want.
An anonymous former Marvel employee wrote a piece for the Mary Sue saying that Disney doesn’t care about attracting girls to the Marvel products because they think they already have them locked up with the princesses:
Disney does not care about Marvel’s female market, which makes us virtually invisible. I could probably populate Pluto with the amount of Princess items Disney makes. But where are Gamora and Black Widow? This exclusion of women from Marvel movie merchandise is completely purposeful. I know; I was there.
It’s sort of a chicken and egg situation: Disney and Marvel want to believe that girls don’t want superhero products, and boys won’t buy anything that has a female character on it. And until they start making the items that both boys and girls want in the store we can’t prove them wrong.
You can try harnessing the power of social media and join the #includethegirls hashtag when you find a toy that is marked by its absence of the female team member. Because at this point, hashtags seem to be Black Widow’s strongest weapon against the boys’ club that she is sorry-not-sorry to be part of.