Ever wondered why, in 2019, there are no plastic army women? So did this little girl
Just about every kid in America has grown up playing with those little green plastic army men, but you have to wonder — where are the army women? A 6-year-old girl from Arkansas wondered just that, so she wrote a letter about it to the manufacturer that makes the green army men, BMC Toys.
“My name is Vivian. I am six years old. Why do you not make girl army men?” she wrote. “My friend’s mom is in the army too. So why don’t you make them, too?”
Vivian pointed out in her letter that she is aware that pink army men exist, but that’s kind of ridiculous, since they’re still all men, and people in the army don’t wear pink to work.
Jeff Imel, the president of BMC Toys, was touched by her letter, and said he’d been considering the same question for years. He knew there was some demand for army women, but creating them would require a lot of upfront costs that he would have to pay for himself, as the company’s sole full-time employee.
“It was a heartfelt letter,” he told NPR. “And it reminded me of being a kid and always wanting that toy that you couldn’t get in the gumball machine. So I really looked into it.”
After some research and some number crunching, Imel answered Vivian’s letter and told her it was happening — he would start making green army women. The goal is for the toys to hit store shelves by Christmas 2020. They’ll be in four poses that you probably recognize from playing with army men: A female captain holding a handgun and binoculars, as well as a female soldier kneeling and holding a bazooka. Imel said the bazooka pose is one of the most popular.
Currently, Imel is working on designing the sculptures, creating molds, and setting up production, which happens in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and overseas.
“I have to pay the sculptor. I have to pay the tooling. I have to make a down payment on production. If it’s coming from China, it’s on a boat for five weeks,” he said. “By the time you figure out the cost of everything involved in making an original set of plastic toy figures in this size, it starts around the cost of a modest new car.”
That cost has always been what held the company back, but after getting Vivian’s letter — as well as feedback from other women and girls who have asked for representation from his toys — Imel was finally ready to provide. Now a whole generation of girls can grow up seeing themselves in plastic army women, and know that they can do anything.