The biggest news in feminist parenting lately has been about portrayals of powerful girls and women. Mattel’s new partnership with DC Comics is a big step forward in this, creating a new set of dolls and action figures that feature the female characters in the classic DC comics stories.
Now, this could have gone wrong about three zillion different ways. The history of women in comics hasn’t always been great, and for years, DC has been dealing with some serious allegations of sexism within their real-life team and in their storylines.
But when it comes to DC Superhero girls, it’s really nothing but good news. Sure, I have my nitpicks: I’d love to see more body diversity in the girls, as well as some characters with different abilities or disabilities who are part of regular storylines and are also heroic.
But these are really nitpicks, and there’s a lot of time for the DC/Mattel/WB group to create more storylines that will incorporate new characters outside the main DC women we already know and love.
But for the good stuff? There is SO much to love.
1. The Characters Are Girls, And They Look And Act Like Girls.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to preview the Superhero Girls before their launch. I had a chance to touch the dolls, hear their launch plan, and see a bit of the early stages of the show WB is producing.
The best part is that these girls are girls. They are not sexed up or designed for men’s gaze. Their bodies are modeled after young women athletes, like gymnasts and track stars, not porn stars. They feature muscles (including impressive quads and tricep development!) and hip-to-waist proportions that are reasonable for a teen girl.
In the show, the girls aren’t overly occupied by romance or looking sexy. They are out for adventure, they want to save the day, and they deal with friendship and inclusion issues without being snotty. From what I could see, they were the sort of girls I’d like my own kids to hang out with and look up to.
2. The Characters Are Ready For Action.
Unlike the Wonder Woman dolls of the past, these gals can kick some serious butt. Everything from their costumes to their pose-ability is designed to show power, not passivity, and that was something the team chose to do with great purpose.
Even in their boxes, the girls are posed to kick butt or use their skills, and it’s fantastic. The truth is, girls like to know that they are powerful, too. It’s not just boys who think about how to protect themselves and their families. Girls want to be heroes, they want to save the day, and they want to find ways to free themselves from the role society has cast them in as victims who need saving. These dolls are out to help them with that.
3. Boys Are Included In The Stories.
Yes, the show is about girls, and to some degree aimed at girls, but boys will be a part of the stories, and hopefully someday part of the doll and action figure collections.
Why does this matter? Because girls and boys need to see that their teamwork is what’s going to make the world better. “Girls rule, boys drool” may have made us feel powerful in a world where we were always second best, but today we want our boys and girls to be a team. Making boys the enemy of girls only leads to further division.
On top of that, there are boys who like stories featuring girls, but who feel alienated when every bit of action is centered around girls and only girls. If we want boys to see girls as equals, we need to create media that isn’t off-putting to them. We need one that sends a “you’re welcome here” message to boys, so they know that even when women and girls are in charge, they are still an important part of the story.
4. The Boxes Are Not Pink Or Purple!
The preview we saw of the packaging featured a gorgeous blue theme. It’s inviting to girls, but not offputting to boys. That’s important not just to Mattel, since boys might actually want to buy the toys too, but it tells our girls that products and media aimed toward them don’t always have to be pink or purple. This pink and purple world is very limiting to our girls, and tells our boys “you’re not welcome here” in a very loud voice. See LEGO Friends as an example of how NOT to do it.
5. The Non-Doll Toys Are SO COOL.
We didn’t get to see many of the accessories when we got our sneak peek, but what we saw was incredible. Not just for girls, but for boys too. The Wonder Woman shield isn’t pink-washed, it’s just tough! It’s worn by the kids (not the dolls) and shoots discs. My boys will definitely be asking for one when they hit the shelves. There’s also an awesome utility belt that all the moms in the room said we wished we’d had as kids.
In a dream world, boys and girls would be featured together in EVERY storyline, so that this gender division could disappear. But for now, we need our media to appeal to girls by telling them that they DO belong in comic books, that they DO deserve to be the center of the action.
If we have to make girl-focused stories for a while in order to get girls interested, that’s OK, as long as we bear in mind that the end goal is total inclusion, and a world where we no longer need to say something is “for girls.”
This article originally appeared on Joanna Schroeder's Tumblr.