With the success of Marvel’s movies, fans of all walks of life are thrilling to the exploits of its famous heroes. This of course includes women and girls, a demographic that, in the past, wasn’t the super hero genre’s target audience. But Marvel in particular has, throughout its history, attempted to reach out to female readers, going all the way back to the 40s with books like ‘Miss America’, ‘Venus’ and ‘Namora’ and next year, Marvel is kicking off new titles starring Elektra, Black Widow, The She-Hulk and a revamped ‘Captain Marvel’ series.
However, with Marvel’s increasing appeal to a female audience, they appear to have slipped up in one area. On its online store, Marvelstore.com, its tee shirts and other apparel are specifically labeled as “for Men,” “for Women,” “for Boys” and “for Girls.”
Marvel fan Katy Harrison has launched a Change.org petition in order to convince the retail site to remove these gender-defining labels. She expressed “The items in the MarvelStore are individually labelled as for boys or girls/women or men and that is just plain ridiculous. Women and girls want to be able to wear those SHIELD T-shirts, Thor hoodies and Hulk costumes without feeling alienated by the descriptions on the website.”
Harrison’s petition points to the fact that women and girls should feel free to wear any super hero apparel they want without feeling shamed that somehow it’s inappropriate. “I can get the argument some people have made that women’s and men’s tees can be different shapes, but I don’t see how this extends to the kids’ section. If my seven-year-old niece wants to dress up as Spidey, then why shouldn’t she? The outfit is the same. And kids’ T-shirts are definitely not shaped differently for girls.”
Here’s where I have to point out where Harrison is wrong. Now I agree that a girl should be able to dress as Spidey… and they do. I see plenty of little girls dressed as male heroes, because the male heroes have the highest profile right now in the mainstream media. But girls’ shirts ARE “shaped” differently. They’re shaped similarly to women’s.
Every women’s super hero tee I’ve ever seen is in the form-fitting “baby doll” style with short cap sleeves and a wider neck opening. (As the petition refers to as “different shapes.”) And often manufacturers put the exact same design on both a men’s and women’s shirt. There has to be some designation.
And maybe toddler girls’ shirts are cut the same as boys, but for girls 6 and up, their shirts have the same features as women’s, tighter than boys’ shirts and with the same cap sleeves and wider neck opening. Not only that, but they run smaller. A girls’ extra large is significantly smaller than a boys’ XL. And usually made of softer fabric.
But that shouldn’t mean that anyone adult or youth, should be forbidden from wearing whatever they want. Maybe “for Men” etc. is a bit narrow, but is “Men’s XL tee shirt” any less of an issue? Yet you’d still have to use it, otherwise a 200 pound man might end up with a “baby doll” tee with cap sleeves.
And why take aim at Marvel? It seems that everyone is taking shots at the big comic publishers for lack of female representation, creators and so forth. But in the case of clothes? Is there a petition to force Macy’s, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Target, Neiman Marcus, etc. to eliminate their Men’s, Women’s, Boys’ and Girls’ clothing departments? No because that would result in chaos. Yet how is that different? Is the entire clothing industry “alienating” women and girls by creating separate shopping departments? And why stop with brick and mortar stores? Every clothes shopping website separates their clothes by gender and age.
No one says you have to shop in “your” department. My boss has a gay daughter who will only shop in the Men’s department. Nothing is stopping her and she doesn’t seem remotely offended by it. But the “traditional” woman wouldn’t want to wear huge men’s jeans and baggy tees. If one does, that’s her prerogative, but the majority rules in this case. You can’t expect Target to merchandise menswear in the women’s department so they don’t offend one female who only wears men’s clothing.
So while I agree that anyone regardless of gender should be able to partake in geek-wear, singling out Marvel as being “alienating” is irrational. Marvel’s website is segregated in exactly the same way as every single other clothing website and retail store.
However, if you feel differently, click the link and sign the petition.