This Week in Old-Timey Patriarchal Bullshit: The Erasure of Princess Leia
Oh, Target. I thought we were all good! You rid your aisles of gender bias! We were doing so well here! But now. Now you’ve gone and taken a giant step backward by messing with Princess Leia. AND THIS WILL NOT STAND.
You all remember this rather famous scene from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, right?
That’s Vader and Leia. I remember vividly, you see, because Leia looks right into Vader’s masked eyes and stands up to him while he threatens to kill her. ON HER SHIP. It is moments like these that made me fall in love with her as a little girl. These are the moments that made me want to be her. She was a princess, yes, but she was also a member of the Imperial Senate and a Rebel leader. She was powerful and strong and smart and bold and funny, and she saved herself (and others) in a lot of sticky situations.
So when Target sells a shirt that ERASES LEIA ENTIRELY FROM THE SCENE and replaces her with that whiny little Luke... well... it makes me ragey. And it makes me shout OTPBS. Because what the hell is this?
This shirt is sold in the boys’ section of Target, and so I suppose the idea was that boys would be unwilling to wear a shirt with a girl on it? Because... why now? It’s a Star Wars shirt. Lots of boys watch and love Star Wars. Even though there is a prominent female character. Just like I watch and love Star Wars, even though there are LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of prominent male characters. It’s a shirt all about Vader; Leia isn’t even important to the joke on the shirt, so erasing her and replacing her with Luke is just offensive. It’s bullshit – of the old-timey patriarchal variety – and it teaches the kids wearing this shirt that women aren’t important. That we are replaceable. That we are disposable.
Now, listen. Target is getting reamed for this and I should point out that Target didn’t make the shirt themselves. And, to their credit, they have shared customer comments with their buyer and the shirt’s manufacturer, and at last tweet, they had stopped selling the shirt entirely. So... they are listening. Which means we need to keep talking about this. We need to keep pointing out OTPBS and shouting about it to the rooftops until everyone is listening. Because, goddammit, Princess Leia is one of the few powerful lady icons from my (our!) youth, and this is just irresponsible and feckless merchandizing. There’s no reason to erase her from an iconic scene. It's wildly unnecessary. She’s already hard to find in Star Wars merch. (Ask me about my fruitless search for a Hoth Leia Halloween costume....) And trust me, the boy who refuses to wear a Darth Vader shirt because Leia is in the picture standing on the sidelines is few and far between. And if that boy has a hard time finding clothes to match his budding misogyny? WELL THEN GOOD. We’ll have done our job.