Gender Equity & Action Figures

Jun 24, 2022   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

As I was reading my Twitter feed yesterday, I came across this conversation from a friend who is as passionate about young girls being exposed to and involved in STEM as I am:

Where's Rey?

Twitter conversation on the missing Rey figure from Star Wars gift sets

I always had a special place in my heart for the female figures that Hasbro, Bandai, Playmates, and other manufacturers made as part of a toy line and last Monday, when I finally went to see Star Wars the Force Awakens, my son and I stopped in a nearby Target. Smaller than traditional Target’s, this store had very limited shelf space for toys but still a selection of single boxed figures. “Do you see a Rey?” I asked my son as I moved box after box and realizing this Target only had five of the figures from the line. “She’s limited,” he replied. Ah, another one of those strategic decisions by toy manufacturers to only put one or two of her in a box. Does this strategy make Rey more sought after as a toy? Unfortunately no. When I asked my son, who is now an avid and knowledgeable toy collector, he said, “Female figures don’t sell as well as the male ones do.”

And therein lies the rub. There are two markets these days for action figures. The play market and the collector market. Children who want to play with their toys take them out of the package or box and start imagining and creating their own stories. That is the beauty of play. There are numerous toys on the market now designed to break gender stereotypes and many of these are STEM focused in bringing once male dominated play such as engineering (LEGOS), chemistry, science, and electronics to girls, the action figure market hasn’t made any attempt, on either side, to market to girls or encourage boys to make sure whatever female figure is part of the line, are bought and played with just like the male figures.

When I started buying action figures for my son in the 80’s they were $3.77 each. Today, the going price is between $19.99 and $24.00. It’s hard to think that making the decision to buy a toy or multiple ones from a line has become a financial decision (I bought three Storm Troopers during our Target foray for a total of $66). For boys, will they want to forgo the Finn or My son and I somehow always get around to the conversation of adults paying that much money for a toy that will be played with and to have most of a collection, counting each series and number of figures in a series that a manufacturer produces, playing with actions figures can cost upwards of thousands of dollars. Ditto for collectors but at least there’s the hope that some of the figures will go up in value. Once you take a toy out of the package and play with it that $19.99 price drops significantly in value but never in sentiment until that figure becomes outdated a new, more exciting action figure arrives on the scene to take its place.

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