Celebrating Disney Princesses of Colour

Something a little different from me. Today I want to celebrate some Disney Princesses.

You can’t escape seeing merchandise adorned with the likes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Merida, Ariel, and Snow White – and of course the as yet unofficial Disney Princesses of Frozen’s Anna & Elsa.

But as well as being Disney women, they also have something else on common – all of them are white.

As parents of a mixed race daughter, it’s important we include representations of girls & women of colour in stories, films, and merchandise she is exposed to. As far as Disney Princesses are concerned, the women of colour tend to be far less prominent than their caucasian counterparts, so here are some Disney Princesses of colour that I have made a point of introducing our daughter to.

Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (1992)

Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color, Princess Jasmine, Aladdin, 1992
‘Aladdin’ (1992), Dirs: Ron Clements, John Musker
© Walt Disney Pictures

One of the early films in the Disney Renaissance, this sees Princess Jasmine as the female lead opposite the eponymous Aladdin. Of presumably Persian royalty, she is a character who is destined for an arranged marriage but is looking for more than a foppish or arrogant prince. Could Aladdin be the one?

The animation is classic Disney, the characterisation very American, and the songs are catchy enough. Jasmine has an independent spirit, but storywise she’s really there to support Aladdin. And the fact is that the human characters are all upstaged my Robin William’s genie anyway – one of the first times a big star was cast in an animated movie.

Probably best reviewed and most popular film on this list, this is a fairly safe choice. However, some scenes may be a bit intense for young children. I had lots of cuddles during the finale.

Pocahontas (1995)

Pocahontas, 1995, Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color
‘Pocahontas’ (1995), Dirs: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
© Walt Disney Pictures

Imagine Avatar minus spaceships, plus songs. That’s kind of what Pocahontas is.

I’m doing this film a disservice. It was cited as one of the main sources of theft inspiration for James Cameron’s sci-fi saga, but it’s a far more involving movie than that (not a fan).

A highly fictionalised version of the true story, this focuses on the romance between the Native American ‘princess’ Pocahontas and the English Captain John Smith.

Pocahontas shares similarities with Princess Jasmine, in that she is expected to be married off to a husband of her father’s choosing – but she wants more.

Featuring some stunning designs and animation, this was a far better movie than I remember. It was an engaging mix of comedy, drama, and action – and a great starting point for conversations about race, colonialism, and the consequences of the choices we make. The casting of Mel Gibson as John Smith, in this tale of racial tolerance, seems somewhat ironic in the light of later events

I also found myself humming the standout musical numbers of ‘Just Around the River Bend’ and ‘Colours of the Wind’ for many days afterwards.

Mulan (1998)

'Mulan' (1998), Dirs: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook  © Walt Disney Pictures
‘Mulan’ (1998), Dirs: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
© Walt Disney Pictures

Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan (or Fa Mulan), and voiced by Ming-Na Wen (now well known as Melinda May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mulan is a woman who joins the Chinese army in the place of her elderly father, disguising herself as a man.

The film possibly tries a little to hard with the ‘women can do what men do too’ angle, and it perhaps falls into the trap of songs that pause rather than progress the plot – but the most memorable number of all, ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ navigates this adeptly.

Mulan is a welcome Disney Princess because she is a woman of action. We need more of those, alongside princesses known for dancing or sleeping.

Honourable Mention…

Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Esmeralda The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996, Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1996), Dirs: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
© Walt Disney Pictures

You probably won’t find Esmeralda on any backpack or water bottle at the Disney Store. She was never fully admitted to the hallowed ranks of the Disney Princesses, and has now all but disappeared from the world of Disney. This is a real shame.

Based on the book by Victor Hugo, the film liberally adapts many elements of the story, including this character. Voiced by Demi Moore, here Esmeralda is a dark skinned Romani Gypsy, who displays the exuberance of a woman who is confident and adventurous, as well as being kind and empathetic.

Set against a backdrop of the Romani people being demonised as subhuman criminals (sound familiar?), Esmeralda is both despised and lusted after by the villain of the tale Judge Frollo, who is waging a campaign against all Romani in Paris yet is having trouble dealing with some repressed feelings for Esmeralda. She is a trusted member of her community, who is older and wiser than most Disney females, a step ahead from the teenage heroines we are generally used to.

Again, this film offers a good starting point for discussions about discrimination and injustice, while presenting a well rounded female character who is full of life and determination.

And I wish I could get my daughter an Esmeralda lunchbox at the Disney Store.

Representation Matters

Disney have made a decent effort over the past twenty or so years to be more racially diverse (recent examples also include Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, and the forthcoming Moana, set in the south pacific). While I appreciate there are overriding issues with gender representation and Disney Princesses (admittedly only two of these movies – barely – pass the Bechdel Test), that is something that I can address by talking to my daughter about these stories. But there is no substitute for her seeing women who look like her, or at least the woman she will grow up to be, on films, tv, and merchandise.

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.

To check out these Disney movies featuring women of colour, please head to Netflix.

Playtest: LEGO Star Wars – Imperial Assault Carrier (From Star Wars Rebels)

For our latest LEGO playtest, we chose the Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier. It’s based on one of the Empire’s spaceships from the Star Wars Rebels TV show, which featured prominently in the finale of season 1.

Initially the main attraction for us was the choice of minifigures – specifically, this set includes the female Rebel fighter Sabine Wren. She’s been in a previously released LEGO Star Wars set, but this time she comes with the addition of her distinctive Mandalorian armour helmet.

LEGO Sabine is such a badass #StarWarsRebels

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Sabine’s outnumbered by the Empire, as this comes with five other mini figures – all of them imperial: Agent Kallus, an Imperial Officer, 2 x Tie Fighter pilots, and an Imperial Astromech Droid (aka R2 unit).

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 minifigures, Star Wars Rebels LEGO

This is a large set with over 1,200 pieces, and it took us a few construction sessions to finally assemble it, following the 170 page instruction booklet.

It was really fun to construct, with a mixture of standard and technic elements, and a great activity for me to share with my 3-year-old daughter. While putting together a LEGO build of this nature on her own is clearly not feasible yet (the set advises age 9-14), the experience of assisting me helps her with many aspects of her development of such as motor skills, patience, and following instructions.

She was constantly asking me, over the days it took us to make this, to ‘do another packet’ (the numbered bags that large sets are divided into – this one has nine).

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 Tie Fighters underneath CROP
Inspecting the undercarriage

The finished vehicle has a number of neat little extra elements and moving parts, such as:

  • 4 releasable mini Tie Fighters
  • A missile launcher (with a locker for spares)
  • Rotating mini cannon turrets (also with storage for spare ammo)
  • Removable top
  • Hinged cockpit

Plus it has a hook as part of the structure, for flying it around going “Vroom, pew pew!”. At least, that’s what we used it for.

The set has a kind of dual scale element, as the Tie Fighters are much smaller relative to the Tie Fighter pilots. I kind of liked this approach.

Tie Fighter and Tie Fighter Pilot minifig from LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 CROP

The little Tie Fighters are also the perfect size for my daughter to fly around.

She is delighting in the play opportunities this set affords, and is already engaging Sabine in joint adventures with a fellow female star wars minifig Princess Leia from the Imperial Shuttle set.

As the father of a mixed-race fangirl, I admit to being a little disappointed that Sabine’s skin colour seems to have changed from the light brown of the show to light pink here. But she still looks badass.

And while we’re talking about changes, did you know that the Imperial Officer minifig is in fact an Imperial Postman (according to a certain 3-year-old).

My daughter has decided that this sad, dejected, desperate looking LEGO Star Wars figure – is a postman.

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The Imperial Assault Carrier is a great addition to our LEGO Star Wars collection. While the ship seemed a little uninspiring from imagery prior to getting it, in reality it is a really cool vehicle when constructed. As with her other Star Wars LEGO sets, my daughter has made no attempt to pull this apart as she’s enjoying using is as a playset and prop far too much.

Star Wars Rebels LEGO, LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106, Review====

Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO set free of charge. All opinions stated remain our own.

The LEGO Star Wars – Imperial Assault Carrier set (75106) has a RRP of £99.99.

Win This Fantastic Rockabilly Lottie Doll!

My daughter recently received a new Lottie doll, kind of as a thank you from them for our previous post about these great dolls. For a general overview for why we like Lottie so much, please have a read of it.

However, while those other Lotties are awesome, I think this new one might be our favourite yet.

My daughter's latest addition to her @lottie_dolls collection. She rocks! :)

A photo posted by Man vs. Pink (@manvspink) on

We like this one so much we’re offering you the chance to own one too.

What’s so great about the Rockabilly Lottie doll?

The first thing that struck me about Rockabilly Lottie is her outfit is exactly like the kind of cool and quirky mash-up my daughter would put together. We’ve been letting her choose her own outfits since she turned 3, and she comes up with some amazing combinations.

Mixing a tutu with leggings and a vintage Letter Jacket is her kind of outfit. In fact, the other day we tried to replicate Rockabilly Lottie using items from her wardrobe – we came pretty close don’t you think?

Why we love @lottie_dolls – she's a lot like my daughter :)

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The only condition we really place on my daughter when choosing an outfit is that it needs to be weather appropriate. Other than that, pretty much anything goes (though I admit I did persuade her not to wear her micro-skirt as an even smaller dress recently).

I feel Rockabilly Lottie is a character who exhibits the same exuberance, of a child not yet confined by social strictures of how you should or should not dress.

This is yet another Lottie that will help reinforce my daughter’s self-esteem as she grows, supporting her in making choices that may be outside of what is considered the norm.

If Rockabilly Lottie were an actual little girl, I would love my daughter to be friends with her. She is a character who truly embodies her slogan of “Be Bold. Be Brave. Be You.” – an inspirational message for all of us.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this piece, my daughter did receive the featured doll free of charge.
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See below for your chance to win your own Rockabilly Lottie doll, or alternatively you can purchase one here.

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Rockabilly Lottie Doll, Lottie Dolls, Lottie Doll, Lottie

*** Please note that the competition is open entrants from all countries ***

‘My Daddy is Super Because… He Watches Star Wars With Me’

As Father’s Day messages go, you may not think much of it. But to me, this message from my 3-year-old daughter in a card she made at nursery, is gold.

While obviously dictated (her writing isn’t that good), one of the reasons I love it is I know that it’s genuine. Our shared love of Star Wars has become a defining aspect of our relationship.

My Daddy is Super CROP

Those of you who follow my blog will know I’m rather into all things Star Wars, and most people – especially those who know me – assume that I’m merely indoctrinating my young padawan daughter into the ways of the force. The truth is rather more complicated than that. I have a bit of a confession to make. Until a couple of years ago, I was actually a pretty lapsed Star Wars fanboy.

“I am a Star Wars fan, like my father before me.”

I had always intended to show my daughter Star Wars, and if interested to give her my old toys when she was older. I figured probably when she was 7 or so, the age I saw Star Wars. But before she was even 2-years-old, she saw one of Jeffrey Brown’s Vader books and loved it. Not long after, I brought my old Star Wars toys home from my parents – intending to store them in the attic for next few years – but they never made it past the living room. She spotted them and they’ve been a permanent fixture there ever since. If I remember correctly, it was my wife who encouraged me to show our daughter Star Wars.

She also plays with my old Star Wars LEGO, and lacking a Princess Leia minifig, made some up herself. She frequently chooses to wear her Star Wars clothes (especially a certain skirt!), and dress up as Darth Vader. She also enjoys trying to chop my arms off with her lightsaber. While I clearly delight in all this, it is instigated by her.

So the thing is – rather than me trying to mould her into a Star Wars fan, her enthusiasm for the galaxy far, far away has actually reawakened my own Star Wars fandom, inspiring me to reconnect with these beloved characters and scenarios I thought I had relegated to simple nostalgia. Her enthusiasm for the saga frequently surpasses my own.

Star Wars: The Fangirl Awakens

Because she was embracing this so eagerly, the world of Star Wars merchandise became a bit of a gendered marketing battleground for me. But through this I have also connected with the amazing Star Wars fangirl community, who engage with Star Wars in ways that us fanboys never really considered. Many of them are also from a younger generation, so came to the saga via a different path. I had never heard of Ahsoka Tano a year ago, and now my daughter and I are enjoying discovering her unfolding story in The Clone Wars cartoon that I had previously ignored. The fangirl community is amazing, and should my daughter continue to enjoy these geeky interests, I am so glad that there is such a warm, loving, and inspiring community out there for her to join.

“You have taken your first step into a larger world.”

I love her Father’s Day message because it places value on the fact that I watch Star Wars with her. I always sit with her when she watches anything while home with me. I have never used the TV as a babysitter (this is probably why I get a lot less done around the house than I should!).

To me the television is not a passive pursuit, a device you turn on to tune out of life for a while. It is something to engage with. To discover new stories, strange new worlds, incredible ideas, and inspiring people. To stimulate your mind, and create questions you will seek to answer. So when my daughter and I watch TV together, watch Star Wars together, I answer any of her questions and discuss them further if needs be.

For example, what happened to Obi-Wan when he had the lightsaber fight with Darth Vader? A talk about death and how people live on in the memories of those who love them took place. When Princess Leia was shown in her skimpy ‘slave’ outfit in Return of the Jedi, my daughter asked “Why has Princess Leia got no clothes on?”. An early discussion about slavery, objectification, and sexual objectification ensued.

You will read endless articles portraying a generation of kids having too much ‘screentime’, but less on what they’re actually watching, and very little about how we as parents empower our children to understand, analyse, and question what they’re being presented with. They are growing up in the digital age, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they’re media savvy as early as possible.

So watching Star Wars with her, creating an environment where she can engage and analyse it, has been an important part of her own development and our parent & child relationship.

But she loves Star Wars as a story too, and has been happy to watch each film in a single sitting ever since she was 2-years-old. Of the characters, my daughter is a big Princess Leia fan but her other favourite one is Darth Vader. The reason? Because he’s Princess Leia’s daddy.

I don’t know how long her love of Star Wars will last, but for now this is our thing as a father & daughter. So I’ll take my daughter thinking I’m super because I watch Star Wars with her. I also think she’s pretty awesome for watching it with me too.

Woo hoo! We made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs! #StarWarsatMT

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Daddy Swans Can Raise Their Kids Too

“There’s the mummy swan with all her babies!” exclaimed my three-year-old daughter about the swan on the canal with their cygnets. We had probably seen daddy swan earlier, picking fights with the local geese.

I’m one of the growing number of stay-at-home dads, and I’ve been home with my daughter since she was six months old. Yet despite having an at-home dad for most of her life, she still defaults to the assumption that the parent looking after their children must be the mother.

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. We had just left the baby & toddler group I help to run, where there were dozens of parents and carers – but I was the only man there. On the walk home, we bumped into a few more parents we knew, all of them mothers at home with their children. That morning, I had read numerous books to my daughter, including classics such as Where The Wild Things Are, Dogger, and some Mog books – all of which, like many in our collection, feature the mother as primary carer.

This ‘norm’ carries over into other aspects of how parenting in portrayed or perceived – including nature, where there are far fewer everyday examples of nurturing fathers to cite. We tend to humanise, or give character too, the animals around us. When it comes to their parenting, the gender roles can be perceived very rigidly, whether it’s a cartoon with talking animals or us observing their behaviour in real life.

But one of the things that makes us human is our ability to transcend nature. Unlike animals we can choose to suppress our urges, not act on instincts we know are not relevant to the world we find ourselves in, and change the way we parent to suit our circumstances.

Being the dad used to be seen as being the breadwinner, or the sports guy, or the one who cooks with on the barbecue. Some of those dad cliches apply to me. But I’m also the dad who’s at home with our daughter, loves cuddling her, will happily play dolls with her, and ties a damn good ponytail.

Reflecting this changing view of fatherhood, stock photography provider Getty Images has launched a special collection to coincide with Father’s Day. The images show fathers as nurturing, caring, and attentive parents, offering a more modern idea of masculinity and fatherhood.

These stock photos will become part of the everyday noise of the online parenting world, turning up in peoples social timelines and hopefully evolving perceptions about dads among those that don’t see fathers this way yet.

It’s easy to relax into accepted norms. Sometimes we need to curate the way the world around us is presented, to reflect not only the way it is, but the way we want it to be.

So when my daughter pointed out the ‘mummy’ swan, I felt the need to introduce an element of doubt and analysis into the conversation. “How do you know it’s the mummy swan?”, I asked, “It might be the daddy?”. She pondered for a moment, then decided that this time it was indeed the daddy, while it was the mother that was off having ‘me’ time battling the geese.

This may (almost certainly) have been factually incorrect, but learning isn’t just about facts. I am a great believer that one of the key ways we learn how to be human is through stories, and this includes the narratives we witness in everyday life. We take what we learn in these tales, to build up a vision of how society works. The fluidity of gender roles in parenthood is part of that.

And perhaps I’m being unfair on the poor old male Swan? They CAN change the way they parent to suit their circumstances. Cobs (as they’re called) are known to rear their cygnets by themselves if they lose their mate, so they clearly have within them the same desire to love and nurture their children as the female. So as far as we were concerned, daddy swan was with the kids that day, and we agreed they were having a wonderful time of it too.

We Didn’t Have Any Princess Leia LEGO. So My Daughter Came Up With This Instead.

Do you remember that awesome scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Princess Leia was disguised as a Stormtrooper and had a lightsaber?

Of course not because it doesn’t exist – except in the imagination of my three-year-old daughter. It’s just one of the scenarios and characters she has created for the Star Wars universe with her assorted LEGO.

We have a bunch of Star Wars LEGO, but sadly none that involved a Princess Leia minifig. I’ll gladly trade one of my three Luke Skywalkers or Qui-Gon’s if anyone’s interested in a swap? (Not slave Leia). But this hasn’t deterred my daughter from creating her own. She has decided a generic black ‘girl’ hair is in fact Princess Leia’s, and she first created an approximation of her Hoth look in The Empire Strikes Back.

As we don't have one, my daughter put together her own LEGO Princess Leia (Hoth outfit). :)

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The latest incarnation of her LEGO Leia took things in a different direction. She often talks about the section of Star Wars when Han and Luke are dressed up as Stormtroopers. She’s also very into the fact that Luke and Leia are siblings, and that Darth Vader is their father. The men have lightsabers, why not her too?

So one day when we were playing LEGO and I wasn’t playing attention to what she was doing (I don’t just play LEGO to humour her – I play too, building my own stuff), she suddenly exclaimed “Look! It’s Princess Leia from The Empire Strikes Back, when she was dressed as a Stormtrooper and had a green lightsaber!” And indeed it was.

So, as we know, that scene didn’t happen, but it’s an intriguing scenario. Why has she disguised herself as a Stormtrooper? Is it an improvised solution as in Star Wars, or something more planned? How come she has a lightsaber? The force is strong in her family after all. The idea of Leia dressed as a trooper then brandishing and (hopefully) kicking off with a lightsaber is irresistibly cool.

The next minifig she came up with was a bit of a mashup – the little known Sith warrior, Lady Venom.

My daughter has no idea who Venom is, other than it was the ‘villain’ minifig with a Spider-Man LEGO set she had for her third birthday. Perhaps aware of the poor level of female representation in much merchandise, she instantly appropriated Venom as a female character. Having seen 5 Star Wars films, Rebels, and some of The Clone Wars, she also has a handle on the Sith, especially their penchant for wearing black. So, the black Venom, with added black hood & cloak (from a Darth Maul minifig) and voila – you have Sith warrior Lady Venom, possibly inspired by Asajj Ventress.

According to my daughter, Lady Venom knows Leia and Darth Vader, but Leia is working to make her normal again. I have imagined that Lady Venom was once a great Jedi, who was possessed by the alien Venom symbiote and her mental turmoil was exploited by the Sith to turn her to the dark side of the force. Her red lightsaber is meant to be like Kylo Ren’s from The Force Awakens.

We’ve also  been trying to figure out when in The Empire Strikes Back Leia could be disguised as a trooper and end up with a green lightsaber. Our best idea would be somewhere on Cloud City – probably after Boba Fett has flown off with Han and they’re battling to get back to the Millennium Falcon. The green lightsaber? Perhaps R2 had been carrying the one he fired at Luke in Return of the Jedi for a lot longer than we all thought?

Some of the most fertile ground for Star Wars creativity at the moment is between the films. The Clone Wars cartoon(s) were full of wonderful characters and scenarios, as is Star Wars Rebels. Marvel’s new Star Wars comics are doing a great job in filling in the gap between Star Wars and Empire with some really interesting ideas and developments – all of it canon.

My daughter is engaging in the same kind of creative storytelling that the writers and artists of the new series of Star Wars comics and cartoons are. Only they’re overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group. My daughter’s only limits are her ever expanding imagination.

She was pretty stoked to find a postcard that matches her top #StarWars

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I appreciate Lady Venom is the kind of cross property mash up that Star Wars hasn’t indulged in as of yet – but if we can get Mickey Mouse Jedi knights, why not a Venom Sith?

And c’mon – how awesome would a storyline involving Leia going undercover as a Stormtrooper that ends up with her brandishing a lightsaber be?

Especially if she takes on Lady Venom of the Sith at the end.

I propose that my three-year-old daughter join the Lucasfilm Story Group. I guarantee there will be lots of cool and kickass female characters as a result. Or perhaps she’ll make her own comic. She’s already on her way to becoming a Star Wars artist.

That's no moon, that's my 3yo daughter's first piece of Star Wars art.

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Lottie, a Doll to Inspire Our Little Girls

Lottie Dolls, little girl playing with dolls,My daughter has various dolls – Barbie, Cindy, some Phantom Menace Padme Amidalas, a Princess Leia, and a 90’s Storm (that I randomly found boxed at a local charity shop for £2). But I think she has found her favourite set of dolls yet – Lottie.

I’ve been aware of Lottie ever since they launched their Superhero Outfit Set in 2014. It was notable to me because a) it was a female superhero doll, and b) was designed by a six-year-old girl, who created ‘Super Lottie’ as part of a global competition. Any misgivings I may have had about the pink, pastel, and sparkles are pretty much wiped out by the fact this outfit was created by a little girl herself. This is exactly the kind of creativity we’re trying to encourage in our own daughter, and the Super Lottie design looks pretty cool anyway.

Stargazer Lottie, Lottie Dolls,  Lottie Dolls uk, Lottie Dolls Amazon
Stargazer Lottie

Lottie differs from other dolls in a number of ways. Her body shape is roughly that of a nine-year-old girl, as opposed to the Giraffe like proportions of Barbie. She doesn’t wear jewellery or makeup. She has a wide range of clothes and interests that kids can still relate to. If you want to buy your child princesses and fashion models, you’re already well served by the market. Lottie Dolls offer parents and children wanting something else a delightful alternative.

For this review, we selected a range of dolls and accessories that reflect my daughter’s interests, tastes, or curiosity. Our choices were Pirate Queen (plus accessories), Robot Girl (plus Busy Lizzie Robot), Stargazer (with telescope), as well as the aforementioned Superhero Outfit.

Robot girl Lottie, Busy Lizzie Robot,  Lottie Dolls,  Lottie Dolls uk, Lottie Dolls Amazon
Robot Girl Lottie with her Busy Lizzie robot

Each ‘Lottie’ comes with their own backstory or scenario, and while these are interesting – such as reading about female pirate Grace O’ Malley – the characteristics of each outfit/persona are really for us to define through play. So, ‘Robot Girl’ likes robots, and this helped us talk about science and engineering; ’Stargazer’ (inspired by a real life star loving little girl) is obviously into astronomy, and again that helps us talk about that. My daughter loves looking at the moon, and enjoys stories set in space, so this reinforces it. ‘Pirate Queen’ inspires adventure, and also supports the idea that all things pirate are for girls as well as boys. And ‘Super Lottie’? Well, my daughter knows superheroes are for girls (and boys too I guess), so again this reinforces our parenting approach in this genre.

Super Lottie,  Lottie Dolls,  Lottie Dolls uk, Lottie Dolls Amazon
Super Lottie

I get accused, mostly by people who don’t know me very well, of denying my daughter ‘girly’ things, or trying to make her into a boy. That’s not true. I just object to the narrow vision of girlhood that commerce presents us with. While I’m of the mind that any toy is girly if a girl plays with it, these Lottie dolls help with framing different interests as ‘girly’, presenting us with a group of cute little girls who enjoy science, karate, ponies, and pirates! If you ever need to prove to someone that robots, superheroes, and pirates, can be ‘girly’ too – then just show them Lottie.

The thing I really love about this collection of Lottie dolls is that they support and reinforce so well our approach to raising our daughter. Lottie’s cool and quirky collection of clothing reflects my daughter’s own diverse wardrobe. We hope Lottie’s range of interests will also be mirrored in our daughter as she gets older.

Pirate Queen Lottie Doll,  Lottie Dolls,  Lottie Dolls uk, Lottie Dolls Amazon
Pirate Queen Lottie

What’s our favourite Lottie? While I love anything that involves girls and superheroes, my joint top pick is Pirate Lottie. Society still tends to categorise Buccaneer iconography as a boy’s look, and this demonstrates that girls make awesome looking pirates too. My daughter likes dressing as one but doesn’t see many other girls doing that too. By simply playing with her Pirate Queen Lottie, she is reinforcing her confidence in her decision to dress up as a pirate too.

Being interested in science and technology. Dressing as a pirate and a superhero. These Lottie Dolls can help inspire a new generation of girls to claim these traditionally boy interests as theirs too, and aspire to reach for the stars or sail the seven seas. Or simply to be happy with whatever you choose to be. In fact, her motto is ‘Be bold, be brave, be you’.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this piece, we did receive all the featured dolls and accessories free of charge. 

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**You can purchase Pirate Queen Lottie here, and the Super Lottie Outfit Set here**

How to Make a Star Wars Skirt for Girls and Boys

Getting Star Wars tops for girls is easy – as long as you don’t mind shopping in the ‘boys’ aisle. However, you have more chance of bullseyeing a Womp Rat in your T-16 than finding a child’s Star Wars dress or skirt for sale at a major retailer. While Ashley Eckstein’s innovative fangirl brand Her Universe has a couple of Star Wars dress options, is she your only hope? No, there is another.

It’s you – by embracing Craftivism. If you can’t find the merchandise you want, simply make it yourself. My daughter recently received an awesome Star Wars skirt from our friend Francesca Cambridge, that she made using officially licensed Star Wars fabric. There’s lots of Star Wars and other official licensed fabric available, which is intended for home sewing use such as this.

In an act of wanton selflessness (her business Sewing Circus proudly creates and sells children’s clothes that don’t conform to gender stereotypes), Francesca has put together this step-by-step guide so non-dressmakers like me can make a children’s Star Wars skirt ourselves.

Whenever my daughter wears this skirt – which is most days at the moment – everyone asks where I got it from. Follow this guide, and you’ll have a Star Wars skirt that’ll make someone as over the moon (or space station) as my daughter is with hers. :)

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This elasticated skirt is one of the easiest items of clothing you can make for your child. It is so simple you don’t need a pattern or special equipment – you could even get away without a sewing machine!

For this skirt I used licensed Star Wars fabric manufactured by Camelot Fabrics, bought from Frumble (who also sell everything from Alice in Wonderland to Batgirl, Supergirl and Wonder Woman fabric).

But you can choose any fabric you want, in any theme, colour or style. That is how I started out, making Dinosaur skirts and Space dresses for my daughters when we couldn’t find anything remotely similar on the high street.

Once you’ve built a bit of confidence you can add pockets, a drawstring, applique – anything! The sky’s the limit for your creativity and inspiring your child to do the same. 

To make a Star Wars skirt for kids, you will need:

  • A waist measurement and preferred length of skirt from your chosen recipient
  • Approx 50 x 110cm of your chosen Star Wars fabric (you may not need as much but fabrics are often sold by the quarter/half/full metre and 110cm in width) Cost approx £7-9
  • 1″ wide elastic measured and cut to your chosen waist size
  • Standard ruler and a pen/chalk
  • Sewing machine if possible or a needle and thread
  • Thread colour to match your chosen fabric
  • Safety pin
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • About 30 mins of spare time!

Step 1 

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Cut your elastic and ensure there is ample flex room on the width of your fabric. For ages 12 plus you may need to add an additional panel to create a wider piece of fabric.

Step 2 – Measure and cut length

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The skirt length is 28cm, but we need to add on a little more to accommodate our waistband and hem, so I’ve added an extra 8cm to the length. If in doubt add more, not less – you can always trim more later. Use a ruler to guide you in cutting, never trust the pattern!

Step 3 – Cut length and trim selvage 

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This white part (that reminds me of bacon rind) is the selvage and needs to come off too. Check for an perforated dots from manufacture as you don’t want them in your final skirt.

Step 4 – Sew the side seam

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All raw edges must be “serged” or enclosed to prevent fraying, so for this skirt we’re going to use an enclosed seam. This means we sew wrong sides together (or right sides outwards as shown), trimming the seam slightly and then turn inside out to sew the seam again on the other side – trapping the raw edge inside. Like this…

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Your side seam should now look like this…

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Step 5 – Transfer to the ironing board for pressing

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Create a channel for the elastic at the top of the skirt by folding over a thin raw edge, and then larger fold to fit the width of your elastic. You can use your elastic to guide the size, but leave at least 5mm for a sewing edge. Once this is done you can measure the length again and fold up the hem using the same method at the other end. Again, use the ruler to measure as you will now create the final length of your skirt.

Step 6 – Hem

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Sew down your pressed hem, back stitching or tieing up the ends of your thread to prevent your work coming undone.

Step 7 – Elastic waistband

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Use your elastic to guide you as its essential there is enough room for it to fit through comfortably. If you find the channel is too narrow take it back to the iron board and press larger.
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Sew the channel closed, but leave a 1.5″ gap at the end. This will be the opening to thread through the elastic.

Step 8 – Add the elastic

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Attach a safety pin to the end of your elastic
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Thread the elastic by pushing the saftey pin through the channel. Secure the other end of the elastic as its really easy to end up loosing it as your pull through!
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Once you have pulled the elastic through, use a zig zag stitch to connect the two ends together with a good 1″ overlap. Don’t worry about the waist measurement just yet – you can always adjust in the next step.
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Ping the elastic into the skirt band, and check you’re happy with the waist measurement. If not, pull the elastic back out a little way to cut a section out and restitch together.

Step 9 – Close the waistband

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Once you’re happy, close the waistband “channel” and tie up the threads to finish.

Step 10 – Admire the awesome Star Wars skirt you have just created

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And that’s it! Your very own children’s Star Wars skirt
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My daughter wearing her beloved Star Wars skirt. She would wear it every day if she could.

This is a little bit of Craftivism shared from what I have learnt since starting Sewing Circus, but for more inspiration please check out the many wonderful sewing boards on Pinterest for free patterns and advice! Got stuck on a sewing element? Check out the free tutorials on YouTube – even after years of sewing I find it a fantastic resource with clear instructions on almost everything.

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Thanks so much to Francesca for sharing with us her Craftivist solution to the lack of Star Wars clothes aimed at girls.

To keep up with all the latest from Sewing Circus, please follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Etsy.

A version of this tutorial was originally published on Let Clothes Be Clothes.

Vintage Star Wars Recipe: Death Star Cookies

This recipe is taken from the Star Wars: Darth Vader’s Activity Book, originally published in 1979 by Random House (I have the UK Armada reprint).

Death Star cookiess, Star Wars, Darth Vader Activity book

Death Star Cookies

Yield: 2 Large Death Stars

There’s nothing evil about these delicious shortbread cookies. They’re quick and easy to make, especially if you have an adult to help.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat in Egg well. Gradually stir in flour. Gather into a ball. Divide into two equal halves. Roll each half into a ball.

Place one ball in the centre of one cookie sheet and flatten out to a circle about 6″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick as shown in the accompanying figure. Repeat with remaining dough on second cookie sheet.

For decorating, follow the steps below.

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1. With your thumb, press in a smooth round, shallow hole 1 1/2″ in diameter a little away from the edge as shown.
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2. Lightly grease a butter knife and make a wide, shallow cut across the centre of the cookie. Then make shallow horizontal cuts along the rest of the cookie. Do not cut through the hole.
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3. The make shallow horizontal vertical cuts between the horizontal lines as shown.
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Next cut a shallow outline around the 1 1/2 ” hole and make “piecuts” in it as shown. Take a fork and make rows of holes along the horizontal lines.

Then bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly. Remove and cool completely.

Now be a hero and destroy the Death Star – by eating it!

Will the ‘DC Super Hero Girls’ Line be the Princess Alternative I’m Looking For?

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DC Super Hero Girls, A New Super Hero Universe Designed Just For Girls

Superheroes are for boys. That’s a fact. What’s also true, but less accepted, is that superheroes are for girls too. So it’s great that DC and Warner are acknowledging this with their new project ‘DC Super Hero Girls’.

As the geek dad of a little girl, trying desperately to introduce her to alternatives to Disney Princesses and the like, I know how difficult it is to find appropriate content and merchandise featuring female superheroes, so when I first read about this I was excited. It features teenage versions (hence justifying the ‘girls’ tag) of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl (who were in my Top Five Awesome Alternatives to Disney Princesses). The likes of Harley Quinn, Bumble Bee, Poison Ivy, and Katana will also be involved. The target audience is girls age 6-12.

Finally, we have a big media corporation acknowledging what we keep banging on about – that there is an untapped market of girls who love superheroes. Glancing at the artwork, I thought how refreshing to see a group of female characters for girls in dynamic action poses, rather than the passive imagery that usually adorns apparel and accessories in the ‘pink’ aisle.

But taking a closer look at the artwork, I started to have some doubts. I realised that they all look like generic Disney Princess clones, which potentially alludes to the marketing intentions of those involved – going after Disney’s share of the girls merchandise market. If they do this by offering superhero culture as a real alternative to princess culture, that would be great. But if they take these superheroes too far in the direction of Disney’s heroines, it will be little more than a cynical market grab than trying to create a different offering. There are also issues of body image – while superheroes have always been visually hyper-realistic there’s a big difference between males having big abs and girls having waists smaller than their heads.

Then there’s the idea that this is being “designed just for girls”. It’s important to Include boys in anything involving female superheroes, so they understand from an early age that this genre is for girls too. I still read of boys telling girls that they can’t be into superheroes/Star Wars, only boys can. Subdividing the genre to create a girls only space clearly doesn’t promote inclusion.

The involvement of Barbie manufacturer Mattel is another worrying sign. While it’s worth noting they’ve said they’re making “action figures”, not dolls, this is the company that has presented a narrow view of femininity with Barbie for decades. If you want to see the kind of female superhero THEY think little girls want to play with, look no further than their recent Barbie superhero Super Sparkle, a pink and glittery princess who gets super powers from being kissed by a magical butterfly.

You can bet Mattel have noticed that Wonder Woman, as well as being a superhero, is also a princess.

There’s also the mention of LEGO, and “their experience and success engaging girls”. This can only be alluding to their LEGO Friends brand, the popular but divisive line of LEGO for girls, a pink and pastel gender ghetto that exists away from the rest of LEGO’s creative construction toys. A dedicated girls LEGO implicitly defines the rest of to as for boys. I worry the same thing could happen here. And that they’ll make a superhero spa playset.

And finally, they’re not even superheroes! They’re called ‘Super Hero Girls’ not ‘Superhero Girls’. The cynic in me suspects the thinking is that superheroes are for boys, but these ‘super heroes’ are for girls.

Am I being overly pessimistic? Probably. I would love this to be awesome. In a time when female superhero characters such as Black Widow, Gamora, and Big Hero 6’s Go-Go and Honey Lemon are routinely removed from merchandise, a new female superhero range is great. There’s no way they can ignore the female characters when they’re ALL female! So we should get a viable alternative to the pink & pastel shimmer & sparkle female characters of the moment. I hope that the cartoons, books, and comics provides wonderful character led tales of action, adventure, and inspiration with a diverse range of female superheroes (and villains). The lead writer of the project is a woman, Shea Fontana, so we’re not simply getting a male idea of what they think little girls like.

But ultimately, the reason I want my daughter to be exposed to female superheroes is to offer her an alternative to the current mass market merchandise targeted to girls. If DC Super Hero Girls is simply a cynical way to combine aspects of Disney Princesses and Barbie in order to get a piece of the existing ‘girl’ market, then it’s no real alternative at all.

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I’d love to know what you think about this ‘DC Super Hero Girls’ line.

Please comment below, join the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

Top Five Awesome Alternatives to Disney Princesses

If you’re raising a girl, there’s no escaping the reign of princesses over their generation – especially Disney Princesses. Frozen’s Anna and Elsa have only strengthened the power that Disney’s princess industrial complex wields over their developing cultural lives. If you’re tired of all the trappings of princess culture cluttering up your little girl’s childhood, or just wish to expose them to alternative female led films, TV, books, and toys – here are my top five awesome alternatives to Disney Princesses to inspire and empower your little girls.

1. Studio Ghibli

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‘My Neighbour Tototo’, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki, © 1988 Nibariki – G/Studio Ghibli

The animated films of Studio Ghibli, and Hayo Miyazaki in particular, should be a part of everyone’s cinematic childhood. My Neighbour TotoroKiki’s Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart are particular favourites of ours and they boast a wonderful range of female characters, any one of whom is a great Disney Princess alternative. Scarcely a day goes by without my daughter requesting to see at least one of them. Totoro centres on the gentle adventures of two young sisters in fifties Japan and their encounters with kind hearted forest spirits; Kiki is an entrepreneurial 13-year-old witch who leaves home and earns a living by starting the small courier business of the title; Whisper of the Heart also features a teenage girl, who is an aspiring writer seeking inspiration. I have seen them all more times than I could possibly count, and I still find them moving, inspiring, and utterly delightful. There is plenty official and unofficial merchandise around. We picked up some Totoro soft toys when we passed through Japan a few years back, and bought the 3yo a much loved Kiki dress up for Christmas. For other movies, also check out Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind for a wonderful female led eco-adventure, Ponyo for younger kids, and Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke for older ones who can take more intense scenarios. But perhaps save Grave of the Fireflies for another time – it’s possibly one of the saddest films ever made.

2. Wonder Woman 

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Ms. Magazine issue 1 and 40th Anniversary editions, featuring Wonder Woman on the cover. © Liberty Media for Women, LLC, wholly owned by Feminist Majority Foundation. Wonder Woman ©DC Comics

One of the few female superheroes that non-comic fans know about, Wonder Woman remains a pop cultural feminist icon and an awesome Disney Princess alternative. Conceived in the forties by American psychologist William Moulton Marston, he wanted to “create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”. Hmm. Anyway, Wonder Woman is a warrior, and – yes – a PRINCESS, but she refuses to let being a princess define her, and it’s something she successfully rebelled against in her very first appearance. The character’s continued fame goes back to the fondly remembered seventies TV show starring Lynda Carter. The show tied into the popular feminism of the decade, typified by the likes of Gloria Steinham – who had previously launched Ms. Magazine in 1972, with none other than Wonder Woman on the cover. ‘Retro’ Wonder Woman imagery continues to adorn all manner of merchandise today, and this iconic cartoon look is as visually appealing as any Disney Princess. There is a LOT of merchandise out there if you hunt for it, but be warned – it’s far easier to get hold of a Wonder Woman t-shirt for a woman than a little girl. In addition to Wonder Woman, also be on the lookout for Batgirl and Supergirl gear. DC licensees are much better than Marvel in creating merchandise with their female heroes. It’s time to “Woman Up” Marvel.

3. The Wizard of Oz

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3yo daughter in her Dorothy outfit

While Frank L. Baum’s original book has been eclipsed by the colourful 1939 movie, both feature the engaging Dorothy Gale and her adventures in Oz with her three male sidekicks. While the film is wonderful, Dorothy is certainly more proactive and determined in the book, for instance not relying on her male friends to rescue her from the Wicked Witch but rescuing them instead. However she is an appealing character in both, with an iconic eye catching look that makes a nice change from glittery pastel dresses – and because the book has been out of copyright for a long time there are lots of affordable merchandise out there, ranging from dress up outfits to apps. Perhaps start with one of the books adapted for first readers, or of course there’s the wonderful film – the technicolour reveal of merry old land of Oz still remains one of the great moments of Hollywood magic, that will leave your little one on awe.

4. Katie Morag

Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted
From ‘Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted’ by Mairi Hedderwick, published by Red Fox Picture Books

Set on the fictional Isle of Struay, off the west coast of Scotland, this series of books (and now a TV series) feature the independently minded little girl Katie Morag. Wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated by Mairi Hedderwick, the stories see our young red-headed hero in her trademark white jumper, green tartan skirt, and wellies, on her everyday adventures involving her family and fellow islanders. The spirited Katie is a great role model for little girls – our 3yo daughter has been inspired by this Scottish girl to be more independent herself. The books offer lots of other great female role models too, from her mother who runs the Post Office while also breastfeeding her new baby, to ‘Grannie Island’, Katie’s no-nonsense dungaree wearing, tractor driving grandmother. I really enjoy both reading these to my daughter and watching the TV show with her.

5. Star Wars

LEGO, Lego star wars, Princess Leia, We Want Leia, Amidala, Padme,
From ‘LEGOS Gir Problem’ published on ‘From Bricks To Bothans’

The galaxy far, far away is just as much a place for girls as boys – it just hasn’t been marketed that way since a long time ago. Top of the list of great female characters (showing my aged bias) is Leia, who is a great Disney Princess alternative. A royal in name only, she is a rebel fighter, political leader, and social activist. She is a central character in the Star Wars universe and there is a ton of merchandise out there – HOWEVER, there isn’t much new stuff at all. Despite Disney buying Star Wars, and churning out all kinds of new Star Wars goodies, don’t go to a Disney Store expecting to find anything with Leia on it, and there isn’t anything. If that bothers you, please read more here, and complain to them here about that. For other more recent characters, check out Padme/Amidala from the prequels and The Clone Wars cartoon, Ahsoka Tano also from the Clone Wars, or Sabine & Hera from the new Star Wars Rebels animated TV series. These are great empowered women for any child to look up to, and a terrific way into Star Wars and the wider area of sci-fi for little girls. Geek culture is synonymous with the STEM worlds of our children’s future, so if we don’t want to lose vast swathes of the next generation of world builders – because they’re girls who think this is boys stuff – then get them some Star Wars toys. You may even have some in your parents attic. :)

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What do you think about this list of alternatives to Disney Princesses?

What about the princesses themselves? Are they harmful or harmless?  I’d love to read about any additions you have to this (short!) list, or why you think Disney Princesses are fine. Please comment below, join the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

“Girls Rule!” (Until They Grow Up)

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“Girls Rule!” t-shirt, featuring Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl. (Photo courtesy of @UKToyCollector)

Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl all on the same kids t-shirt. As a geek dad it’s the kind of item I’m always on the lookout for. I don’t even mind (too much) that it’s pink. What’s troubling is the slogan, “Girls Rule!”. Because “Girls” don’t rule at all.

It’s a phrase synonymous with “Girl Power”, which probably has its origins in the Riot Grrrl feminist punk movement of the 90’s. While the progressive message of “Grrrl Power” was diluted when transformed into the safe and snappy commercial slogan “Girl Power” for 90’s pop phenomenon the Spice Girls, at least that version introduced many children to the notion of girl empowerment. However, the band also popularised the far more problematic “Girls Rule!”.

The girls who were fans of the band in the 90’s are now women in their twenties and thirties. What kind of world have they grown up in? Is it one where “Girls Rule”? The gender pay gap remains entrenched, and in the UK is even widening. Only 30% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in the UK are women, and just 17% of all professors in STEM are female. Both houses of UK parliament have only 23% women.

Globally, while there are high profile women in leadership roles at a corporate level, boards and executive committees remain 83%-96% male. The recent IMF report Fair Play: More Equal Laws Boost Female Labor Force Participation found that 90% of countries have at least one important gender based legal restriction. The UNDP states that “Gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development.

A slogan like “Girls Rule” seems little more than a lie in this context. It implies that women leaders are respected, listened to, and rewarded for their hard work, talent, and intelligence – when that is clearly not the case. Perhaps the slogan “Girls Rule!” was created as a way of hiding the sad reality of gender inequality.

The empowering messages we convey to our children are important, but they can easily backfire. As American comedian Sarah Silverman wryly observed, “Don’t tell girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. Because it would have never occurred to them that they couldn’t.”

This week new research on marketing to girls, found that when “…girls hit the age of 13 they start to feel less confident and more worried about the world around them.” The reasons are unclear, but this would also be the time they experience the dawning revelation that the reality of being a woman, on the wrong side of the gender bias divide, isn’t quite how they imagined it would be when they were little girls.

Advertisers obviously know the power of a good slogan, and a source for a new girl empowerment one has come from an unlikely place. Always (makers of ‘feminine hygiene products’) found through their market research the same issue of girls suffering a significant drop in self-confidence around the time they hit puberty.

The company tried to address these feelings for an ad campaign, and a new slogan entered the girl empowerment lexicon – #LikeAGirl. They deftly took the former playground insult, and transformed it into plaudit. When you run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl – you are not doing it badly, you’re doing it incredibly. At least that’s the shift in meaning hoped for.

The fantasy of “Girls Rule!” seems tepid next to the optimistic reality of doing amazing things ‘like a girl’.

All I need now is to get THAT on a kid’s female superhero t-shirt.

Fly Like a Girl, #likeagirl, LikeAGirl, girl empowerment, girl power, supergirl, girl with cape, female superhero, superheroine,

I’m not going to pretend to my daughter that she’s growing up in a world where “Girls Rule”. She will have many challenges to face in life, and lying to her about them won’t help her deal with them.

But I’m buying Asda’s “Girls Rule!” t-shirt for her. Three awesome female superheroes, drawn in the classic retro style, on a kid’s sized top in the UK? Sold. I also want Asda to know that female superheroes sell too.

And my daughter can’t read. Yet.

 

What do you think about the slogan “Girls Rule”? Helpful, harmful or neither? Please discuss by commenting below, joining the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

The Dad Network

Do We Need to Stop Talking About Working Mothers?

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‘Working Mom’ by Ran Zwigenberg. Photo used under CC license

Whenever there’s coverage of mothers in the workplace, it’s never long before the topic of how they cope with the competing needs of their children and their job comes up. What’s wrong with this? It’s a narrative that’s only ever applied to working mothers, and rarely – if ever – working fathers.

On the BBC series Inside the House of Commons this week, one of the featured MPs was a busy mum who juggles the demands of her job with the needs of her family. As the listings described the scenario: “Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott… seeks to balance new parenthood with politics.”

I am not denying Ms. Willott’s very real struggle between being a parent and an MP (and Deputy Chief Whip), but yet again, the search for this ‘balance’ was presented as an issue only for the working mother. While we did see the involvement of her partner, where was the male MP also struggling in the same way, having family dinners in his parliament office, dropping off his children at the House of Commons nursery, or leaving his crying child with an aide so he can dash off to the house for an important vote? Maybe he doesn’t exist. Maybe society’s expectations of working mothers are different from those of working fathers.

This was yet another example that feeds into the myth that when a mother is working, childcare is her responsibility. That the need for flexibility is the preserve of the working mother, not the father. That mothers struggle to maintain a work/life balance in a way that fathers don’t.

This week there was a report about the rising costs of childcare in the UK, which is indeed a big problem for parents. Yet I kept reading how this was an issue for working mothers or mothers returning to the workplace, never about fathers.

My wife has a full time job, and I freelance as well as being home with our daughter. In any discussions I enter into about work, the cost of childcare up at the top of the list when determining the feasibility of me taking on the job. The issues around flexible hours and an understanding that I may have to be absent when my child is sick are also important for my employer to know, because I am the primary caregiver to our daughter.

Why We Need to Stop Talking About Working Mothers

I don’t understand why are we always framing any discussion about childcare, flexible working, balancing the demands of home and work, with ‘Working Mothers’. These issues are not exclusive to mothers – they are parenting issues.

As a father, I find it depressing that people think dads don’t care this much about their children, that we too don’t lament the lost hours we could be spending with them when working. But as a parent of a daughter, I find the sexism of this prevailing attitude towards women in the workplace far more depressing.

It’s an attitude that is especially toxic when there are employers that would prefer not hire a mother, because they think that it’ll be too much hassle. It’s an attitude that fathers rarely encounter.

I am not seeking to diminish the emotional stress and logistical hassle of being a working mother. Despite not being a mother, I understand it completely.

I just think we need to stop talking about working mothers, and start talking about working parents instead. These are issues that affect us all and problems for us all to deal with.

What do you think about the way working mothers are perceived? Is being a working mother different than being a working father? Please get involved by commenting below, joining the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

What’s the opposite of a Troll? I reckon it’s an Emily…

IMG_0568 The ways in which strangers comment and connect online usually gets a bad rap. Perhaps because it’s so easy to take on another identity – or remain anonymous – in order to be vile to another person. A ‘troll’ used to be a goat eating creature that lived under a bridge in the minds of children. Sadly that monster has been usurped by an all too human counterpart. But what of the wonderful instances of selfless acts of generosity and human kindness that also occur online? Well, here’s one for you.

I recently blogged about the Disney Store’s lack of Princess Leia products, and their absense of interest making any. As the dad of a Star Wars loving daughter, I hoped for some meaningful response from Disney, and there was a muted assurance that they will produce Leia merchandise in the future.

But the post also elicited this response from a lady called Emily:

“I don’t know if it would interest you, but I have a Leia doll and several of the Episode 1 Amidala dolls (all still in boxes because that’s how I was). It’s not the iconic Leia w/ buns, but they’re just sitting in storage and I’d be happy to dust them off and send them to you to share with your daughter. I may have some action figures but I think I gave those away already.”

Well yes, of course I was interested, so I followed up with Emily via email. The back and forth conversation basically went like this.

Me: I’m certainly interested, but how much do you want for them? Emily:   Oh I don’t need anything in return. I know how it was growing up a girl in a Star Wars world, so I’ll gladly share what I have

Wow, that’s really generous. But hang on, there’s a problem – it’s not like I can just pop round and pick them up. We don’t live very near each other. In fact, we’re very far from each other. Emily lives in the US and we live in the UK. She replied:

Emily: I have no problem sending them across the ocean – they’re just collecting dust in storage right now and I’m happy to send them off to a better home.

Once again, wow.

Special international delivery

swtoysTrue to her word, some days later, we had a large package arrive in the post from America, which contained three boxed 12″ Queen Amidala dolls, a boxed 12″ Princess Leia doll, and a bonus item of a large Queen Amidala towel. It also came with the following handwritten note from Emily:

Simon, I hope your daughter enjoys these dolls. I’m happy to share my love of Star Wars with your daughter and your family. Hopefully these will help fill the gap until some new official merchandise surfaces. I only have one Leia doll, but Amidala/Padmé was marketed a fair bit, with her many dresses and hairstyles. Like many overzealous fans, I snapped up what I could, but already being in high school, I never played with them – just had them on a shelf in my Star Wars covered room until another interest came along and they got put into storage for 10 or so years. Now they can leave their boxes for some proper playtime. Enjoy! And may the force be with you, always! Sincerely, Emily

Emily then signed off with these delightful Princess Leia illustrations. Emily's Leia doodles So it was with great relish – and Emily’s permission – that my daughter and I finally liberated these toys from the packaging they had been in for the best part of the past 15 years. It would be a sight to horrify many a Star Wars collector, but delight anyone who gains any happiness from the pure joy of a child. My daugher loves these dolls. She is already swapping shoes and outfits between them. Ceremonial Leia looks pretty good wearing Padme’s large brown boots. ‘Royal Elegance Queen Amidala’s red shoes are a popular interchangeable item as well. There’s also some toddler hairstyling and tea parties happening.

“You never forget kids like Emily”

In 1999, the year that The Phantom Menace was out and Emily purchased all these dolls, another eagerly anticipated movie was released. Eerily, it features a young lady called Emily who parted company with her childhood playthings. In Toy Story 2 we are introduced to Jessie, a once beloved doll who has been abandoned at a roadside when her ‘Emily’ outgrew her. In reality, perfectly normal behaviour, but in the story it was a source of great sadness and emotional trauma for Jessie, who mournfully states: “You never forget kids like Emily…but they forget you.” Well, this real life Emily didn’t forget about her toys. They may not have been played with, but they were bought out of love (of Star Wars), and passed on for the same reason. According to Buzz Lightyear “(a toy’s) life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid”. Well thanks to their Emily these toys will be well loved by our kid. They are out of their boxes and never going back in! The Emilys of the real world should be celebrated. She reached out to a father and daughter she has never met, with whom she had only had the briefest of online interaction with, and made the great effort to not just simply give us these toys she purchased, but to ship them across the world to us at her expense.

It also reminded me of the end of Toy Story 3, when…***SPOILERS*** …Andy hands over his childhood toys to the little girl family friend.

IMG_1855That brought a tear to my eye, and I have to admit, this did too.

So thank you Emily. As well as giving us these awesome dolls, you have also given me renewed optimism about the world I am raising my daughter in. And Disney take note. There IS a girls market for Star Wars, and there always has been. (Oh, while I immensely appreciate Emily’s generosity in giving these dolls to my daughter, at my insistence we have reimbursed Emily for the shipping. She also has a big credit in the favour bank)

Has the New Big Screen Batgirl Been Revealed?

We knew Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching FireInherent Vice, Contact) was cast in the forthcoming Batman V Superman movie, and it was assumed that she was most likely being set up as a female Robin, as depicted in The Dark Knight Returns comic.

However, Latino Review reports that this may not be the case – that she may in fact be playing Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. The character was previously seen onscreen in the critically mauled Batman and Robin, played by Alicia Silverstone.

What do you think? Would she make a good onscreen Batgirl?

Marvel UK’s 1978 Star Wars Weekly Comic

A Cover Gallery of a Slightly Different Galaxy Far, Far Away

While recently rifling through the boxes of stuff I still have cluttering up my parents house, I found one containing my old Star Wars Weekly comics.

For many a young Star Wars fan in 1970’s Britain this was their first exposure to the galaxy far, far away.

While the movie was released in London at the tail end of 1977, over half a year after it debuted in the US, it took many months to reach the rest of the country outside the capital. The Marvel Comics adaptation first appeared on UK shores in the shape of a reprinted US Treasury Edition, but more widely in February 1978 with Marvel UK’s immensely popular Star Wars Weekly.

The 6 issue monthly US run was divided and published across 12 black & white weekly UK issues – with various age-innapropriate back up stories making up the rest of the comic.

While Star Wars Weekly shared a few covers with its monthly US cousin, the vast majority were different – and at times bear little resemblance in terms of look, plot, or character to the actual movie. What they do have in spades is bombast and melodrama.

This was the way I understood Star Wars until I was actually taken to see it (in April 1978, a year after it’s US release). Seeing these covers reawakened evocative memories of those months before I saw the movie, of what I thought was happening in the story, rather than what actually did.

So here they are – to experience for the first time or to rekindle childhood memories – the first twelve Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly covers.

Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 1
The same cover as the US Marvel issue 1. Quite how Luke was on course to destroy the galaxy remains to be seen. The promise of the cut-out X-Wing far exceeded the reality.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 2
I love the colours of this cover, and the scene depicted is a striking one that really made me want to see the movie. The cut-out Tie Fighter was even less exciting in when assembled than the X-Wing.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 3
I love the fact that this cover (a US one) shows Luke taking charge in the cantina fracas – when of course we know he was pushed around while Ob-Wan dealt with it.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 4
Enter Han Solo, but with Luke once again shown taking charge and telling everyone what to do. As a kid, I always thought the faces looked more like they originated from Asia.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 5
I can only assume this cover has some kind of Close Encounters of the Third Kind idea going on with the 3 phases concept. And of course we didn’t see Luke – or anyone – battle the Death Star yet. Han looks far more scared than his onscreen space pirate persona was.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 6
Our first look at Princess Leia on this (badly) reprinted US cover, who looked more ‘exotic’ to me than the photos I had previously seen. I was also struck with how completely unlike the real actors Han and Luke had also been drawn here. Having said all that, it was a pretty exciting looking cover.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 7
I loved this cover. Great colours, dynamic action – and pretty fair to the scene in the movie too.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 8
I always thought this was a rather mundane cover given the part of the story that’s being depicted.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 9
Again a fairly functional cover, but I like the panel approach.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 10
A wonderfully melodramatic scene of what was one of the calmest parts of the story – going to the rebel base. I think by this time I had seen the movie, and it was my first realisation that you shouldn’t judge a (comic) book by it’s cover. It’s interesting that the base is referred to as “The Hidden Fortress” – the name of the Kurosawa movie that was cited by George Lucas as a key inspiration on Star Wars.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 11
A rather loose interpretation of Luke’s part in attacking the Death Star (or “Death-Station”). I remember I kind of wished this scene had happened, as it looks like Luke’s X-Wing is about to fly into the same room as Vader, who is then going to fight it off with his lightsaber.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 12
This cover made me realise what the film was missing – a lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader. As it is, this is a nice rendition of the conflict in both spirit and (filmic) reality – although the way Luke is holding his lightsaber has always annoyed me.

Checking out these covers was quite a blast down memory lane. One thing I do remember is that I was often more excited than my friends about the latest issue coming out – for instance I have a vivid memory of taking issue 5 out on the playground to read (in the rain) because I couldn’t wait until later, while my friends just wanted to run around. Even then it seemed I was a bigger Star Wars fanboy than my peers.

Star Wars is now back with Marvel Comics (as they are both owned by Disney), and a new generation of Star Wars fan is going to grow up with their own movies – starting with The Force Awakens – and hopefully a Marvel Comics adaptation too.

As we wait for Episode VII to be revealed to the world, I can’t help but wonder if my daughter will have her own memories of Star Wars comic covers, as vivid as those I have for these British ones.

Star Wars Weekly Cover Gallery

First Look at Wonder Woman in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

While it’s pretty clear that Star Wars – The Force Awakens was the big winner at Comic-Con 2015, the Princess Leia reveal overshadowed another iconic female character who’s returning to our screens soon.

A new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gave us our first look at the brand new big screen Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) in action.

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot. comic-con 2015, female superhero

You can also check out the full trailer here:

I showed these images of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman to my daughter (who has numerous items of Wonder Woman merchandise) and she had no idea who this was. However, she recognised Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman instantly.

I think it’s the colours. When I showed her this image, she recognised it straight away.

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot

What do you think of this first look at Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Does she look like Wonder Woman to you?

First Look – Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, this just dropped – the Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Comic-Con 2015 Reel.

If you’re a Star Wars fan I dare you to watch this and not have a smile on your face.

But the best part is it gives us our first look at Princess Leia since Return of the Jedi over 30 years ago.

What do you think?