If we’ve learned anything as a culture in the last fifty years, it is that representation matters. When young girls only see examples of success for females as being nurses and teachers then it limits how they see themselves and stunts the growth of their dreams. That’s why we see so many fabulous examples of ‘girl power’ in the media now. And, thanks to one determined six-year-old girl in Arkansas, we can add one more example of gender equality in representation; the military.
Jeff Imel, the president of BMC Toys in Scranton, Pennsylvania, received a handwritten from letter from six-year-old Vivian Lord in which she asked, “why do you not make girl army men too?” Her letter went viral and once it made its way to Imel’s desk, it prompted the best response; a new female army figurine.
Vivian had won a set of the iconic green army toy soldiers at a fair but she quickly noticed that there were all men. Where were the girls?
Vivian’s mum told Good Morning America that Vivian wanted her to do a Google search to find some female toy soldiers. If they were out there, Vivian wanted them. “We could only find some pink ones and she quickly pointed out those were not women but just men in pink and Army men don’t wear pink,” Lord said.
The new Plastic Army Women were debuted at the 2019 Chicago Toy Soldier Show. Imel told Good Morning America that his company plans to release Green Army Women in five different poses by Christmas 2020, making this toy just one more awesome ways girls are represented.
Imel explained the process of creating new toys in an interview with NPR. After the cost of hiring a sculptor, buying materials, and having the toys made then shipped, one could buy a “modest new car”. And although cost was a concern, a bigger lesson on representation was not lost on Imel.
“Every kid wants to be the hero of their story,” he told NPR. “It shouldn’t be up to us to decide who the hero is. Girls should be able to connect to the toys just as much as boys do.”
Well done, Vivian and bravo to Imel and BMC Toys. We can’t wait to see the new female toy soldiers next year.