I figured when David blogged about it that the “girly products” from Marvel were targeted at preteen girls, not actual adults, and wrote it off.
But Karen at Girls Read Comics has a less charitable take on the subject, and I must say that after reading the copy she’s posted, I agree with her. “Females”?
The consumer products team at Marvel is thinking big when it comes to females.
That’s the first line. Who writes this stuff? (That is a question rhetorical: the WWD byline says someone called Julee Kaplan, who I will charitably pretend is really sad about the damage done to her perfectly articulate article by some confused intern.)
Seriously? Um, we’re really not an alien species, and I know that despite annoying perennial stereotypes of men into comics, all men don’t think that we are. So how does something this tone-deaf make it to the light of day?
She quotes Marvel’s president of consumer products:
“Since our core customer has always been guys, we need to be very careful when we introduce female product so that we don’t alienate our core,” said Paul Gitter, president of consumer products, North America, for Marvel Entertainment Inc. “What we have found through testing is that we haven’t alienated them, which gives us the OK to move forward with female product.”
I know, right, because we can’t possibly include women without causing guys to FREAK OUT! Because life is one big Little Rascals flick with a big No Girls Allowed sign on the door. Men clearly can’t deal with a company deciding to include women without being massively alienated, right? You guys are all gonna stop reading Northlanders because I like it too, right?
I’m aware that, broadly speaking, products marketed to be appealing to men can also be appealing to women, but the reverse is much trickier to pull off – partly because of centuries of gender-specific marketing. Nevertheless, you’d think Marvel’s president of consumer products would have the grace and marketing nous to realize how ugly this sounds, and refrain from baldly stating so.
You don’t have to be a marketing expert (although the one I know agrees with me) to notice it’s pretty dumb to announce you’ve got big plans for selling to women in terms that are so insulting to women.
I can’t picture myself buying a heart-shaped necklace with pictures of comic characters (though I do love the naughty implications of the Spider-Man and Green Goblin broken heart), and so still cling to my assumption that the products are targeted at younger buyers than Karen and I. Perhaps “females” was used to try to include both “women” and “girls,” rather than to be so creepily alienating. Or maybe it was a sly nod to Garth Ennis’s character from The Boys, herself a sly poke at the idea that there need only be one token “female” in every comic?
Still, the stereotypes about comic fans, male and female, are irritating enough. Do we really need to keep perpetuating them?