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October 7, 2015 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find female representation in the land of traditional boys' toys.

We are moving closer to family and my awesome 2-year-old daughter is about to be plunged headlong into car/dinosaur/action figure land by her slightly older boy cousins. While I have no problem with her playing with traditionally boy-centric toys I'm concerned about the lack of female representation in their world.

For example, I was looking at Schleich and Papo figurines (she loves the little animals) and your options for female humans are literally princess, fairy princess, bride or sexy pirate.

Googling "female action figures" finds either sexed-up figurines for adults or patronizing 'girl-power' stuff.

Where are the female toys boys and girls actually want to play with?

To clarify: I'm not looking for pink, glittery versions of boys' toys, nor am I looking for reassurance that playing with trucks isn't going to turn her into a lesbian. I'm looking for toys that suggest that women and girls are welcome in the world of trains, dragons, and laser guns.
posted by arrmatie to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Playmobil has decent female (and gender-ambiguous-can-be-female) representation, and castles, and animals, and dragons. Playmobil women are among the rare female-coded toys my son will engage with as peers to the male-coded toys.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Lego is getting better at having mixed-gender figures in its Duplo sets now (not counting the licenced super-hero/Disney princess sets), e.g. fire station, forest park.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2015

I can't vouch for any of the recent sets, but the original Jurassic Park action figures with Ellie Sattler, PhD paleobotanist puts-up-with-no-shit-from-the-men badass, are great. They were one of my favorite toy sets growing up. (And hey, all the dinosaurs are female! T-Rex is a girl! The velociraptors are all girls!) I wouldn't worry about the dinosaurs side of this so much.

I agree with tchemgrrl that Playmobil are great, but they might not be a great fit for your two year old right now with their tiny parts.

I really liked Sylvanian Families when I was littler. They're tiny animal families in cute prairie clothes. Pretty unobjectionable stuff.
posted by phunniemee at 7:17 AM on October 7, 2015

I entertain myself by putting "boy" hair on "girl" Lego minifigs, (yes! Girls with short hair! It's amazing how things like lips and eyelashes signal "girl" even on weird yellow blobs) and scandalize my daughters. (No, mama, she needs to have long hair!) Bonus, when you put the long hair on a neutral minifig, it also becomes a girl minifig. So then you get even more girl minifigs. But like they said, 2 is too little for legos.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:30 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: phunniemee: Thanks for reminding me about Ellie Sattler! I'd love more specific examples of positively portrayed women who are available as toys.
Sylvanian Families/Calico Critters are great but don't strike me as things the boys are likely to pick up and integrate into their Iron Man vs. dinosaurs games.
posted by arrmatie at 7:32 AM on October 7, 2015

Playmobil 123 is the toddler Playmobil line, and has plenty of sets that come with female characters (who are not obnoxiously, stereotypically female).

If the kids like Thomas the Tank Engine (I hate the TV show but my kids just like the trains with faces) you can thrown an Emily in there. There are a couple more female engines too.

And train yourself to refer to her stuffed toys and little Schleich animals as female. It's surprisingly ingrained (in me, anyway) to refer to them all as 'he'.

Oh, and I feel like you should be able to do something with Mr(s) Potato Head if you have both-gendered parts. Although the female parts might be obnoxiously over-gendered, so that would need a bit of investigation.
posted by telepanda at 7:38 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

The dinosaur train little figures have good female dinosaur representation. My 3yo was *obsessed* with them (and now she's 7, still plays with them sometimes).
posted by gaspode at 7:46 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Many of the characters from "dinosaur train" are female and that show does a good job of nuanced gender representation. The toys are decent and its content is perfect for a 2 year old. Also gender is only signaled through eyelashes and voice acting, so many terrible anthropomorphic visual gender tropes are avoided.
posted by French Fry at 7:48 AM on October 7, 2015

The Fisher Price Little People line has some Wonder Woman and Batgirl figures if superheroes are a possibility.
posted by almostmanda at 7:55 AM on October 7, 2015

At two she's a bit young for this, but there's no one to show girls they're welcome in the world of dragons and so on quite like Hermione Granger. There are all kinds of Hermione toys in the world; something will probably stand up to boy cousin-land...
posted by bibliotropic at 7:56 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I googled "female action figures" and my god, you're right, there is a lot of utter shit out there. But I suggest you browse through the Dolls & Action Figures section at A Mighty Girl. There's actually some pretty cool stuff in there. She's a little young for some of it now, but for example I love this scuba diver. Later on, Eowyn will fit nicely into the war games. If they're into Transformers, you could throw this in. Depending on how old the kids are, Doc McStuffins may be welcome at playtime. Ooh, and here's a Schleich veterinarian.

As they get a bit older, maybe you can do something with books? My son and I are currently reading the original American Girls books (specifically Addy & the Civil War) because he got interested in the Civil War and I thought that would be a good series for him. Over time he's enjoyed Olivia and Madeline in picture books, The Princess in Black and The Night Fairy in chapter books, and now American Girls.
posted by telepanda at 7:58 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: How have I not heard of A Mighty Girl! This is perfect... and out of stock, indefinitely.
posted by arrmatie at 8:09 AM on October 7, 2015

I don't know if it's too "fairy princess" but the LEGO Elves line of Lego is AWESOME. In a few years, when she's old enough to play with LEGO, it would integrate well into the castle line. Sure, the people (who are mostly female) look different. But they're elves, sooo . . . !
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:23 AM on October 7, 2015

Yeah, it's a bummer that that warrior's discontinued, but this Pirate Girl is pretty cool and doesn't suffer from the Sexy that some of the other figures do. This lady could take on a knight.
posted by telepanda at 8:28 AM on October 7, 2015

When she is a little bit older maybe check out Lottie, which includes some female scientist types along with a pirate queen that is kid like, not oversexed (Fossil Hunter Lottie is popular with paleontologists).
posted by gudrun at 8:59 AM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had Princess Leia and Padme action figures. Padme even had her own blaster! Rey action figures are a little weird looking, but still exist. Anyways, it was great to have female action figures for Star Wars extravaganzas!
posted by ChuraChura at 10:02 AM on October 7, 2015

Best answer: Papo figures, hand-picked for women who are clearly doing awesome things rather than standing around:
Lady Marianne Fully clothed, sword.
Pirate Woman Fully clothed, sword. You'll have to make the call on the clothes: board shorts, off-the-shoulder peasant blouse, corset-y vest-y thing, no cleavage. IMO they more than pass.
Pirate Girl Functional clothing, pistola, sword.
Captain's Daughter w/ Sword Cool, non-objectifying (IMO) dress. Sword, obviously.
Treasure Chest Princess (also comes in blue) Yes it says "princess", but what I see is an "Age of Sail" rogue using wits rather than weapons to make off with a junk-ton of doubloons. YMMV.
Huntress Cool, non-objectifying dress, drawn bow.
Princess of Darkness Baller black dress, sword. When I saw this figure I immediately said "YES." in my head. I may actually order it for myself.

Schleich figures, same criteria:
Nayara Cool, non-objectifying (fairy) dress. Wields a staff = throws fireballs, doesn't mess around.
Harley Quinn Could only find in a bundle with Batman. Dr. Quinzel isn't really my bag (I mean, she could be, it's just that no one is willing to write her properly) but some people are really into her, and some of those people consider themselves feminists, so here you go.
posted by Poppa Bear at 11:06 AM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My kids (4 year old boy and 7 year old girl) are deep in the throes of an obsession with Fisher-Price Imaginext (and other branded, similarly-sized toys like {Robot/Marvel/Star Wars} Heroes). The DC female characters (we have 2 Wonder Women, a Catwoman, and a Harley Quinn) are a bit differently proportioned but not at all "sexy" and still proportioned to fit all of the same vehicles and use the same stuff as the Batmans and the Darth Vaders.

For Lego, alongside the obviously female-focused lines like Friends and Fairies, they've been quietly making sure that their City line has pretty solid female representation. There's female firefighters and divers and policewomen, etc.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:29 AM on October 7, 2015

Oh, also, Safari has a People at Work series with Jenny the Veterinarian, various female zookeepers, Becky the Aquarist, Rancher Sue, Kate the Pilot, Rosey the Mail Carrier.

I can't find a section on their website that lists all these out, but they're all on Amazon.

I'm learning so much today :)
posted by telepanda at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2015

Response by poster: Apparently part of my problem was looking at the Papo website instead of retailers. Just look at this chick! Thanks so much, everyone. Now I have to pick out a few token boys to go with my army of bad bitches.
posted by arrmatie at 12:47 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not all my suggestions are people but they are still pretty excellent.

My kids love the octonauts - they are all animals and the girls animals are not less equal than the boys (one wears a barrette and is the photographer and the other is the main engineer seems to eating a carrot most episodes). The focus is that they are a team of scientists that each have individual unique skills and they need each other to go on these adventures.

Also, my little pony - friendship is magic is awesome and almost all girls! Yes, Rarity loves jewels and she loves clothes and hair and spas but she is also known for her generosity. And it is ok to love to look beautiful and love clothes, it is equal to the other ponies' obsessions - like flying fast, or animals, or books, or parties, or apples/hardwork.

and we just started watching Steven Universe. That has 3 kick butt ladies (well they are actually projections from gems) and a 1/2 gem 1/2 human boy named Steven Universe. Toys forthcoming

And let me recommend Zita the Spacegirl. No toys unless books/comics are toys!
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 8:22 PM on October 7, 2015

Oh yeah, Octonauts! My son (3.5) has loved them for about a year. The two female characters are the techies - one does all the IT stuff and drives a giant underwater mech suit, the other is the mechanic and fixes/invents submersibles and flies a helicopter.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:10 AM on October 8, 2015

For pre-school toys, the incredibly popular Paw Patrol line has two girl characters, and Everest would fit the bill of a non-glittery girls character.
posted by drezdn at 8:50 AM on October 10, 2015

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