Disney removes gender from branding thanks to eight-year-old girl

4 Jun 2015

In what has to be the feel-good story of the day, The Guardian has reported that an eight-year-old girl has challenged the gender marketing of multimedia behemoth Disney… and won!

Izzy Cornthwaite, an avid Star Wars fan, wanted nothing more for her birthday than a Darth Vader costume and a lightsaber.

Browsing the UK Disney Store’s website, however, she was devastated to discover that the Darth Vader suit was listed as a ‘boys’ costume’, leaving her thinking that meant she could never fulfil her Star Wars dreams.

But, after a conversation about gender stereotypes with her mother, Rebecca, Izzy decided to write a letter to Disney, telling them how upset she was by how they labelled their products.

And she got a response!

In the reply, a Disney spokesperson told Izzy that “the description for this costume has now been amended, as we understand that all our little Jedis enjoy Star Wars”.

The good news doesn’t stop there.

When Izzy and Rebecca went to check out the new and improved Darth Vader billing, they noticed that Disney had stripped the site – everything from costumes to toys – of all gendered tags, replacing them with the simple, ‘for kids’.

Wow, go Izzy!

Fighting stereotypes

But Izzy isn’t the only kid who has been forcing mega companies to reconsider their gendered approach to marketing.

The Guardian’s report references two recent stories. In one, eight-year-old Sophie Trow successfully convinced Clarks to create a unisex line of children’s shoes, because the ones covered in dinosaurs were marketed ‘for boys’.

In the other, another eight-year-old (what is it about kids that age?), Els, targeted publisher Scholastic to complain about the company labelling a book about pirates ‘for boys’. Scholastic has since removed gendered labelling from its website.

Here on Siliconrepublic.com, we’ve also covered some great stories about kids (of all ages) who want things to change.

Back in March, we reported on 12-year-old Madeline Messer, who had been published in The Washington Post decrying the fact that video games often require players to pay exorbitant prices to play as female characters.

More recently, we covered the Twitter-trending hashtag #girlswithtoys, depicting female leaders of STEM – and some young prodigies – responding to the assertion that astronomy was purely a boys’ game.

Each of these people was trying to make a difference to gender perception – and it’s wonderful to see them starting so young.

Here’s to you, future gender equality activists!

Inspirefest 2015 is Silicon Republic’s international event running 18-20 June in Dublin that connects sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.

Darth Vader costume image, via nevenm/Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic