This is Not a Toy: Our Action Figures, Our Selves

Screamin' Janine action figure

Screamin’ Janine action figure

by Jonathan Alexandratos 

With the recent buzz around the Django Unchained action figures, we can see the power of a seemingly benign hunk of molded plastic to stir significant social debate. The purpose of this post, however, is not to explore questions of race in action figures, as the Django debate does, but to look at gender issues.

Here, via three examples, I argue that the female form is dangerously mis- or underrepresented in action figure lines geared toward the Ages 3-and-Up male demographic. This threat manifests in the fact that female bodies are being mass-produced to fit certain unfair social conventions, and is magnified by the fact that, for many young consumers of these figures, said artificial women are the first they will touch beyond the family members around them.

This argument is certainly made with full awareness of the fact that action figure manufacturers are tied, to some extent, to their source material; however, I don’t think this excuses them when they skew certain lines not just masculine but macho. It’s also not reason enough to discredit discussion of the social relevance of action figures.

Screamin’ Janine


In 1986, Filmation created an animated kids’ TV series based on the Ghostbusters franchise. In 1989, Kenner produced an action figure of the series’ strongest female character, Janine. At the start of the series, Janine was hardly ever frightened by the mysterious goings-on that the Ghostbusters tracked. However, as the series went on, executives scaled back Janine to make her “softer,” thinking that her tough image was a bad role model for girls.

They even went so far as to round the cat eye rims of her glasses, thinking the former looked too harsh. The action figure, then, exemplified this change, rather than the earlier,stronger Janine. On top of this, Janinehad a feature where, if one wound her torso up and pushed a button on her lower back, her lower half (assuming one was grasping the top half) would spin rapidly, causing her cloth skirt to fly up. None of the male figures had any sort of fabric clothing, and certainly none of them were capable of a feature so sexually derogatory.

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Posted on by Jonathan Alexandratos in Feminism 1 Comment

The Mythical Dearth of Marriageable Men

by Jasmine Peterson

You know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of being told that, because I’m a feminist, I am the reason that men are oppressed, women are lonely, men won’t marry women, or vice versa, and that the end of men is nigh.

No! Feminism and feminists have not caused some catastrophic imbalance in the dating universe. We are not the reason that people marry later in life, or not at all (or, if we are, it’s only in that people have been afforded greater choice in whether or not they DO marry, when they do it, and why they do it). In fact, what feminism has done is provide both men and women with options – you can marry, if you so choose, not out of economic necessity, not out of some patriarchal ownership of your lady love, but because you genuinely want to.

There is nothing about Suzanne Venker’s piece “The War on Men” that is not highly offensive – to women, to men, to feminists, to anybody or anything that is a living, breathing organism.

Maya over at Feministing does a great job of highlighting ten of the major ways in which Venker’s article is entirely ridiculous. For example, it’s discriminatory (e.g., ignoring the existence of anyone who is not cisgender and heterosexual), ignores more recent and accurate data on trends in marriage, and makes sweeping generalizations about men and women.

Let’s just address some of the major flaws in Venker’s argument:

 “Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.”

Except that that’s not true. That’s a dated, played out stereotype that taps into discourses of a woman needing to bag a man before she’s old and unmarriageable and the myth of the emotionally distal male. It plays upon women’s fears of ending up alone, and reinforces that perhaps there’s something fundamentally wrong with those women who aren’t or don’t want to get married. Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Feminism 5 Comments