Conversation overheard in toy store (1984):
Girl: “Mom, can I have this Darth Vader toy”
Mom: “No honey. That is for boys. Here, what about this Barbie doll? She’s pretty. And you can put her in any outfit you want to.”
Girl: (pouting) “I want Darth Vader”
Mom: “You are not going to play with boy’s toys. You are a girl.”
This was an actual conversation between my mother and I way back when. I was not yet 9 years old and I loved Star Wars. She let me collect trading cards (Star Wars, Baseball). She even let me have Tonka Trucks and Hot Wheels but that Darth Vader doll was the line. This was my first taste of the sex divide in toys.
One of my good friends gave me 2 GI Joe action figures for my birthday that year. I was so excited to finally have a “boy toy.” In my room I would pretend that Barbie and Ken were drug dealers and GI Joe would raid their townhouse. Since I couldn’t have a GI Joe Jeep, The Joes drove around in Barbie’s pink remote control jeep. The best part of imagination is that even the My Little Pony stable was imagined into Joe headquarters.
My mother always knew I was a “Tomboy”. I hated that term. I liked what I liked and I didn’t understand why what games I played and what toys I played with mattered. I knew that I liked to play with action figures. I loved racing cars on the RC tracks that my friends had. I would ride 4-wheelers and play football. I also liked to cook. I enjoyed reading. I found peace in music.
When I met my husband (at the age of 16), I was thrilled that he had loved the same cartoons as I did. We talked about He-Man, She-Ra, ThunderCats, Voltron, Transformers, and even GI Joe. We would watch Star Trek and Star Wars every time it was on. For the first time in my life I realized that it was okay to like this stuff. It wasn’t keeping me from finding someone to fall in love with. I wasn’t abnormal. I was a woman that liked “boy’s toys” and all things Nerdy and it was okay.
Years later, my husband started to collect Transformers and I was intrigued. I had no idea that anyone actually collected toys. I had fallen under the adult notion that when you are an adult, you are too old to have toys. At that moment though, my mindset was changed. I sat down and played with toys that didn’t belong to my children. My patient husband walked me through the transformation of a figure and I was hooked.
As our collection grew, and our enjoyment in “all things Nerdy” grew, my family and I ventured to our first ComicCon and that was when I noticed something strange. The attendees at this Con were mostly males between the ages of 25 and 50. My husband was in a few collecting groups on Facebook and was subscribed to a number of YouTube channels. Since I was with him in collecting I would watch the videos with him. He would share posts from the groups with me until one day I decided that I was joining a group too.
As a female collector, I will tell you that I have had nothing but good interactions within the collector groups I belong to. It can be a bit intimidating at first to join in a group of majority males. It is a fact that women are typically more comfortable interacting with other women and men are the same way. At least it used to be that way. Now, however, I will say that I can see a change.
More and more women are joining in collecting groups, watching podcasts, watching and creating youtube content related to their toy collections. It is becoming very mainstream to be a toy collector of any toy. There are men that collect My Little Pony (Bronies) and women that can’t get enough Ninja Turtles. I am happy to say that today, a woman that collects or is in a fandom is not looked down on. I am looking forward to gaining more female collecting friends, you know, so we can swap recipes and cleaning tips. NOT!!!
First Lady of the ROC
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