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Dear Target: Black Widow is an Avenger

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Target has been promoting the image above as an advertisement for its exclusive toy lines, and of course someone is missing. The lack of Black Widow toys and merchandise has been pretty hard to ignore, but erasing her completely from the team takes things a bit further. Target also doesn't include Black Widow in its exclusive "Heroes" collection.

While Hawkeye is also left out of this particular image, the lack of Black Widow merchandise has long been an issue, to the point that the stars of the movie and Marvel television shows make public statements about wanting to see more Widow.

According to this Vulture article, Black Widow is even the third most-seen Avenger in Age of Ultron, behind only Iron Man and Captain America. But she has the fewest toys and pieces of merchandise. According to this blog post there is only one character less represented at retail and she's, of course, the Scarlet Witch.

"Unnamed characters, like 'Hydra Henchman' and what we called 'Ultron bot,' were easier to find than any female character," the site ButNotBlackWidow reported. "There were only two kinds of Black Widow toys. She was part of an $80 LEGO set, and there was a Toys R Us exclusive where an action figure of her was sold packaged with Captain America." There was only one Scarlet Witch toy. Scarlet Witch is also the only hero to lack a LEGO minifigure.

It's not just Natasha, as the Daily Dot points out. Disney, which owns Marvel, has an abysmal record when it comes to products for women characters in properties not exclusively marketed to little girls. Here are a few of the examples they cite:

  • Last year the Disney Store excluded Princess Leia from its line of Star Wars action figures, although they did think to include a nameless, faceless Stormtrooper.
  • Disney also omitted all the female characters from its Star Wars: Rebels merchandise while churning out products dedicated to their male counterparts.
  • Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise also prominently left out Gamora. All the other members of the ensemble—even the talking raccoon and the talking tree—got their own products.

There is an issue when the two biggest stories about one of the most interesting characters in a huge tentpole feature film is that you can't find any toys dedicated to that character and her co-stars think calling her a slut is the height of comedy.

The lack of toys and merchandise for women characters in these films is as exhausting and nonsensical as it is unsurprising. It's not just that retailers like Target leave Black Widow out of promotional materials that show the Avengers, it's that there's basically no toys for them to feature, and women characters often have to be purchased packaged in with a male character.

Hey Disney? Fix this.