If you’ve ever strolled through an aisle of toys looking for Avengers merch, you might have noticed something odd: the lack of Black Widow merchandise among the sea of Marvel toys. It’s certainly something the internet has noticed, not just for Natasha, but MCU women in general.
Last year, with the news that Guardians of the Galaxy’s audience had been 44% female, fans were surprised to find that the GOTG merchandise did not reflect the fanbase. Gamora and Nebula were largely left out of the Marvel line, prompting the hashtag, #WheresGamora.
Now, a year later, Marvel and Disney still have the same problem. The exclusion of Black Widow from Avengers: Age of Ultron did not go unnoticed, and neither did the replacement of Black Widow with Captain America and Iron Man in her iconic motorcycle scene. Fans started the #WheresNatasha hashtag soon after the US premiere of the movie, along with a change.org petition. Marvel actors Clark Gregg and Mark Ruffalo have joined in calling for Natasha’s merchandise to be put on shelves. Yet silence and lack of Black Widow merchandise persisted on Marvel’s and Disney’s ends, so fans took to the streets on for an international flash-mob cosplay event, while also kicking off a Twitter hashtag, on June 6th.
The event was promoted and spread through Tumblr and Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantWidow. Cosplayers and fans from 16 cities around the world readied their Widow’s Bites while Twitter erupted with tweets alongside the flashmob. Many fans took to their Twitters to call for change and celebrate Black Widow cosplayers:
— Jess Plummer (@Jess_Plummer) June 6, 2015
— ✨ Comic Updates ✨ (@GRLALMIGHTYZINE) June 8, 2015
#WeWantWidow because she's an amazing three-dimensional character with an interesting background but is being ignored because of her gender
— vicky romanova (@THEBLACKWlDOW) June 8, 2015
— Becky (@rikkuriffic) June 6, 2015
Fans even gathered outside the International Spy Museum:
— Aitch is Trubble !! (@DreddedDeuce) June 6, 2015
The exclusion of Black Widow, Gamora, Nebula, and Scarlet Witch from merchandise is no mere oversight — Disney reportedly has the “girls’ market on lockdown” through their Princess line, and doesn’t feel the need to focus on the female or unisex demographics of their Marvel fanbase. While this may seem final, Variety reported on Wednesday that Marvel has confirmed their Captain America: Civil War merchandising will focus on women. Paul Gitter, the senior VP of Marvel’s licensing at Disney consumer Products, spoke to Variety on the subject, saying, “There will also be a big focus on adult female apparel.”
A focus on female apparel is a huge win for female fans who have long been considered as the market that wants to date superheroes, not be them. An even bigger win is that fan-driven events and social media campaigns make a difference after all — even with companies as big as Marvel and Disney.