First off, let me clarify this by saying…I do not consider myself to be a true superhero/comic book fan, since I have never read a comic book. However, I am a huge fan of superhero movies–to the point where I will pick a superhero movie over a rom-com any day of the week. I’ve got an Iron Man pint glass in my cupboard right now, an Avengers poster for decoration, and other sundry superhero items. But, I digress.
Just the other day, I went into Dick’s Sporting Goods to find a new pair of running sneakers. On my way back to the footwear department, an impressive Under Armour display caught my eye (as they usually do). Stretched taut across a male mannequin’s impressively sculpted torso was a fitted exercise shirt with the Batman logo proudly splashed across the front. Under Armour’s latest collection, the Alter Ego line, had finally hit stores.
My eyes lit up as I saw the rack behind the mannequin…especially when I saw the characteristic red and yellow colors of my favorite superhero, Iron Man. I love me some Iron Man. As I flicked through the shirts, I saw all my favorite superheros. The red and blue of Spider-Man, the green and purple of the Incredible Hulk, the colors of America for the Captain himself…all made to look like the torsos of their respective hero’s superhero suit.
I’ve been on a fitness kick lately, and as soon as I saw the Iron Man shirt, I decided that it would be a present to myself once I worked my way up to running a 5K.
However, I soon realized that getting the men’s shirt was out of the question. It was fitted, so I knew it wouldn’t fit my chest and narrower shoulders. Besides, all they had were the XL and XXL sizes. So I began looking around for the women’s Alter Ego section. I automatically assumed it would look similar to the men’s display.
I was very, very wrong.
First off, it took me a good 10 minutes to find the display. Once I found it, a jolt of surprise ran through me when I realized I had actually been looking right at it the whole time. Then anger set in when I realized I hadn’t picked up on this fact because it was barely recognizable compared to the men’s display.
Instead of the characteristic colors of ALL the Marvel superheroes lining the racks, all I saw were pastels. Light pink, purple, and orange tank-tops were put onto a diminutive rack that had none of the pomp and circumstance of the men’s display. No branding of the Alter Ego line, even.
I rifled through the shirts in a fury. No Iron Man. Just Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman. Their logos were printed on gossamer-like tank tops that would need multiple layers underneath to make suitable for actually exercising without having a wardrobe malfunction. Some of the merch even had simpering sayings like, “Fight Like a Girl” marching across the front of the shirt underneath the Supergirl logo.
Usually, I wouldn’t get that mad about something like this. But I really, really wanted that Iron Man shirt. Sorry, but I don’t like Supergirl, Batgirl, or Wonder Woman. Tony Stark is my Alter Ego, Under Armour, but your marketing department thought that as a woman, I wouldn’t want to rep a male superhero in his original colors.
I wouldn’t have a problem with their line if they ALSO carried stuff that looked like the men’s line, only fitted to the ladies. That’s why I don’t have a problem with “girly” sports fan gear–I can still get ladies’ fit stuff that looks just like what the guys wear, and I can leave the pastel gear to those who want it.
With their line, Under Armour is making the inaccurate assumption that women only want to rep female superheroes, in what society has determined to be “feminine” colors. They’re also assuming that women only accept female superheroes as their role models.
But for me, that’s never been the case. Maybe I should, but I never cared for Batgirl and Supergirl. I always looked up to Tony Stark, because despite being pretty screwed up, he was a brilliant scientist who knew his shortcomings and tried to become a better person. Iron Man had substance. Iron Man had character and a great sense of humor. And I think that’s OK, if I want to look up to a male superhero and not a female one. Gender shouldn’t matter if you look up to someone for their commendable qualities.
Just like gender shouldn’t matter in what I can and cannot buy to show off my fandom.
NOTE: I did reach out to Under Armour, via a Facebook post, and here’s how they replied:
We’ll be keeping an eye out on the expanded line this summer. Here’s hoping there is a wider variety for women superhero fans of all persuasions.
Danielle Carter is a news producer by night, very sleepy person by day. Currently in Lexington, Kentucky, Danielle has a little bit of her heart stashed in her birthplace of Florida, her hometown of St. Louis, her college town of Columbia, Mo., and her host country of Belgium. When she isn’t writing newscasts for a local TV station, she can be found in her natural habitat–out exploring Kentucky and Ohio, watching a baseball game, cooking, crafting, or watching a good action movie. If you’re so inclined, you can read her work here, or you can check out her 140 character witticisms on the Twitter machine, @producer_dani.