By now you know the drill: A major blockbuster movie featuring a range of superheroes or action stars gets released, merchandise sales go through the roof, but toy companies fail to make the female characters available en masse in the same way they did the male characters.
We’ve seen it with the ‘Avengers’ and the lack of a Black Widow action figure. The #WheresRey saga after the absence of lead character Rey in the toy aisles after ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ made its rounds on the internet where many people voiced their disdain. So at this point we have come to realize that while great strides are certainly being made in film and TV in terms of female characters and storylines, we shouldn’t necessarily assume the female action figure is going to get the same treatment.
This is where ordinary creators, rather than the big toy manufacturers, are filling the gap and taking the lead. Two sisters based in the UK, Roobini and Trisshala Sittampalam, have taken the bold leap to create a series of action figures that will inspire girls and include boys in a very unique way.
These women are the masterminds behind Velara Warriors, and they are currently raising money via a Kickstarter campaign to get this range off the ground, into production, and into the hands of the kids who will benefit from playing with them.
The idea for Velara Warriors came about in September 2015 when Trisshala went to a toy store in London looking to buy a ‘Star Wars’ Rey action figure as a present, and could not find it. Despite being the lead character in the film, she was nowhere to be found among the rest of the merch, and Trisshala and her sister soon found this was not an isolated incident.
Upon doing research about the importance of gender messages from a young age, and how the toy industry plays a major role in shaping this, the Sittampalam sisters knew they had to do something about it, and created their own company, Velara Toys, to combat the problem.
“The toy industry is segregated by gender. While the ‘boy’ aisle is filled with a variety of toys from cars, computers and electronics, the ‘girl’ aisle is predominantly pink and filled with dolls and kitchen sets. Although there is nothing wrong with playing with dolls, a limited playing experience may have a lasting negative effect on a child. A doll alone will not teach and equip a child with all the skills he or she would need. Children do not have presumptions on social norms unless it’s been taught or told to them. When toy companies market certain products to them, they start to believe societal structures and create barriers around their gender,” says a description on their website about their mission.
Similar to the perspective of Goldieblox founder Debbie Sterling, who became frustrated with the pink and blue toy aisles, Trisshala and Roobini noticed that with these divided toy categories, the girls aisle, for example, was missing toys that encouraged interests in science or cars, and mostly focused on dolls and kitchen sets. Their opinion was that young boys and girls should be able to freely choose what toys they play with, instead of an industry deciding for them based on preconceived notions of gendered career choice.
“Our girls are only being encouraged to play with dolls and kitchen sets. This instills in them the idea that their appearance is their most valuable asset. Boys, on the other hand are encouraged to play with science kits and construction sets. This may lead to the under-representation of women in engineering and science industries because they were not encouraged from a young age to take an interest in such fields,” they explained.
And this is where Velara Warriors come in. So far, there are three characters in the line: Laiera, the Land Warrior, Sahana, The Sea Warrior, and Nehili, the Sky Warrior. Along with the action figures, an illustrated book will be released to share the story of these brave warriors, who incidentally will also teach young girls about issues related to conservation and the environment.
But wait, there’s more. The Sittampalam sisters decided that if their buyers were going to play with their action figures and grow up with a more empowered sense of imagination and possibility, it had to include boys. So one of their stretch goals in the Kickstarter campaign is to also create a range of male warriors who exist and who fight alongside the female warriors.
“Boys and girls should be encouraged to play together. By making action figures for everyone to play with, we hope that boys toys and girls toys will not be the only distinctions available to children,” they explain on the Kickstarter campaign.
Rami is the Lightning Warrior, Lang is the Ice Warrior, and Demetri is the Fire Warrior.
Trisshala and Roobini have worked tirelessly with experts in the industry, including illustrators, painters and designers, to create top notch characters that could hold their own against other competitors in the toy world.
We absolutely love how Velara Toys are creating a way for both girls and boys to play together, and see each other as equals, even in a fantasy setting. This is definitely something we need to see more of, instead of the segregation we still see today.
“Velara Toys believes that the toy industry should not be divided by gender. Our mission is simple- to break the barriers between genders, by creating a female action figure that appeals to both boys and girls. It is time for children, to recognize that their heroes can be women,” they said.
If you are passionate about the mission of Trisshala and Roobini, there is still time to contribute to their campaign in anticipation of the April 2017 launch date. To see more about the Velara Warriors range, watch the video below: