Toy soldiers have been around since the 1930s, and women have been serving in the military for almost that long. And yet, those toy soldiers have almost always been men. Remember the ones in Toy Story? Men. Remember the ones in the 1991 drama Toy Soldiers? I don’t think there were any, but if there were, they were probably men, too! Despicable.
The dominance of small plastic men irritated 6-year-old Vivian Lord, who according to the New York Times won a set of toy soldiers at an arcade in Alabama. But when she went to play with them, she was not pleased:
She was used to playing with her older brother’s soldiers, but these were now her own. And as she lined them up on a coffee table — the good guys versus the bad guys — she realized that all of them were, in fact, guys.
At her mother’s urging, Vivian wrote a letter and sent it off to three toy companies who produce the soldiers, explaining that while she’d seen pink Army men, they were still...men. “Why do you not make girl army men, my friend’s mom is in the army too!! So why don’t you make them too!!!!!” she wrote.
Vivian’s mother, Brittany, didn’t expect the letters to get answered, but the head of one company, Jeff Imel of BMC Toys, did, in fact, respond. He explained, as he’d done with previous requests, that making new products was expensive, telling Vivian that “Maybe we’ll get it done someday.”
But that was before the media got ahold of the story, which happened after a local reporter found Vivian’s letter, which Brittany had posted to Facebook. One story mentioned Vivian’s exchange with Imel, and that was that:
CNN and a veterans publication published stories online. Soon, Mr. Imel was getting calls to do interviews on national television networks like CBS.
Mr. Imel said he then realized he had made a “huge mistake” in putting off complaints like Vivian’s and Ms. Ortloff’s.
“All hell broke loose with the media,” he said, “and I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath since.”
So thanks to media pressure, Vivian is getting her female soldiers, which will involve the ladies doing things like holding handguns and binoculars, standing and shooting rifles, kneeling and shooting rifles, lying and shooting rifles, and firing a bazooka. Yay...?!