Targeting the Tom Boy

In studying creative writing, I have entered into a study of marketing my writing and defining my target audience. It is interesting to me because marketing has always failed to find me as a reader.

I grew up loving science fiction and fantasy. From the moment I stepped into the theater in 1977 as a five year old, my mind was blown! At that time, however, science fiction and fantasy were in somewhat short supply. Back then, we would consume anything we could get our hands on. How else do you explain the popularity of the original Battlestar Galactica?

I often had to ignore horrid sexist covers on otherwise good books which were obviously not being marketed to me. Like any Dungeons and Dragons playing, Marvel comic reading, Tolkien and Herbert loving girl, I thought I was an oddity. I wasn’t and I’m not. Take a look at the current success of the Marvel universe in theaters. Science fiction and fantasy are outselling romantic comedies and everything else on the market by a long shot. Do you really think that success comes from only half of the available market? Do you think women are attending these movies only as dates and wives?

Take the debacle over Rey toys after the recent release of The Force Awakens. When hundreds of thousands of kids went in search of their hero in toys, games, and well ‘merch’, they found the side characters and sidekicks. Why? Because the marketing gurus just knew that these toys were for boys, and boys want a male hero in which they can see themselves.

Yet, when I grew up with Star Wars, my childhood fantasies never involved being Princess Leia. I alternated between being Luke and Han (though always a female version of, who also just happened to have red hair and freckles). What action figures did I want? Han and Luke, of course. Naturally, I had to swipe them out of my brothers’ room, but at no point did the heroes disparate gender discourage me from wanting to play their character.

I often hear women claim that, as a kid, they were “tom-boys.” In fact, I hear it so often that I would call it a cliche. I think to myself, “You weren’t a tom-boy, you were an average girl.” The unusual girls were the ones who stayed indoors, clean, un-scraped and un-scuffed, limiting themselves to play kitchens and Barbies. The average girl embraced both the pink and blue aisles of the toy store. Hell, the benefit of being a girl was that you didn’t take shit for crossing that toy aisle!

Side note: I did, under a vow of secrecy, covertly deliver Barbies to a couple of male friends to play with – yeah, guys, marketing norms suck for you too.

Like football and trucks? So do most of the women I’ve met. Have strong opinions about spices and good olive oil? I know men who do as well. Losing sleep over whether the inside of your toilet bowl is 99% germ free? OK, I don’t want to know you – you are just not my kind of people.


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