Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


[INSERT STORMTROOPER HEIGHT REFERENCE HERE]
November 2, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe

In 2010, 1st grader Katie Goldman was the bullied kid at her school for being a girl who was into Star Wars (which is, of course, only for boys). Geeks and fans across the net rallied to give moral support to Katie ("The Littlest Jedi") for standing up for who she wanted to be. Katie and her mother went on to lead an anti-bullying effort at Katie's school (which now observes December 10th as "Proud To Be Me Day") and Katie became a symbol of geek pride and anti-bullying, standing up at a birthday party for a boy who wanted to have his nails painted like the girls were getting. The experience became the source of book Bullied. In 2012, it was Katie's turn to show geek solidarity. The 501st Legion/"Vader's Fist", who had been so supportive when her story went viral, were now among those being taunted online for their cosplay geekery at a con, and Katie wanted to be a stormtrooper for Halloween to show her support. When the troopers heard that, the 501st's First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment came together to raise the funds/materials/expertise and build a full-on custom-fitted set of proper stormtrooper armor ('77 movie specs and all), with just days to spare before Halloween, as a gift for the little girl whose courage inspired them so much.

The carrying case for the suit is inscribed with the names of all the volunteers who made it happen. When Katie outgrows the armor, she will donate it back to the 501st so they can use it for other Make-A-Wish children.

Also, shout out May You Live Long And Prosper to Little Girl Spock for rocking the old-school ears.

The 501st previously in MeFi
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (61 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
EXTREMELY cool
posted by kgasmart at 11:45 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I must be on Tatooine because I've got some dust in my eye.
posted by olinerd at 11:47 AM on November 2, 2012 [43 favorites]


I love geek fandom so very, very much.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:50 AM on November 2, 2012


Yeah, my daughter was a ninja for Halloween this year and a boy from her class called her weird (actually, the exact words here "A girl ninja. OK-- weird.") but it didn't seem to phase her. Maybe it helped that she had a sword in her hand.

When we first watched the Star Wars trilogy, one of her first comments was "Why don't the girls get light sabers?" (Her other quotes were "What does 'trust your feelings' mean?" and "How do you use the force?" She was 5 at the time.)
posted by gwint at 11:51 AM on November 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


To get started, they needed an extensive list of precise measurements of Katie. Very precise, as in: Circumference of palm not including thumb; Forearm, inside length from wrist (bent forward) to inside of the elbow; Circumference of thigh just above the kneecap; and dozens more. Katie’s body fairly hummed with excitement as I tried to get her to hold still while I measured her palms and limbs, her torso and chest, her feet and stomach.

Awesome story, but with a fit this precise, how do they reuse the armor for Make-A-Wish kids?
posted by hot soup at 11:51 AM on November 2, 2012


Absolute class from the 501 people. The little girl's smile says it all.

And the Spock girl is fantastic, the blue trek top is brilliant; she looks great as a vulcan.

I, too, am on Tatooine.
posted by marienbad at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2012


I must be on Tatooine because I've got some dust in my eye.

It must be sandstormin', 'cuz a Sandperson ain't supposed to cry.

But I look up, and I don't see a cloud (city)...
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:57 AM on November 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Awesome story, but with a fit this precise, how do they reuse the armor for Make-A-Wish kids?

I'm assuming certain parts can be reused, like the hard plastic parts, and other parts will be remade.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:58 AM on November 2, 2012


Hot Soup, going by the pictures there was also a tight cloth bodysuit under the armor that probably needed the specific measurements. I assume the armor itself can be modified and/or broken down into its composite parts to be used for other people.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:58 AM on November 2, 2012


"When Katie outgrows the armor, she will donate it back to the 501st so they can use it for other Make-A-Wish children."

I was of a snarky mind until I read that. Awesome, Katie. Awesome, 501st. Awesome, everyone involved!

It was as if millions of voices suddenly hollered out in joy, and were recognized.

Rock the fuck on. :)
posted by barnacles at 11:59 AM on November 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Awesome. Very, very awesome.

hot soup:
I bet they make more armor for kids and use this work as a template, using the actual parts whenever they'll fit. There likely weren't any kid-size specifications or good kid-size kits/pieces to buy, and kid-sizing is radically different from adult-sizing. Might as well make it fit amazingly perfectly, since you have no idea how to start otherwise.

(From what I remember, most of the time members of the 501st buy their pieces commercially, or heavily modify stuff they've bought at Home Depot.)
posted by SMPA at 11:59 AM on November 2, 2012


It's kind of surreal that dressing up as a shiny plastic space Nazi is a great way of showing geek solidarity. Not a criticism, just… the weird things in life.
posted by Nomyte at 12:02 PM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll just leave you with this...
posted by schmod at 12:04 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Counterpoint.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:06 PM on November 2, 2012


You know how, in a lot of fantasy novels, there's a big important sword or a suit of armor or something, and how it's usually made by these particular dwarves who are full of magic on the furnaces of Orthgar, or whatever?

This is better than that.
posted by gurple at 12:06 PM on November 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


MartinWisse: "Counterpoint"

Ugh. That's terrible! Why'd you have to drag a terrible webcomic like that in here?
posted by barnacles at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2012


Or this
posted by smidgen at 12:09 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Stormtrooper cosplayers, and more than that I love that there are organized communities of Stormtrooper cosplayers, with social groups and charitable goals. One Stormtrooper in costume is unlikely to draw attention for coolest or sexiest or most original costume, but in groups their effect is amazing.

If you've never been to a geeky convention, there's nothing like the giddy feeling of wandering the crowded, clamorous halls of a con, then turn a corner and see the crowd part to let a monochrome troop of dozens of Stormtroopers pass. The more the better. It's like (a really geeky version of) watching a flock of sleek avenging swans swoop out of the sky.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:14 PM on November 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


What terrible webcomic?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2012


Just thought I'd brag a bit (Jacob Brent is the "real" Mr. Mistoffelees). The boy is also into getting his nails painted, and his hair is currently down to his butt. I asked him if he would like me to grow out my hair, and he replied, "not if it's curly." Thankfully he is also charismatic as hell, and manages to make quite a lot of friends.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Simply wow.
posted by jason says at 12:25 PM on November 2, 2012


The 501st is really awesome. I saw them march a few years ago in a parade at the Big E, which is kind of like a state fair for all six New England states. So in the middle of Shriners, marching bands from various schools and organizations, Scout groups of all kinds, people in old-time cars, obscure beauty pageant winners, Mardi Gras floats and the beer wagon led by Clydesdales, there was a detachment of stormtroopers and Imperial soldiers, marching along as well-drilled as could be. None of us in my group could believe what we were seeing at first, but we started cheering "Up the Empire!" and "Down with Rebel scum!" (How could you not?)

I went and looked 'em up online once I got home, and thought wow, now there are folks really dedicated to their costumery, and they're brave besides for getting out there and marching in public. I hoped they'd show up at subsequent Big Es cause I'd cheer the hell out of them any and every time they appeared. They didn't this year, at least not on the day I went.

To hear they've banded together with someone who clearly shares the same love to help bolster and nurture it, because it does so need bolstering, makes me so very very happy.
posted by Spatch at 12:26 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


My daughter is really into Star Wars, and dressed up as a Jedi for Halloween, this girl was primarily being bullied for gender non-conformity, not for being a geek. Her bullies were probably Star Wars fans themselves and felt that it was only for them. The Star Wars community could have had a conversation around the question that this girl raised: in Star Wars, why don't girls get light sabers? Why is the primary female character a princess to be rescued, a prize for one of the two male leads? And so on. It seems to me that the response has been a subtle way of deflecting attention from these issues.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:30 PM on November 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


If you've never been to a geeky convention, there's nothing like the giddy feeling of wandering the crowded, clamorous halls of a con, then turn a corner and see the crowd part to let a monochrome troop of dozens of Stormtroopers pass.

I dunno, when I see a flock of them I get nervous. It's actually comical to me how the sight of them makes me uneasy. I have never encountered Peacekeeper cosplayers en masse, but I assume they'd have the same effect.

What a sweet thing that was to do for that little girl. It is good to me reminded there are nice folks in the world.
posted by winna at 12:32 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm the same way about the amazing homemade Dalek models. Sure, it's really neat but it seriously makes me a bit nervous too.

Speaking of, there's really no better reason to go to any con (for me, at least) than seeing kids react to the things that I love (and especially those that I loved at that age); the only danger is that every time it makes my "want to adopt" needle move a little bit in a frightening direction.

(Worry not those that think that's a bad reason to want kids -- it still has a LONG way to go.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:42 PM on November 2, 2012


Awwwww omg.
posted by Glinn at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2012


This is cool by why does everyone want to join the Empire rather than be a rebel? It feels like getting "Born in the USA" wrong.
posted by srboisvert at 12:50 PM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


My daughter is really into Star Wars, and dressed up as a Jedi for Halloween, this girl was primarily being bullied for gender non-conformity, not for being a geek. Her bullies were probably Star Wars fans themselves and felt that it was only for them. The Star Wars community could have had a conversation around the question that this girl raised: in Star Wars, why don't girls get light sabers? Why is the primary female character a princess to be rescued, a prize for one of the two male leads? And so on. It seems to me that the response has been a subtle way of deflecting attention from these issues.

As a kid, I was into all sorts of crosplay. I was a ninja turtle three halloweens in a row--I didn't get teased much but I was definitely the only little girl dressing that way (I guess I did get teased for my plastic TMNT sneakers, which were for boys, so maybe there was a little bit of it) but I did feel a sort of sense of relief when Venus de Milo debuted as a TMNT character because GIRL TURTLE SHYEAH! My dressing up like male turtles had little to do with their maleness and everything to do with how they kicked so much more ass than April, how they were active and smart and part of a team. A girl turtle told me that girls could be those things, too (even though she came along in middle school, after I was a major fan of the franchise). But Venus was so universally reviled as to be retconned from existence.

The expanded universe has been pretty great in 'wars for giving us female Jedi (Tenel Ka was my favorite as a teenager) but I always thought it was problematic that Leia didn't get a light saber of her own, that there were no female Jedi with narrative arcs in the prequels, and so on.

I think it's a little reductive to call Leia merely a prize, but I do think that franchises without women as an accepted part of the army of heroes--or with only one girl, whose sexuality and passivity is the focus--does sort of contribute and encourage the gender segregation of fandoms and of kids.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:59 PM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Damn if she doesn't deserve it. May the Pony be With You.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:00 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Today when I picked my 7 year old son up from daycare he was happily exchanging tips on how to defeat a boss level with his femail presenting but non femail gender identifying friend as normal as pie while surrounded by his way too hip field hockey team oblivious to their stares, and as he is far larger and a better striker than them, implicitly inviting challenge, aware of what he was doing.

He got an extra cookie tonight.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:03 PM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh hey I just noticed that she goes to Davis, which one of my sons attended for about a week. A week's worth of "God Bless America" every morning on the PA and we'd had enough of that. Anyway I'm not terribly surprised that the school is riddled with bullies, based on the types of parents I witnessed during that time.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:08 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Vader's Fist"? Imperial Stormtroopers? Strange names for underdogs.
posted by telstar at 1:09 PM on November 2, 2012


I feel a have a better pulse on Halloween costumes of the younger set now, having watched the K-5th Halloween parade at my daughter's school. While there were a lot of strongly gendered costumes (boys=ninjas and girls=witches or princesses) there were also a lot of exceptions. Female Jedi, female Batmen/Supermen/Wolverines, at least one female Harry Potter (the stuffed owl & glasses were the key, I'm not enough of a Potter fan to discern wand type, though I'm sure she is) along with the legions of Hermiones, and notably, one male Catniss Everdeen, which I thought rocked the house.

Of course, I do live in San Francisco, but I was still impressed.
posted by feckless at 1:19 PM on November 2, 2012


Excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye...
posted by Gelatin at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2012


Keith Talent:
Boys in first grade do bully. I was bullied by both genders in 1st ('77, Houston, TX) and I'm sure it still happens and/or is even worse. By "bullied", I mean taunting, stealing my stuff, being pushed and otherwise physically intimidated, having the door to the restroom stall thrown open while using it, having lunch ruined in various ways, being left out on the playground and watching kids ignorant of the dynamic instructed to keep it that way, and on and on and on.

Also, it seems you missed out on the part where she tried to work with other parents and the school and ultimately wrote an entire book based on research about bullying and what it really takes to stop it. Maybe a less dumb story if you read the whole thing...? Dunno. Your call, I guess.

Anyway.

That's awesome. The 501st has some really incredible people as members and they do some amazing things. They also protect a number of vulnerable people in a world that doesn't make much room to be that way when you're apparently a fully functioning adult. All good stuff in my book.

I think Katie's going to grow up knowing she's been fortunate and sharing her strength...because those are the types of actions she's already taken, even before she was embraced by other inclusionist groups, but more so now.
posted by batmonkey at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dammit! I'm out of kleenex.
posted by Mojojojo at 1:28 PM on November 2, 2012


I think the armchair parenting here is a bit much. The way this mom handled things may be good for Katie in the long run, or it may be bad for her.

More likely, it'll be neither "good" nor "bad", but it'll guide her development in a way that shapes who she is as an adult, just like every other part of parenting. Whose business is that? Katie's, and her mom's and dad's. What's undeniably true is that the way they approached it created some really great stories and gave a lot of people, Katie included, a reason to believe that it's OK to be themselves.

My daughter is 2. We dressed as a Knight Who Says "Ni", with her on my shoulders. It was a great night, and we got recognized a lot, which was great considering how bad my costume-making skills are. The only tiny shadow over the evening was one dad who looked at us and felt confident enough about my daughter's gender to say "hey, that little guy is a knight!"

No big whoop, and we kept having a great time. But it kind of felt like first whiff of smoke from the forest fire ahead.
posted by gurple at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


> "Why is the primary female character a princess to be rescued, a prize for one of the two male leads?"

While there is truth to this, it's also worth noting that Princess "I am leading the Rebellion and shooting stormtroopers like a boss" Leia is a million times the feminist figure that Senator "I do nothing of any consequence ever at any time" Amidala was. That the prequels actually managed to REGRESS on this aspect was one of the many, many (many) problems with them.
posted by kyrademon at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2012 [44 favorites]


Should you talk to the teacher/other parents (which apparently you are friendly with, as you describe your kid playing one on one with them,) or should YOU WRITE A BLOG POST?

Maybe you should do all of that and write a book! But since I guess you could only read one link in the fpp, you're entitled, based on that one blog post, to accuse the author of raising a brat.

Little kids act inappropriately because they don't know any better, which is why we teach them. Most of them learn. Some clearly don't.
posted by rtha at 1:44 PM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


With respect to the fretting about Leia now being a "Disney Princess" and how women are treated in the Star Wars universe, we had a really great experience last year at Disney World when our kids did the "Jedi Training Academy." It's a little stage show where kids are trained as Padawans and learn a short set of moves with a lightsaber. Darth Vader shows up at the end and each kid fights him.

At our show, the Jedi master who was leading the show was a man and was assisted by a woman Jedi master. At subsequent shows, they switched roles. And while most of the kids participating in the show were boys, my daughter was one of two girls up there and they were treated no differently. It was nice to see that Disney - who has lots of experience making their female characters helpless or otherwise dependent on male heroes - had figured out that modern parents don't have much appetite for that.

And to Keith Talent's point, I too was a little bit surprised that a girl would be bullied for liking Star Wars. Amidala, Ahsoka, and Leia are three big characters, and there's no shortage of Star Wars gear that is specifically made for girls of that age. At my kids' school, at least, it's something that many of the girls are very openly into. (I am not saying that she was not made fun of or that the mom reacted inappropriately or anything like that. I have no idea if that's true. I was just surprised that Star Wars of all things would be seen as gender exclusive.)
posted by AgentRocket at 1:46 PM on November 2, 2012


I was just surprised that Star Wars of all things would be seen as gender exclusive.

It would seem that you are more optimistic about the nature of humanity, and of children in particular, than I.

Anything and everything can be rendered gender exclusive. Age exclusive. Race exclusive. Socio-economic status exclusive. Ad infinitum. All it takes is the inclination to do it, and there's quite a lot of that to go 'round.
posted by aramaic at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2012


I'm so glad this story has a happy ending! Whenever I see a block of text on Mefi that starts with someone's name I tense up, because it so often ends with bad news. But not this time. Rock on Katie, and the 501st!
posted by Kevin Street at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2012


I'm so glad this story has a happy ending!

The mommy blogger got pageviews plus a book deal?

I kid, I kid. The photos of Katie trying on her costume are priceless.
posted by brain_drain at 2:17 PM on November 2, 2012


I was just surprised that Star Wars of all things would be seen as gender exclusive.

This surprised me, too. Perhaps twenty or thirty years ago, I could, but not today, not with the level of merchandising directed to both boys and girls.
posted by Atreides at 2:46 PM on November 2, 2012


No tears here, until I got to the thank you note she wrote to the 501st. That did it.
posted by Songdog at 3:02 PM on November 2, 2012


I was just surprised that Star Wars of all things would be seen as gender exclusive.

This surprised me, too.


It is unsurprising to me, because I keep in mind a simple truth: Kids are Assholes
posted by sparklemotion at 3:03 PM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


This surprised me, too. Perhaps twenty or thirty years ago, I could, but not today, not with the level of merchandising directed to both boys and girls.

s/and/or/
posted by winna at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2012


The year Star Wars came out, my mother was taking a printmaking class with a woman who had seen it over 100 times, more often than not in her handmade Chewbacca costume.

When a boy on the school paper with me told me : "you can't be Alex {clockwork orange}, you're a girl" my response was : "SO?" and he backed down.
posted by brujita at 3:35 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hanging out on Reddit, and seeing the mindless, reflexive nerdrage that greets even the most innocuous of Star Wars news (and this week has been a minefield, let me tell you) can make me ashamed to be part of the Star Wars Generation. Then something like this happens and refills the old faith-in-humanity meter.
posted by mgrichmond at 3:43 PM on November 2, 2012


This is all very touching until you remember that they will still kill the girl without hesitation if given the order.
posted by homunculus at 5:34 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd buy a volkswagen from her.
posted by cacofonie at 7:05 PM on November 2, 2012


I just want to throw it out there that Leia has been pretty kick-arse since the 1970s (someone had to save their skins), and she did get a lightsabre in the Marvel comic series (if memory serves), and in Dark Empire.

And, as boring as she was, Mon Mothma was leading the rebellion in '83. I can actually remember being a little bit shocked that the rebellion's leader was a woman.
posted by Mezentian at 7:23 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess I started out as a geek girl earlier than most...

The year that Star Wars came out, I totally made my own Darth Vader costume, complete with jury-rigged red lightsaber made from a flashlight, black satin padded jacket, long black velvet cape, and I put black velvet liner inside the mask eye sockets so it was completely black. It got rave comments from all the houses I trick-or-treated at that year. There was no way I was going to be Princess Leia!
posted by Jade Dragon at 7:46 PM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I was just surprised that Star Wars of all things would be seen as gender exclusive.

>>This surprised me, too. Perhaps twenty or thirty years ago, I could, but not today, not with the level of merchandising directed to both boys and girls.


I think this a relatively new phenomenon. I'd like to blame the new movies (because why not?). I had no idea Star Wars had become a guy thing until my daughter and I mentioned something about it to a neighbour and he was very surprised that we watched and liked them. Apparently he and his son love the movies, while his wife and daughter dismiss them as for boys. And then my daughter found out that none of her girl friends at school had seen the movies, though her three closest friends (boys) were into them big time, plus the cartoons.

I was 7 when the first film came out and they were loved universally. Everyone played Star Wars in the school yard. Sure, you'd have to have 3 Princess Leias since there was only one female character, but still. I'm not particularly geeky, and I don't run in a geeky crowd, and most of my women friends my age also have fond Star Wars childhood memories.

Honestly, for all that women's rights have advanced in the past 35 years, kid culture seems way more divisively gendered than it did when I was a kid. It's like the category "child" doesn't even exist any more, just boys and girls. Good luck finding a gender neutral anything.
posted by looli at 10:54 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my year at school, there were 3 Star Wars fans - two girls and one guy. none of us got any shit for it. Weird looks, us, bullying no.
posted by Xany at 11:00 PM on November 2, 2012


Our gang of 7-year-old Star Wars buddies in 1977 were quite the envy of other groups, as we had a genuine girl in our group to play Leia.

It perhaps wasn't due to Star Wars not appealing to girls (my slightly older sister certainly loved it at the time) but more a case of it being rare to find a girl who loved it enough to risk cooties, etc. by playing with boys.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:24 AM on November 3, 2012


1st grader Katie Goldman was the bullied kid at her school for being a girl who was into Star Wars (which is, of course, only for boys right and proper).

FTFetc.
posted by Decani at 2:17 AM on November 3, 2012


thank you for posting this.
posted by Flood at 5:49 AM on November 3, 2012


I was obsessed with Star Wars as a little girl, as were most of my classmates, male and female. Of course, this was the early 80s and I was in elementary school. The only weird kids were the kids not into Star Wars. There were so many Return of the Jedi lunchboxes in my second grade classroom that the teacher required we label them with masking tape, which ticked everyone off as it marred the artwork. And in my neighborhood, gender was really not an issue in playing Star Wars. The kid that most likely to play Vader was my best friend's little sister (later an accomplished ballerina). It's cool what has happened with this little girl and great the that fan community was so supportive. But it honestly sucks that this ever happened at all.
posted by thivaia at 8:16 AM on November 3, 2012


Can't believe I forgot to include Sariah "The Littlest Sith" Gallego in this post.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:57 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you hadn't, I was gonna.

And shame on the trainer for not just "going with it." That woulda been awesome!
posted by ShutterBun at 8:10 PM on November 3, 2012


« Older We document a male Asian elephant (Elephas maximus...  |  Something Awful.com - Design T... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments