A new line of toys for girls has consumers questioning whether it reinforces gender stereotypes.
One of the products in question, Nerf's "Heartbreaker Bow Blaster," is a sleek $19.99 plastic archery set that fires foam darts up to 75 feet. Hasbro manufactures the "Heartbreaker" as part of Nerf's "Rebelle" toy line, and it is meant for girls aged 8 and up.
The "Heartbreaker" seems to be marketed towards fans of The Hunger Games series, with its strong teenage protagonist Katniss Everdeen and Brave, which features tougher-than-usual Disney Princess Merida, both of whom are aces with the crossbow.
The question being asked of Nerf is, why make this bow so "girly"?
Nerf has a range for girls called "rebelle". Predictably, has a large focus on making things pink.
— Kevin Menzel (@kevinmenzel) December 7, 2013
This #NerfRebelle makes me so angry!!! If a girl wants to shoot why does it have to be pink and purple???
— Charli (BookBlogger) (@Charli_TAW) December 8, 2013
@kevinmenzel 1 step forward, 2 steps back. We'll get there eventually. I hope.
— kidamy (@kidamy) December 7, 2013
— Shannon Barnsley (@ShanBarnsley) December 8, 2013
Others criticized the name of the toy line, saying that using "Rebelle," suggesting it's not normal for girls to want toy weapons:
Nerf Rebelle a 'girly' nerf gun because if your a girl and you like that toy your a rebel but its normal for boys...
— Alice Baddeley (@Aliceisntacamel) December 7, 2013
"The very name Rebelle (not to mention the heartbreaker bow and diva dart) is an annoying and unnecessary attempt to keep toys gendered, girly, and unintimidating. What? Was “rebel” not feminine enough?" wrote blogger boundandgaggedbybooks, who also pointed out that a commercial for the toy makes sure to call it "fashion forward."
But, the blogger notes, "As insulting as they seem to me, my younger cousins probably would flip for these toys."
Look: One of the toy's in Nerf's new "Rebelle" line for girls:
Others, however, applauded Hasbro for making a toy weapon for girls, in spite of the pink and purple color scheme. Freelance writer Toni Matthews El noted that past movie roles featuring strong female characters often didn't lead to any spin-off toy weapons.
"Nobody was giving toy weapons of any kind to little girls since the idea was that these things didn’t or shouldn’t appeal to little girls," El wrote. "But somebody out there made a connection. And if this toy does well, who’s to say that changes won’t be made in the future?"
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, Hasbro Global Chief Marketing Officer John Frascotti said the design of the "Heartbreaker" is what girls want. "I think if anything, we went into this without any stereotypes and instead talked to young girls, found out what they wanted, and then designed a line of products that addressed that opportunity," he said.