See, two can play at this game.

Hey, girls, do you like Princess Merida from Brave? Do you like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games? Do you remember Geena Davis? Do you want to play war games on the playground like all kids do? Well guess what, Nerf has their own line of girl-oriented weaponry for you to fight back against…whatever it is you’re fighting against that makes you “strong”. How do I know these weapons are for you?

So, yeah, looks like the one thing keeping girls from meeting the boys on the playground of battle was a stylish line of crossbows and guns color-coded for your gender-specific pleasure. I know marketing toys for boys and girls has always been part of advertising, but seriously what the fuck is this? Rebelle? Not only did Nerf and Hasbro color-code the weapons for girls, but they had to genderize the spelling of “rebel” while adding bird-like flairs to the weapons and projectiles. This is like some next level, we-really-need-the-money, BS. You know what Nerf items I played with when I was a kid? The same ones the boys did. The neon orange footballs, the blue, red, and yellow guns and crossbows, pretty much everything short of the actual weapons were colored the same and it didn’t matter. Did the advertisements feature boys more prominently? Yeah, and that’s where the problems lies. Katniss

Anita Sarkeesian recently put out her fifth installment of Tropes vs Women in Video Games where she defined the Ms. Male character: a female character who is essentially the twin of the male protagonist or default character and is usually differentiated by gendered signifiers like the color pink, a bow, makeup, and long eyelashes. Sarkeesian points out that this is not limited to video games, but is ubiquitous to all mediums of pop culture, which solidifies as part of our culture in general. Case in point, the Rebelle toy line highlights the same trope in how we market anything to girls. Nerf products default to boys because boys like to play games and run around and simulate violence, right? Girls don’t do any of that stuff, so of course we’d only feature boys in the advertisements as the consumers of said product. Boys and girls clearly don’t like the same things, ever, so we need to make sure that the toys they play with reinforce their defined gender roles. However, should girls actually reveal themselves to be violent, bloodthirsty hellspawn indistinguishable from boys, we might as well market their line of weaponry in a way that lets the girls know that this is clearly for them. Boys get the regular Nerf weapons, girls get a highly stylized, gender-specific brand.

Pink Camo ChildAnd I know this is Nerf and Hasbro’s way of trying to cash in on The Hunger Games. I get it. Girls want to be strong yet fashionable when they’re mowing enemies down with bullets or shooting arrows into the chest of an attacker. If they really wanted to make this commercial tie into The Hunger Games, Katniss would shoot her arrows into the girls one by one, showing why the Guardian Crossbow, Heartbreaker Bow, and Pink Crush are ineffective at improving performance, style, or strength. Everybody loses, but mostly the girls these toys are geared towards because it’s just another dose of gender reinforcement wrapped up in a new package. Next thing you know the only way to distinguish the girl soldiers from the boy soldiers will be if the girl soldiers are wearing pink camouflage with a gun to match.

The reverse, however, doesn’t necessarily change the dynamic. Products marketed to girls shouldn’t just be considered for girls only, but we color-code and stereotype because it’s easier that way to sell one product to girls and another to boys. But what if a boy wants to play with the “girl” toy? Easy Bake Oven, a product that is heavily advertised as a toy for girls, got some flack when little boys started asking for their own version because boys like to bake too, right? Baking isn’t a girls only domain, The Food Network proves that every day. But it then begs the question: Why change the Easy Bake Oven for boys? If a boy wants to use the toy, then use the toy. What’s wrong with the product that requires changing?

Girls Version

Girls Version

Boys Version

Oh…

Well, then, it seems that colors really do make a difference when you’re baking a cake. This example is just one of many cases where girls toys, a lot of them in varying shades of pinks, purples, and pastels are considered to be derivations from the norm. Boys want to bake, well they can’t do it using a purple apparatus. That’s what a girl would use. We wouln’t want boys to feel weird about using such a horrifying display of unmanliness, so change the color and make him feel better about himself when he’s icing that brownie!  And I’m sure if the boy wanted the purple version, then he’d use it, but the boy gets an option. He can have his pick, but girls are relegated to only this color scheme in terms of what products are marketed towards them.

Does this really make sense to anyone? Black and turquoise Easy Bake Oven vs pink and purple Easy Bake Oven. Nerf Rebelle? Who the hell cares? Here’s a thought, make the products in a variety of colors so maybe the kids can just choose which one they like based on their favorite color.  Change up the color combos. Do what Harrods and a bunch of retailers in the United Kingdom are doing and eliminate the whole “Girls” and “Boys” sections of the stores. Stop looking at girls like they need something different than what’s already available to them. Wouldn’t a better form of advertising be a commercial that includes boys and girls playing with the same toys on an equal playing field? And if you’re going to market something to girls specifically, try appealing to them as people, not as a stereotype.

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