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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Nerf Creates a Line of Toys Specifically For Girls, Starting With a Bow For Budding Meridas

I’ll admit, I have something of a knee-jerk reaction to the notion of “pink toys for girls, blue toys for boys.” So when I read about Nerf Rebelle, a new line of toys created for specifically for girls, the first of which is the Heartbreaker bow…. well, I was skeptical. But it won me over. Here’s why.

One: The Nerf Rebelle line “will feature projectiles that have the same power as the top items in the brand’s Nerf Elite line.” Four for you, Nerf, for not creating a wimpy version of your product for girls. (Because little girls are… weaker… than little boys? Or something? I’m not even going to pretend I understand the logic behind why companies do this.)

I didn’t play much with toy weapons as a kid—I was more the “read books, watch movies, and run around the backyard playing Thundercats” type—but if my brothers and I had had a lot of toy weapons to play with you’d best know I wouldn’t want to be stuck with the weak one. I’d have made one of them take it. I’m the oldest sibling, there’s a hierarchy.

And the second reason I’m behind Nerf Rebelle: It doesn’t seem like a slapped-together effort on parent company Hasbro’s part, where they just said “Girls like pink and heart stuff, right? Slap some of that on the bow we already have.” Says Hasbro’s John Frascotti:

“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.”

What girls wanted, he said, was Nerf toys that boast both high performance and a design made especially for them. “Just to be clear, we could have taken some of our Nerf blasters and just made them pink and put them in pink packages — but that’s not what we did,” Frascotti explained. Trying to encourage girls to buy existing Nerf toys or easing up the gendered overtones of those products was never really on the table: “This is an entirely ground-up effort.”

Thanks to all that research, Rebelle differs from other Nerf lines in several key ways. The Heartbreaker bow comes with collectable darts bearing different colors and designs; there’s a Rebelle app that allows girls to play collaboratively and encourages teamwork; the bow’s size and ergonomics have been tweaked so that girls as young as 6 can activate it easily.

The product’s main philosophy, though, is in line with that of the Nerf toys that came before it. “Nothing is really addressing this big opportunity for girls to be active and play,” Frascotti said. “Parents are concerned about the amount of time kids are spending in sedentary activities, in front of a screen of some sort.” By contrast, Rebelle promotes exercise and socialization in a way that will hopefully appeal to girls who have no interest in sports as well as budding athletes.

The research is what gave them the name “Heartbreaker” as well—when asked about the romantic undertones, which are absent in the boy version, Frascotti said “I think sometimes maybe adults are more concerned with these things than girls are. I think the girls we tested it with just thought it was a cool name.”

I’m glad to say this after the Guess Who? and Easy Bake Oven debacles: Good job, Hasbro.

If girls want to play with pink bows, they should have pink bows to play with. And boys should be able to play with them too. And if a girl wants to play with the non-Heartbreaker bow, well, she still can. I’m going to bold this because it’s very, very important: There is nothing wrong with the traditionally feminine, and there is nothing wrong with liking the traditionally feminine. With toys, as with clothes and TV shows and video games and everything, there should be options.

Granted, the notion of  ”boy-girl” dichotomy in toys still makes me uncomfortable, because the line isn’t so sharp as all that. Kids shouldn’t have to choose between a pink Heartbreaker bow for girls and another one that’s marketed exclusively to boys, and I hope in the future they’ll have more gender-neutral versions to choose from (hey, we got a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven). We should have more options than we do now, and it’s a problem that we don’t. But two options is still better than one.

Generally speaking I’m happy about Nerf Rebelle. If just one kid who wouldn’t have picked up a toy bow because they didn’t like how it looks sees the Heartbreaker and goes “Now that’s my kind of fake weapon; run and hide from my awesome archery power, jerks!,” then this line has done some good.

Mini-Meridas (or Katnisses, or Legolases, or Hawkeyes…) of the world unite!

(via: EW)

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  • Grahame Turner

    Reason 3: it looks more than a little badass. Speaking as an adult male, I kind of want one…

  • Rizz Rustbolt

    I could see Hawkeye using something like that.

  • Anonymous

    Step in the right direction (but I’m right there with you on the “why the boy-girl dichotomy”). However… If I got the Heartbreaker and my younger brother got a regular (“boy”) Nerf gun, we’d have a problem. Shooting speed of bow < speed of repeating Nerf gun.

    But that aside, I would have loved this as a kid. I was always fashioning "bows" in my backyard anyway…

  • Rebecca Pahle

    The Heartbreaker is only the first in the line, so I assume they’ll roll out a gun later. Because there can’t be a Nerf series without a toy gun in it, right? That said, if Hasbro DOESN’T make a Nerf Rebelle gun that would be bogus.

  • Sara Sakana

    “There is nothing wrong with the traditionally feminine, and there is nothing wrong with liking the traditionally feminine”

    Where’s your bolded reminder that there is nothing wrong with the UNtraditionally feminine, and there is nothing wrong with NOT liking the traditionally feminine?

  • Anonymous
  • Carly

    I agree that “pink for girls, blue for boys” is limiting and should be phased out, BUT I will be first in line to buy two of these for my 2 and 4 year old daughters. They’ve already destroyed their Disney store Merida bows from overuse.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I didn’t think the readers of a geek girl site would need to be reminded of that. It’s something we address all the time.

  • thecynicalromantic

    Oh my Goddess, where was this when I was a wee lass pretending to be Veralidaine Sarrasri?!

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    I think the whole article is about that since it’s about a weapon that girls can use.

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    yeah it’s not a “pink toy that shoots arrows” it’s a super cool bow toy that happens to be pink

  • thecynicalromantic

    As someone who mixed ‘n’ matched, it’s my experience that people would give me grief either way.

    Which is why I completely freaking adore the mix-’n'-match that’s going on with this Rebelle endeavor.

  • Amanda W

    The bow looks like something from Final Fantasy. Cool! Love that they paired pink with black.

  • Shannon Patrick

    I will be buying one of these for my soon to be 6-year-old. Her favorite colors are pink and purple. She loves “girly” and “non-girly” stuff equally (she sleeps with 4 stuffed friends every night; a white and purple unicorn, Scooby-Doo, Batman & Green Lantern). Ever since watching Brave last summer she has wanted a bow and arrow set. I think and bow looks pretty awesome!

  • Sebastian Proaño

    I don’t know… my cousin loves both action toys AND pink stuff (on D&D she plays the meanest rogue possible, but the character loves girly stuff)… So it kinda goes for those girls and women who like to look cute while kicking asses?

    On the other hand, wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart is a tough guy, and his wrestling attire was pink…

    Bottom line, pink is badass

  • Neville Ross

    Whatever happened to getting the bows and arrows for kids when you were a kid?

  • AnnaB

    That was kind of implied in the rest of the article–actually, that’s all what the article was about.

  • Emma Jones

    Um… NERF is almost exclusively SHOOTING toys. I don’t think the trope has much to do with them wanting to market to girls.

  • Tamara Brooks

    I would also like them to make an array of colors for the “arrows” because then different attributes could be given to each while playing (freeze arrows, ones the turn into nets to capture people, knockout gas, etc). I’m assuming the “boys” ammo also works with this bow which means at least a little more variety but I’d want even more. I’m saying this both channeling my inner child and because that’s totally what I’d do as a grown up.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    That would be AWESOME.

  • Anonymous

    I’d play with that! Looks amazing, and I’m glad it has the same power as the ‘boys’ toys. When I was a kid my buddy two doors down had a nice nerf bow we both played with all the time. It was neon orange, blue and yellow if I remember right.

  • Anonymous

    Plus you’re always losing those danged nerf arrows, or dropping them behind the couch, or the cat has decided it’s a great toy….

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    As an adult, I had the same sort of, “Oh, great – they think they have to make a cool toy pink to make it appeal to girls!” I often think that all toy companies really need to do is just *show* girls enjoying playing with regular versions of legos, and transformers, etc, in the interminable advertising that airs during cartoons.

    Then I thought back to childhood me. I had a wonderful mother who often insisted on gender neutral colors and toys, when all six-year-old me wanted was something sparkly and pink that would just be MINE – something my brother wouldn’t take. Although I notice more and more of my 3rd grade boys saying that pink is their favorite color, too, so I’m sure this will be appealing to a lot of kids. Speaking on behalf of six-year-old me, this sounds amazing.

    And it does look badass. Adult me totally wants one, too.

  • Inky

    I loved Nerf guns as a kid, and I gotta say…I think that heartbreaker bow looks BADASS. I was a sort of faux-tomboy as a kid–I loved feminine stuff but thought I couldn’t do that and also like things like Nerf Guns and video games, so I did my best to look tomboyish despite not being that sort of kid. So if this had been around when I was a little kid? I would’ve been ecstatic. It’s everything I love in one neat little package. Heck, I’m half-tempted to buy one for myself now!

  • Inky

    Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. In the general public, yes, not a reminder that’s needed, but in the geeky girl/feminist world? Unfortunately people do need to be reminded sometimes.

  • Carmen Sandiego


  • thecynicalromantic

    I didn’t know there were any? I literally never saw anything remotely resembling a bow and arrow in real life until I got old enough to start going to Ren Faires.

    If they were off hiding in the “boys” section of anywhere I wouldn’t know about it unless my brother had one, which he didn’t.

  • Kay Livingston

    How did you even find that? I went through what they claimed was their entire product listing and did not see a single thing that was not for shooting or throwing.

  • Life Lessons

    Be still my beating heart! I want one.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Holy cats, that bow looks cool. Seven-year-old me would’ve bugged my parents for that thing for an entire six months leading up to Christmas.

    I know when I was a kid, I really clung to that tom-boy mindset (still kinda do), but you’re exactly right–there’s nothing wrong with girls liking traditionally feminine things. It sort of follows on that trend of Superhero Princess costuming I’ve been seeing on the wee-ones at cons: they want to be cool and fight crime and have adventures, but they also kinda wanna be sparkly and pink sometimes too. And hey, that’s aces.

  • Sun Ceng

    I just want to know what the shooting range, the reload time and how it matches up with the existing BAD BOY BOW they have. And “Rebelle” is a good word too.

  • Anonymous

    Still pink and it has the power of…heart..*sigh* but this is defiantly a step. A baby step, it is a toy company after all. But yeah!

  • Anonymous

    I bought that sword and spray painted it pink for my Fionna costume this year.

  • Anonymous

    So far, I’ve seen a crossbow and a revolver (and what a revolver! Seriously, the Wildshot would look great just in plain grey, but the winged paintjob pushes it into awesome territory) as well as the Heartbreaker.

  • Anonymous

    Oddly enough, collectible darts are part of the new lineup.

  • Lauren Detherage

    I’d still be happier if they would have just shown a girl on one of the traditional NERF boxes …

  • Abigail Wallace

    Mini-Lucy Pevensie is where it’s at.

  • Laura Truxillo

    It has the power of shooting foam missiles, you mean.

    And I think that’s why there’s that bolded section–there’s nothing wrong with liking pink. If girls don’t want a pink one, they can get the other bow. But if they do want pink (and hey, some girls really really do), then they get to have a pink one. Some girls, especially really young ones just starting to feel out the concept of gender, want to be able to be “girly” and “fighty” at the same time.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Yeah, they make smashy weapons now, but NERF still built its rep (and the majority of its sales) on pew-pew things.

  • Casey Cookson

    ” adults are more concerned with these things than girls are.” Well, no shit! kids only have the barest sense of romantic attraction and next to no knowledge of sexual attraction. How in fuck are they going to be concerned about it? why does that mean that the name is just fine? You wouldn’t be all ” adults are more concerned about the dangers of electricity than kids are” and think that means downed powerlines are a-okay for them to play with.

  • Jess

    Hey look it’s the awesome sword I bought for my Link cosplay!

  • Martha Watts

    YES! A Tamora Pierce fan! Those books made me want to become a woman warrior, too! I would love a less pink version, or at least a variety of colors and styles :)

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    “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.” Pink and purple, it is!

  • Anonymous

    Guy here, I saw a bunch more pictures of these from toyfare. I want them bad. It’s like if you asked the elves from LotR to make Nerf toys, this is what would happen.

  • Rachel Tyson

    Maye they’ve been discontinued. But they had a bunch of melee weapon toys starting around 2009.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I’d always seen the regular nerf as sort of gender neutral.