I’m going to ask you to do a little mental exercise with me. On a scale of 1 to 5—1 being the weakest, 5 being the strongest—I want you to number the strength of each phrase I list. Even say them aloud, let them roll around your tongue.
These are all the names of Nerf toys, and one of them is made specifically for girls.
Guess which one it is.
Gendered marketing is profitable. There wouldn’t be “boy” and “girl” toys if it wasn’t. We can argue whether that’s because we train our kids to choose the “right” toys (which we absolutely do) or because boys and girls play differently (which is also a huge part of it), but it’s not going away any time soon, especially if the Lego Friends boom is any indication.
Nerf wants a piece of the action, and they are going to get it with their new Nerf Rebelle toy line, which to their credit not just some old toy designs with pink slapped on. Chicks with bows are a thing right now, and the only thing that shocks me is that they weren’t able to work in some sort of Katniss Everdeen tie in.
Looking at it, it actually has a really awesome design. I’ve never been a fan of the traditional bright yellow/orange Nerf look, and this is a great combination of colors, and according to Hasbro‘s John Frascotti this is what girls want–something that is theirs, but that has comparable power to the “boys toys”.
Then what’s your beef, Nella?
It’s called Heartbreaker. And I have…issues with that.
Heartbreaker has flirtatious connotations. You break a heart by saying no to a date, or by walking down a school hallway and not noticing the person staring at you with a lovelorn look in their eyes. Heartbreakers are seen as people who are so unfeeling towards their fellow humans that they don’t even care that they break you–emotionally.
But then I sit back and wonder sort of damage a weapon named Heartbreaker will even do. What the hell is this thing supposed to slay (with imagination)? Padme from Star Wars?
Back to our little mental exercise; of the 9 phrases listed, the only one besides Heartbreaker that feels “weak” is Praxis. But Praxis sounds weird and alien so it feels like it has some back story to it. Praxis is also an actual word that means “practice in the sense of simply doing something, either in the present or regularly”. So Praxis is still accomplishment. Heartbreaker is…unfortunate.
Yes, they are just kids’ toys, and does a name even really matter? I mean, according to the Bard they ain’t no big thang.
And according to Frascotti, it shouldn’t be an issue. “I think sometimes maybe adults are more concerned with these things than girls are,” Frascotti said. “I think the girls we tested it with just thought it was a cool name.”
…Except, dude, Hasbro; I thought Underdog was a cool name when I was five.
Are we trapping the next generation of ladies into destructive gender norms with the Heartbreaker? Hell I’d be surprised if any little girls even remember its sanctioned name once it’s out of the box, so probably not.
Are gendered toys harmful to kids? The toys themselves are just that, toys. But, if you were the kind of kid being explicitly told there is something wrong with you for liking the “wrong” kind of toy–like little girls ostracized for liking Star Wars, or little boys who are beaten least playing with dolls makes them gay–
–then yea. Yea. It can be harmful. But that’s up to us, as adults, caregivers, and human beings to stop caring and start cultivating a little tolerance in ourselves and others.
So let’s have more toys of equal quality that encourage kids to play in the way they want to play without us adults clutching our pearls for boys and girls. And it’s a decent start, Hasbro, and I know you just want some of that sweet, sweet girls’ market, but you can do better. Give me something that doesn’t come with a coy name, and then we’re talking.
Because seriously? Heartbreaker was the best you could think of? I took it to twitter and Jyger85 came up with Sky Breaker.
So much cooler.
P.S. When I first saw it, I kept reading Heartbreaker as Homewrecker. Thanks, brain.