Could the Rebelle line of pink girly foam toy weapons finally be the signal of gender equality in toys we’ve been waiting for, or is it just another “girl toy” in disguise?
The Rebelle is a crossbow made by Nerf, the classic purveyor of semi-automatic foam weapons and foam sports equipment that has traditionally aimed their marketing toward boys.
There are a lot of different places you and your kids may land on the toy gender spectrum. Some of you may think that all toys are fair game for any gender, including Barbies for boys and Transformers for girls. Some of you may take note that there aren’t many toys out there for girls that aren’t kitchen-nurse-animal-teacher related and quietly grumble to yourself as your daughter picks out yet another pretty pink pony.
No matter who you are, whether you have girls or boys (or both), these pink foam weapons are likely to make you stop and think. Messages of gender equality have been slowly infiltrating the media lately, with two notable examples being of course Merida from Brave and the Internet uproar over the “Feminist Frequency” YouTube videos providing an honest look at sexist tropes in video games. Even if the masses aren’t calling for perfectly feminist toys for our kids, we’re at least coming around to the idea.
Putting gender politics aside, it’s been pretty neat watching the girl archers who undoubtedly inspired the Nerf Rebelle toys appear in pop culture over the past decade. The ones that immediately come to mind are Keira Knightley’s Gwenevere in the 2004 reboot of King Arthur and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. And then there’s Merida, as mentioned above, who caused a bit of an uproar among parents when Disney tried to make her overly princessy with a more womanly figure and lack of bow in new promotional materials.
The Nerf Rebelle toys come in four different styles all featuring swirly, feathery graphics. In a few models there is a choice between blue or pink being the dominant color on the toy, which is a nice touch since not all girls are into pink (or may need to share toys with brothers). The Rebelle longbow is called “The Heartbreaker Bow Blaster,” which could turn into an essay on girl tropes in the media all on its own. We’ll spare you this time, though. The longbow comes with five foam darts and an optional scope, and can fling projectiles up to 75 feet away.
The Rebelle crossbow model is called “The Guardian,” and the descriptive text asks: “Who says you can’t look angelic while you launch a sneak crossbow attack?” The six lipstick-like darts are loaded into the chamber and can be shot up to 75 feet away. Other models include the pistol and holster “Sweet Revenge” (complete with swanky pink and white sunglasses) and the blaster/crossbow hybrid “Pink Crush.”
Of course, if your daughter is really serious about archery, you can always support her interest by getting her some real bows, arrows and targets and learning archery with her or sending her to a camp or lessons at a local archery shop. As with all weapons, just make sure to teach safety first and never take shortcuts.