Photo Credit: Hasbro
If sports were fashion trends, archery would be dotted denim right now. Thanks to movies like The Hunger Games and Brave and TV shows like Arrow and Revolution, the old bow-and-arrow is hotter than ever. As iVillage reported late last year: kids can't get enough of the sport right now. Membership in USA Archery spiked 25 percent in 2012 alone and event attendance is at an all-time high.
So naturally, the mother of all kids' simulated weaponry makers -- Nerf -- is getting in on the action. The toy-gun maker's always had items like the Big Bad Bow in its arsenal, but now the company is making headlines for introducing (brace yourself) a girly version of the same toy, as part of their new Nerf Rebelle line.
For starters, the Heartbreaker bow is pink. It's also got a name that opponents insist would never appeal to boys. (As if the pink weren't discouragement enough.) According to Entertainment Weekly, in an effort to appeal to the pigtail set, the weapon also comes with collectable darts -- because God knows girls like to collect things -- and an app that "encourages collaboration and teamwork." Additionally, the bow has been designed in such a way so that girls as young as 6 can shoot each other's eyes out -- I mean aim at targets -- easily and effectively.
Naturally, panties are bunched. There's the camp that complains (much like they did when Lego debuted their pink-and-purple-puked-on-it Lego Friends collection) that designing toys exclusively for girls is sexist and smacks of extreme anti-feminism. Of course, little girls are welcome to play with the manly Big Bad Bow all they'd like; the point is, they generally don't. Well, they might if they tried it, but they're just not drawn to the orange-and-black aisle the way they are to blush-and-bashful one next to it. They see that pink packaging in the store or on TV and suddenly, they make a connection: This is for me! I might like this! They don't have to necessarily like pink or purple to make this association; it's already ingrained, for better or for worse.
Would I rather have my daughters lounging on the couch watching TV or playing a video game, or being outside and having fun while honing their hand-eye-coordination? I'll take swords for 500, Alex. Would I buy my girls the pink model if they fancied it? You bet. Would I care if they preferred the more masculine version? Not one tiny bit. Am I freaked out at the thought of my daughters playing with potentially dangerous weapons? Look. Yes, a bow and arrow can be used as a weapon. But last time I checked, so could a baseball bat, golf club, dumbbell, tennis racquet, kayak paddle, cricket bat or jump rope. It's our job as parents to explain any toy or piece of sporting goods' intended use, and to snatch the thing immediately away when it's being used in any other capacity. And if it is, you can't really blame the pink -- or Nerf.
Jenna McCarthy is an internationally published writer, TED speaker and the author of five books including If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-handy Man You Married (Berkley Books, 2011). Find her at JennaMcCarthy.com.