Girls Playing With Nerf Guns


Many people have a very clear idea in their heads about what makes a girl a girl and what makes a boy a boy. In the eyes of many people, how you act determines who you are. This goes along with the idea of performativity which was an idea brought up in the Keywords essay “Gender” by Erica Hateley. If someone sees a child playing with a doll they will assume that it is a girl because a doll is considered a girl toy. In this case the girl is performing her gender as society would see it because she is doing something that is typical for girls. This is similar for boys if they play with toy cars or action figures. An example of a girl demonstrating performativity is in The American Girl Books Meet Kirsten and Kirsten Learns a Lesson. Kirsten is always playing with her doll. Kirsten and Marta play with their dolls together and later Kirsten and her two girl cousins. However, Kirsten’s brothers never join in on playing with the dolls.

Now imagine if Kirsten were playing with a toy gun. That would be an odd site for many people back in her time and even many people today. However, that is what the toy company Nerf is portraying. Nerf came out with a new line of Nerf guns that are pink. These guns are specifically meant for girls. With their new product design, Nerf is suggesting that their Nerf guns are for both girls and boys to play with. This is quite unusual because guns are typically thought to be a toy that boys grow up playing with while girls stick with their dolls and Easy Bake Ovens. The interesting thing is that Nerf even named the new brand of guns Rebelle to suggest that a girl playing with a Nerf gun is rebellious and new to society.

For many centuries girls toys have been defined as dolls, while boys toys are defined as toy trucks and action figures. For most people, guns would be considered a toy for boys to play with. However, as society changes, the social norms of “girls toys” and “boys toys” are changing. Just like the example of a girl playing with a Nerf gun would have been an odd site to see 50 years ago, it is more socially accepted in today’s society. Now you can still be considered a girl if you play with Nerf guns. As society changes, so does the evolution of girlhood and how people perceive performativity of a gender.

8 thoughts on “Girls Playing With Nerf Guns”

  1. Hi Julia!

    I really liked how you used the Keyword’s essay about “gender” and both of the American Girl stories pertaining to Kirsten in order to exhibit the type of childhood toys that girls play with. Speaking of the Rebelle Nerf Gun, it is interesting as to how they altered it from rebel to rebelle, giving it more of an elegant and feminine spin on the product name, especially a product that is stereotypically used by young boys. By looking at the design of the gun, one can observe how the color scheme is pink, white and black. It does not surprise me that the gun is pink simply because the intended audience of this product is for young girls. The aspect about “boy toys” and “girl toys” that you mentioned in your article was interesting, too. Comparing previous social norms of girlhood and gender from the past to the present has shown how much those norms have evolved over the years, and it will be interesting to see what will occur in the future!

  2. It’s interesting to note that the name of the guns, Rebelle, includes the word “belle” which has many references in our culture to beauty–like the Disney princess Belle, and the stereotype of Southern belles. So, while, this new Nerf gun allows girls to traverse into a traditionally male hobby, the company is still suggesting that girls should perform their gender by being “beautiful” while playing with guns.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! My impression of this post was positive that Nerf guns now come in feminine colors, but I see more problems with this than benefits. By choosing pink for girls’ Nerf guns, the company is creating more defined gender separation than existed when just one color option was available. The company should employ color specialists and designers that can come up with rainbow-like (or neutral) schemes which imply no gender, rather than gender specific color schemes, to add to their selection, so every gender is accommodated. (There are many wonderful artists and designers that can accomplish this no problem. No excuses!) The second point of concern is that toy guns are still popular today. I’m not sure that selling mock warfare is the wiser course of action in rearing conscientious little humans. Anyway, my children will certainly not be getting toy guns under their Christmas tree; we will instead volunteer at the food pantry. Cheers!

  4. Thank you for sharing! You mentioned one of the biggest aspects of being identified as a girl or boy in this society, and that would be the toys they play with. When children are born and growing up, their childhood is full of toys. These toys are usually reflective of their interests, and society tends to see girls playing with dolls and boys playing with action figures and toy guns. Nerf is making an interesting organizational move by creating a gun intended for girls. It’s bold because they are “rebelling” against society’s interpretations of what girls want to play with. This particular scenario reminds me of when Bic released its “For Her” pens that were all pink and meant for women. I’m wondering if this will get the same reaction from consumers about how it’s plain silly to make something pink and it’s meant for a woman now.

  5. According to the keywords essay “Girlhood” it says that dolls were important for young girls because it teaches them about their physical expression in dress as well as learning how to care for a home. However, since more and more women are choosing to work instead of just growing up to be a wife and a mother, dolls aren’t as important anymore. As men and women’s roles are starting to blend, I think it is great that these toy companies are making toys more gender neutral now. Another company that has done this is Legos. In addition, stores like Target have stopped labeling toys as boys or girls.

  6. Julia I love the topic of your post!!! I knew that Nerf had produced pink guns but I did not know that the new brand was called Rebelle. The statement that Nerf is trying to make seems to be in regards to inclusivity. The one thing that I find most interesting however, is how Nerf made the gun pink assuming that pink is the color of a girl toy. The fact that gender still is shown through the color of the gun makes me believe that the social norms of girl and boy toys still have a very strong impact on toy makers.

  7. I think this new Nerf toy is very interesting considering the societal views of the novels we’ve read. Still, today in many popular stores like Target, Walmart, and Kohls, the toy aisles within them are very gender stereotypical. The girl aisles are filled with pink colors along with dolls and princesses and dress-clothes. On the other hand, the boy aisles, mostly blue, green, and yellow are filled with Tonka trucks, toy guns, match box cars, etc. Though I do feel that society is becoming more aware of the idea that gender is not “one size fits all” as described in the Keywords “Gender” essay, stores and societal ideas are still very stereotypical towards girls and boys.

  8. When I read this, I immediately thought of hunting. In Wisconsin, hunting is a popular past time and sport for a lot of men. However, society has deemed women hunting as weird. Although I have never hunted myself, I don’t why women couldn’t do it as well. I completely agree with what you said regarding society deeming what is appropriate for each gender to play with. There are a lot of parents that would feel uncomfortable if their son was found playing with dolls instead of toy trucks. I think this further perpetuates the stereotypes of gender roles. Guns are seemed as dangerous and strong–something that stereotypical women were not suppose to handle. Like you said before, I think that as society becomes more accepting and understanding of gender, the expectations of what toys children play with will change as well. I think that in the future we will see more companies like Nerf advertise to the opposite gender.

Leave a Reply