Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hey Nerf...Where Are The Girls?

This weekend my husband went out with our daughters and bought himself them some new Nerf guns. They did not even remotely need these as we already have enough to equip the entire neighborhood, but that was irrelevant. Why? Because there's this super-cool, new, never before seen, must have technology that shoots little discs instead of the traditional darts. It was inconceivable that he leave the store without equipping the girls with these snazzy new toys. After all, Nerf is a staple in the geek toy arsenal.



The boxes for the Vortex line of disc blasters were so large my daughters could hardly carry the suckers up the stairs for the great unboxing, but they managed, and within minutes Nerf discs were flying around the house. Yeah, outdoor toys, which my young daughter pointed out, but Dad disagreed. He had to see if they'd shoot all the way from one end of the house to the other, because every man is a twelve year old kid at heart. Not a bad thing, unless you're a lamp or a chandelier, in which case your days may be numbered.

All weekend they played with these new Nerf toys. Okay, we played with them, because I was not going to be left out. I even discovered that if you aim properly the little discs will ricochet quite nicely off the walls of a stairwell. They're really fantastic additions to the Nerf line and I see many more of them in my future as summer approaches and the battles can be taken outside.

If you head over to the Nerf site you can see these wonderful new toys, but after watching the videos, my daughters noticed something that they thought was wrong. There are a bunch of guys in the Vortex video walking down the street looking all tough with their bright orange and green plastic toys, and there isn't a single girl in the mix. Not one. I watched the promo stuff on this new line and the only girls were in the video for the launch party where, presumably, they showed up as guests so they were in the video.

Now, I'm not usually one to get bent out of shape about this stuff. I have no problem with the new girl's line of pink Legos which my kids would have killed for when they were younger. I'd have bought them in a flash and I think it's great to market to girls who want those Legos. I had no problem with the JC Penney shirt that had the Internet in a tizzy because it supposedly gave the wrong message. But this, for some reason, this got me. I think because rather than giving something to girls, something they could decide they wanted or not, this one tried to take something away.

Somewhere, someone thought that the best way to sell these was to show a bunch of guys running around without a single girl in the group. Are these the quintessential "boys toys" and girls don't like them? Obviously not, since I know countless girls that own them and in their launch party video there were women who were clearly having just as much fun as the guys at the party. By excluding girls from their promotional videos, though, it told my girls that Nerf doesn't think it's okay for girls to play with these toys.

The funny thing, or maybe the good thing, is that it wasn't me who noticed this first. It was my kids. They watched it and pointed out to my husband that girls were missing. My littlest scrunched up her face into the most disapproving look possible and pointed out that this wasn't fair and that it made her angry. So, although really disappointed with the folks at Nerf for writing off the girls, I'm also incredibly proud of my kids. They saw this glaring omission, they disapproved, and they ignored the message. Shows you just how sharp kids really are, and how capable they are of seeing past the shiny gloss of advertising.

I'd like to think that the folks at Nerf are aware of just how many girls play with Nerf guns and that they are not exclusively owned by boys. I'd like to think that it was unintentional to exclude girls from their marketing videos. I'd like to think that, but I know those campaigns are crafted very carefully and that the omission of a single girl from that crowd of guys wasn't an oversight. Nerf, you disappoint me, and my kids. I've got a posse of girls right here ready to take on your perfectly coiffed, muscled dudes running through the streets and I'm betting on the girls taking them out before the guys fire a single shot. Nerf Nation, indeed.

4 comments:

  1. Okay, I had to re-check the ThinkGeek site, because I was fairly sure that they were selling Nerf products there.

    So... yes, they are, and there seems to be a fair number of pics and a few vids where women are gleefully wielding them. However, those materials are still aimed at the cubicle breaktime warriors, and apparently, when the marketing is for children... it's still a "boy's toy".

    I know your reality and mine says otherwise, and yet it's entrenched.

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  2. 'Shows you just how sharp kids really are, and how capable they are of seeing past the shiny gloss of advertising.'

    This. All the nattering there is these days about bad examples and terrible role models from film, literature, advertising, games, whatever: how insulting is that to the intelligence of children? How much are they being downsold as being incapable of seeing beyond that message? I do sincerely believe that parents have a far greater influence on what children view as right and wrong. So if one brings up their kids right, they won't be brainwashed by bad advertising.

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  3. I totally agree with you. It's really unfair how they only have boys in the Nerf advertisements. I'm a girl, and I like Nerf, so this idea that Nerf has that girls can't play really makes me mad.

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  4. They have guys in the videos because it's a product aimed at guys, that's how marketing works, it's in no way meant to be sexist.

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