Resistance is Futile?: An Introduction

I want to show you something.

You can probably guess, but that is a promotional image from the Nerf company’s new line of Girl-Focused toys, Rebelle. You can tell it’s for girls, because the name is feminized (in the French sense), and everything is slathered in pink. The line recently launched with it’s first product, this little beauty right here:

It’s called Heartbreaker.

One of the talented ladies at the media feminist blog ChezApocalypse has already discussed why it was given that name and why it’s a problem, so I won’t repeat their words when I can just link to them right here.

What I will say is this: this is a toy for children.

Children, I think, are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to gender interpellation, because they don’t have much control over what discourses they enter, or how they are socially hailed. They don’t have opportunities to self-produce their identities; but if they do, and if that identity falls outside of the established norm, it will be dismissed as a phase, or an imagination run wild. A denial of what everyone else has decided is reality.

When presented to the child for whom it was designed, Heartbreaker creates this mirror for her to look into:

  •  Girl things are always and only feminine. Pink, winged, sporting that dainty ‘elle.’ The girl in the poster is wearing makeup because even heading into imaginary battle, she has to look good. If it is not feminine, it is not for you; the result of Rebelle being explicitly for girls is that regular Nerf becomes implicitly for boys. A barrier of exclusion has been risen, for both sides.
  •  Being ostensibly a weapon, this toy is the object of a power fantasy. But with a name like Heartbreaker, it takes on a specific form. A girl has power by using romantic ties (which, as she becomes older, translates into her sexuality) to her advantage. Femme fatale or nothing.
  •  The first toy in the line is a bow. It’s easy enough to surmise this is because of the popularity of archery right now, particularly among girls. But it’s nothing new. It is actually a well-known trope: Guys Smash, Girls Shoot.
  • By giving a girl ranged weaponry (the logic goes), they can participate in the battle while still being removed from the action. Despite the athleticism required for marksmanship, the bow is consider more elegant than powerful, much like the female marksman herself.

There may be more, but those are the primary three, in my opinion. It is not only that these things are being suggested to her through the toy (although they are), it is that the existence of the toy pre-supposes these facets of her identity.

I can imagine some little girl, a tomboy probably, being presented this thing as a gift from some well-intentioned relative (Goodness knows I had piles of toys from aunts and uncles who seemed to think of me as an SAT logic exercise: Little girls love Barbie. Leah is a little girl. Therefore, Leah loves Barbie). I can imagine that some of them will take to it, because of their temperament, or because it fits with everything they have already repeatedly been told they are.

I can imagine people seeing their acceptance, and mistaking it for evidence of innate Girlhood. Then, thinking “Girls like these things because they are girls,” they make more Heartbreakers, which will be presented to more children, and the cycle continues.

I am only talking about one toy, at the moment. But this sort of social programming/ social behaviour/social programming loop exists everywhere –not just for children or girls but every age and gender. It is a mostly unconscious but nevertheless relentless effort for everyone to fit into one of two very specific groups –women with female genitalia, and men with male genitalia.

To paraphrase Judith Halberstam, author of Female Masculinity, it is a wonder, under those conditions, that anyone reaches adulthood with an identity outside those rigidities at all. Yet it happens. Somehow, people resist.

This blog will be about exploring that resistance, why we do it, what forms it takes, and what it means. When is it conscious, and when is it not? I’ll be writing about it both on general, conceptual levels, and also by taking in-depth looks at specific items –be they films or books.

I, for one, am looking forward to it.

I will be setting up a Definition of Terms page, to ensure that each post can be read individually, but without weighing down the text of each. (Here is the page).

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About inujade

I like the Sims.
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4 Responses to Resistance is Futile?: An Introduction

  1. medleymisty says:

    Ugh, that image with the pink and the girly and the things – it makes me feel all sick.

    Very interested in this, as I grew up fairly isolated and didn’t get a lot of these messages and it’s hard for me to understand people who grew up in more mainstream cultures and why their brains are so weird, and I usually end up blaming them for it and assuming that they choose it on purpose and being sarcastic, and while it is fun to rant I don’t think that really works out well for anyone.

    • inujade says:

      I was…not isolated (not in the same way), but I realized at a pretty early age that everyone around me was playing a very intricate game of pretend. It got me in some fights. It still does.

      Ranting IS fun, but I agree; it’s not the best strategy. That’s why I strive to either find people who speak well, or speak well myself. I think most notable change in the world is started by someone looking a little closer at something that seems given. Get enough people to look with you, and you have progress.

      Here’s some food for thought: the other day, I saw you post a picture of yourself without makeup, and you made note of it. Something like ‘you can tell I trust you guys, OMG.’ That actually made me pace around, all freaked out. ‘Cause it was like…why should it take trust to show people what your face actually looks like, as if it were shameful? Who injected that idea in you, and why did it stick? So, there’s an example of someone thinking YOUR brain is weird. 😉 None of us are exempt.

  2. Leah, I think this is a great addition to your presentation. The gendering of not only spaces, but objects (toys, weapons etc.) has become so commonplace that people barley flinch when they see advertisements of pink bows for girls (hey at least they are starting to “let” girls play with “boy toys”). Slightly off topic but something that might be relevant for you is a quote from Jennifer Lawrence; “I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong – not thin and underfed,” (here is the link that is from http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20645987,00.html). Again, not sure if it applies but the bow and arrow plus the picture of Katniss made me think of this.

  3. Reblogged this on A Journey of Resistance and commented:
    This blog takes a great look at how resistance to gender roles and ideas is now beginning in children’s toys! No longer is the ‘boy toys’ just for boys!

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