The retail giant Target announced recently they would soon create gender neutral toy, entertainment, home and bedding aisles. The announcement has received much controversy and stirred up a lot a discussion and debate. Below is the official Target Press Release about the gender neutral signs:
We never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented. Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not. Historically, guests have told us that sometimes — for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well — signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.
We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, in the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.
While some Target customers were excited about the change, there are many who have their (gender specific) panties in quite a wad.
Psychotherapist Tom Kersting (pictured above) told Fox News Tuesday children would now “question what their gender is” because of the lack of gender specific signs in Target. To which Alcides Segui of Fox affiliate WTVT replied, “I know it’s going to confuse me.” Mr. Kersting and Ms. Segui argued taking down the gender-specific signs would make purchasing gifts for children more difficult, which has been the main argument among Target protesters. Further, they claimed children themselves would be confused about gender based on toys.
Placing children in boxes based on gender is not only unethical, it’s detrimental to developmental growth. When I was a child, I played with the boys, I only wore my hair in a pony tail, and I did not (repeat) did NOT want to wear dresses. This changed however, once I got into high school. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it was the pressure to conform to society’s definition of gender norms.
Not only does the gender-nonspecific signs and aisles in Target allow children to pick a toy or a bed that they want, I argue it gives children the ability to come out of the “girls only” or “boys only” box.
Below is the Always #Likeagirl campaign video. Haven’t you heard the old saying, “You run like a girl”? Why is that a derogatory thing to say? Cause girls are pretty bad ass and they get stuff done.
My favorite part of that video is when the producer asks what advice the girl in the blue dress would give to young girls who were told they run, kick or hit ‘like a girl’:
“Keep doing it, cause it’s working.. If you’re still scoring and still getting to the ball in time and still being first, you’re doing it right… I AM A GIRL. And that is not something to be ashamed of.”
In the classroom, I hear all the time, “that’s a boy’s toy” or “that’s a girl’s toy”. Why does it have to be anyone’s toy? Why can’t a toy simply just be that, a toy? Gender is defined as “the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender). This does not mean that if a girl wants to play with a ball vs. a barbie doll she will confuse herself with being a boy. It also does not mean that if a boy wants to play with the doll vs. the ball he will confuse himself with being a girl. Being able to make decisions and have autonomy is a crucial part of development. Teachers, parents and/or other classmates are holding children back when they tell children they can only play with gender specific toys.
How horrible would it be to hold back a boy or girl because they tend to like toys or bedding or colors or songs or tv shows that are labeled opposite their gender?
Think of this way. A man walked into the store to buy a bottle of wine. He chose the white wine because he simply likes white wine. However, when he got to the checkout counter, he was told that white wine is for women and he would be better suited with the red wine because red is more masculine. The man wasn’t choosing the wine based on it’s gender specification, he chose the white wine because he liked it. Did it make him less of a man? No. Did it make him a woman? No. Was he humiliated by the cashier and probably went to go get the more masculine wine? Probably.
So, I just want to end by saying thank you Target, for taking a big and public step to end gender stereotyping.
Check out how Twitter has reacted to the news: