Target and Gender Neutral Toy Sections

I’ve seen a handful of posts, video reactions, and forums regarding this topic. It’s no surprise that I talk about this subject in my classes a lot. Several of the books I teach deal with gender roles and expectations. It should also be no surprise that my students are always incredibly eager to discuss the topic. Here are a few thoughts on Target’s decision to remove BOY and GIRL labels from their store sections:

1. Target is a corporation. The number one thing they care about and answer to is their bottom line. So when they make a decision like this, you can guarantee that a person or a group in their organization figured out that they could make more money if they extended their markets for different toys. You can also guarantee that their business model accounted for all the outrage at this and they felt the positive monetary benefits to extending their markets outweighed any “backlash” from these self-proclaimed “ex-customers.” Target is in the business of making money for Target. They’re not trying to latch on to a social movement unless it helps their figures.

2. I am totally for the idea that future pathways for boys and girls can be opened up. People upset about this might have missed the unchecked damage done to gender expectations starting with advertising in the 50’s and onward. There are boys that are raised predominantly on the concept that anything that looks, smells, or acts like a girl will make them utterly less (Great TED talk on this concept by Tony Porter here http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men ). He argues that we increase domestic violence and inequality by making the most humiliating thing in a young boy’s life this: being called a girl or being told he throws or acts like a girl. After all, what does that tell a young boy about the value of girls? If he thinks it’s the worst insult, how will he see them?

Furthermore, we also had decades in which all the science and engineering toys were in the BOYS section instead of the girls section. A quiet message from our society to young minds that certain jobs were for girls and certain jobs were for boys, and that’s the way it was.

So yes. Even though I think Target’s interest is monetary, I’m all for the idea that young girls and boys will move away from generational stereotypes about who they are and what they’re allowed to do with their lives. I’ve never read anything in the Bible about men being construction workers and women wearing pink. It’s not in there.

3. You don’t have to shop there.

4. The parents I know are all smart enough and caring enough to have conversations with their kids to figure out what kind of toys they like and want. I keep seeing a frantic response to the idea of looking through a toy section and not knowing what’s what! Come on now people. You absolutely know what colors and toys are typically given to which gender. You were raised on those ideas. So even if PINK was the color for boys 100 years ago and BLUE was the color for girls 100 years ago, if you really want to stick to what you think is for boys and girls, it will take two minutes of sifting now. That small inconvenience is totally outweighed by the positives above.

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