Trolls and ignorance on the Target FB page.

Okay, since the Target “scandal” broke because they were removing gender words from the toy and bedding sections, I’ve been obsessed reading the comments. The ignorance is blinding!

The people who are threatening to boycott don’t seem to understand that Target was one of the last stores to use gender labeling in the toy and bedding section. Rather than ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’, it’ll just be ‘Toys’ or ‘Bedding’; just like Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc. It’s not a new concept. It’s NOT a big deal.

I informed someone of that by replying that they should go into a Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, etc and see where they have gender specific labeling. That it wasn’t a big deal since no one else was doing it, Target was just one of the last to go back to the old ways. His response to me was to send me a message in my in-box and block me. He wrote:

Daniel

Why am I obsessed with this? Because of all the people out there who are furious because their kid won’t feel pressured to look at only toys that were assigned to their particular gender. We did a dumb thing by starting the stupid separation so we’re undoing it.

Apparently people now see anything that’s inclusive and decent as a liberal agenda. Sorry for caring for fellow human beings and their psychological development? Wait, no I’m not. You can’t stop people for being ignorant and wanting to raise a generation of brainwashed kids, but you don’t need to perpetuate it.

WHY are adults having such an issue with allowing kids to play with what they like? I additionally saw a couple good articles on the topic, the following is from TIME and NY Times.

Abi Bechtel is a freelance writer and MFA candidate at the University of Akron.

The decision to remove gender-based labels is a welcome sign

One afternoon at the playground a few years ago, my then 5-year-old was hot, dusty, and flawless, with red glitter fingernail polish that sparkled in the sunlight. My kids had teamed up with some older boys, and they were all playing happily in the clubhouse when one of the older boys asked: “Don’t you know nail polish is for girls?”

My 5-year-old shrugged and replied, “Nah, anyone can wear nail polish if they like it. It looks really cool!” He held out his fingers for the older boys to see. “Look how sparkly it is!” They crowded around. “Yeah, it does look pretty cool,” one of them agreed. “It kind of looks like lava,” said another. And then they all went back to pretending the clubhouse was a pirate ship in shark-infested waters.

Being a feminist parent of sons often feels like its own journey through shark-infested waters. Our society is constantly telling kids how they’re expected to perform girlhood or boyhood, and so my partner and I spend a lot of time trying to help our boys to unlearn these messages.

That’s why when I was toy shopping in Target a few months ago and noticed the “building sets/girls’ building sets” aisle sign, I rolled my eyes and tweeted a picture.

It seemed to imply that if “building sets” are for kids, and “girls’ building sets” are for girls, then “girls” is a distinct category from “kids.” Here was one more piece of visual rhetoric telling my sons that boys are normative, and girls are other.

First grade seems to be when the awareness of cooties develops. We’d walk past the all-pink aisles of the toy section, and one of my sons—the same one who, a few years before, would snuggle next to me and nurse his stuffed animals while I breastfed his baby brother—would yell, “Ew, girl stuff!” At his girl cousin’s house, he would eye her train toys suspiciously and ask, “Why doyou like Thomas the Tank Engine?” Toys came in two flavors—boy and girl—and everything not pink was for boys only. A girl playing with toys that didn’t come from the girl aisles was suspect; a boy playing with anything pink was putting his maleness at risk.

If you read the comments on any article about Caitlyn Jenner, you’ll see gender anxiety in full display. If my Twitter mentions these days are any indication, a lot of men still feel that their masculinity is at risk of being contaminated just from having toys for boys shelved near toys for girls. Masculinity, it seems, is so fragile that proximity to pink can taint it.

But we don’t have to teach our kids to live inside the narrow confines of gender stereotypes. This is why Target’s announcement that it’s removing gender identifiers from its toy and kids’ bedding department is a big deal. When toys aren’t color-coded pink or blue or labeled “boys’” or “girls,’” kids are freed up to play with what they want and pursue their own interests. No longer boxed into their half of the toy section, children of all genders can be nurturers and builders, scientific and creative, peaceful and rowdy, chaotic and organized, homekeeper and adventurer. Our kids contain multitudes, and we owe it to them to let them explore their full range of interests without anxiety or limitation.

Playland

How gender-specific toys can negatively impact a child’s development

Some psychologists are applauding Target’s decision to remove gender-based labels in children’s bedding and toy aisles, but say more changes are needed

A young girl paints the face of a doll. (REUTERS/Michaela Rehle )

A YOUNG GIRL PAINTS THE FACE OF A DOLL. (REUTERS/MICHAELA REHLE )

Between the 1970s and the 1990s, while women in the U.S. were closing the gap in education and employment and breaking into the top ranks of politics and industry, one sector was moving in the wrong direction. “The world of toys looks a lot more like 1952 than 2012,” Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist studying children and gender inequality at the University of California, Davis wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed a few years ago. In the 1970s, according to Sweet, few children’s toys were targeted specifically at boys or girls; nearly 70 percent of toys had no gender-specific labels at all. Many toy ads seemed to deliberately flout gender stereotypes—depicting girls driving toy cars and airplanes and boys playing with kitchen sets and dolls.

By the mid-1990s, however, gendered advertising had returned to 1950s-levels, and it continued to grow in the 2000s. Critics blame the backlash on second-wave feminism, the nostalgia of gift-giving grandparents and shrewd marketers, who realized they could convince parents of boys and girls to buy two versions of the same product.

In the past couple of years, the tide has finally begun to turn. WalMart and Toys R Us have recently agreed to tone down their gender-specific children’s marketing strategies, and in a blog post on the company’s website last week, Target announced plans to get rid of gender-based labeling in the children’s bedding and toy aisles: they’ll phase out explicit references to gender as well as the use of pink and blue colored paper on the shelves. “As guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” Target said in the post. “We heard you, and we agree.”

Pressure from customers, as well as the example set by its competitors, seems to have played a role in the retail giant’s decision. In June, an Ohio woman tweeted a picture of a sign advertising “Building sets” and “Girls’ building sets,” with the caption, “Don’t do this, @target”; it’s been retweeted more than 3,000 times.

Some psychologists are applauding Target’s move. “The decision to remove gender labels is a big first step in reducing gender stereotypes,” says Lisa Dinella, a psychologist at Monmouth University. Several studies show that children prefer toys they believe are intended for their gender. Just last year, a paper co-authored by Dinella suggested that color can also be used to manipulate children’s perceptions of what toys they should play with; Dinella and her co-authors, Erica Weisgram and Megan Fulcher, showed that girls were much more likely to opt for traditionally male toys, like airplanes, if they were pink.

Girls’ preference for pink is learned, not innate; cognitive research suggests that all babies actually prefer blue. (According to Jo Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America, the association of boys with blue and girls with pink dates to the 1940s.) In 2011, Vanessa LoBue and Judy DeLoache undertook a study of a group of boys and girls between the ages of seven months and five years. Each child was tasked with choosing between two similar objects, one of which was pink, the other blue. It was around the age of two that girls began to select the pink toy more often than the blue one; at two and a half, the preference for pink became even more pronounced. Boys developed an aversion to the pink toy along the same timeline.

The impact of sex-specific toy choice has implications for children’s learning and attitudes far beyond the playground. “Play with masculine toys is associated with large motor development and spatial skills and play with feminine toys is associated with fine motor development, language development and social skills,” says Megan Fulcher, associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University.

“Children may then extend this perspective from toys and clothes into future roles, occupations, and characteristics,” she adds. In 2008, she was part of a team of researchers who found that children with gender-stereotyped decorations in their bedrooms also held more stereotypical attitudes towards boys and girls.

Research suggests, too, that kids pay more attention to — and form more lasting memories of — the toys they believe are meant for their gender. In 1986, psychologist Marilyn Bradbard presented children ages four to nine with unfamiliar toys in gender-specific boxes, and gave them six minutes to play. One week later, she and her team administered memory tests and found that the girls had more detailed recollections of the objects in the “girly” box and vice versa.

“Organizing merchandise by gender also acts as a barrier that prevents children from exploring the wide array of toys and activities available,” says Dinella. “Target is on the right track, but we still need marketing campaigns to stop gender labeling their products via color.”

It sounds like most of the American adults need to take a time out and grow up.

 

 

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