As you’ve likely read in the news over the last week, megastore Target has announced that it will remove gender-based signage in its toy, bedding, and home decor sections.
We here at AcuteByDesign are especially interested in the toy department. We have always been in favor of toys that present diversity–of color, ethnicity, and gender.
Changes in diversity presentation have been a long time coming, and still have a long way to go.
But we are here today to celebrate steps forward and dialogues opened. Not to editorialize on where society yet needs to go. So three cheers for Target doing what they believe to be right in a step toward diversity and equality.
Target’s change comes in response to customers who found the signage unnecessary, and it’s a major move in the shift toward gender-neutrality, anti-stereotyping, and letting kids play with any toys they like without stigma or shame.
It may have started with the Free To Be…You and Me album Marlo Thomas “and friends” put out in the seventies, with the song “William Wants a Doll.” Even back then, the song pointed out that boys who like to play with dolls are not necessarily different–they are just practicing being good daddies.
Which is the point of a clip we saw online somewhere recently, showing a boy with a doll in a carrier on his back, practicing to be a good father.
The current Target-centered hubbub started in June, when an Ohio woman tweeted a photo from a Target store designating that an aisle contained both “Building Sets” and “Girls’ Building Sets” with a message asking them to stop the sexist practice.
Target’s social media team took notice when the tweet went viral. It was favorited and retweeted a combined 6,000 times.
In response, Target began researching how they could make their stores more comfortable for and accepting of all their customers. Their plan is to remove blue and pink decoration, gender signage, and more over the next few months.
The thinking is that if girls want to play with trains and cars and boys prefer dolls or kitchen sets, there is no need to influence them by providing signs saying those items are not for them.
Target recognized that their customers’ needs and thoughts are evolving, and it’s expected that other national retailers will follow suit. For sizing and fit reasons, gender signage at the store will remain on children’s clothing, contrary to some concerned social media posts by people who are apparently misinformed about the changes.
They are not the only ones upset, however. Some communities are in a furor over the change. Those who support more traditional gender roles, along with some conservative and African-American groups, have boycotted the store and asked others to do the same.
The store’s website will still list toys as for “boys” and “girls” for now, as that’s how people often enter keywords online.
AcuteByDesign applauds and welcomes these changes and conversations in society. We promote discussions about gender, and it is our mission to create books that show all children of both genders in powerful roles. Our stories feature gender equal messages that show boys and girls in equally positive leading roles with main characters the stretch across the cultural, racial, ethnic, and learning spectrum.