I'm saying "Way to go, Target!" these days for the chain's decision to change their toy section signage. The sign in that photo that went viral a few years back has nothing on the signage at our closest Target, which is gendered to the extreme. Pink and blue, Boys' Toys and Girls' Toys - the toy aisle is about as segregated as you can get, according to the signage. But now that's going to change, and I can't wait. Here's why I'm excited to see Target join Toys R Us in changing the way they label their toy aisles:
- Browsing will be easier for families with boys and girls with stereotypical interests (like mine) because toys will be organized by type. We can go to the car section and find the cars my son will like and the cars my daughter will like. We can go to the building sets area and find something for everyone. As a parent of a girly girl and a boyish boy, having a single toy section makes my life simpler, not more complicated.
- Other stores have been organizing their toy aisles by category rather than the presumed gender of the toy's eventual owner for years. Walmart. Toys R Us. The indy toy stores around where we live. I've never found this confusing - nor have my kids. Frankly, it just seems logical to have one section for blocks and another for books and puzzles and dress up and trucks and dollies.
- Some kids have classmates who will tease or even beat them up for doing anything that they consider to be gender non-conforming. Some kids even have parents who will do the same! Having one section - Toys - could give these kids a little more freedom. At the very least more freedom to browse. A few more options in a consumer culture that does its best to box everyone in. What's wrong with kids having more choices?
- Labels like Boys' Toys and Girls' Toys don't help anyone. Seriously, is there anyone alive who needs help figuring out what to buy if they're shopping for a girly girl or a boyish boy? I don't need signage to know that my own daughter would prefer a Barbie and my son would prefer a dump truck because that is what they like. And if the signage doesn't help anyone figure out what to buy, why not address the fact that it hurts some kids by making them feel ashamed of the toys they like?
- More girls discovering LEGO! Maybe things were different at your local Target, but in mine the LEGO (apart from LEGO Friends sets) was three aisles into the Boys section. While some girls aren't going to let a large sign reading Boys' Toys keep them from the LEGO sets, a lot will assume that whatever is in those aisles isn't for them. Because, you know, the large Boys' Toys and Girls' Toys signs are literally telling them that - and kids can be really literal.
- And finally, not having pink or blue or otherwise gendered signage is not turning anyone gay. It's just giving kids more options! Target's decision had nothing to do with pressure from gay or transgender groups trying to recruit - which is an actual claim I saw multiple times on the company's Facebook wall. As much as some people hate to admit it, there are boys who play with their favorite dolls and girls who love their trucks. Having the option to play with a wider variety of toys is not going to make children question their genders.
People are literally calling for boycotts. Over signage. Now let's get something straight - Target isn't throwing Barbie in with the Matchbox cars and displaying baby dolls in between LEGO sets. They're not even changing the layouts in individual stores. All they are doing is removing end cap signage that calls some toys boy's toys and some toys girl's toys. That's it. Some people are howling that they won't be able to find anything. I guess signs reading "Dolls" and "Building Sets" and "Puzzles" are just too confusing for some folks.
I'm just glad that my kids can now go to Target - the same way they could already go to Toys R Us and Walmart and all the indy stores in our area - and browse the toys they like without having to think about whether they're breaking barriers or eschewing gender norms by doing so. In my opinion, organizing toys by type rather than gender labels DE-politicizes the whole thing. When they're just toys, a boy buying a doll or a girl buying the LEGO Death Star kit is no longer an act of subversion. It's no longer controversial. It's just kids buying toys.
What do you think about Target's decision? Are you on board, disappointed, or maybe you couldn't care less?