After a customer's tweet went viral in June, Target has responded in a huge way.
Target customer, Abi Bechtel, was shopping with her son this June when she came across a sign in the aisle that referenced (as two distinctly different offerings) "girls' building sets" and building sets in general. This being the 21st century, she was appalled. Her disgust led her to tweet a photo at the retail giant:
This tweet went viral. It was retweeted over 2,900 times and favorited by 3,000 people. Needless to say, Target was quick to respond.
In response to accusations of gender-based signage, Target has responded that these signs were previously believed to "help guests get through the store efficiently while pointing the way to more inspiration and great products." However, Target also acknowledges that these signs have outstayed their welcome and has fully committed itself to creating a more gender-inclusive environment in its stores.
Target recently announced that it will be removing all gendered signs from its toys, home and entertainment departments. While gendered signage may still be "necessary" for clothing departments, Target has agreed with Ms. Betchel and other consumers that these signs have no place in other departments. Target has begun the process of "un-gendering" these departments in its stores throughout the nation and is expected to have all gender indicators removed from the majority of its departments within the next few months.
You may be reading this wondering, was this really necessary? Does it make that much of a difference whether some toy shelves are lined in pink (indicating that they hold "girls' toys") and others in blue? The answer (as Target has just realized) is yes. It matters enormously.
These seemingly innocent gendered signs found in many large chains with locations throughout the United States support a flawed idea that there are strict gender roles that every child should be expected to conform to. Who gets to decide whether a toy is a "girls' toy" or a "boys' toy"? In previous decades, the answer has been society as a whole. Sadly the society that has been determining this is also a society plagued by a strict conceptualization of gender roles. Previously, society has deemed Barbies and Easy Bake Ovens as acceptable for girls to play with, while Hot Wheels and Legos were toys that should be bought for boys. Pink bedding for girls, blue for boys. Toy kitchens for girls, toy tool boxes for boys. The list goes on.
But in an age where the freedom to be yourself is becoming more widely accepted than the idea of strictly defined gender roles, it only makes sense that this freedom to choose begins with children. Children should not be told how to act by a society whose beliefs are outdated. By eliminating gendered signs in departments such as home and toys, children will no longer be told, "No, you can't do that because you're a boy/girl, go look in [the correctly gendered] section."
Target's elimination of gendered signs will lessen the number of limitations placed on children's freedom. Retail giants should follow Target's lead and accept that toys and bedding are just that and not statements about a child's gender. Children should be free to choose a toy based on their interest in it, not whether the shelf it is located on is lined in pink or blue. The removal of gendered signs is only the tip of the iceberg in the fight against preconceived gender roles, but it is a step in the right direction. And for that I think we can all say, "Thank you for doing the right thing, Target."
Consumers can now look forward to walking through Target's toys, home and entertainment departments and choosing items based on any multitude of stated characteristics; luckily gender will no longer be one of them.