Target taking steps to eliminate gender stereotypes

Beth Woodruff

Gender roles have been a major component in American society for decades, however a recent decision by a corporate giant may change this social norm forever.

Controversy has erupted over the change Target plans to make to its toy sections. The mega retailer put out a press release Aug. 7, stating that over the next few months it will faze out gender separated items, namely toys. This movement will eliminate color segregation and there will no longer be any “girl” and “boy” toy sets.

A mother’s Twitter comment showing a picture of the building sets and girls’ building sets aisle marker with the comment “don’t do this,” served as an unofficial catalyst toward the movement.

The flip side of the argument can be seen from Rev. Franklin Graham in an interview with Fox News. Graham is the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham. Franklin is now the CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief program, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham has also spoken out on other topics such as the legalization of gay marriage. In the interview, Graham said, “God made us male and female, that’s just a fact …”

I am not going to deny that children were born either a boy or a girl. I am, however, refuting that they need to stay within the human set parameters of what is considered “for girls” and what is “for boys.” As far as I am concerned it’s about damn time the gender neutrality movement came about.

Growing up, I was the girl who loved the color blue, watched Ninja Turtles on Saturday mornings and chose a dinosaur over a Barbie any day. While my parents fostered this and encouraged me to choose my play toys based on my interests, I witnessed countless other parents tell their daughters “that’s for boys.”

A specific example dates far back to my Girl Scout troop when we went to Build-A-Bear Workshop. While all the other girls in my troop toiled over which dress to put on their bears, I walked straight over to the Batman costume. When our group returned home one of the girls took a look at my bear and said, “that’s for boys.”

Fast forward a few years to a local girl’s birthday party. I brought her a dinosaur model set, a play item I loved as a child. I watched as she opened my present, and to my bewilderment, a somewhat disgusted look crossed her mother’s face. The girl seemed excited until she saw how her parent had reacted. The dinosaur was quickly tossed into the plethora of pink plastic purses and lip gloss.

The saddest part of all this is it’s a reality that so many children have grown up in. They were forced into gender roles immediately and took their parents’ and peers’ opinions as gospel. “Knowing” which activities and toys are for girls and which are for boys. states that children as young as 3 differentiate between “girl” and “boy” toys. This horrific statistic demonstrates just how heavily the world has pushed children into gender roles. Not only have young kids been affected by these gender generalizations, they have come to live by them.

Always brand pads and tampons released an advertisement series in which it individually asked both men, women, young girls and boys to perform actions “like a girl.” The results were astounding. While the older women, men and young boys did the actions in a derogatory manner, the younger girls and women performed the actions to the best of their abilities.

This simple experiment displays how young women are attempting to break gender roles and barriers that have been placed on them since they were young. Young girls are trying to demonstrate how they can do or be anything they want, despite traditional attitudes. Target removing gender-based toys is a step toward eliminating these self-prophesying roles.

I feel as though this new generation is a perfect jumping off point to eliminate gender segregation. These children will be growing up in a world where gay marriage has just been legalized, and the acceptance of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community is on the rise. Children deserve to be children, not slaves chained down by pink and blue.