Target eliminates gender labels for toys, bedding

Imagine this: a nine-year-old boy wants an Easy Bake Oven. However, stores market it as a girls’ toy, so the boy’s father will not buy it for his son. Cases like this have been happening all over America, and this needs to change.

Target has already taken steps to make the change in their stores. On Aug. 7, Target announced that it would no longer use signs distinguishing “boys’ toys” from “girls’ toys.”

Though it has come with a mixture of reactions from customers, Target is doing the right thing by breaking down barriers, defying typical gender roles and making room for everyone who shops at their store to feel comfortable.

“In the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender,” said Target in a statement on their website. “We never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented.”

This idea of comfort for everyone is important for Target to acknowledge. Other stores should follow Target’s example if they want to appeal to more customers and remain competitive in an ever-changing society.

Toys becoming gender neutral is a step in the right direction for gender equality and acceptance of all people, not just kids, who deviate from what society considers acceptable for boys or girls.

“We don’t have to say that this (toy) is for boys or this (toy) is for girls,” said Lorri Everette, owner of Luv-N-Kids Daycare in Greensboro. We can say it’s for both sexes. They really should not separate (boy and girl toys).”

People in the Guilford community find this issue important regarding the way society views gender roles.

“It’s nice to have gender neutral options that don’t simply reinforce our dominant binary gender system,” said Tom Guthrie, associate professor of sociology and anthropology, in an email interview.

Many parents appreciate having gender- neutral toy options for children as well.

“I’m okay with my daughter playing with a Tonka truck or a little race car,” said Michelle Frank ’15, who is the mother of two daughters, in a phone interview. “In terms of socializing, it really depends on the upbringing of the child.”

The upbringing of a child helps teach gender roles. Children learn from watching their parents, so if a parent pushes their son or daughter into a particular gender role, then the child will probably follow their parent’s example. If the child does not follow their example, it can create tension in some households.

To change society, people must first change their mindset about what is acceptable and what is not. People must challenge social norms and have an open mind about alternatives to what we consider normal today. Gender-neutral toys, however, are not the only way to change gender norms in society.

“Changing these norms would require changing how we do gender in our society, including how adults talk about and model gender and identity among themselves and to children,”  said Guthrie. “Children receive messages about gender from many sources very early on in their lives …. Toys are just one element of this social system.”

Solving the problems this society faces will not happen overnight. However, when companies like Target challenge the status quo, great things begin to happen.