Barbie pink is for girls and Thomas blue for boys, right? Not at Target in America. The retail giant is removing all gender-based signs in its stores that promote toys and children’s products as either for girls or boys.
In a powerful demonstration of the influence of social media, self-confessed feminist and mum Abi Bechtel reached out to US Target stores, with a simple, four-word tweet. And the retail powerhouse, which is unrelated to the Australian chain, listened.
In an article she penned for TIME, Abi relays that being a feminist parent of sons is a tough gig, saying, “Our society is constantly telling kids how they’re expected to perform girlhood or boyhood, and so my partner and I spend a lot of time trying to help our boys to unlearn these messages.
“That’s why when I was toy shopping in Target a few months ago and noticed the “building sets/girls’ building sets” aisle sign, I rolled my eyes and tweeted a picture,” she says.
— Abi Bechtel (@abianne) June 1, 2015
It triggered an outpouring of support, and criticism.
The groundswell of attention garnered by the Tweet, prompted Target in the US to take action. In a statement, the retailer said it doesn’t want its guests or their families to feel “frustrated or limited by the way things are presented”. So the decision was made to review gender-based signage in its stores.
“In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not. Historically, guests have told us that sometimes—for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well—signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” the company says.
US Target stores are now working to identify areas where gender-based signage can be phased out. It says signs in the children’s bedding area, signs will no longer carry suggestions for boys or girls, just kids.
“In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months,” Target says.
It’s prompted Abi Bechtel’s praise, for a move towards a more inclusive shopping experience, and perhaps, society.
We don’t have to teach our kids to live inside the narrow confines of gender stereotypes. This is why Target’s announcement that it’s removing gender identifiers from its toy and kids’ bedding department is a big deal,” she says.
“When toys aren’t colour-coded pink or blue or labeled “boys’” or “girls,’” kids are freed up to play with what they want and pursue their own interests. No longer boxed into their half of the toy section, children of all genders can be nurturers and builders, scientific and creative, peaceful and rowdy, chaotic and organized, homekeeper and adventurer. Our kids contain multitudes, and we owe it to them to let them explore their full range of interests without anxiety or limitation.”