“In the beginning God created toys, and god said “let the toys be separated between male and female… And the male toys shall be army men, trucks, and superheroes. They shall all be in shades of green, blue, grey, black, and brown, and the color pink shall never touch them. And the girl toys will be Barbie dolls, princesses, easy bake ovens, teddy bears, and unicorns. They shall be in shades of pink and purple and adorned with sparkles.” And so God placed a sign labeled “Boys” above the toy isle for boys and one labeled “Girls” above the toy isle for girls. And so God said “It is good.”
In the following statement posted a few days ago Target announced that they would be removing unnecessary gender based signs / color coding:
“Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, 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, 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.”
Seems harmless, right? Well, not according to some. As I’m sure Target fully expected, their announcement caused an uproar of crazy on their Facebook page. In addition to hoards of “I’ll never shop at Target again!!!” comments (dramatic much?) here are some of my “favorite” examples of crazy found on Target’s Facebook comments section (no matter what the post was actually about):
As usual the nonsense and slippery-slope arguments are being tossed out everywhere by these people. Apparently in their minds Target is now going to force men and women to try on the clothes of the opposite gender and Target approved child molesters will be prowling around the toy isles waiting to snatch children! My god! Where will it end!? What’s next? A mandatory sex changing station in every section???
While these comments are clear overreactions to what is actually being done, they are’t the ones that really bother me. The ones that irk me far more than the other “normal” crazy fare, are those that attempt to bring God into the equation:
I don’t quite understand how anyone thinks it’s reasonable to bring god into a discussion about gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes and gender roles are created by human beings. If god exists, then he / she / it had nothing to do with what we consider masculine and feminine. If he did, then the stereotypes and roles would have existed throughout history and throughout every culture, never changing. But the fact is, they are different in every culture, and they have changed multiple times throughout history. Take this picture for instance:
You might think “Aw! What a cute little girl, with her pretty dress and curly hair!” Well… Let’s take a look at this little “girl” all grown up:
That’s right. It was FDR, the 32nd President of the United States, the whole time. So, as early as the end of the 1800’s to the early 1900’s it was considered perfectly acceptable for a little boy to be dressed in a pretty dress and lace, and it didn’t seem to harm him even the slightest bit. A little before that pink was considered masculine, while blue was considered feminine. At one point it was considered a woman’s place to be in the home, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. But thanks to two world wars and the Great Depression, women began to make their way into the workforce and began to realize that they could work and earn a living just as easily as a man could (unfortunately their pay still hasn’t caught up to their male counterparts).
The point of all of this is that gender stereotypes and gender roles are fluid. They’re constantly changing. They aren’t ordained by any sort of god (in spite of what some people claim), and they haven’t “always been that way.” Kids aren’t going to suddenly run out of Target screeching in terror because there aren’t “Boys” and “Girls” signs above the toy isles, Target isn’t going to start forcing their customers to wear clothing “inappropriate” to their gender when they shop there, and the world isn’t going to end. So… All of you new Target haters, take a deeeeep breath, calm down a little, and think about why Target might be doing this.
Quotes from two articles, one from the United Nations Human Rights Office and one from Think Progress, give a few reasons why gender stereotyping and gender roles are not only unnecessary, but harmful:
Regarding Judges and the law:
“It compromises judges’ impartiality. It also influences their understanding of criminal offences and their perception on whether violence has occurred in cases such as the rape of sex workers, of married women by their husbands, or domestic violence in same-sex relationships.
Stereotypes affect judges’ views about witness credibility or legal capacity. Such is the case when judges form a negative view about the credibility of the victims who do not behave in a stereotypical manner.
Further, stereotyping can also stop judges from holding perpetrators accountable or even cause them to blame the victim. Finally, stereotyping can impede access to legal rights and protection for victims of violence. The R.P.B v. Philippines case presented to CEDAW under the individual complaint procedure, Cusack mentioned, highlighted many of these harms. The rapist of a deaf and mute 17-year-old girl was acquitted by the court because the Judge expected the victim to fight her aggressor in order to protect her purity.“
The Sexuality of Teenagers:
“Speaking of the impact of stereotypes on the reproductive and sexual health and rights of women and girls, Veronica Undurraga, Law Professor at Adolfo Ibañez University in Santiago, Chile, said that there was a belief that girls should not manifest any interest in sexuality, whereas male teenagers were expected to be more vocal and aggressive.”
Girls-Sports, Self-Esteem Issues, and Body Image:
“Girls who enjoyed sports often avoided physical activity at school because they assumed it wouldn’t be a feminine thing to do, they worried they might look unattractive while running, or they were mocked by their male peers for not being good enough. The girls also put themselves on diets because they believed desirable women have to be skinny.”
“All of the girls were within very healthy weights, but they were all restricting their intake of food in some way. So what we’re really talking about here is 14-year-old girls, whose bodies are changing and developing, depriving themselves at every meal,” Pereira said.“In the extreme, that can lead to things like eating disorders. But even for the women who don’t reach the extreme, it can be very unhealthy for them.”
Boys-Masculinity, Violence, and Alcoholism:
“Male participants in the study all faced intense pressure to demonstrate the extent of their manliness, which led to what Pereira calls “everyday low-level violence”: slapping and hitting each other, as well as inflicting pain on other boys’ genitals. They were encouraged to physically fight each other if they were ever mocked or offended. They felt like they had to drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol because that’s what a man would do. And they were under certain mental health strains, too; struggling with anxiety about proving themselves and suppressing their feelings, all while lacking a strong emotional support system.”
The Overall Harmful Affects of Gender Roles on Young People:
“This constant effort to manage one’s everyday life in line with gender norms produces significant anxiety, insecurity, stress and low self-esteem for both boys and girls, and both for ‘popular’ young people and those who have lower status in school.”
How Do Kids Feel About Gender Roles?:
“The teens who participated in the Lisbon study — including the kids who bullied others and the kids who were victims of bullying themselves — weren’t happy about the gender roles they were expected to follow. In their one-on-one interviews, they all said they didn’t actually like paying so much attention to the right “feminine” and “masculine” behaviors, and just assumed that’s what they were supposed to do.”
Did Things Change After They Were Removed?:
“Pereira (the author of the study) acknowledges it’s not like it was “suddenly paradise,” but she noticed the kids stopped mocking their peers as much for falling outside the bounds of traditionally gendered behavior. Girls and boys started to become more integrated in athletic activities. There was less physical fighting. And some of the kids’ parents even started calling Pereira to tell her about positive changes in their behavior.”
My point to all of this is just to say let kids be kids! If they are high-energy little boys (or girls) who want to play sports and pretend to be superheroes, fine. If they want to play with Barbies or My Little Ponies, who cares? If they are little girls who like dinosaurs and putting together Leggo sets, big deal! It doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to be gay or transgender. Then again, maybe it does! If they do end up being LGBT, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just who they are. They didn’t have a choice in the matter, and neither do you. No matter how hard you try and force them to conform to gender roles and stereotypes, you will never change who they grow up to be. In fact, all you’ll most likely end up doing is destroying their self-esteem, possibly causing mental issues, and ultimately making life much more difficult for them than it needs to be. Is that really what you want? I know that what I want for my future children is for them to grow up to be smart, independent, self-sufficient, well rounded individuals who treat others with respect and kindness. If they occasionally want to do things that an archaic societal creation says is for the opposite gender, then so be it. I’ll still love them anyway.
(Oh and by the way, if you can’t differentiate between “girls” and “boys” merchandise (whether it be toys, clothes, or bedding) without signs that point it out for you, that’s a very good sign that those differences are probably a figment of your imagination anyway. Either that, or you have a more serious problem than Target (or anyone else) can help you with.)
James Garcia 8/11/2015