I can vividly remember shopping with my mom and stopping for lunch at McDonald’s when I was little. She was ordering me a Happy Meal while I took caution of the “wet floor” sign and gingerly walked over to look at the toy selection. The girls selection was once again something frilly or colorful, which is fine, but not what I was interested in that day. I noticed something cool “for boys'” and walked over to my mom, tapped her, and whispered that I’d prefer that toy. It always annoyed me that boys got the cool toys while girls were always told they had to play with dolls. I had dolls I liked, but on average I much more preferred to play spies or aliens. I preferred sword fights over tea parties. I wanted a zip line. Yet society repeatedly tells children that certain toys are for boys and certain toys are for girls.
Friday Target announced that they will be removing gender stereotyped signs and arbitrary color gender stereotypes to classify toys, entertainment, and bedding as either “for boys” or “for girls”. When I learned this yesterday I was overjoyed. Sadly there has been much backlash. Many think it’s some “gay agenda”, or worry about how they’ll pick out a toy for a child without signs to direct them to toys for the “appropriate gender’s toys”.
Saying both boys and girls can enjoy aliens is not gay. Saying they can both enjoy My Little Pony is not gay. A girl loving mechanics and wanting to become an engineer is not gay. A boy wanting to become a ballet dancer is not gay. There is nothing about swords inherently male, and nothing about baby dolls inherently female.
There’s a taboo that boys shouldn’t play with baby dolls. Girls are allowed to play with them and practice being mommy, but boys are told that’s only for girls. What about practicing to be a loving and caring parent or sibling is only for girls? Shouldn’t every parent be kind and nurturing?
There is no reason for girls to not play with swords as well. We shouldn’t perpetrate that girls shouldn’t know how to handle a weapon and fend for themselves, that they just have to wait for a man to come around and save them. We should help everyone be able to defend themselves.
Instead of arbitrarily choosing a toy for a child based on gender, why not ask the child or their parents what the child’s interested in? Maybe they love science, unicorns, books, sewing, cooking, or building. If you learn what that child’s interests are and buy them a toy in that area they are more likely to appreciate it and use it. You will also be nurturing an interest of their’s which can help shape their passions and talents as adults. You might not be able to see what use a unicorn toy is, but maybe it will help them discover they have a passion for animals, or art. If for some reason you are unable to ask, why not pick out something that can help them learn? Puzzles, building supplies, and art supplies are all great options.
As a child I saw arbitrary rules that boys can like certain toys and girls can like certain toys, but it wasn’t often acknowledged that both girls and boys can like the same toys. I remember flipping through magazine pages and seeing doll after doll for girls, but the boy’s section had zip lines, tepees (which I had as a child), swords, and so much more stuff that I was interested in! It greatly upset me at the time, and still does to this day. Why must we tell girls that they can’t be interested in those things? Why tell boys that a pony, a type of animal, is only for girls?
I’m thankful that Target is making this decisions and hope other stores will follow the example.