“Barbies are still going to be with Barbies and Legos will still be with Legos. We just didn’t feel like having a sign that said ‘boys bedding’ was necessary” – Molly Snyder, Target spokesperson
Target’s recent decision to remove gender-based signage from the store’s toy and children’s bedding departments made me wonder what swayed Target to move in this direction. Was it the very public transition of one of the biggest names in the country? Is it the idea that gender is a social construct? Is it just time to move on from the idea that things have gender?
When I was a child, I had short hair, braided in cornrows. I was often in shorts and a polo shirt. I was a bit of a tomboy. I climb trees, played in the dirt and beat up the boys in the neighborhood. I played house and with Barbies, but I was just as likely to play cops and robbers.
The social norms put in place by tradition will have a little boy who has to borrow his sister’s pink goggles teased mercilessly. Children will tell him that he’s wearing girl goggles, call him a girl and generally make him feel stupid for a simple pair of pink goggles. Why should anyone be bullied because they choose to wear a color “reserved” for the opposite sex?
Growing up I often heard, “Sweetie, I think you’re in the wrong bathroom.” Luckily, I was a very confident child and I would turn to the offensive human and say, “What are you talking about? I’m a girl, ma’am.” To which most women stood gobsmacked by their own stupidity. Did they think I was too stupid to read the sign outside that indicated that the toilet was for females?
Inside, that woman had upset me. I had corrected her, but it made me look at myself in the mirror and wonder what made me look like a “boy” to her. Was it my hair or the dirt? I didn’t grow much hair. I didn’t know it until much later this was a symptom of my PCOS. My hair would break off and my hair was never longer than 3 inches long. But I used to spend 30 minutes curling my excessively short hair. I suppose it didn’t help that I was flat as a board until well after my 16th birthday.
In 7th grade, “Steven” used to call nicknamed me “Goya”. Being excessively niave and sweet, I though he it was a term of endearment related to the can of pigeon peas in my house. But one day, he decided to inform me that Goya meant he didn’t know if I was a girl or a boy”a”. He laughed as though he was excessively clever. I felt sad and wanted to cry, but I laughed along and told him he was stupid. After all, I knew that I was a girl and people were dumb because my mom had developed my self-confidence. I was stronger than his words.
High School brought the name, BHB. The nickname was a dig at the fact that my hair wouldn’t grow. When I found out what the acronym stood for, I was devastated. No one understood my lifelong struggle with my hair and “female” image. To be called a bald-headed b$%ch for something outside my control and completely a social construct nearly destroyed my self-esteem. I stopped being joyous, naive and sweet. Changed my uniform to baggy, long skirts and kept away from boys. This awkward period in life was exacerbated by people’s perception that I was not feminine enough.
Target’s marketing strategy to remove gender related assignment to sections in their stores has caused many to call for the boycott of the store. It is easy to get caught up in the hype because Target is removing “gender” identifiers, but I am sure that finding a “boy” marketed toy won’t be too difficult.
The gender roles that have been “assigned” to us based on our body configuration shouldn’t include our choices of inanimate objects, the way that we decide to dress or length of our hair. Perhaps, removing the gender in the toy and bedding section seems like some “liberal” move to the left, but culturally, perhaps it’s time to stop pigeon-holing children in gender roles.