Target to move away from gender-based signs

Here’s the lede from a report on that a reader just sent me:

Attention Target shoppers: Say goodbye to “girls’ building sets” and “boys’ bedding.”

The big box retailer announced Friday that it will start phasing out gender-based signage in some departments. The shift comes in response to customer feedback that distinguishing between products for girls and boys is unnecessary and maybe even harmful.

Parents and gender equality advocates welcomed the news as a significant step with potential to inspire other retailers.

We’ve gone from traditional gender distinctions being outmoded to being “harmful”? Is it really “harmful” for the Barbies to be in a different section from the G.I. Joes?

I have a hunch that this will not be well-received—not because shoppers have thought clearly about the underlying worldview issues but because people are in a hurry and are served by age-graded and gender-divided toy sections. We’ll see.


  • Brian Holland

    I can virtually guarantee it wasn’t “customers,” but left-wing activists. Ordinary “customers” don’t have the time or the energy to protest against gender divided sections at retail outlets. That’s why the left-wing media (like CNN) has so little credibility. Ironically we (the ordinary customers) will have to protest to get common sense ideas back.

  • buddyglass

    Doesn’t seem like Barbie and G.I. Joe will be mixed in together. The only difference is that you won’t have signs calling the Barbies “Girl’s Toys” and the G.I. Joes “Boy’s Toys”.

    • Brian Holland

      But the point is that this is all part of the war on male/female differences. It’s part of the larger sexual revolution and cultural transformation we’ve been undergoing. We have 58 categories of gender on Facebook now, for crying out loud. Surely yoy would agree that this is not a good development? Young people today are guinea pigs in so many ways, and this will not end well for us as a society.

  • Carly Tweito

    I find this very interesting that they would do this for a number of reasons but topping the list is the fact that there have been numerous (secular) studies done that have shown that removing gender signs from toys in particular (but I have read several that extend to other items as well) results in people purchasing fewer items. Just as you have suggested at the end of your post.

    I will be curious to see if they will merely remove signs and leave items still organized in a gendered manner or if they will eventually start to mix things together.
    Either way I don’t think it will last

    Several past studies have also shown that removing signs from toys did not impact which items were purchased for girls and which were purchased for boys. Clearly showing boys and girls have different interests. Although these may be more outdated as our society shifts and unfortunately many parents encourage their boys to play with dolls and girls to play with trucks…

    • Lauren Bertrand

      100 years ago, it was culturally normal for parents to dress their little boys in frocks. While this of course changed as the children aged and developed wills of their own, it begs the question as to what parents do who lack resources. My suspicion is that a child, if choice is removed from the equation, will–up to a certain age–play with whatever toy sits in front of him/her rather than refuse it because it aligns with customary preferences from the opposite sex. (Note that I add the age of a child in question, because, like most things, gender ideation owes something to socialization, which is pretty much tabula rasa at birth. Also note that I also use the term “gender ideation” and not “gender identity”, since socialization has something to do with why some kids steadfastly resist the norms ascribed to their sex…without ever having to be transgender.)

      A company as well-managed as Target has no doubt done its research. If this shows any change of negatively affecting its bottom line, the leadership would not pursue it. So it’s less about red/blue politics and more about the color of money.

      If Target learns that this was a mistake, I think Denny is correct that it will flop because customers won’t want to deal with the extra searching for toys that rest in a jumble across their respective aisles.

  • Deborah Phillips

    Gender-based signs are harmful? Exactly how? What a load of carp! Some of these policies are becoming more idiotic by the day, which tells me a whole lot about the people that are making these things up.

  • Kristin Richardson

    Are you really objecting to getting rid of gendered toy aisles or just the fact that the word “harmful” is used?

    Personally, I welcome this change. The gender segregation in children’s products is out of control. I have a little girl, and it’s really annoying that everything – literally EVERYTHING – for girls is pink and purple, sparkle and glitter. Barbies and GI Joes are at opposite ends of the spectrum of toys – what about the wide swath of products in between? Anything that is remotely “gender neutral” – such as primary colored blocks – are stocked in the “boy” sections, because I guess girls only play with pink and purple blocks? Are girls not allowed to like reds, yellows, blues? I hardly think that marketing primary colored legos to both boys and girls will ruin my daughter’s sense of femininity.

  • Ben Thorp

    I think that most of the outcry here is because people are having a hard time distinguishing between “gender neutrality” and “gender stereotyping”. Obviously there may be some motivational overlap, but there is a world of difference between this move by Target (which is removing gender stereotypes) and, say, moving to unisex bathrooms (which would be gender neutrality).

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