You won’t often see me writing about current events and even more rarely about politics. Of course I have an opinion, but I feel like the internet is so full of people spouting off that I don’t necessarily need to add to the noise. However, this story has popped up on my news feed so many times this week, and it hits close to home.
Target announced earlier this week that it would be removing gender separation from its children’s bedding and toy section, meaning instead of having “boy” and “girl” sections, it’s just going to be kids. They’ve been applauded for this decision by some and dragged through the coals by others.
As you all know, I have a son. I also have years of experience working with children in many capacities, so I’ve seen gender stereotyping–and the fight against it–firsthand for most of my adult life. I’m going to say this, and it’s going to tick some people off: gender stereotypes exist for a reason. They exist because, as a whole, little girls like girl stuff and little boys like boy stuff.
Before I lose half of you, let me point out that obviously this is not cut and dry. Take JC for example. He is obsessed with trains. And crashing them. He likes giant construction vehicles, dinosaurs and race cars.
Know what else he likes? Tucking his favorite stuffed animals in for a nap, rocking them to sleep if he deems them fussy, and making them food in his pretend kitchen–a play kitchen, I might add, that we received second-hand, and is a bright and glittery pink. I thought about spray painting it, and then I thought, why? It’s fine how it is. Why should JC feel like he can’t like pink?
He’s a boy. He likes “boy” things. And that’s okay. He also likes “girl” things. And that’s okay, too. Why can’t they just be “kid” things?
And that’s exactly where Target was trying to go with the choice they made–taking away the stigma between girl toys and boy toys. But since Target doesn’t manufacture many of the toys, all they’re doing is taking down signs. They can put Lego City sets next to Lego Friends sets and it’s still going to be clear which gender they are marketing to. If you really feel like you need to remove gender stereotypes from toys, the problem is much deeper than taking the signs down.
Why can’t we just let kids play with what they want to, dress like they want to, be who they want to? When we go to Target, or The Disney Store, or Toys R Us, we look at all the toys…because toys are fun. We never say, “no, don’t look at this because it’s for girls.” We let him choose what he wants, whether that’s a superhero lego set or a Doc McStuffins play set. This Target decision is the tip of an iceberg that encompasses a lot more: like the fact that girls can be anything, do anything boys do, and be considered strong–but if boys want to take on traditional girl roles, it comes with a stigma. Like the whole #LikeAGirl campaign that popped up earlier this year. If you run fast and win the race, it’s okay to be #LikeAGirl. Go you! If you’re a boy and you do the same thing, you don’t get to celebrate–because, well, you’re a boy. It’s expected.
(Also, can I point out that the #LikeAGirl campaign was started by a feminine hygiene company? That’s just…backwards).
I got to grow up and be exactly what I wanted to be: a mother who gets to stay at home and write. Did I want to do this because I felt like it was my role as a woman? Nope. My three best female friends are all successful career women in their own industries, and I applaud them, because it’s what they wanted. I’m thankful that JC gets that point of view as well. He is surrounded by people who love him, and every single one of them is different. They run the gamut from traditional married couples, like myself and his father, to long-term unmarried relationships and same-sex marriages. Some of these people break gender stereotypes. All of these people are good people. And frankly, that’s what I really care about.
I suppose my point is that we need to stop focusing on doing what is right for our kids and just DO what is right for our kids. If you have a little girl, let her dress up like a princess. Princesses are pretty and it’s fun to be pretty. If you have a boy, let him be rough and tumble. Playing with sticks is awesome and sticks are free. And when the little girl wants to dig in the mud and the little boy puts the crown on his head, applaud and be happy they are figuring out who they want to be.
Do you think Target taking down the gender specific signs will make a difference? Do you let your kid play with toys that aren’t marketed to their gender?