Any step against gender labelling is a positive one
The US-based retail giant, Target, does not have any UK stores, and if you wish to buy from them you have to do so online.
Nonetheless, one has to applaud a decision they took recently, to remove gender-based labelling and decor from some of their departments. All the more so because they took that decision in response to customer feedback.
On their corporate website, A Bullseye View, Target stated:
“Historically, guests have told us that sometimes—for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well—signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.
“We heard you, and we agree. 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.”
I like how Target are making the distinction of the more subtle differences here, such as not using pink and blue backing paper on shelves. Sometimes gender segregation in store is more subtle than some people notice.
When I posted the Target story on Facebook, I was met with comments from people claiming they had never seeing aisles segregated by gender. Of course, those making those comments were speaking from their position of cis privilege. They don’t see them because they don’t look, and because they are cis, it does not register in their brains.
I was in a toy store recently and I could not help but notice that the store was indeed segregated, not by signage, but by colour. One side was pink, and had dolls, dolls houses, kids make-up sets, and all the other toys traditionally associated with girls. The other side was blue, and had toy cars, guns, cowboy outfits, and all the other toys traditionally associated with boys.
Were it not enough that this store was clearly making a distinction between genders and toys which the owners had obviously decided suited either side of the gender binary, I noticed something that made my blood boil. The pink – girls – side had all the artists materials; the blue – boys – side had all the scientific toys.
What message is that sending, exactly? And with attitudes like that, is it any wonder that many more men go into the field of science than women, and men taking an interest in or pursuing a career in the arts is still seen as fette among the cishet majority?
The backlash against Target has been considerable. Their website is full of comments from disgruntled Americans saying they will not shop at Target any more. Good, don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out, Sweetie. On the plus side those bigots are getting a few replies from those supporting Target saying they won’t be missed.
And of course there has been the usual media backlash, particularly from the right-wing US media who claim to report news, but seem to exist only to push their opinions upon others. And of course, Fox are leading the field. On Fox and Friends, host Brian Kilmeade claimed he would have problems choosing what toys to buy for the children in his life. Really Brian? Do what I do, dear; ask the parents – or even the kids themselves. Probably most disturbing were the comments from psychotherapist Tom Kersting;
“I understand there’s this whole gender neutral agenda going on, and I actually have clients of mine that are — don’t really know what gender they are. I don’t want to confuse kids that are young when we take them to a toy store, having them question what their gender is, That’s the problem I have with that.”
Who is Tom Kersting? I did a little digging and found out he is indeed a therapist and counsellor, for marriages and families. He is also a hypnotherapist, which given that is a highly controversial and scientifically unproven field – which has been proven to suggest false memories – sets alarm bells off in my head immediately. He is also the therapist on the US ‘reality’ show, A&E. As the above paragraph suggests, he has no expertise in the field of gender dysphoria, and the fact he refers to a “whole gender neutral agenda”, and claims that he has clients who do not know which gender they are, only serves to highlight his ignorance in the entire question of gender. In other words he’s a television showman and a hypnotherapist quack who does not know what he is talking about and is unqualified to make any comment on the gender issue. And that dears, is why I have a problem with him.
You know what the real problem with the objectors is? Ignorant homophobic and transphobic bigotry. They are scared that if their little darling Johnny plays with dolls, or little sweetie Jenny plays with a train set, in their minds they imagine them becoming homosexual or transgender. And of course, those of us who are better educated fully realise that decision has already been taken in the womb, and hell and high water will not change that. And that fact just further underlines Tom Kersting’s ignorance upon this subject. If he is unaware gender and sexuality are formed before birth, then one wonders just where he got his qualifications from, and how. I played with Action Man as a child (GI Joe in the USA) and had a whole load of paraphenalia concering this militaristic toy. It no sooner made me grow up cishet than it made me violent. The ideas of toys conditioning gender, sexuality, or behaviours is completely bogus and has not one shred of solid scientific evidence to back it up. Boys play with dolls and plushies, girls play with war toys and train sets (and we all still play with Lego), whatever their gender or sexuality – get used to it.
In the end, just what are Action Man / GI Joe, and action figures (which some never grow out of) if they are not dolls?
I see I have also been as guilty as most in concentrating upon children in this article, when of course Target are not only removing gender-based signs from many departments, not just toys, and are doing so based upon customer feedback. The very words were, “some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.” Equally true. I am very girlie (You don’t say, Xandra? Oh I do say, dear.) but the devil will be skating to work before I ever watch a chick flick or read a trashy romantic novel. Things like that give me, as we say in Scotland, the dry boak. I base my bedding around the decor in my room. Am I to be told that I cannot buy bedding because it’s based on gender?
If my female partner was frowned upon or patronised for going into a hardware department, she’d probably show the staff that there is more than one use for a staple gun.
I simply loved what one woman had to say in the comments on the Target website; thank you Ms Angela Yates of Richmond, IN.
“For all of those who are upset about this change, how would you feel if the cleaning supplies aisle said “Women’s” and the tool aisle said “Men’s” because we all know that only women can clean and do housework and men are the only ones handy with a hammer, right?!“
I cannot say that I am a big fan of Target. I don’t buy from them online and if they had stores here in the UK, I would not enter one. Not because of the above change but rather because earlier this year they closed down their Canadian stores and rather shittily made over 17,000 of their Canadian employees unemployed as a consequence. Shame on you for that, Target.
Their step in ending gender-specific aisles and departments is one to be applauded, however; firstly, because it was an action in response to customer feedback, and secondly, because it is the thin end of the wedge which could very well make other stores follow their lead.
And should any readers of this think that would be the end of civilisation as we know it, or like Fox’s Brian Kilmeade think it will cause them considerable confusion in making choices when buying gifts for children and other loved ones, just ask yourself this question;
Just how do you reckon blind people make such choices?
The press release on the Target website (and attached odious comments) can be read here: