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Sunday, August 16, 2015

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, Target stores recently announced that they would do away with “gendered” labeling in their store aisles.

This includes toys (and bedding), but not clothes. Basically, things will just be labeled “toys.” Boys will not be steered specifically to the land of superheroes and trucks and girls will not be steered specifically to the land of dolls and miniature kitchenware.

Yay, Target.

Of course, as with all things, amidst the welling of approval from some people, there was an immediate backlash from others. Target is trying to make their boys into sissy girls who play with glittery things! Target is trying to make their girls into mannish lesbians who like cars! (I so wish I was making this up.)

And how will they know (even some of the less extreme commenters cry) what to buy their children?

Oh dear. However will they manage?

Ladies and gentlemen, you buy your children what they like.

Look, as is fairly obvious from this column, I have two boys.

Boys physically. Boys, insomuch as they tell me at this age, mentally. We have a house full of LEGOs and superheroes and Matchbox cars and firetrucks and Star Wars and Minecraft and all the things that society tells boys they should like. Their interests now just happen to match up with what society tries to tell them they should like. They’re fortunate, that way.

But a few years ago, we bought them a toy kitchen set for Christmas. Both of them love to help me cook and bake. At least a few people I know were amused by this. "Isn’t that for girls," they asked.

No. It’s for boys. Because there are two boys who wanted it and who are playing with it. Your point is?

When I was pregnant with Sam, Jim’s preschool program steered him to dolls for a while. He learned how to treat a baby carefully, how they’re held, etc. Jim was marvelous with Sam when he was an infant, and I have an idea that was a huge reason why. He can still pick up a baby doll and show how to cradle it gently.
We didn’t buy him one ourselves (I wish I’d thought of it), but if we had, all the signage and the packaging and society itself would tell us we were buying him a “girl toy.” We would not be fazed by that. Plenty of people would. And isn’t that a tragedy? Many boys grow up to be fathers, after all.

I can’t quite get away from the feeling that there’s some ingrained sexism at play, too. Girls playing with trucks and superheroes are at least grudgingly accepted. (Although they’re labeled tomboys.) Boys playing with dolls? Much less accepted. As if “girl things” are lesser and weak and foolish. (For that matter, sometimes girls who play with dolls get labeled that way, too, which is equally silly. Play with what you like, kids.)

Personally, I was the sort of girl who didn’t care for stereotypically “girl toys.” I liked Barbie somewhat because I liked her cool car. As a grown up, a woman, a wife and mother, I love LEGOs and comic books and I play video games with my younger son.

And I love to cook and bake and scrapbook and do those stereotypically “girly” things, too. (And glitter? Bring on the sparklies!)

These stereotypes so many people insist on? They’re stupid. They’re lazy parenting. And they’re limiting our children.

No one’s telling your girls they must like superheroes. Only that they can. No one’s telling my boys that they must like dolls, or kitchen sets. Only that they can. And vice versa.

And there’s nothing at all wrong with that. There’s plenty that’s right.

Jill Keppeler loves the fake Target account that was trolling the haters. (Look it up.) Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler or email her at jillmkeppeler@msn.com.



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