Gender Neutral Signage in Store for Target Customers

Photo courtesy of MikeKalasnik, Wikipedia

Target has decided to stop organizing its children’s toy section by gender, thereby having a more gender neutral selection for shoppers.

This new development occurred after a customer tweeted an image that went viral in June. The tweet consisted of a picture of a Target toy section sign reading, “Building sets. Girls’ Building sets.” The picture was captioned, “Don’t do this.” The tweet caught Target’s attention. The company listened, and is now in the process of creating a toy section that will not be labeled by gender. Along with the toy section, the bedding department and other sections will be more gender neutral, rather than being separated by pink and blue.

“Kudos to Target for acting in children’s best interests,” said Rebecca Hains, of the Washington Post.  

Since the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner as a transgender woman, gender identity has been questioned by many in the public sphere. There are strict gender roles that are being taught to children at a young age, which includes the idea that boys must be interested in "masculine" things and girls must be interested in "feminine" things. Boys are taught that they cannot play with dolls and girls are taught that trucks are for boys, but very few people teach children that they are able to identify with their preferred gender, not the gender that was assigned to them at birth.

Children's gender identity has become an even bigger topic, sparking the creation of organizations such as Let Toys Be Toys and No Gender December. These organizations have, over the past few years, helped parents see how gender-labeling makes children feel uncomfortable with picking a toy or piece of clothing that was labeled for the "other" gender. The organizations are bringing awareness to others, as this cultural change is progressing in the United States.  

With these influences for non-gender labeling, Target has taken a huge step that most big retailers have yet to consider.

“I think Target is doing a great thing by help kids to find their gender identity. It helps them to pick out a toy without having to worry if others will make fun of them for their choice. I don’t see other stores doing this, especially Toys R Us and Walmart,” said Elyse Lijoi, a freshman.  

Toys R Us has yet to stop labeling their stores with bright pink and blue coloring, but their U.K. cooperate has stopped using gender labels.

There is a written statement on Target’s corporate website on its plans for its stores, which reads: “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.”

This cultural shift will be slow, due to many critics stating that gender identity does not exist. Critics who think this cultural shift is wrong state that Target’s decision to change is only for publicity.

Hains states, “Change is slow, however. Cultural shifts happen in stages, not overnight — hence the pushback. It’s an interesting culture war to watch: In the future, gender stereotyping could indeed be rolled back even further, into areas such as the clothing department.”

Target is taking the step towards this cultural shift. Target is a part of this change.