The Toy Aisle Divided

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Target recently took a step in the relational direction by taking the label “boy” and “girl” off of the signs for their bedding and toys aisles. Being relational and, specifically, being grounded means that we reject labels. We know that labelling is restrictive and destructive to individuality. They also make individual assertions of individuality more threatening. When the label “boy” or “girl” is applied to something like toys, it shows the power that labels can have. A young boy choosing to play with a toy that has been labelled as a “girl” toy shouldn’t be threatening to adults, or vice versa.
 
A back to school campaign called #ClothesWithoutLimits echoes our sentiments, noting that when clothes are divided into “boy’s clothes” and “girl’s clothes” a message is sent about what each sex is allowed to like and what they are allowed to be, and by nature restricts each child’s individuality; the same thing goes for toys.
 
Of course, a large amount of controversy and conflict has been stirred up as a result of Target’s decision. Conservatives have taken to Facebook and Twitter en masse to protest the choice. These protests have taken many different forms, from angry statuses to claims that the decision goes against the Christian faith.
 
To be fair, the other side has reacted to the controversy with just as much gusto. These reactions have taken many different forms as well: angry Facebook comments and claims that the people opposing the choice are stuck in the stone-age.
 
This is not quality interaction. Taking a relational approach, we would encourage people to have those difficult conversations and to engage with individuals that hold opposing viewpoints. Especially when we look at the history of how toys are marketed; prior to the 90’s, all toys were grouped together in the same area, holding no signs restricting their use to one gender or the other. The only reason the distinction was introduced, according to Rebecca Hains of the Washington Post, is because marketing companies realized that they could trick parents who had both sons and daughters to buy the same thing twice by convincing them that the boy’s bike was not fit for their girl.
 
Grounded in this reality, it becomes shockingly clear that this social media war is not about a couple of signs at all. Chances are, most of the people arguing about the sign removal did not even play with toys designated for boys or girls when they were growing up. These responses, then, are born out of fear; fear of a “changing America,” fear of oppression, fear of those who fall outside the traditional gender binary. A dialogue that relationally debates those issues is badly needed, but how do we get there from here?
 
The first step is to collectively get clear that this conflict has little to nothing to do with Target and moving past their relatively innocuous decision to remove gendered signs from their toy aisle. By fixating on Target’s comment within this conflict we distance ourselves from any rational discussion the issues at hand. The next step will be to remain grounded in reality and engage with it, interacting openly with the opposing side. Target will likely remain steadfast in their decision to remove labels, but by beginning a dialogue on why we are so up in arms about it we can hopefully improve the interaction between people on either side of an ideological spilt that goes much deeper than an argument about toys ever could.
 
Photo Credit:
Title: Robot Fight
Photographer: Ariel Waldman
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ariels_photos/4097787955/in/photolist-7f7eAt-4Y9Wn9-4NAo1-6H6Nw7-m66xrv-m65VKc-m66s4X-m65Qzx-m67cnG-m66goZ-m65DRi-m66ZMN-m66YwS-m66WRh-m66Nku-m65TJM-m65Fn2-m66wE1-m652iD-m66nKh-m65t3H-m65esX-m662qu-m657xK-m662vF-m65XHu-m65VFo-m64Uwk-m64gZz-m65Gd1-m64djZ-m64KGg-m8zaED-m8z9Ex-m8AN9h-m8zSgg-m8zRGR-m8z6zp-m8AK4u-m8AJtG-4Zxcoq-m67pAE-m65X32-m66qp4-m65PiV-m66kX8-m67aF5-m65F6c-m673FJ-m669dr
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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