Jean Barker

Target’s Gender War

2015-08-14 09:51

Jean Barker 

So, if you’re South African, you've probably heard of Walmart. They’re the people who our government decided shouldn't be allowed in SA, because they’d wipe out a whole bunch of existing businesses that sell junk at low prices.  You know who you are.

Well in the USA, Walmart is huge. But their competitor Target gives them a run for their money.

Target is where you go when you need to buy the kind of stuff that Walmart sells, but you would rather die than go hang out at Walmart, with the People of Walmart*. But it sells more or less exactly the same product from China, but the Target buyers seem to have better taste.

For a long time, Target has labelled their toy aisles the way most shops in the USA do. Guns and bows and arrows and Lego and well, all the good stuff, was in the boys’ section. Then the girls got ugly plastic dolls, stupid useless pink stuff and…  well actually… I'm not too sure, cause I never look at any of the stuff in the Girls’ aisle. 

There’s apparently been some pressure from consumers to change this, for a while.  Shopping is a deeply rooted American tradition, and it needs to reflect a changing American identity.

Many American consumers feel that girls aren't all future housewives who want to practice for when they have babies or dress up like princesses to practice for catching a man. Some want to do that. Others just think they have to. Also, some boys want to practice taking care of their kids, or learn to cook with an Easy Bake Oven. Girls may want to get a Lego building set and start training to be engineers. The sooner we start to get rid of the legacy of sexism, the sooner everybody can reach their full potential, irrespective of what’s between their legs.  

Recently, the process got moved along just a little when Ohio feminist Abi Bechtel tweeted “Don’t do this, @target” with a picture of aisle labelling saying “Building sets” on the one hand and “Girls’ building sets” on the other. 

Soon after, Target announced it was time to stop this pink and blue baby shower mentality nonsense. Great, right?

You’d think so. But conservative consumers showed their true colours in their responses online. They’re treating it like a virtual War on Gender.

“I have Grandchildren I always bought for, and I will not be forced to turn them gay”. That’s an actual comment, believe it or not, posted on the Target website.

Another favourite: “Gender neutral is ridiculous. Are you going to run a communist store with men and women’s clothing all the same look in one department? Leave the kids alone, they can find what they want to play with.” Uh… yes. That’s the point, lady.

Or this one, on Snopes, where you’d expect a more educated audience. “You've gone over the top…have always shopped Target …never Walmart. ..guess I’ll shop Walmart if this happens. …shame on you for caving too our Uber-liberal mentality!”

Then there’s the long rant from the Grandma who claims she couldn't find clothes for her grandson because the boys’ and girls’ clothes were combined.

The joke's on Grandma, of course. Boys and Girls’ clothes are not combined. They will not be combined in the future, says Target. They claim this is because boys’ and girls clothes are sized and fit differently.

I know they’re lying, of course. The real reason is so that boys can still get all the cool sweaters and shoes.

*Fun fact. I made a typo while typing in peopleofwalmart.com to go to the humorous photo blog and typed peopleofwallmart.com by accident. This accidental URL redirects to a page on walmart.com, featuring an exercise machine – the kind of exercise machine the peopleofwarlmart.com desperately need to start using. Proof that the people at Walmart have a mean sense of humour. 

Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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