It was October or so—a little brisk, but not yet parka weather—and I’d just picked up my girls from preschool. I was a single mom, I worked as a case manager for families receiving government assistance, and I was perpetually exhausted. Still—and this will come as a shock to those of you who know me well—I more often than not managed to muster the energy to prepare reasonably nutritious meals. (I mean, I’m counting breakfast cereal as “reasonably nutritious,” and it does too count as cooking because the proper milk-to-crunchberry ratio is tricky. It takes a certain je ne sais quoi.)
Anyway, on this particular night, I couldn’t imagine doing anything kitchen-ish, and I knew we were out of cereal (except for Grape Nuts, which, let’s be honest, could double as fish tank gravel or the stuff they put under swings on the playground). I said a prayer of thanks for whoever invented drive-thrus, and I swung into the line of mini-vans at McDonald’s.
“What toys do they have, Momma?”
“Looks like a princess Barbie or a Hot Wheels car.”
“Yay! I want the car! Can I have the car? I really want the car! I can use it on my new track! Can I play with it when we get home? Can I take it in the bathtub? Why do they call them Hot Wheels anyway? My chicken nuggets will be hot, so I’ll have to blow on them. Can we go swimming tomorrow?” (Little kids are so great.)
We pulled up to the speaker. “I’d like two chicken nugget Happy Meals, please.”
“Boy toys or girl toys?”
“Your toys have genitalia?”
No, I didn’t actually ask that question. I said, with only the tiniest hint of self-righteous, feminist snark, “Ummm. Well, they’re girls. And they would like the cars, please.”
I wouldn’t let my girls grow up thinking their playtime, interests, and career aspirations should be limited by their gender. I didn’t actively prevent them from playing with dolls and kitchen sets and sparkly things; but, I also didn’t actively prevent them from playing with dump trucks and action figures and water guns. (Except not the water guns because guns are bad.) (That’s not the focus of this post, though, so no fair arguing that point.)
And no, I’m not being overly sensitive. Our kids learn through play. They develop their world-view through play. They come to understand relationships through play.
So, as you might’ve guessed, I’m cool with Target’s decision to remove gender-specific labels from toy shelves and bedding aisles. Apparently, some people are not cool with it though, and have, in fact, added this decision to their List of Infuriating Things. I’m trying to understand that reaction. I really am. But I can’t quite get there.
As far as I can tell, here’s what happened:
1. Target decided to remove some signs. Like this one:
— Abi Bechtel (@abianne) June 1, 2015
2. Some people made lots of assumptions, took social media posts as truth without verifying facts, wrote nasty things to Target, about Target, and about the LGBT community—even though the company’s decision had nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality, and then vowed to never-ever shop there again.
And here’s what did not happen:
1. Target issued a statement denying the very existence of “boys” and “girls.”
2. Target announced a plan to merge the men’s and women’s bathrooms and mix all the boy and girl clothes together in a big pile in the middle of the store, where busy parents will have to dig for hours to find what they came to purchase.
3. In a private conversation with Franklin Graham, the company confessed its plan for world domination: Eliminate pink and blue from the color spectrum, effectively shutting down gender reveals and leaving parents hopeless to determine their child’s sex. Mayhem! Pandemonium!
4. Target R&D has developed eye-scanning, laser technology that will penetrate our kids’ brains and mess with their sexuality if they gaze too lovingly upon the “wrong” linens. A girl’s eyeing the TMNT pillow cases? Zap! Lesbian. A boy’s thinking about the ruffly, lavender bedspread? Zap! Gay.
I know what you’re thinking: She’s blowing this waaaaaaay out of proportion. I wish I were. Those examples up there? Those are based on actual Facebook comments I’ve read over the last couple of days. People are truly convinced that Target is pandering to a small, vocal, ultra-liberal group of hippie parents, and by taking down their gender-based signage, they’re contributing to ‘Merica’s moral decay.
You guys, if this is what’s getting our panties in a twist (which, if you believe the Facebook comments, will soon be incredibly difficult to find in the new store layout), we’re in a heap of trouble. And if you’re all wound up from a biblical perspective, I think I can help out: Jesus doesn’t care if our sons are marching around with tiaras on their head, a stuffed unicorn in one hand, and a nerf gun in the other. Jesus doesn’t care if our daughters’ Christmas list included a football helmet, tickets to the drag races, and a My Little Pony tshirt.
Here’s what I think Jesus does care about: That our kids are kind to their friends who play football and to their friends who love ballet—without regard to gender.
That’s our job, you know. With or without Target.