Target misses the target when it comes to gender issues

September 4, 2015 — by Isabelle Yang

Despite recent efforts by the feminist movement to end unnecessary use of gender labels, the boy-girl divide still exists in the marketing world.

Despite recent efforts by the feminist movement to end unnecessary use of gender labels, the boy-girl divide still exists in the marketing world.

Recently, Akron, Ohio, mother Abi Betchel criticized Target on Twitter for having one aisle for “building sets” and another for “girls’ building sets,” thus implying that girls are some type of sub genre that can be used as a marketing ploy. Her commentary brought attention to the common but problematic technique of labeling gender-neutral products.

Target may believe that this tactic will boost sales by creating a female sub-market for toys; it might genuinely feel that doing so “creates convenience for shoppers,” but in reality, it is simply walling off boys from girls by making a specialized, “feminine” product.

According to Rebecca Bigler, a developmental psychology professor University of Texas, Austin, “gender roles play a huge part in the development of both sexes.” By contributing to this divide, Target and other retailers have continued to build up the sexism that continues to influence our everyday lives.

In recent studies that observe the early onset effects of gender labeling, Bigler points out how easily gender roles can influence children through development of gender stereotypes. This eventually leads to certain problems such as creating gender roles that make certain personalities seem limited to one gender or another.

Although Target has failed to admit its culpability, it has removed the offensive tag “girls’ building sets” after receiving a flood of complaints from netizens.

Labeling toys by gender means that girls may never get the chance to play with an action figure or toy cars, or that boys will never be able proudly play with the newest barbies.

The question Target should ask itself is whether the multi-billion franchise would opt to leave itself a legacy as the retail company that supported the ridiculous unnecessary usage of gender labeling.

 
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