By Nigel Boys
In apparent response to pressure and a blasting from feminist activist, Abi Bechtel, Target issued a statement this week that it will be “moving away from gender-based signs,” according to MRC TV.
The news outlet reported in June that Bechtel had chastised Target for its “gendered” toys in a tweet, which afterward went viral. Although Target defended their division of aisles by gender at the time, because people have allegedly complained they are “frustrated or limited by the way things are presented,” they decided to give their stores a new look.
Bechtel, who describes herself as a “fatass feminist,” said she “posted the tweet because the signage struck me as problematic on a couple of levels,” according to an interview with the The Daily Dot in June. “First, because the way it’s written sets up boys’ building sets (and boys in general) as normative/generic and girls’ as specialized/other; and second, because it’s such an encapsulation of how Target (and many other retailers) persistently genders toys that don’t need to be gendered.”
Although Bechtel’s post received nationwide coverage on various media outlets, including the Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan magazine, Target replied that they would keep things the way they were, stating that research showed them that prospective customers preferred having indicators sorting items by gender.
“At Target, our goal is to provide our guests with choices. In our toy department, we offer a wide assortment of unique, differentiated, must-have merchandise, that children of all ages, stages and interests will love,” a statement issued by Target read. “We know families are tight on time and looking for inspiration. Therefore, we continually explore how to organize our stores and website in ways that will be convenient, appealing and helpful to our guests.”
The statement continued that Target had tried removing any reference to gender in the toy aisles in a number of their stores, but guest research showed them that customers preferred it the way it had been done in the past. “Additionally, on Target.com, when guests shop for toys, they most often begin their search by sorting toys by brand, age and gender,” the statement concluded.
However, it appears from tremendous pressure, Target has now changed their stance. In a statement on Thursday they said, “Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender.”
“Historically, guests have told us that sometimes—for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well—signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster,” Target’s statement continued. “But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”
Listing a few examples of instances where Target will remove signs indicating gender and claiming there are trying to strike a better balance by having their teams identify areas where gender-based signage can be phased out, the statement continues:
“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.”
The reported changes will begin to happen over the next few months, according to Target.
However, several comments on MRC TV’s report, suggests that some customers think Target should leave thinks exactly the way they were.
“Strange… If activists want to make a statement about uni-s*xuality, you would think those who wanted to dress a girl like a boy would look for the mens/boys section and those who wished to dress a boy like a girl would look for the womens/girls section,” wrote one commenter. “They can make their statement without disrupting those people who might appreciate signage for the gender they prefer to emphasize”
Another commenter wrote, “Could you please keep the signage up for female protection products? I hate to see men wandering around looking for tampons. Who comes up with this crap?”