Blue is for boys and pink is for girls. This is the “norm.” More often that not, when a person sees a baby dressed up in pink, they immediately assume it’s a girl. I’ve fallen prey to doing the same thing, and each time I’ve been correct in identifying a child decked out in blue as a boy and any child in pink as a girl. Societal conventions have trained me to think in this manner. Lately, however, steps are being taken to disassociate colors and toys with specific genders. It’s been two months since retailer Target, specifically, announced its decision to get rid of gender-based labeling.
Target received a lot of flak upon disclosing its plans to exhibit toys as gender neutral, mostly from parents and psychologists who felt that this change was just a product of the oversensitivity to political correctness in today’s day and age. “Let boys be boys, and girls be girls,” they said. The same argument, however, can be made to support gender neutrality. Why is it necessary to market a toy for a particular gender? When I was younger, I would enjoy playing with Barbie dolls just as much as I would revel in playing with my remote-controlled car (which, for your information, wasn’t pink). There is absolutely no hard and fast rule that says children should stick to playing with the toys that are dictated as “gender appropriate” for their sex. It is due to these gender labels that boys are bullied for bringing an Elsa doll to daycare, and girls are reluctant to show their affinity for monster trucks. If it is socially acceptable for all kids, irrespective of gender, to love “Frozen,” why are there limitations on the gender of children who can enjoy the toys associated with the franchise?
While the argument to gender-neutralize toys might seem somewhat unnecessary for children so young, designating these toys certainly has a long-term effect. At a young age we’re promoting the idea that some things are specific to a gender. These children will then apply this projection on to aspects of their daily life. They will grow up thinking that they cannot pursue career fields dominated by a particular gender. Ultimately, I don’t understand the issue with letting all toys be for all children. It’s petty to take away a G.I Joe doll from your daughter for fear that she’ll be judged by others. It is just a toy. It is inevitable that toy production companies will continue to cater their products to specific genders, and persistently distinguish between girls and boys, but it’s in our hands to be unfazed by a boy playing with a toy kitchen set. It is on us to advocate for positivity, and let kids play with whatever they choose.
Finally, I look forward to seeing neutralized signs in toy aisles. I’m glad that Target ignored all of the negativity it received from the public and went ahead with gender-neutral marketing. It is the first step towards breaking down gender stereotypes.