Signs of the time

I noticed the signs a few months ago.

My then 15 month-old daughter and I were shopping at Target, wandering through the toys.

The signs told me which aisles had  “Girl” toys and which had “Boy” toys.

I was taken aback.

The boxes of toys were just as the signs promised — packaging in the “Boy” section had photos of boys playing with toys and the “Girl” section showed boxes with smiling girls enjoying the wonders  of pink “Girl” toys.

Gender-specific marketing is a thing – notice how many TV commercials focus on moms directly, because marketers know their intended audiences.

But what was Target trying to do, I wondered, with “Girl” and “Boy” sections of the toy department? Appeal to shoppers rushing to buy a toy so impersonally that they first eliminate options by gender?

I noted the signs, literally wrote a note reminding me to think about it later, but did no more than move along with my busy life.

Evidently, others took note as well. Last month, Target announced the removal of the signs.

Immediately people complained. I sense some complainers have never stood under a bold “Boy” section sign with a young daughter.

Why would anyone make this an issue?

The gender signs were absurd, ridiculous in our modern world where women hold important roles in government and business.

But gender-assigned toys is an issue. And a sign of a larger issue.

In countries where women earn less money than men, in cultures that treat women as less than men, and in houses of worship that don’t extend to women the same rights they extend to men, this is an issue.

In a world where girls are attacked for going to school, or kidnapped or oppressed by religious extremists, access to something as simple as toys is an issue.

Even subtly, so subconsciously that it’s nearly unnoticeable, relegating children to gender expectations can set them on an invisible path that may limit them their entire lives.

I don’t want a room full of old men somewhere suggesting to my daughter what she can and can’t play with, simply because she’s female.

I don’t want anyone telling my daughter what she can and can’t do because she’s not a boy.

And parents of daughters, you shouldn’t accept it for your daughters, either.

When I was born, humans had not yet walked on the moon. My daughter will live to see humans walk on Mars and other technological wonders I can’t begin to imagine. Perhaps she’ll help to create those wonders.

But our daughters will be much less likely to explore science and technology if those toys are in the “Boy” sections of stores.

But as is so often the case, Conservative Christians are on the wrong side of the Target issue.

Faith should be a strong foundation upon which you build a good, productive life, not a dogmatic, patriarchal system that prevents women from being all God made them to be.

Faith should not be an automatic, reflexive opposition to others seeking fulfilling lives for themselves and their families. Different from you doesn’t mean by default that it’s wrong, it just means different.

Some people care more about their abstract dogma than they care about other living, struggling people. Or their own daughters.

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