The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Target will stop separating toys and bedding into girls’ and boys’ sections

Customers shop at a Target Corp. store in Colma, Calif. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Two months ago, an Ohio mom’s tweet went viral when she called out Target for separating “building sets” and “girls’ building sets.” Now, the retailer is fixing the problem: for building sets and all toys, plus bedding, home decor, entertainment and more.

“We never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented,” Target’s press release 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. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not.”

The toy section will get the biggest makeover. Along with grouping all toys together, the aisles will no longer have colored backdrops to indicate gender, such as pink and yellow for girls or blue and green for boys.

Though the company’s announcement makes no mention of the tweeted photo that gained so much attention, one line shows that they’ve been paying attention to the heightened awareness of gender issues: “We know that shopping preferences and needs change,” it said.

In other words, people care about gender more than ever.

Last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced an onslaught of Internet hate for a “women’s movement” campaign to engage female fans with game-day recipes, a Pinterest board of crafts and football manicures, and videos that explain complicated football insights like the job of the running back — to “run the ball and score touchdowns.”

It was pretty much the opposite of the female-focused campaigns that have had success lately: Pantene’s “Not Sorry,” Always’s “Like a Girl” and Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want.” All of these show women and girls confronting female stereotypes.

These campaigns also add to the rise in awareness of the transgender community, which is slowly showing the world that gender dysphoria (feeling your gender is different than the sex you were born with) is real, and not just for Caitlyn Jenner.

Here’s where we would usually include a quote from a marketing expert on how all of this adds up to a changing tide in the retail mindset. But this 2011 video of a little girl name Riley ranting about the pink-ness of the store aisle is just as informative:

“Why do all the girls have to buy princesses?” she says, slamming down the hand that’s not holding a Scooby Doo Fred doll. “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses. Some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses!”

Thank you, Riley.

Abi Bechtel, the mom who tweeted about the building sets aisle, has seen firsthand that this isn’t just a problem for girls. Her three sons, ages 7, 9 and 12, used to have no problem picking out or playing with dolls. These days, they’ll say “Eww, I’m not going in that aisle, that’s girl stuff.”

“And we just have to have those conversations, that you can play with anything you want to,” Bechtel said Sunday. “And, there’s nothing wrong with girl stuff.”

Of course, getting rid of gender-based marketing is a marketing move, too. Target will surely be looking out for customers’ reactions, and so far, many of them are major eye rolls at this show of political correctness.

“Why don’t you paint your store white so you offend nobody at all,” one Facebook commenter wrote.

“This is a pr stunt and a bad one. All they want is to save money on decorating the section,” another said.

Next to watch: toy makers such as Lego or Disney and similar retailers, i.e. Walmart and Toys ‘R’ Us.

Toys ‘R’ Us in the U.K. has already addressed the issue, but its American counterpart is still dividing by “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys.”  And it still has Building Sets For Girls on its website.