target moves towards gender equality pt.2: reactions and responses

Last article I spoke about the chain department store, Target, and the move the company tas taken towards gender equity by moving away from gender-based marketing. Does that sound like a contradictory statement? Absurd amounts of people on social media do, parents and non-parents alike. Many, if not most, of that absurd amount of people, believe that not only is it a contradictory statement—they believe it is an outrage. It’s quite disparaging to see the amount of vicious, ignorant comments coming from parents.

People fear, sometimes resent, what they don’t understand. Opponents of Target’s decision seem to be content with that fear and resentment rather than make an effort to understand. It’s easier to hate than it is to love, easier to turn a blind eye than it is to think critically. This isn’t about them, though, it’s about their children. And that’s what I don’t understand.

Going on Target’s Facebook page, it’s rampant with comments (all quoted in full, grammatical errors, typos, and all) like:

Used to be a Target shopper, but no more,” is a tamer example of the myriad attacks on Target’s page.

If you’re so upset that you are up in arms over there is a Boys Dept. and a Girls Dept., you have serious mental health issues that removing signage (that are placed to help customers find what they’re looking for) won’t alleviate. I feel sorry for the terribly confused children you’re raising,” is a far less tame example, but still not as vicious as some others posted on the site. It’s also ableist in addition to the rest of the bigotry, calling shoppers, and their children, mentally ill for being okay with removal of signs based on gender. Inadvertently or not, this comment promotes the wide-held notion that trans* and gender non-conforming people aren’t really the gender they identify as, they’re actually just mentally ill.

I will take my money anywhere other than Target! Boys and girls are just that, boys and girls! There isn’t any confusion there. Target, on the other hand, is confused so will shop there no more!” So, because there are boys and girls (in addition to gender non-conforming kids), that means that boys only play with boys toys, and girls only play with girl toys? Sure, there are boys and girls, of course there are. Because there are boys and there are girls, when your daughter wants to be Spiderman when she grows up, will you be crushing her dreams? Will you not allow her to play with dolls besides Barbie and the hugely sexualized Bratz? What about Tonka Trucks—golly gee, even if she did want to play with them, girls don’t drive trucks! Or when your little boy wants an Easy Bake Oven? No, boys do not bake delicious treats!

On my own Facebook newsfeed, I’ve encountered hate speech, and false accusations. Some of which are just silly—silly or not, the ideas expressed are still hate speech. The argument that I’ve seen most (and variations of it), which also happens to make the least sense, is that Target is forcing gender roles on children. Let’s stop to think about that for a second. Target, by removing signage that promotes rigid gender roles, is forcing gender roles upon children. What? People—parents—are boycotting Target stores because Target stores has made a progressive step towards children not having to worry about gender roles and the potential consequences of crossing those boundaries. People—parents—say that this is forcing gender roles upon their children. In reality, the parents who are putting so much time and energy into being outraged on the internet about removal of gender roles, are forcing gender binaries on their children. Target is not. Target is making a conscious attempt to alleviate systemic and social pressure because, you know, children are children and shouldn’t have to worry about those. They shouldn’t have to worry about those at all, but they certainly shouldn’t have to worry about them yet, at age four, five, six, seven, eight.

Target, however has been great about hate speech on their page. One response was “Hi—please respect Target’s Facebook timeline, and our guests. Any further offensive comments will be removed.

However, there’s also a page (that is not Target’s official Facebook page, it is a “troll” account called AskForHelp) made by one person who wanted to push back against this kind of meltdown everyone seems to be having over “political correctness.” In one conversation, in which a Facebook user addressed how tired he is with Target’s political correctness and thus decided it was best to shop at Target no longer, this “troll account” responds: “Actually [name], you’re wrong. It means NOTHING to us that you feel this way. Have a great day!” One woman comments that her family is made up of both sexes and because of this she will no longer be shopping at target because being “PC” is nonsense; she then asks “Have you spent any time around small children?” AskForHelp responds with “[Name], we applaud you for the bravery in admitting that your family has both sexes. It’s customers like you who give us a sense of purpose. We don’t choose to spend all our time around small children, so to answer your question: no. Is there anything else we can assist you with today?” This snarky, kill-‘em-with-kindness attitude is just what is needed to respond to bigots in this case.

Whoever is behind AskForHelp is pretty great, because addressing widespread bigotry is very difficult, and very frustrating. It’s easy to lose your temper when people are disrespecting your existence, your children’s existence, and social progress; people who display behavior same as or similar to the Target opponents are hard to reason with, which makes trying to reason with them that much harder. Especially if it’s one of us on the internet versus a hell of a lot of others on the internet. AskForHelp has the right idea: shut them down, shut them down in a way that opponents have no response to because it makes them look silly, and puts proponents at the center of the conversation and at the center of logic. Because, let’s be real. Cisgender parents: Let kids be kids.