I wasn't going to write this post. I usually like to stay away from controversial subjects in this space. But I found that after thinking about it for a while and praying about it that I feel the need to write about it. What is it, you ask? It's Target's announcement that they are moving away from gender-based labeling in toys and bedding in their stores.
It appears that this business decision by Target has set off a firestorm of criticism and praise from all different corners. And my take on this might surprise some of you.
My first thought was actually, why is this such a big deal? Most kids I know don't care where they buy the toys they like. They don't care if it's bought off a shelf with green paper or pink paper. They simply want the toy they want. It's us parents who care. It's us parents who are using the gender labeling as a validation that we are raising our kids "right."
You see, I have a daughter, and I have hardly ever shopped for a toy for her in the girls' toy section. We've about outgrown toys now, but my daughter loved Legos (not the pink and purple Friends sets, the hard-to-build Star Wars and City themed ones), light sabers, Nerf guns and Matchbox cars (oh, how she loved Matchbox cars). One year for Christmas all she wanted was a scale replica of Mark Martin's NASCAR truck that she could play with. She has never owned a Barbie doll. She never liked to play dress-up. She would rather get muddy, shoot Nerf guns and play street hockey on the driveway than pick out new outfits for her American Girl doll.
So I bought her toys in the "boys'" section of the toy department. And I never once thought that I was doing my daughter a disservice. I never once thought she would be confused about what gender she is. I was simply trying to cater to my daughter's interests. She didn't like dolls, so I didn't buy them. She didn't care about princesses and fairies, so we didn't buy those either.
The idea that the toys we buy our children are going to shape their gender identity is quite simply silly. It is a bunch of hoopla about nothing. My daughter is 12 now. She likes to look cute when she goes to school. She identifies as a girl. But she still plays hockey. She still likes video games and sports. It doesn't make her less of a girl. It just makes her a girl with some less than typical interests. And that's OK. Because in all this hullabaloo over Target taking down a few signs, we seem to have forgotten one thing: God made each one of us. He made us with different interests and talents. And He did that so we could fulfill a purpose in His plan.
I don't mind that Target is taking down those signs. If it makes some girl (or boy) feel more comfortable shopping for a toy that isn't a "typical" girl or boy toy, then that's good. Because instead of making a child feel awkward about focusing on their God-given interests, we should be celebrating them. We should be encouraging them to be who God made them to be. My little girl who played with Matchbox cars might grow up to be a race-car driver. Your little boy who played with dishes and play kitchens might grow up to be a chef. Why would we want to try to mold those interests into something else?
They're just toys. It's just a sign. There are real problems in this world -- children are starving, wars are raging, children are sold every day into slavery. Maybe we should focus some of our outrage on those things and just let our kids play with their toys.