I’ve tried to explain before (probably not here, but definitely in person to a lot of people) how I was extremely lucky when it came to gender expectations: both my Dad and my maternal grandfather (“Grumps”) let me play with “boy stuff” (and, in fact, encouraged me to).
With Dad it was taking apart stereos and playing with Erector sets, while my Grumps let me build things in his shop (supervised, of course). In both cases I didn’t have any sense that I wasn’t supposed to be doing these things, and it wasn’t until I was much older (middle school, maybe?) that I realized that it was considered somewhat weird to be a girl who liked computers and science. I still remember Dad teaching me how to add in binary when I was in the seventh grade — I ended up going to computer camp that summer and programming in Basic on “trash-80s.”
But my experience wasn’t the norm then, and it feels to me like it’s even less the norm now. It seems everywhere I turn it’s the Pink Pink Pink Princess World (which you *have* to be in if you’re a little girl) versus the Superhero Robot Machine World that little boys get. Most of my friends who are raising children are exceptions — one of my dear friends was delighted when her boy-child took an interest in home decorating, and another friend made her daughter a Thor costume. Because Thor.
Of course if you are little girl and you love princesses and pink and all things glittery, that’s delightful too — I’m just saying that shouldn’t be your only choice! In fact, I happen to also *love* all things glittery, much to the chagrin of my husband, who understands the …contagious… nature of glitter.
Growing up with the idea that your choices — about what to like, how to act, how to dress, and what you can do — aren’t defined by your reproductive organs is incredibly powerful. This choice by Target to examine their signage and remove the genderdness except for where it makes sense (to help a parent determine a size, for instance) is wonderful. It’s a great step towards helping to eliminate all those subtle cues designed to keep kids stuck in their gender stereotype.
Any child should feel equally at home looking at the pink sparkly backpacks…or the laser-building-robots.