An Ohio mom’s recent tweet, containing a photo she snapped in a Cleveland-area Target store, has sparked a debate over gender bias in toy marketing
Abi Bechtel took a photo of a toy aisle sign that carried two markers — one read “Building Sets” and the other read “Girls’ Building Sets," WPXI News reports.
Bechtel snapped the photo and posted the image to her Twitter account with the message “Don’t do this, @Target.”
In a videotaped interview with WPXI (shown below) she explained why.
“It makes it seem like it's so normal for building sets to be for boys, and oh by the way, girls can build stuff too we guess,” Bechtel said.
Since posting the image earlier this month it has been retweeted over 2,000 times.
The tweet received a good deal of support from other Twitter users who agreed and thought the sign was sexist.
“Ugh. Come on. This is patriarchal kool aid at its worst. Talk about an implicit bias,” tweeted user @IdeasDoneDaily.
“Boys are the default. Girls are the exception,” said @diannaeanderson.
In an interview with The Daily Dot, Bechtel said she wasn’t all that surprised by the response.
“At a time when there's such a focus on increasing the number of women in STEM fields, Target's gendering toys like these as male comes across as out of touch,” she said.
But other Twitter users weren’t so sure the sign was a big deal.
“EVERYONE ! GET A LIFE ! Pick up a newspaper and read about real problems. Life is not perfect. find a real issue to work on,” read one tweet from user @Orgnaicdumpling.
A Target representative sent an email to The Daily Dot in response to a request for comment.
“At Target, our goal is to provide our guests with choices,” the email read. “In our toy department, we offer a wide assortment of unique, differentiated, must-have merchandise, that children of all ages, stages and interests will love. We know families are tight on time and looking for inspiration. Therefore, we continually explore how to organize our stores and website in ways that will be convenient, appealing and helpful to our guests.”
The Daily Dot reportedly asked the representative if Target officials were aware that drawing a distinction between “building sets” and “girls’ building sets” might appear sexist and the representative responded, “That is absolutely not our intent.”
Regardless of Target’s intention, Bechtel told The Daily Dot she is glad she posted the photo and drew attention to what she considers a problem.
“I posted the tweet because the signage struck me as problematic on a couple of levels — first, because the way it's written sets up boys’ building sets (and boys in general) as normative/generic and girls' as specialized/other; and second, because it's such an encapsulation of how Target (and many other retailers) persistently genders toys that don't need to be gendered,” she said.
The Target representative said the company will “continue to listen to our guests and the conversation,” but does not currently have any plans to do away with the signs.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons, Twitter: @abianne