Dear Target: I Think You Have a Gender Problem

Via Shutterstock.

Via Shutterstock.

Dear Target (or, my pet name for you, Tarjay),

I’ll admit: I am absolutely enthralled by my weekly fling with you. I mean, come on: Where else can I get my prescriptions filled, buy green tea scented Method hand soap, and grab a Grande iced vanilla coconut milk latte from your in-house Starbucks while browsing on flawless free wifi? We’re talking dream come true.

But over the last few months, the headlines speak for themselves: You nearly had women stampede and kill themselves during your crazy-ass Lilly Pulitzer launch that sold out in nanoseconds (and Lilly really is the definition of upper-middle class female domesticity: the Mean Girl‘s style Tweets that showed how “real” Lilly fans thought of your knock-off collection speak for themselves). Then last week, one of your shoppers posted a picture that broke the Internet: a specialized toy category she found in one of your stores for “Girls’ Building Sets:”

Can you tell me what exactly a “girls’ building set” is, Target? Does it contain glitter pink hammers with little Hello Kitty screwdrivers? Or, in the clearance section, is there a Hannah Montana toolbox? I’m feeling clueless here.

I hate to cause hard feeling between us, Target, but it has to be said: I think you have a gender problem.

Okay, don’t get defensive. I know what you’re going to say: “I have all this cool rainbow stuff to celebrate gay pride this month, man, and I’ve even made public statements saying that I support LGBT team members and customers!” I’ll give you credit where credit is due: The public statement is lovely, and, yes, I did see the entire pride collection when I was taking my usual run a few weeks ago:

I’ll admit: My first reaction was, “This is pretty great.” But then, after hearing about the girls’ building sets and thinking some of the other sorted misgivings that your brand has undergone over the last year (don’t even bring up that whole Annie mess), that rainbow stuff is just one more way for you to capitalize on me by peddling cheaply made pride flip-flops (and when am I ever going to wear those tacky things to begin with?!). I’m not sure the pride t-shirts and internet videos actually mirror a clear sense of the everyday operations in your stores and the overall message that your brand is emulating to customers.

I’m thinking about those young kids walking through your toy aisles, old enough to read and get an ever so slight grasp on their gender. When I was little, I was lucky enough to have parents who were way cool and let me do what felt right for me as a human (I distinctly remember them buying me dolls as a boy). But not every kid has that luxury. Unintentional or not, the obnoxious labeling of a toy along the gender binary is dangerous for a child.

Don’t worry: I’m not breaking up with you just yet, and I sure as hell am not going to cheat on you with Walmart. What I’m saying is, keep in mind how the smallest of actions can send a message to those who are the most vulnerable, our youth.

I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m almost out of nasal spray, and I’m pretty sure I can find a good deal on a cell phone charger while I’m there.

Just one question: Where can I find that, the boy’s aisle or the girl’s?