Last week I heard the news that Target was eliminating gender-based signage from their toy aisles. Having two girls who love dolls AND Lego, princesses AND trains, I thought this move made sense.
I wasn’t expecting the backlash where people have promised that they will never again shop at Target. I must admit: I don’t get it.
Maybe I don’t get it because I never want my girls to hear from me that certain toys (or certain colors, or certain careers) are for boys only. Nor do I want my son to hear from me that real boys only play with cars and balls.
Maybe I don’t get it because I’ve shopped in a local toy store where the toys are categorized by type, not by gender, and I’ve never had a problem finding toys that my kids will love there. My suspicion is that if Target had changed the colors and the signs in its toy and bedding departments without alerting the media, most people who are vowing to boycott wouldn’t have even noticed.
But I think what I really don’t get is why we get angry over the color a store uses in their aisles, while remaining somewhat complacent about other things that, just maybe, are more damaging to what it means to be created in the image of God. Here are three of those things that I think we would do well to get angry about instead:
1. The Underlying Materialistic Mindset Behind the Toy Displays
This isn’t, obviously, just an issue with toys; it’s a mindset that is so much a part of our culture that we don’t even notice it any more.
We walk down aisle after aisle filled with plastic toys and let our kids drink in the idea that they need more stuff. If they could get one more doll/car/video game, then they would be happy.
Soon we have toys strewn all over the playroom floor, some of them hardly ever played with, but still our kids ask for more.
They have learned this unhealthy message from me. From us. Except it’s grown-up toys (clothes, a nicer car, a bigger house, a fancier kitchen) that I think I need to be happy.
What if we recognized the dangerous lie of materialism, and it made us angry enough to change our shopping habits?
2. The Conditions in Which Our “Toys” Are Made
I must confess that I rarely do research on where or how my kids’ toys are made. I don’t know if child labor was involved. I don’t know if the workers have been paid a living wage. Most days I don’t even ask the questions--much less encourage my kids to ask the questions about where their toys have come from.
What about the chocolate bar I just ate? The chocolate industry is littered with child labour and human trafficking. Does it make me angry enough to boycott those companies that don’t guarantee ethical practices? What about the clothes I wear or the coffee I drink?
What if we cared more about the people who make the things we buy, and poor working conditions or human trafficking or child labour made us angry enough to change our shopping habits?
3. That There Are Families Who Will Never Afford These Toys, No Matter What Color the Aisles Are
I am not trying to proclaim the toy equivalent of “eat your supper because there are starving children in Africa.” What I am saying is this: there are kids (around the world and in our own cities and neighborhoods) living in poverty who have bigger things to worry about than the way a store organizes their toys.
Shouldn’t the fact that there are children who don’t have access to education and decent healthcare make us angrier than a box store that gets rid of pink and blue paint?
What if we understood the deplorable conditions in which some children live, and it made us angry enough to change our shopping habits?
Would our world look differently if these types of things made us angry enough to change how we live? It’s my suspicion that the anger I’ve heard voiced over Target’s marketing decisions grows out of fear. What if our anger over things grew, instead, out of love for others?
I would love to dialogue about these ideas, and I welcome thoughtful and respectful conversation.