Raise Your Voice Above the Hate, Thank Target With A Card And A Hug

Give Target some love for taking a stand on gender stereotypes for kids.

Give Target some love for taking a stand on gender stereotypes for kids. #KidsAreKidsAtTarget

I need y’all to do one thing for me over the next few days, the sooner the better. I need you to make your voices heard by the people who need to hear it most right now – the team at your local Target store.

While I’m being blamed for promoting the “gay agenda” (Hi, Gays!), upsetting Jesus and going against his word (I’m sorry, Jesus. Dollar spot and a slushie?) destroying America and general moral decay (you’re welcome, ‘Murica!), they are getting a ton of hate, too.

They are getting a ton of hate because the progressive company they work for did the right thing. The hateful comments are ignorant, sexist, and trans/homophobic. That just isn’t cool.

Jane Johnson, a PPBB Community member, shared this with me, “One of your others readers bought a thank you card, wrote it & gave it to the manager at their local Target. I was inspired by this and did the same, the manager was touched. It had been a hard day for them, with the “haters,” and was appreciated. Manager gave me a hug & said it meant a lot. What Target has done means a whole lot more!!”

You know you are going to shop at Target later this week when you go in for dish soap and bananas and come out $140 later with things that aren’t dish soap and bananas. So make it $142.73 because you all need to buy a thank you card and fill it out right in the store. Seriously, fill it out right at the store and hand it to the manager. After you do it, post a photo to social media and use the hashtag #KidsAreKidsAtTarget.

Target could have made this change quietly, or as other big companies do, say it was a design change already in the works to refresh stores and not a result of consumer pressure with some corporatese that neither says anything nor offends anyone. They could have hidden behind the need for a store redesign to avoid upsetting some customers who are losing their minds over the loss of gendered signs. Internally their executives and PR team had to know this would be divisive, though the reasons for that divisiveness are mystifying.

They chose not to do that. They chose to take a stand and say publicly they heard what their customers were asking for and they agreed — there was no reason to separate toys and bedding into gendered categories when it came to kids. At Target, kids are free to be kids. They took a big stand on a simple change: making their children’s sections gender inclusive.

(Yes, the toy packaging and clothing still carry gendered messaging. And yes, the apparel sections are still labeled “boys” and “girls”, but at my local store the character tees and undies are very clearly in a middle section of childeren’s apparel and open for anyone. Let’s take a win where we can get one, okay friends?)

Target is the fourth largest retailer in the United States. Their influence is massive. This change is important, and it will influence the entire marketplace. But more important is the wording in their blog statement, because it puts other retailers on notice they will now have to defend their use of gendered retail spaces for children.

“But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.

We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, in the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”

Just kids. No gender rules to follow or roles to fill. Just free to be kids who love what they love.

The level of noise and insanity the opposition to this change is raising is incredulous. Change is often met with fear and resistance, but how we get from a new neutral wood backing for toy shelves to children being raped by gender-bending pedophiles in unisex Target bathrooms is…….it is almost too stupid and hysterical to even mention, yet I’m seeing that comment many times over.

Jane Johnson also left this comment on Target’s facebook page….

“Dear Target Social Media Team, Target Store Team Members, and Target Corporate:

Thank you for your work today to allow kids to be kids and play with toys they like.

It has been rough; a lot of people who do not understand have inflamed what has actually happened: a change of paint, a (small) change of signs, and a few! toys of the same sort being moved together (because really…all the Barbies and other dolls were already together, most of the LEGO and building sets were already together, etc.).

Here is an example of what the signage will be like (this is from elsewhere, a place already having done what you just did):
Action Figures
Arts & Crafts
Baby & Toddler Toys
Building Toys/Sets
Dolls & Accessories
Dress Up & Pretend Play
Electronics for Kids
Games
Hobbies
Learning & Education
Puzzles
Sports & Outdoor Play
Stuffed Animals & Plush Toys
Toy Remote Control & Play Vehicles
Tricycles, Scooters & Wagons
Video Games

Again, Thank you, Target!”

How will people know which aisle to go in for a toy? The aisle that has the toy you are looking for. It will be labeled by type of toy. That should make it easy for you.

How will they know what to buy for a boy or girl? Ask the boy or girl what they want.

How will boys and girls still understand their gender? Because while external forces give cues and can influence the definition of gender and how it is performed within a culture, signs on Target store aisles do not make or break an internal process for children as they establish gender permanence or gender fluidity.

So raise your voices above the hate and ignorance with the simple act of a thank you card, expressing gratitude to a company and its employees who did right by our kids.

I’m taking my card over to my Target this afternoon. And I’m not buying anything. I’m not. Will not. Buy anything. I’m not buying anything. I’m not buying anything. I can do this. I can. But I might get a new scarf.

My family's thank you card will be delivered to ourTarget this afternoon.

My family’s thank you card will be delivered to ourTarget this afternoon. #KidsAreKidsAtTarget

So, here’s your To Do list:
1. Fill out a thank you card to your local Target team.
2. Deliver it with a smile and a hug.
3. Post it to social media playforms using #KidsAreKidsAtTarget.
4. Stay Full of Awesome!

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

 

There’s Just No Time

We are on vacation this week with the cousins, spending our time between a beautiful Lake Michigan beach resort and daily adventures in the local area. The crew of kids consists of three girls (ages 9, 6, and 3) and two boys (ages 7 and almost 2). All are having a grand time.

One of the things I love about my family getting together is the true celebration of “kid time”. Because our cousins live overseas our time together is precious, devoted to the kids playing together and soaking each other in as much as possible. No fun measures up to the exploits and trouble you can get into with cousins. The midnight bedtimes, peels of laughter, overcrowded bath tubs, jokes and secrets, popsicles snuck before dinner….. this is the good stuff in life.

The big kids paddled to a little island to have a picnic, delighted to leave their parents behind.

The big kids paddled to a little island to have a picnic, delighted to leave their parents behind.

Last night as I watched the five of them run around on the beach I looked down at my baby nephew’s footprint in the sand. A month shy of his second birthday he still has those fat, delicious square baby feet. The three year old has a penchant for nudity, as most preschoolers do, and was skinny dipping in the lake. Her legs are so much longer than last summer and they belie the baby chub that lingers on her body that is looking more like a “kid” than the baby she has been.

They are all growing so, so fast and I find myself whispering often in a half wish/half prayer “Stay little forever”.

My own kids, the 9 and 7 year olds, are so big now. They just don’t stay little. They grow and grow faster and faster. Their baby footprints are long gone, my daughter’s imprint in the sand is nearly as big as my own foot. When she chases me in the lake I actually have to work at outrunning her long legs, not like the slo-mo up and down run I do when the the 3 year old and almost-2 year old chase me.

My family encourages all of the kids to explore, try to new things, create, be silly, be strong, be themselves. We will sometimes divide them into “the bigs” and “the littles” for certain activities, but never do we do “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”. There is no such thing.

And? There just no time for that. Think about how much there is to do in childhood. To learn, to try, to discover.

There is no “boy side” or “girl side” to childhood. There isn’t time to limit any part of these years, these magical few calendar pages of childhood.

Exploring the creek.

Exploring the creek.

A list of what our boys and girls have been doing this week:

Water slides and boogie boarding

Playing outside

Attending a major league baseball game

Exploring interactive story land gardens

Art fair and face painting

Airplane show and talking with pilots

Tag and Chase

Paddling a boat to a small island for a kids-only picnic

Playing make believe

Science experiments on beach

Sea shell gathering

Making friends with two guys flying remote controlled airplanes; guy uses hawk plane to chase kids all over a field

Crayfish hunting

Sailing

Desperate attempts to catch sea gulls (tactics include: stealth, flanking, ambush, and pleading with promises of love and tear-filled eyes)

Sand castles and digging giant moats

Turning little brother into a sand merman

Splashing in Lake Michigan

Putt putt

More crayfish hunting

Crayfish hunting with sticks and an empty latte cup.

Crayfish hunting with sticks and an empty latte cup.

I notice the other families visiting the condos around ours and I see boys and girls running all over the beach and common areas while playing. Some are playing organized games like baseball or tag, many are digging and digging in the sand, others are playing with toys like the group of boys and girls I saw with a large container of fighter planes. Most of the kids are running between the water park and the beach, losing their minds with all the choices of fun.

This is why I get so fed up with the gender stereotypes I see all over children’s clothes and toys, telling them how to be a girl or how to be a boy. That isn’t what childhood is about. We are wrong to place limitations on this time in life.

Our kids are experts at being kids, we just need to give them the room to remind us what it should look like.

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

 

Pinks and Not Pinks

“Thought of you and Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies this morning when I made a quick trip to the local public library. I was refilling my water bottle when a 2 year old girl sat down at the kids computer with her Mom. The little girl asked her Mom if she could wear the boy’s headphones (blue/red) instead of the girls (paisley pink). The mother said that anyone could use either pair! When I agreed with the mother, she replied “it’s amazing what they learn by 2″.” -Susan G

I love the mom’s response! Yes!! Colors are for everyone.

Thanks to Susan for recognizing this moment and sharing it with us.

Gender Norm Brains

How early do children begin to exhibit an understanding of gender roles?

How early do children learn to limit themselves according to gender?

How does this impact childhood?

 

When our system of binary gender is ingrained by age 2 through socialization, can you see how children learn to:
1. Play along to get along, when it comes to gender roles. Girls do this and boys do that.
2. Limit themselves based on what is “for a boy” or “for a girl” through learned gendered coding of colors.

Using the example above, let’s play a game of what if’s:

1. What if *only* the blue/red head phones had been sitting out? Could the very little girl have thought computers are for boys because she didn’t see any pink tipping her off that computer time is also for girls?

2. If she’s learned this early that pink things are for girls and non-pink things are for boys, could the color coded toys of childhood today heavily influence her toy/play choices?
If yes, what toys are typically pink and what toys are typically not pink? What cognitive skills develop from different types of play? What cognitive skills are not developed when types of play are limited or avoided?

3. Finally, if the understanding of gender is influencing her activity choices from age 2, how would we ever know what her true interests are or could have been?

Childhood is a time for great exploration that should not be impeded by the pink or blue boxes we place our sons and daughters in, sometimes as early as that 20 week ultrasound.

We don’t let our children develop as unique and complex individuals, we let them grow up as members of one gender or the other. Their childhoods shaped by the expectations of the gender society limits them to.

 

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Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

I Think I Might Have Tears

My little boy is seven years old, his name is Ben. He’s a great guy. In many ways he is all the things you’d expect a little boy to be, and in many ways he isn’t. I try to parent both of my children in ways that do not hold expectations nor limitations based on their gender. They are free to be their own person. The only expectation I hold for Ben is that he be himself and be the best Ben he can be. Society, though, has different expectations for our boys. I see a lot of stereotypes come his way about how a boy should act, think, feel.

We don’t give boys the space to think and feel very often. We tell them to toughen up, “man up”, don’t cry. And certainly, never show that you are scared or insecure.

That doesn’t work for my son.

Ben has social anxiety, which means he hates school, being on teams, and doesn’t like to be in big groups or do things in front of people. This makes life hard. Seemingly everyday regular things that all the other kids can do with normal effort, mine can’t. Joining a birthday party. Having fun playing a baseball game. Finishing first grade.

My kids freeze. They have panic attacks. They drop out of first grade in favor of homeschooling. They can walk up to a group of new kids at the park to make friends and start a game of play, but they cry over things that seem really little or insignificant and I don’t get it. I’m more like a Golden Retriever: everything’s a party and everyone is my best friend. Ben makes me pause, reframe, and see situations the way his little heart see them.

Swimming BoyLike today at the first day of swim lessons, when he was hiding in the boys’ locker room because he was overwhelmed. He was stressed by the number of parents watching and the first day of anything can be hard and scary. I found him pressed up against the wall, his small fists pressed into his eyes. I could tell by the way his tiny chest was heaving he was fighting tears.

“Hey Beeze. Can I do something for you? What are you feeling right now?” I ask him.

“I think I might have tears.” 

That’s what he says when he is trying to be brave and pull himself together. When he is trying to get on with it, suck it up, stuff his feelings down.

“Well, go ahead and have tears if it will help you feel better. Sometimes crying lets us get out our big feelings and helps us find our words.” He crumples into me after I say this to him, and he cries. I try hard not to.

In so many ways, I just want him to be “normal”. I want to say, “Buddy just get over it and get in the water. You know how to swim so what’s your deal?” But I don’t say those things.

I don’t want him to be one of those boys who grow into men who don’t know how to have feelings. Who are too scared to cry or reveal vulnerability. Who put so much effort into being “masculine” they cease being human. I want my son to know that everyone gets nervous or scared about all kinds of things. I want him to know that bravery is not the absence of fear, bravery is being afraid and doing it anyway.

I let him cry. And then I tell him we are walking out to the pool deck together. He is allowed to cry. He is not allowed to give up on himself.

We walked out of the boys’ locker room holding hands and we choose to sit against the wall near the shallow end. We sat off to the side, in front of dozens of people. He was the only child in the whole place acting like this. I made no apologies for it. It takes a lot of guts to be authentic in front of people. My guy does it like a champ.

While we sat I continued to see where he was at and what he was feeling. He said he’d take his turn doing the initial swim test once everyone left and it was just me and his teacher.

That was fine with me. Ben was acknowledging his limits and asking to do what he needed to do within the framework he needed to feel safe. Not bad for a seven year old. Some adults pay tens of thousands of dollars in therapy to learn how to do that.

We’ve worked really hard to get to this point, as just a few months ago he would have screamed and stormed off, or gotten angry and embarrassed and hit me. A lot of parents make excuses when their sons act that way. Boys will be boys, you know…..

Boys grow into men. As a parent it is my responsibility to raise my son into a man, not just sit back and watch him grow into one. Not to excuse away unacceptable behavior because of his gender. It is my responsibility to teach my son how to respect his body, which includes his heart and feelings. In teaching him how to respect himself I am teaching him how to respect others, another parental responsibility. He cannot, may not, absolutely not lash out in anger or violence when he has feelings that trouble him. We problem solve, compromise, and find a way to things the best way he can.

Boys get scared. And boys cry. Boys have feelings and boys feel pushed into things because their parents don’t want to be embarrassed or let down or have a kid who doesn’t fit in. Who doesn’t act like all the other boys.

The only expectation I have of my son is that he be Ben. Some days, doing so makes him the bravest boy in the room.

 

*Posted with Ben’s permission.*

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

They Don’t Even See Us

Girl in pool

Recently my family was at a get together where the children decided it was a grand idea to go swimming in the pool. In May in the Midwest the water inside in-ground swimming pools is not at all warm, not by any stretch of the imagination. I cautioned my nine-year-old daughter of this as she marched directly to the end of the diving board, did a few bounces, hesitated for the briefest of moments, gave me a wicked smile, and then hurled herself into the water below.

She surfaced with a great scream that began below the waves and erupted onto the pool deck as she raced for the ladder and out of the frigid pool in one smooth, giant movement. Her younger cousin and younger brother watched all of this with equal amounts glee and horror.

She screamed again and then jumped back in from the side of the pool. Repeat screaming and jumping.

My daughter stood triumphantly shivering on the deck as the younger two decided to take the safer route of inching their way in from the shallow end on steps that were still being warmed by the fading afternoon sunlight.  A short while later we were joined by more cousins, two older boys, who noticed the littles weren’t splashing about with abandon and recognized it was most likely due to sixty degree water.

These older boys were wisely hesitant to get in.

Until they were teased and emasculated into doing so, one jumping in to save face and the other forcibly thrown in despite his pleas not to be. They were called names for not jumping in that equated them to weak girls, sissies, and every other gendered, derogatory name just short of calling them “pussies”.

I think so many people do this without thinking about what they are really saying. It is a part of our culture and we grow up with and around that sexist vernacular. They don’t mean to be insulting to girls, they wouldn’t say demeaning things to a girl’s face. Yet they use phrases and words associated with the female gender and body as insults. As if being a girl is the worst thing you could be.

All the while, my daughter who is very proudly a girl, stood there dripping wet from having already jumped in numerous times. The first one in the pool.

Without having been pressured to do it. Without having been thrown in.

My six-year-old niece, who by now was standing in the chilly water up to her navel, is really a fascinating person. She is clever, beautiful, and has the voice of a puppet. She also has an incredible knack for calling people on their bullshit, is tenacious, and will not yield nor show mercy until you acknowledge what she has said to you. She is simultaneously darling and ferocious. And so it went when she found her voice to address all the adults on the pool deck to say, “The girls have already been swumming.”

Her words were met with “isn’t she cute” smiles and she was asked if the water was cold.

So she repeated herself. Louder this time, never breaking her gaze from the one adult responsible for the gendered teasing she said again, “You are teasing those boys for being ‘girls’ for not jumping in. The girls have already been swumming.”

The adult looked at me, not understanding the point of her comment nor the intensity with which it was said.

I tried to clarify to the individual my niece was addressing by saying, “I believe her point is you’ve looked right past the fact the two girls at the pool have already been in the pool. They were the first ones in the pool so the hesitation to jump in has nothing to do with being a girl. The six-year-old is calling you out right now.”

“The girls have already been swumming,” my niece said for a third time, her steadfastness demanding she be heard.

“Yeah, Amelia jumped in before any of us!” said one of the big boys who had been tossed in.

“Get used to it, Clara. Women like us usually do great things first and they don’t even see us,” my nine-year-old said in her trademark matter-of-fact style, in attempt to comfort her little cousin.

I said nothing more to the girls. I sensed their strength and resolve and knew they were just fine. Instead I found myself looking over at my son, who was beaming at his big sister and his cousin.

Not everybody was looking right past these intrepid girls.

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).