Blurring gender roles in corporate America

a boy and girl playing

Corporations like Target want to create a “gender neutral” environment to leave the idea of gender open to interpretation. Photo Illustration, Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice




In early 2015, the popular retailer Target made the decision to create a “gender-neutral” environment in their stores to appeal more to their customers. After receiving several angry responses from people who had noticed the prominent gender roles in signs, toys and bedding, Target made the announcement that they will no longer include “boys” or “girls” on signs and labels, but instead leave it open to interpretation.

The thought of anything being “gender-neutral” or “gender-fluid” is a new concept, and with change comes new opinions, both negative and positive. Carly Slank, a 25-year-old anthropology major from Eastern Michigan University, works at the writing center at WCC and offered her opinion.

“I think it’s fine that they’re changing the signs, if anything it’s a little late,” Slank said. “Especially with the toys, since that’s been an issue since I was a kid.”

After Target changed their policies, a lot of people were left wondering what effect this is going to have on corporate America in general, and if other popular retailers will make the switch as well.

This idea of “gender fluidity” shows resemblance to a situation in Canada that sparked the interest and anger of several of its citizens about four years ago. According to an article published by ABC News in 2011, two parents decided to have a child, but not inform the child of its gender until the child asked. In their eyes, this would make the child have a very gender-fluid childhood, and not force the gender barriers that society has placed on young girls and boys.

To have a gender-fluid childhood is a controversial and experimental subject, and such a breaking of social norms has some people excited and some people frustrated. Hannah Evans, a 20-year-old human services major at WCC, had some comments on gender and society in general.

“I believe that gender is really a social construct, and something we kind of came up with,” Evans said. “I don’t really believe that (gender) has as much influence in nature as it does in society.”

According to Pearson Education, developing children require a physically and emotionally supportive environment in which their basic needs can be met. Since they are relying on their environment more to develop, their parents and their environment easily affect the way they think.

Trudi Hagen, director of the Children’s Center at WCC, provides some helpful opinions and insight about gender roles.

“Here we like to let the kids experiment, and boys can go and play dress up and girls can play with trucks. Girls are generally drawn to more quiet things, like coloring in a coloring book, but we don’t try to gear them a certain way,” Hagen said.

The lines between genders are becoming more and more blurry as society progresses. Popular celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Ellen DeGeneres consider themselves “gender non-binary” or “gender-fluid.” Target’s recent decision has affected many people, and whether it is negatively or positively, it has people thinking more about the future.

“I would like to think that (popular retailers) will change, but I don’t know if they will,” Hagen said. “It’s comparable to how they made pink and purple Legos now, specifically for girls. It has a lot to do with the money. Why can’t girls play with a Lego pirate ship?”

As society progresses, so do some people’s opinions concerning controversial topics. A large corporation such as Target taking a stance with this issue is evident of a changing world.





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