When Mattel released its ad for its Moschino Barbie, it caused a stir, simply because one of the stars of this video was a young boy. Male Barbie fans were enthused while there were many who were outraged.
When Target announced that it would be getting rid of the “girls” and “boys” signs in its bedding and toys department, it was met with simultaneous praise and outrage. A lot of this outrage is because many conservatives believe that “there are no gender neutral people” (Hains 2015). “Won’t someone think of the children?” cried others. Marketing toys as gender neutral is not trying to make girls and boys the same. Nor is it trying to get rid of toys like Hot Wheels and Barbie. It is a simple redistribution of toys according to theme and interest rather than gender.
So what’s the big deal? Do these labels even matter? Yes, they do. Labels are real and labels can hurt. They can instill a sense of shame in young children who find their interests do not lie with what the labels tell them that they should like. Little boys who want to play with Barbies should not feel ashamed when they walk down the doll aisle to find the one they want. Little girls with a love for Hot Wheels should not be shamed for their toy selection. Parents may worry that letting their son play with dolls will damage him somehow, but letting him play with trucks could also damage him by reinforcing gender stereotypes that could be harmful in his adult life.
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