G.K. Chesterton, a prolific writer of the early 20th century, once said, “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”
Nowhere is this mantra more evident than with the latest news about Target’s gender-neutral policy. The retail giant has jumped on the Caitlyn Jenner bandwagon with its announcement it will no longer separate toys, games or even bedding in a manner that suggests boys and girls are different.
The message? Gender is fluid. No one’s really male or female at all.
Yet the difference between boys and girls is so painfully evident to any parent one wonders whether the management at Target have children themselves. If they do, they’re ignoring what they can see for themselves—not to mention a mountain of evidence that proves biology plays a huge role in boys’ and girls’ preferences.
The difference between boys and girls is so painfully evident to any parent one wonders whether the management at Target have children themselves. If they do, they’re ignoring what they can see for themselves—not to mention a mountain of evidence that proves biology plays a huge role in boys’ and girls’ preferences.
Will there be children who differ from the norm? Of course. Some girls are into sports, and some boys like to read. But that doesn’t change the fact that girls, as a whole, do not play sports at nearly the same rate as do boys or that most boys prefer to run around and do things rather than sit and read or talk with their friends for hours on end.
The girls’ and boys’ section of any store is rudimentary: it caters to the majority of consumers who frequent the stores. Parent whose children fall outside the norm are perfectly capable of buying their children whatever it is they’re interested in. They don’t need Target to hold their hand and lead the way.
Target’s new policy has nothing to do with making children feel better about themselves. It looks like it’s about the company making sure it doesn’t get sued by parents who see injustice everywhere.
Parents like Abi Bechtel, for instance—the mother from Ohio whose tweet went viral when she noticed one Target had the following labels on the same aisle: “Building Sets” and “Girls’ Building Sets.”
“It seemed to imply that if “building sets” are for kids, and “girls’ building sets” are for girls, then “girls” is a distinct category from “kids,” she writes. “Here was one more piece of visual rhetoric telling my sons that boys are normative, and girls are other.”
For the record, I concede that particular label was strange—perhaps even unnecessary. But as a reasonable parent with no ax to grind, I assume Target listed it that way for good reason.
And in fact they did. “Recently we conducted a test where we removed any reference to gender in the toy aisles in a number of our stores,” a Target spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “In those stores, our guest research showed us that guests preferred having a variety of indicators that can help inform and guide their shopping trip.”
Well, naturally. Who wouldn’t welcome the convenience of designated aisles? Like most mothers, when I go to Target, time is of the essence. If I need something for my daughter, I head to that section of the store. If I need something for my son, I head to that department.
But there are those among us who insist it is morally wrong to suggest boys and girls are different. That will cause children to think they have to be a certain way. It is parents (and communities), they say, who make children think and behave the way they do.
No it isn’t.
Here’s what parents everywhere know, particularly those of us with sons and daughters: Hand your boy a pencil, and he’ll turn it into a sword. Make no mention of weddings to your daughter, and she’ll start planning hers just the same.
Boys and girls are born with preferences based on their unique biology. To ignore this fact, or to help spread the notion that biology isn’t real, is unethical at best and dangerous at worst.
Yet it’s an education that begins in college. For years, academic feminists have thumbed their nose at science and insisted—based on ideology, not fact—that biology is irrelevant. The result is gender warfare.
“In 1973, as a young teacher in Vermont, I nearly came to blows with a table of early academic feminists in Albany when I casually alluded to a hormonal element in sex differences,” said the dissident feminist, Camille Paglia, at a recent debate at American University. “Hormones, in their view, played no role whatever in human life.”
She adds, “It was not simply that they were questioning hormones’ level of impact on personality and behavior; they were surreally denying the very existence of hormones. I felt as if I had fallen down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.”
We all do, Ms. Paglia. We all do.
Suzanne Venker is an author, a cultural critic. She tackles a range of subjects surrounding marriage and the family, including the infamous gender wars. Her most recent book is “The Two-Income Trap: Why Parents Are Choosing to Stay Home.” To learn more about Suzanne, visit her website. Follow her on Twitter@SuzanneVenker.com.