Targeting Toys

I’ve been a little out of the loop the past couple of days (nothing major, just kind of spacing out) and I thought I had missed the window of opportunity to get all snarky about the backlash against Target’s decision to remove gender labels in its toy section. Rachel Held Evans, who is a great writer but too incredibly nice to be an effective smart ass, wrote a wonderfully sarcastic piece answering an article from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (try saying that 3 times as fast as you can). And, in what may be the greatest troll of conservatives in history (Donald Trump excluded), a gentleman named Mike Melgaard created a fake Facebook account and pretended to be Target customer service, giving awesomely snarky responses to angry statuses. As funny as what I was seeing might have been, I was bummed. I mean, I’m trying to build a brand on being a religious smart ass and it looked like I’d missed my chance. But, the dark clouds parted when I saw that my old friend, Franklin Graham had weighed in on the subject. Thank you, brother; you saved the day.

Brother Franklin is a tiny bit upset about Target’s decision to stop pigeonholing kids when it comes to play and bed time and he’s throwing the customary hissy fit that always occurs when things don’t go his way (and by “when things don’t go his way”, I mean “when he doesn’t get to continue shitting on people who don’t conform”). This time, he skips the righteous outrage and goes straight to the veiled threat, saying “I think Target may be forgetting who has made their stores strong. It’s not gender-neutral people out there — it’s working American families, fathers and mothers with boys and girls they love.” Of course, the threats don’t stay veiled long and he urges his supporters to let Target know that they won’t be shopping there until “the genders God created are appreciated.”

There are a lot things wrong with Graham’s statement (all the other complaints flying around too, but let’s stick with Frank for now), not the least of which is the idea that some members of those “working families” could possibly be one of those “gender-neutral people” he’s so pissed about. I know this to be true because I’m one of them. And, I’m not alone: according to a poll released by the Human Rights Campaign, 22% of likely voters say they know or work with a person who is transgender. And, of those people, 66% said that “expressed favorable feelings toward them”. Granted that’s not a massive amount of people, but it is a significant increase.

I do not understand the problem with Target’s decision. Are they afraid that if boys are allowed to play with dolls, it’ll turn them gay? If that’s the case, I should be as queer as a $3 bill because I played with dolls all the fucking time when I was a kid. What doll is that, you ask? Why, G. I. Joe, of course. And, not those little pretenders from the 80’s and 90’s, either. No, I had the real deal, this guy:

Later, I had one of those wussy, non-violent Adventure Team figures, but we don't talk about that.
Later, I had one of those wussy, non-violent Adventure Team figures, but we don’t talk about that.

I can hear you now; you’re saying, “But, Joel, that’s not a doll, it’s an “action figure’. So, it doesn’t count.” I had originally thought to answer this with a snappy comeback concerning Bill Clinton’s liaison with Monica Lewinsky, but that would be rude and dismissive. Instead, I’ll tell you a story about my brother.

When he was just a few years old, our paternal grandmother (who we called Nana) bought him a Dennis the Menace doll. My father was not happy with this, declaring that no son of his would ever play with dolls (interestingly, he’s the one who brought home the G.I. Joes). Now, the old man was one of the most strong-willed people I’ve ever known, but he couldn’t hold a candle to his mother. Nana laid down the law, telling him that not only was she giving Jeff the doll, but Pop would allow him to play with all he wanted. Anyone who knows my brother can attest that he didn’t “catch the gay’ from playing with that doll. Like me, he is embarrassingly straight. .

Grant Castleberry (author of the CBMW post that inspired Evans’ article) said “all it seems to take is a few social-media punches from disgruntled, progressive customers” for companies to “jump on the winding, zigzag gender line.” Actually, what it takes is for a company to decide not be assholes and stop reinforcing ridiculous ideas about gender. Maybe Castleberry and Graham could learn a little something about being decent human being (not to mention, good Christians) from Target. God knows, they seem to need some help in that department.