Thursday, August 27, 2015

Zoe vs. the Great Target Toy Aisle Debate

Earlier this month, that emotionally fragile information superhighway, the Internet, worked itself into yet another tizzy over the latest "biggest issue of our time."
I'm not talking about affordable health care.
Or that tempest in a teapot we call the Middle East.
No, I'm talking about gender-based signage at Target.

Before I wade in, I have a confession to make.
I've never been to Target.
I know. But I live in Brooklyn and I don't have a car. I hope you don't think less of me. If that's possible. Anyway, onward.
After some customer complaints about toy aisles divided by gender at Target---most notably, one sign for "Building Sets" and one for "Girls' Building Sets" (ew!)---the discount retailer decided to remove such indications from their toy department, as well as a few other departments. Not clothes. Since that would signal the apocalypse.
Some felt it was the end times anyway.
Angry Internet was angry. It felt this was political correctness gone too far, that this was part of "the gay agenda," and I'm going to take my business elsewhere, just as soon as I buy my pitchfork. You guys carry those, right? I'll take one in blue and one in pink. . . . I'm still mad at you.
As a former tomboy and now mother of a girl who says she wants to be a ballplayer when she grows up, I'm all for gender neutrality.
Is Zoe though? I've suspected gender bias on her part before and been wrong. However, a lot of her questions lately are more like statements lobbed at me to test my reaction, and so I have to wonder where she really stands.
Last week she said, "You know what? Boys can't play with girl things." (Girl things undefined.) And the next day she said, "You know what? Girls can't play superhero."
Each time she waited to see what I'd say, which was, Who told you that? and Why not? And then, bam, before you can say "teachable moment," we almost had one.


Of course, at Zoe's age it's normal for her to be looking for strict definitions and rules for behavior. What fascinates me is how inconsistently she applies them. Or maybe it's how consistently she feels they don't apply to her.
The other day we were discussing one of the girls from school, and I asked if she liked to play superheroes, and Zoe said, "No, she only likes girl things."
But didn't Zoe herself like to play superheroes? I asked. And so didn't that make it a girl thing just as much as a boy thing?
Zoe thought for a moment and then said, "Booty butt." Which I found non-responsive. And which is also how so many of my teachable moments end, by the way.
If I look for evidence in Zoe's play, it's inconclusive. She likes trucks and horses, princesses and fire engines; she likes her dinosaur for his roar and Superman for his snazzy boots.
The other day she was playing with her My Little Pony dolls. Brony phenomenon notwithstanding, My Little Pony dolls are what you would've expected to find in the formerly pink-and-purple aisle at Target. My own prejudices made me assume Zoe was involved in stereotypical girl play, which I imagined would be sweeter and less violent than her usual play. As I moved closer, though, and heard what she was saying, I discovered Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle were engaged in a duel to the death. Pinkie Pie's broken body lay nearby. Apparently shit got real in Equestria.

Maiming is magic.

Another "girl thing" Zoe likes is getting manicures and pedicures. Only once in my life have I had a manicure, the day before I got married. And I've never had a pedicure. (See Elf Toe Syndrome). But even without my wrecked toes, I wouldn't like people touching me. My fingers itch imagining someone filing my nails. Aaah! But Zoe's been getting her nails done with her older cousins since she was three. 
She loves it so much she's created a bath-time game where I play a customer at Miss Zoe's nail salon.
First, I must place my hands on the edge of the tub. Then she washes and massages my fingertips with her cloth (soothing!), asks me what color I want (pink or purple), and finally, whips out her water gun saying: "I'm going to shoot you with nail polish."
Before I can reclaim my fingers, she gently stabs each of them with the water gun. Then "dries them" with her beach shovel. Finally, she stands back to view her work.
"Are we done?" I ask hopefully.
"You know what?" she says.
"Booty butt."

Zoe: 106; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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