Marketing, Retail

“Sexist crap”: Target Australia slammed over kids toys promoting gender stereotypes

Dominic Powell /

Despite a checkered history of outrage over gender stereotype-enforcing children’s products, Australian discount department chain Target has been slammed again on social media over blue and pink “boy and girl’s” toys.

The toys in question are a pair of “My First Carry Along” plastic briefcases, one in pink and one in blue. The blue toy is offered as a “medical centre”, whereas the pink toy is a “beauty studio”.

Customers took to Twitter to call out the retail giant over stocking the toys, with the toys being called “an absolute crock” and “sexist crap”.

SmartCompany contacted Target Australia but did not receive a response prior to publication. However, the retailer responded to individual tweets from disgruntled customers, saying it was currently investigating the matter.

“Hi there, thanks for getting in touch! We want to encourage children to be whatever they aspire to be so are disappointed to hear this,” the company said in a tweet.

This is not the first time Target has been caught out for stocking products and promoting gender stereotypes in store, with the company coming under fire for stocking a girl’s ‘Batgirl’ t-shirt in late 2016.

However, shortly after discontinuing the shirt, the company received further backlash from customers who had promised the shirt to their children.

In the US, Target removed all gendered signage from its stores in 2015, saying it did not want customers to be “frustrated or limited” by how products are presented in-store.

However, previous backlash and discussion on the issue has not prevented the company striking the outrage chord again, which director at Good Things Marketing Helen Ahrens believes is “sadly” due to the sales supporting the products.

“When there’s a small amount of outrage but a large amount of profit, it gets tricky for companies and consumers,” Ahrens told SmartCompany.

“But this doesn’t mean Target shouldn’t do the right thing by working towards breaking down gender stereotypes. Don’t just pigeonhole people into boxes because it’s profitable.”

In a similar view, director at Marketing Angels Michelle Gamble told SmartCompany that categorising a target market in this way is how “99% of companies do it”, hence why these products keep being placed on shelves.

“Marketing and product development work that way — you put people in a certain box,” she says.

But Gamble says this doesn’t mean Target should continue to perpetuate these stereotypes and notes the company has done some good work in promoting diversity in its clothing catalogues.

“On a gender front they’re still putting people in boxes, so it’s an opportunity for Target to pave the way and embrace more diverse views,” she says.

“Equality is really high on the agenda right now, so the quicker a business embraces it, the more forward thinking and progressive they will appear.”

Ahrens agrees, saying with the current marriage equality postal survey underway, there’s never been a better time for businesses to take a stance on social issues such as gender equality.

“This year has been the year of taking a stance for commercial businesses, so in my mind, there’s no reason after this year why businesses can’t take a moral stance,” she says.

“A precedent has been set.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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