On Friday, Target announced it will begin removing gender-based labeling from its stores, particularly in departments like toys and bedding, which are often separated by “Boys” and “Girls” signs.
“As guests have pointed out, in some departments like toys, home or entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” reads a statement from the company. “Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance.”
The move comes after an increase in complaints over the past year from families who feel “frustrated or limited by the way things are presented,” the statement reads.
While Target spokesperson Molly Snyder tells PEOPLE there wasn’t a “defining, specific moment” when they decided to initiate the change, a June Tweet from user Abi Bechtel of a sign differentiating between “Building Sets” and “Girls’ Building Sets” brought the discussion of gendered signs to a boiling point.
“It stood out to me as a good example of the way our culture tends to view boys and men as the default, normal option and girls and women as the specialized exception,” Bechtel told CNN in June, after her Tweet received over 2,000 re-Tweets.
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[BRIGHTCOVE “2087960” “” “” “no” ]The company points out that the kids’ bedding area, for example, doesn’t need to suggest if certain patterns and colors are for boys or girls, but rather “just kids.” The same applies to the toy aisles, where Target will also “remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves.”
Snyder tells PEOPLE that the changes will begin to happen over the next few months, and that apparel will continue to be divided into men’s, women’s, girls’ and boys’ sections.
“There has been an ongoing conversation about references to gender, especially as they relate to kids products,” she says. “We took a pause and said, ‘Let’s look at our stores and ask, where is it helpful to gender?'”