Target’s managers have angered millions of their customers, tarnished the company’s brand, and damaged its stock value by suddenly demanding that all customers use mixed-sex bathrooms and mixed-sex changing rooms in the chain’s 1,800 stores. What made them drive their company into the ditch?
The evidence strongly suggests that the company’s senior professionals — and its top executives — simply ignored public opposition to mixed-sex bathrooms because the managers are entranced by the idea that left-wing ideas about sex and children will help them boost sales to wealthier buyers and to the multicultural millennial population.
But middle-class customers — not left-wing advocates — get to decide Target’s fate.
Those middle-class customers don’t like being ignored by holier-than-thou managers, they don’t like creepy threats to their children, and they really don’t like being manipulated by far-left progressives who are trying to change kids’ ideas about sex, family, and “gender expression.”
The company’s cooperation with left wing political manipulation was exposed in late 2015 when the company announced that it would stop using “Boys” and “Girls” signs in its toy aisles. The company said in August 2015:
Our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, in the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.
In February 2016, the company made its next mistake by launching a new line of “gender neutral” bedroom products for kids. The Pillowfort line includes textiles colored in muted browns and blues, pale yellows, and washed-out pinks. That makes them very different from the vibrant strong patterns and colors that are favored by normal boys and girls — and are also sold by corporate rivals, such as Macys, Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, or JCPenny.
— Dustee T. Jenkins (@DusteeJenkins) April 18, 2016
— The Shopping Mama (@TheShoppingMama) April 4, 2016
OK, But Why Does The Left Hates the Sexes?
Target’s “gender neutral” products were lavishly praised by a series of far-left progressives, who hate the normal view of boys and girls as different, complementary, and paired.
In general, progressives believe people should be helped to overcome any barriers to self-expression and personal autonomy.
Those barriers include some things that can be changed (laws, or lack of education, or poverty), some things that can be smashed away (conservative ideas, or national borders that block illegal migrants), but also things that just can’t be changed — such as IQ or criminality or the maleness or femaleness of a person’s body. So progressives are immediately sympathetic to someone who says he’d be happier if he was a she.
But progressives also want to boost transgenders because they want their idea of fluid, changeable gender to kill and replace the normal idea of two equal but different and complementary sexes.
Why’s that important? If progressive can smash public support for the equal-and-complementary sexes, they can trash the cultural foundations of Americans’ middle-class marriages, families, and neighborhoods.
The existence of complementary sex differences explain why nearly all men want to work — even at dangerous jobs — and why a large number of women want to raise families, even when the kids are unpleasant. The complementary differences explain why most young men compete for status via sports, why most young women compete for status via style, and why there’s so much fraternization in the so-called war between the sexes.
The complementary differences explain how Americans’ myriad subtle customs and expectations have evolved to help men and women, boys and girls, reach as much of their male or females desires as they can with their undeniably, unchangeably, flawed male or female bodies.
That’s why Americans evolved separate sports leagues for males and females, higher status for women (not men) who take care of children, higher social status for men who join the military or take risky jobs, tougher penalties for sexual abuse of children by men, a greater role in childrearing and in neighborhoods for women, why there are abortion rights for women but no authority for men to unilaterally stop child support, and much, much else.
— Rachel Lu (@rclu) April 28, 2016
So those complementary sexual differences have created a dense network of popular laws and customs and expectations which prevent progressives from rewriting society’s rules to create a progressive-controlled paradise on Earth.
That’s why progressives want to deny the existence of sexual differences — and why transgenders can help progressives tear down the entire array of American customs and expectations that are built on sexual differences.
After all, if men can become women, and women can become men, why should there be different sports leagues for boy and girls? Or different bathrooms? And if there are mixed-sex bathrooms, why not mixed-sex sports leagues? If “transgender men” can give birth, why should society expect just women to take maternity leave? If “transgender women” can fight wars, why should young men get more social status for joining the military?
So progressives now argue that sexual differences should be subordinated to gender differences. If a man says his gender is female, he gets to go to the women’s bathroom or star in a cutting-edge fashion show. If a woman feels her gender to be masculine, she goes to the men’s bathroom or become an infantry officer. Progressives get to say that society’s sex-related laws and customs must be junked to help transgenders, even if transgenders comprise only 1 in every 2,400 Americans, according to a study of the 2010 census.
That’s why progressives hate the reality of the two biological sexes — which they sneer at as the “gender binary” — and why they love the idea of fluid, ever-changing, gotta-feel-it gender.
“Let’s get to the point where we say, “Hey, I don’t know if that person is male or female or both or neither, so I’m just going to treat them like a person” … or “That guy likes to wear skirts. Cool,’’ says Lori Duron, the mother of a young boy who dresses and acts like a girl. “Let’s respect every person’s unique gender journey by not believing in any binary. Let’s bust the binary. Once and for all.”
Progressives want to promote the idea that a person’s “gender” is different from their sex. They want to claim that boys can choose to be like girls, and girls can choose to become boys. Or, as advocates say, boys can pick a female “gender expression,” and girls can pick a male “gender expression” on some days, but twice on Mondays, if they wish. Or whatever.
This view is being championed by some culture entrepreneurs, such as Miley Cyrus. In a 2015 interview, she declared:
I’m very open about it — I’m pansexual. But I’m not in a relationship. I’m 22, I’m going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I’m with … I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age,” she said. “Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.
Bruce Jenner, a father and former Olympian, became a progressive hero when he claimed to have become the new face of American women.
Progressive advocates scoff at the risks and costs of their push for a gender-fluid society.
Here’s one cost: a 14-year-old boy shot a cross-dressing boy in the head while both were sitting in a classroom. The transgender kid had humiliated the boy, Brandon McInerney, the previous days by asking him to be ‘his valentine‘ while both were standing on the playground. McInenery is now serving a 21-year prison sentence.
Here’s another cost: there’s little evidence that transgenders are either happy or successful after going through irreversible medical treatment.
At Johns Hopkins [university hospital], after pioneering sex-change surgery, we demonstrated that the practice brought no important benefits. As a result, we stopped offering that form of treatment in the 1970s. Our efforts, though, had little influence on the emergence of this new [gender] idea about sex, or upon the expansion of the number of “transgendered” among young and old … The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over thirty years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest. Ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers.
But those costs and risks are dismissed — and so the sexes-hating advocates of gender just cheered when Target introduced their “gender-neutral” Pillowfort products.
“This [Target] change is a step towards removing gender limitations in childhood, but when one of the world’s largest retailers does this, the ripple effect will be significant,” said the author of one sexes-hating blog.
“Target’s move is just the tip of the iceberg,” claimed Darlena Cunha in Time magazine. She’s another advocate against complementary sexual differences. “We need to pressure manufacturers to get rid of the labeling on the products. We need to pressure advertisers to lose the labeling in their commercials. We need to tell ourselves that “girl” and “boy” interests do not exist. Every child is an individual, and we have a duty to find out who each and every one of them is instead of lumping children into categories before they can speak for themselves,” she said in her Time article.
That article has a merciless title: “Target’s Decision to Remove Gender-Based Signs Is Just the Start: We need to tell ourselves that ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ interests do not exist.”
This hatred of the “gender binary” is embraced by feminists and by their political allies, but it is very different from the goals of ordinary gays or of most transgenders.
Gays want normal people to respect them and their single-sex relationships, even though homosexuality plays a minimal role in the normal, vital, risky, and rewarding task of creating and educating the next generation. Transgender people love the idea of the “binary” — most desperately to jump across the gulf between women and men, to live as a man or a woman, not as something mixed in between. That’s biologically impossible, which causes enormous pain for transgender people — even though some succeed in fully changing their appearance from one sex to another.
Still, many gays and transgenders, plus their political leaders and the feminists, have agreed to oppose the traditional “gender binary” in favor of the idea that people are free to choose their “gender expression.”
The wealthiest advocacy group for gay status, the Human Rights Campaign, defines gender identity as “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”
“Gender identity is a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or someone outside of that gender binary). For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match,” claims the gay advocacy group, GLAAD.
“The gender binary and heteronormativity [the assumption that heterosexuality is normal] should not exist. Stereotypes and gender roles are harmful for everyone. All gender identities and sexualities should be respected and acknowledged,” claims a post at the National Organization for Women, titled “Feminism of the Future.”
That’s the political movement that is driving Target, Apple, and many other companies to oppose so-called “bathroom legislation” in North Carolina and other states that affirm the reality of male and female sexes over the imaginary idea of gender.
And Target’s senior leaders are OK with this aggressive effort to replace the reality of boys and girls with the new claim of “gender expression.’
“Who are we to say what a child’s individual expression is?” Julie Guggemos, Target’s senior vice president of design and product development, told the Star Tribune newspaper when the Minnesota-based company introduced the Pillowfort products. “We really wanted to develop a [bedroom] collection that would be universal.”
— Jolean Olson (@JoleanOlson) March 15, 2016
Before the Pillowfort collection, “It was an aisle of pink, fairy princesses, ponies and flowers,” she complained. “And for the boys it was rockets and dinosaurs. Well, you know what? Girls like rockets and basketball. And boys like ponies.”
Those company leaders even OK’d publication of an image that mashed together the gay rainbow with Target’s iconic and invaluable target symbol.
Target’s design professionals likely embraced the “gender neutral” pitch because they want to be “hipper-than-thou,” said Glenn Stanton, the director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family and a research fellow at the Institute of Marriage and Family in Ottawa, Ontario. By using their employer to help the status of transgenders, they please their peers but at the cost of “seeking to solve a problem that doesn’t exit and ironically creating for themselves an infinitely larger problem with the client base — moms with young children,” he said.
Still, “middle-managers don’t dictate [company] policy,” Stanton said. The responsibility for this “goes up to the mahogany row in Target’s HQ.”
Why didn’t the executives stop Guggemos and her design staff from throwing the company over the edge of public opinion?
Well, the executives think they can make money from a leftward shift — they’re hoping to sell those Pillowfort product to wealthier and liberal customers who do disdain sex-colored pink-or-blue toys and bedroom items, according to the Star Tribune.
Executives see a lot of potential with Pillowfort, especially since they say there aren’t a lot of other options on the market that tap into the Pinterest-like design sensibility for children’s bedrooms at more value prices. Many of the biggest competitors in this space are more from specialty and high-end retailers. So with Pillowfort, Target aims to double its kids’ home business within the next three years.
But there’s a huge cost to Target’s hip-to-hip dance with the progressives.
Middle-class customers don’t like being manipulated or insulted, or and they don’t like anything that might damage their kids. So those customers are pushing back.
In 2015, as the company stopped sorting toys into boys and girls aisles, the company’s customers began pushing back. For example, the protest was made clear at a “gender expression,” site, Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies.
So when Target announced in February 2016 that its Pillowfort collection would be “gender neutral,” it got stung, badly, and again, by parents. For example, the comments section of the Star Tribune soon carried jeers, criticism and scorn for the company’s new venture.
Company officials knew these gender politics could drive away their customers. As soon as the public objected to the Pillowfort gender-hostile collection, Target’s company officials immediately began denying the gender angle.
“There are still designs that skew toward more traditional masculine and feminine styles, more pink and blue,” Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas told mashable.com after Guggemos coughed up her “child’s individual expression” statement. “Now there’s a greater variety, more universal options that could fit in either a little boy’s room or little girl’s room,” he spun.
National Politics Intervenes
But Target’s executives and professionals weren’t paying attention to national politics.
In 2015, progressives and gay and transgender activists were mashing the button on transgender status across the nation, even though very few Americans want to be mean to transgenders.
In fact, most Americans just politely ignore obvious transsexuals when they walk into bathrooms. That’s the public’s decent compromise, its live-and-let live policy, and even transgender activists admit they’re rarely bothered when they use the other sex’s bathroom.
But being ignored is not enough for progressives — they want Americans to accept their demand that the “gender binary” is bad, and that there’s no significant biological, cultural, and practical difference between boys and girls, transgenders, men, and women.
The progressives began using their friends in the courts, universities, the media, and in liberal towns and cities. For example, in Houston, Texas, a majority of the city council barred single-sex bathrooms as “gender discrimination.”
But the public began pushing back — loudly and successfully. In 2013, the city of Houston elected a far-left lesbian mayor with 57 percent of the vote. She pushed through an open bathroom law, and in 2015, she bitterly opposed a city-wide ballot that sought to reaffirm the mutual right of the sexes to their own single-sex bathrooms. The ballot was passed by 61 percent of the voters, in part because of radio ads like this from former baseball player Lance Berkman.
No men in women’s bathrooms, no boys in girls’ showers or locker rooms. I played professional baseball for 15 years, but my family is more important. My wife and I have four daughters. Proposition 1, ‘the bathroom ordinance,’ would allow troubled men to enter women’s public bathrooms, showers and locker rooms. This would violate their privacy and put them in harm’s way.
In revenge, progressives recruited their business allies — Silicon Valley firms such as Google, sports industries such as NASCAR and college basketball — to threaten state legislators with huge economic pain if they passed additional laws to affirm the hated “gender binary” at bathrooms in Tennessee, Indiana, North Dakota, and elsewhere.
The media’s coverage of these disputes was overwhelmingly biased in favor of the left and for transgenders. Here’s a “mainstream” article in the Washington Post that echoes the progressives’ claims:
A new North Carolina law that bars local governments from extending civil rights protections to gay and transgender people is provoking a growing backlash from businesses and others who say the law is discriminatory … LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights groups said the legislation, which many lawmakers had not seen before it was introduced Wednesday, is blatantly discriminatory and condemned it as the most extreme bill of its kind in the nation.
Similarly, the few polls taken on the issue were skewed towards progressives. In North Carolina, one mid-April poll asked a strange and skewed question — “How do you feel about HB2 [House Bill 2] requiring people to follow their birth certificate in using a restroom?” Despite the hard-to-understand question, 46 percent of North Carolina voters strongly supported the state law affirming people’s right to single-sex bathrooms, while 25 percent strongly support mixed-sex bathrooms.
That kind of skewed coverage helped ensure that Target’s managers didn’t pay attention to the public’s obvious, loud, sincere, and rational protests against the left’s hatred of the two complementary sexes. So they kept steaming straight ahead towards the iceberg.
On April 19, Target announced its new pro-transgender policy that doesn’t allow customers to have single-sex bathrooms or changing-rooms in the Target stores.
Within 10 days, more than one million people signed a protest petition against Target, millions more noticed the dispute, and the company’s critical brand-ratings crashed as its carefully polished “cheap chic” image was overwhelmed with social media posts about sex creeps lurking in Target’s changing rooms.
— #UniteNotFight (@MeganSmiles) April 21, 2016
The uproar squashed the P.R. campaign for the company’s new line of brightly-colored Marimekko home and clothing products, which were put in Target stores on April 17.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 2, 2016
Amusingly, in contrast to how she touted the gender-neutral Pillowfort line, Guggemos touted the new Marimekko products as having “really bright and bold colors … it is all about play…. it is really bright, really cheerful.”
As the trangender issue went viral, the company’s P.R. staff went on lockdown, as if they were hoping the damage would repair itself — but Wall Street saw the fuss, gauged the likely impact of the transgender policy, and slashed the company’s value by $2.5 billion.
There’s no evidence that the company expected the catastrophe, partly because the company’s P.R. response has been to curl up in the fetal position in the hope that the pain goes away.
So far, the company’s executive suite has not ordered any change in course. Breibart called Target for a comment, but received no answers.
“The management is just going to have step up here,” Tim Wildmon, the head of the American Family Association, which is organizing the one million-plus boycott petition against Target. “If I were on the board of directors at Target, I’d call the persons in who said this was a good idea, and … ask them ‘Is this good for us? We didn’t have to have this, we don’t have to announce to the world something that so many people in the world object to.'”
The company’s embrace of left-wing ideas about sex “has blown up in their face,” he said. “I don’t expect they expected that kind of reaction.”
Meanwhile, there are plenty of conservative intellectuals who are explaining why Americans prefer the idea of complementary sexes — here’s a clue, babies! — over the progressives’s design to stigmatize the idea of different and complementary sexes. Maybe Target’s managers should read them.
— Mona Charen (@monacharenEPPC) April 22, 2016
— Glenn Stanton (@GlennStanton) April 29, 2016