Yay for gender-neutral clothing! But Target, WTF?

Target introduced its gender-neutral clothing line for children on July 17, leaving people wondering if Target really understands what gender-neutral means.

The major retailer teamed up with popular app company Toca Boca to create a children’s line of clothing and decor centered around the characters from Toca Boca’s wide range of digital games. The company’s apps include characters of all skin and hair colors (purples, blues and greens tend to be popular hair colors in the world of Toca Boca) and dress them in gender-nonconforming clothing of varying styles, colors and patterns.

“Everything we make at Toca Boca is designed for all kids; it’s our mission to make sure no kid ever feels excluded by Toca Boca,” said Mathilda Engman, Head of Consumer Products, Toca Boca. “True to those values the collection was designed with inclusivity in mind, and we are so excited to see it will be merchandised together as a collection sitting between the boys and girls aisle of many Target stores.”

Because of Toca Boca’s commitment to gender neutrality and equality for children, it is no surprise that news outlets are singing Target’s praises left and right for carrying the gender neutral line. While the clothing line may include the neutral characters in an effort for no child to feel excluded, Target has ruined those efforts with their availability, terminology and placement of the clothing and accessories.

According to Target.com, select clothing and accessories are available in-stores, with in-stock availability varying by location. Be careful of Target’s definition of “in-stock.” What Target.com pinpointed as a location carrying the line on its shelves was met with disappointing results. A trip to a Target retail location with clothing  in-stock, according to the company’s website, was met with quick disappointment after the only Toca Boca sign in the store led to a rack missing the clothing entirely.

Not only was this rack completely Toca Boca-free (instead stocked with clothing from Target’s popular line Cat & Jack) it was not even close to being between the “Boys” and “Girls” departments. Instead, the rack was placed in the middle of “Boys” section.

Toca Boca Target gender neutrality

Photo by Emily Rochotte

A trip to another local Target was met with a variety of clothing in-stock. If you wanted a Toca Boca dress though, Target has conveniently put those in the middle of the “Girls” department, with sweatshirts and t-shirts on the other side of a dividing wall, buried in the “Boys” section. According to the Toca Boca press release, the clothing is supposed to be sitting between the two departments for maximized neutrality, however it seems that Toca Boca’s definition of gender-neutral and Target’s definition are very different.

While Target added gender-neutral and family restrooms to many locations and removed gender labels from their toy aisles in 2015 (because it’s the 21st century and boys can play with Barbies), there are still gender labels for their clothing sections, still using labels “Boys” and “Girls,”  instead of just “Childrens.” Target is trying, but there is still a long way to go to create an inclusive store.

With such disappointing in-store results, it should come as no surprise that online all of the Toca Boca clothes are labeled “Girls’” or “Boys.’” That’ right, this gender-neutral line has labeled all its clothing with gender labels, as if it wasn’t bad enough that they were gendered in-store. Bed sheets, backpacks and accessories are apparently gender neutral though.

Target responded to request for comment via their official @AskTarget Twitter account when questioned as to why gender-neutral clothing was being labeled, thus defeating the entire point of gender-neutrality. Their response?


“We’d like to help clarify! This collection includes apparel for both boys & girls. It also includes products that will appeal to both.”

Well Target, perhaps we need to clarify the definition of gender-neutral to you. Thanks for trying. Perhaps next time Toca Boca wants to adhere to their mission of equality, they’ll pick a retailer that’s done a bit more research.