Can we stop calling 'gender neutral' a parenting trend yet?

Feb 22, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. ET
Image: Emma Innocent/Getty Images

There was a time when people feared the term "gender neutral." What did it mean? Did it signify the end to gender as we know it? Were we ruining our children? Obviously not. And with the launch of Target's new gender-neutral line (along with other advances), it's clear that this so-called odd "trend" has become pretty mainstream and commonplace.

For as long as parents can remember, the majority of stuff marketed at kids has been sold along a gender divide. From clothes to toys to bedding, most stores and companies sorted things by boys (blue, brown, dinosaurs, rocket ships, sports, etc.) and girls (pink, purple, sparkle, princesses, etc.). This type of marketing not only pigeonholed kids, but it stigmatized those who wanted to cross the divide.

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Thankfully, slowly but surely, companies started realizing what many parents (and kids!) have been saying all along: Let children be children, let them like what they like, and please stop trying to define them based on outdated and tired gender stereotypes. While it was a slow trickle at first, all of a sudden, more stores and brands are realizing they can actually profit from offering everything to kids, rather than separating by gender.

Many parents have been quite vocal about their disappointment in the overly stereotypical gendering that occurs when it comes to kids and toys/clothes/etc. Unfortunately, there's also been a very vocal minority who fear the end of the world as we know it if we allow gender-neutral ideals to flourish.

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No more army! No more babies! (Yes, these are real concerns of those who think that offering up gender-neutral options will essentially neuter all boys and turn all girls into lesbians). Thankfully, when it comes to business, most stores realize that the majority of people are demanding more choice and less stereotyping — and they're actually making some changes.

Toys 'R' Us got rid of their "boy" and "girl" categories online, allowing users to select things by other descriptors like age, brand or type of toy. And now, in addition to stripping away the gender descriptors in its toy aisles, Target is going one step further by launching a new kids' homegoods line that uses a gender-neutral approach. The new line, called Pillowfort, hopes to appeal to boys and girls without falling into the stereotypical gender traps of pink/princesses and blue/trucks. The line will still include bedding that has hearts on it, but those hearts will come in shades of gold and black rather than the usual pink and red.

As a parent who has a son that started shying away from the things he liked because "boys don't like that" (i.e., he didn't see pink shirts in the boys section), it's heartening that these companies are finally listening to their consumers. All I have to say to this is: FINALLY.

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All of these brands and stores are responding to customer demand. And as more and more companies and stores realize the power (and profit!) in offering gender-neutral products, maybe this will no longer be a big story where we need to shower praise and kudos to these companies for doing things that they should be doing anyway.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

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