Parents wanted more gender-neutral kids stuff. Target listened.

Late last summer, Target made waves by axing gendered signage in many of its store sections.

Like in the toy aisle, for instance: Who's to say what's a boy's toy and what's a girl's toy? The retail giant decided to leave that question up to kids and their parents, and many customers applauded the move (although, even in 2015, not everyone was on board with this).


Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Now, Target has taken another progressive step forward when it comes to breaking down gender stereotypes at its stores.

Target's new kids' home line, Pillowfort, is giving parents plenty more non-gender specific options.

The line — which includes 1,200 pieces of bedding, decor, furniture, and more — debuted online and in stores last month. One difference customers might spot with the brand is the number of items in the collection that aren't designed with a specific gender stereotype in mind.

Photo courtesy of Target, used with permission.

“One thing that we heard from parents is that they really wanted more universal pieces," Amy Goetz, spokesperson for Target, told Upworthy. "[Parents wanted pieces] that they could mix and match between their kids' rooms, whether they’re a boy or girl.”


Photo courtesy of Target, used with permission.

Goetz pointed out Pillowfort isn't completely gender-neutral — customers can still find the blue and pink pieces that have traditionally been designed with a gender-binary in mind — but there is a notable expansion of items that don't fit under an obvious "girl" or "boy" label.

Photo courtesy of Target, used with permission.

Many stereotypically gendered items, such as basketballs for boys and hearts for girls, are also available in more gender-neutral colors, like white, black, and yellow, The Star Tribune reported. This way, kids and their parents can pick out whichever items they want, without feeling as though they're breaking the gender rules, so to speak.

It may seem obvious, but it's worth noting that, no, girls don't naturally like pink anymore than boys do. Color association with gender is learned from a very young age, studies have found, and the toys marketed toward boys and girls can play a much bigger role in a kids' life than we might realize.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

“Play with masculine toys is associated with large motor development and spatial skills, and play with feminine toys is associated with fine motor development, language development, and social skills,” Megan Fulcher, associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, told The New York Times. “Children may then extend this perspective from toys and clothes into future roles, occupations, and characteristics."

Limiting a child's play to toys that stereotypically align with their gender hinders their creativity and affects how they see themselves in the larger world. That hurts boys and girls.

Target's move isn't just progressive for the sake of being progressive — it will probably be good for business.

As a 2015 study by NPD Group found, millennials are significantly more likely than older age groups to think the toy industry "perpetuates gender stereotyping" and that all toys should be marketed to both girls and boys. As more millennials become new parents, it makes sense that retailers are reacting to this changing perspective.

Photo courtesy of Target, used with permission.

Those survey results fall in line with what Melissa Atkins Wardy is seeing and hearing from parents too. Wardy created the apparel line Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies to change gender stereotypes associated with children's clothing, and she thought Target's move last year to get rid of "boy" and "girl" signs in toy sections was a smart one.

"There is no 'boy side' or 'girl side' to childhood," she told Upworthy last August. "Why would we tell a kid they can't like cars or pirates or fairies or pink? Go for it, kid."


Photo courtesy of Target, used with permission.

It's great that retailers like Target are bringing about change when it comes to gender stereotyping, but we've still got a long way to go.

Toys and bedding didn't always use to be this way. In fact, in the 1970s, most toys didn't fit into a gender category; many bucked the stereotypes on purpose (i.e., boys playing with kitchen sets or girls driving toy cars). It wasn't until more recent decades that a stark divide between "toys for girls" and "toys for boys" began to form, Elizabeth Sweet wrote for The New York Times in 2012.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The good news? In the last few years, more retailers — including giants like Walmart and Toys R Us — have begun waking up to the backward ways marketers approach selling toys. Target is one of them.

"You know what? Girls like rockets and basketball, and boys like ponies," Julie Guggemos, the retailer's senior vice president of design and product development, told The Star Tribune of Target's revamped approach with Pillowfort. "Who are we to say what a child’s individual expression is?"

Let's hope more retailers follow suit.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
True

Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
True

Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


Most people imagine depression equals “really sad," and unless you've experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it's different for everyone.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

If you know any teachers, you probably know how utterly exhausted they all are, from preschools all the way up through college. Pandemic schooling has been rough, to say the least, and teachers have borne the brunt of the impact it's had on students.

Most teachers I've known have bent over backwards to help students succeed during this time, taking kids' mental and emotional health into consideration and extending the flexibility and grace we all could use. But teachers have their own mental and emotional needs, too, and at some point, something's gotta give.

A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.

The message reads:

Keep Reading Show less