On Target and Toy Aisles and Why I’m Sharing Something Other Than Anger

Aug 13 2015

My friend, Mercy, just wrote me on the Book of Faces to say, “Omg… Beth Woolsey! Have you written anything about the Christian outrage over Target’s gender neutral toy aisle signs? You’re always my go-to blog repost on these cultural topics. Several friends are liking or reposting Matt Walsh or Franklin Graham’s take on the “silly feminists” or “gay agenda” and I just can’t.”

I get what Mercy’s asking. I get it, because most of the time I just can’t, too. Just CAN’T.

And I know there’s a lot of crazy, ranty stuff going around online about gender and Target and WHAT IT ALL MEANS FOR AMERICA and CHRISTIANITY and STANDARDS if we don’t have Girl Aisles and Boy Aisles at Target anymore.


I mean…, What if we go to Target and there’s just an aisle called TOYS?

And another aisle called BEDDING?

THIS IS WHY THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL, y’all! Because we can no longer worship materialism in simple, gender-segregated peace, the way God intended.

And I want to get all wrapped around the axle about it. I do. I want to because, this whole this is so very ridiculous, friends. SO VERY. I want to rant and respond and make my points and counterpoints, ’cause I’ll bet I have darn good thoughts in here somewhere.

But I can’t do it because there’s too large a part of me that’s not properly enraged.

Most of me is just… sad.

Sad for all we lose when we fight over worthless things.

Sad for all the time we spend on which big box stores Jesus prefers us to visit when we could be feeding the hungry and caring for the poor and fighting for the marginalized.

Sad for all the people on the margins right here in our own communities who watch the war rage — Christians fighting Christians over things that diminish Love — and receive the message loud and clear that you’re not welcome among us unless we can confine you to our premade boxes and rigid aisle walls.

So, instead, I’m re-sharing the post below today, about my daughter and about my son and about a doll who is their friend.

May we work to share stories like this that break down barriers instead of build them higher.

And may we all find mercy and grace and magic in the mess.

With love for all the people in all the aisles,





originally posted in June 2013

I stood in the mall in the tiny store crowded with books and toys and trinkets of all shapes and sizes, and I stared at the wall of stuffed animals as I tried desperately to narrow down my choice.

I was 8 years old, and my fourth facial surgery was just a few days away. The stuffed friend I was about to pick would be my hospital companion, tasked to stay with me after visitor hours ended when my parents would be required to leave.

That’s the way hospitals worked in the early 80’s, without fluffy modern-day nonsense where parents remain with their kids in the hospital around the clock. And, of course, by “fluffy modern-day nonsense” I mean nothing of the kind; parents of the 80’s were made of stronger stuff than me, no doubt, because it would take an elephant tranquilizer, a team of Navy SEALs, and a reinforced cage to get me out of my kid’s hospital room.

Still, I was never afraid in the hospital as a child due to equal parts Unflappable Parents, Unlimited Popsicles and the kind of Unshakable Companionship only a teddy bear can provide.

Choosing that bear was tough, though. A whole wall of bears and lambs, and I had to hurt all their feelings except one. I was that kid. The one who truly, deeply believed my animals and dolls were alive. The one who hid outside my bedroom and then JUMPED through the doorway to try to catch them moving. The one who whispered that I was trustworthy and if they’d just let me in on their secret, I’d keep it. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. So when I picked my bear in the mall that day, I cried because I couldn’t take them all, and I told them quietly not to worry; their turn for a family would come soon.

When Abby, my oldest, was 10, she campaigned for an American Girl Just-Like-Me Doll. I resisted because Oh my word! EXPENSIVE. We’re not the $100 doll kind of people. We’re more like the Look It’s On Sale or We Can Get It at a Thrift Store or Hooray for Hand-Me-Downs kind of people. Plus, American Girl Dolls need clothes and a hairbrush and stuff, stuff, stuff. And Abby was a fairly grown-up 10 who was already more interested in make-up than make-believe. How long would she play with a doll, anyway?

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But then I remembered my hospital bear and my favorite childhood book, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Have you read it? It’s still good. Much better than her more well-known The Secret Garden which is kind of spooky and sad and yellow.

A Little Princess chronicles the story of Sara Crewe after her father reluctantly leaves her at a boarding school. Before he goes, father and daughter search London for Sara’s Last Doll. “Dolls ought to be intimate friends,” Sara says. And finally, they find Emily, with her attentive gray-blue eyes that read as though she knew Sara all along. That’s because she does, I thought when I read it for the first time. She really does know you, Sara.

IMG_0688-EditAnd with that memory, I was done in. It was time for Abby’s Last Doll.

She picked Tiffany, who was everything you hope for a Last Doll to be.

But time went by, as it usually does, and eventually Tiffany was boxed up and put on a shelf and forgotten.

Until 6-year-old Cai found her yesterday. A beautiful box that revealed a beautiful doll. He pulled Tiffany from storage, and he held her reverently because he knew somehow that’s what you do with a doll like her.

I sat quietly in the living room yesterday, watching as Cai, with Tiffany in his arms, pushed Abby’s creaky door open. “Abby?” he said, “Is this your doll?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Can I play with her?” he asked.

And Abby was quiet for a long moment before she said, “Yes, Cai. Her name is Tiffany, and she’s very special. You’ll have to be careful with her and treat her kindly.”

“I will,” Cai said, and he withdrew from her room and closed the door.

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And I swear I saw Tiffany smile.