By Lauren Linhard –

My 11-year-old cousin Claire and I simultaneously reached for the lightsabers and began the battle of a lifetime. But it was only after we cut off each other’s limbs and returned our weapons to the shelf that it felt like she cut out my heart.

“Of course these are in the boy’s section,” she said sadly, putting her lightsaber back.


Claire’s the one in the middle – did I mention she also loves cupcakes and dancing.

I didn’t know what to say to my Star Wars-loving, video game playing, movie creating little cousin as we walked over to the “girl” section to play with the hats. I almost went on a diatribe on gender-typed toys, but decided that might be a little too intense for a casual shopping day, and instead opted for, “It’s because they know girls would take over the universe if we had lightsabers.”

But for real – why are the lightsabers in the boys’ section?

Because society has determined that girls’ toys are associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing and domestic skills while boys’ toys relate to violence and competition – read Easy Bake Oven versus GI Joe.

These labels have become so ingrained that even if a girl toy is labeled as a boy’s toy, a girl will not touch it. Or if a boy playing with a toy race car sees the driver is a girl, he’ll drop it because it must be a girl toy.

And there she is again on the far right – in a dress cause her mom made her.

I recently suffered through this idiocy in Walmart when searching for an Iron Man shirt to wear to the latest “Avengers” movie. Wanna know where I found one? Yup, the men’s clothing department.

Perhaps everyone should take a page out of Target’s book and eliminate this gender-based ridiculousness where it no longer applies. Organize toys based on theme and interest instead of gender expectations. Who cares if a girl wants a pirate cover instead of a princess cover? Does it matter if a boy likes a pink race car instead of a blue one?

It’s about teaching kids to make confident choices based on what they like and dislike – not on what society tells them. There is no shame in being yourself over a stereotype.