Monday, February 8, 2016

Do We Need Different Diapers for Boys and Girls?

Diaper aisle at Target. Photo © Nina Snyder
Sexism is alive and well in the aisles at Target. Although the retailer took steps to remove gender bias for in their toy aisles, Target is hosting a new gender-based marketing.

A colorful display from Huggies promoted "targeted absorbency" for a new diaper product line. The signage touted center protection for girls in a pink package and up front protection for boys in a blue package.

I reached out to Huggies to get the inside scoop -- pardon the pun -- on the diapers. The diaper manufacturer quietly rolled out the Huggies Little Movers Diaper Pants in October 2015. The diapers are exclusively available at Target and Target.​com in sizes three through six.

As the mother of both a boy and a girl, I have to say it never occurred to me that my son and daughter needed gender-specific diapers. However, it is indisputable that boys and girls have different plumbing for private parts. According to Huggies, customers have responded positively to the diapers.

"We've received a lot of positive feedback from customers,​" said Amie Wentz, Huggies Brand Manager. "One recent reviewer said she 'really noticed that the diaper was wetter in the center and her daughter’s skin was dryer than she experienced with other diapers.​'"

However, I feel like this could be a slippery slope for parents.

Do you need different baby wipes for boys and girls? Floral-scented for girls and patchouli-scented for boys? The possibilities are endless. Frozen-branded toilet paper for girls. Minions-branded toilet paper for boys.

I better stop before I give marketing departments more ideas. Marketing departments love differentiation, the concept of convincing customers they need different products based on traits such as gender or age. At least diapers cost the same for both boys and girls!

While I applauded Target's recent removal of gender-based signs for toys, their shelves are still awash in pink and blue boxes because I don't think toy manufacturers got the memo.

Growing up in the free-spirited '70s, I don't remember gender norms as strictly delineated. While I was never athletically skilled enough to be a proper tomboy, I loved climbing trees and digging up worms in the backyard. I also loved Barbie dolls and would sew the dolls clothes by hand.

However, my parents never bought me a chemistry set that I longed for as an eight-year-old. Although to be honest, I'm not sure if that was sexism or because they were worried I would burn down the house.

Now that I'm a mom, I'm careful not to discourage my son when he is interested in his younger sister's toys or vice versa.

Also, on a practical level, I don't want to buy a whole new set of toys for my daughter when she gets older. She can learn to build with primary-color Legos handed down from her brother instead of pink-and-purple Legos.

What do you think? Do we need different diapers for boys and girls?

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.

Note: This blog post originally appeared on Dec.  7, 2015, but I have since switched web-hosting services. 

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