Katie Hinde, a college professor in Arizona, raised quite a ruckus this week after she “moved 5 shirts 25 feet” at her local Target store.
When Hinde found NASA tank tops in the boys section at Target, she moved some to the girls section, where she saw none. Then she posted her act of protest on Twitter. She didn’t name the store, but people recognized the displays.
She told the “Today Show” that after seeing the movie “Wonder Woman” last week, she was feeling all fired up. She went to Target to look for a “Wonder Woman” T-shirt for a young cousin but didn’t find one.
“Once I realized there wasn’t what I was looking for, I started to survey what was there,” she said on the “Today Show.” “And the whole time, the boys NASA T-shirts were visible from nearly all of the sections I was walking through.”
That’s why she grabbed some of the NASA shirts and put them in the girls section.
Well, Twitter sounded off, quite loudly, on what she did.
“Woooo buddy, it’s been quite the 34 hours,” Hinde, 37, wrote Tuesday on her blog, Mammals Suck, where she showcases research on mother’s milk, breastfeeding and lactation.
“Sunday night I was looking for super hero t-shirts in the ‘girls’ section at a Big Box Store, not finding them, and then unwittingly jumped down a rabbit hole.”
The first tweet earned nearly 133,000 of Twitter’s heart “like” icons.
“As a scientist who works on inclusivity in academia and science, I spend a lot of time thinking about the pipeline,” she blogged.
“I am particularly concerned about the scarcity and disparity of science and science fiction-oriented toys, clothes, and outreach for girls.”
Various bloggers and commentators applauded her.
A “powerful statement.” (Mashable)
“One awesome woman in Phoenix, Arizona is breaking down gender stereotypes, one tank top at a time.” (Babble)
But social media users lodged complaints on behalf of Target and retail workers everywhere who have to rearrange misplaced merchandise in stores.
The blowback got so nasty that Hinde broke it down in a pie chart with her postmortem blog post, which she called “Portrait of an Unexpected Twitter Storm.”
For people who criticized her for creating more work for store employees, Hinde noted on her blog that she “worked in retail for nearly a decade” and has “worked jobs at minimum wage and jobs below minimum wage.”
For what it’s worth, she wrote, “when I got to the store on Monday morning there were no negative consequences for staff as a result of my actions on Sunday. The t-shirts were where I had put them (so no one stayed late to move them) and the inventory person had just arrived a shelf away.”
Target saw the commotion and tweeted at Hinde and several people who had commented, telling them that yes, the retail chain does sell NASA apparel for girls.
“We aim to offer great selection & variety for every guest, & our tees are no exception. Check girls’ selection here,” the retailer told Hinde, adding a link to its website.
Hinde, who is married but has no children, praised Target for that but pointed out to “Today” that while the boys shirts were easy to find at a child’s eye level in her store, the girls NASA stuff was harder to find and not as prominently displayed.
Reflecting on “the accolades and the ire” of her “tiny-scale, subversive, nonviolent, direct action of moving merchandise around to disrupt gender stereotypes,” she decided that next time she’ll help out store employees by straightening something or picking something up off the floor for every item she relocates in protest.
Because yes, she’ll do it again.
But next time, she’ll fill out a comment card, too.