Monday, September 04, 2017

Let's Talk: Gender Labels

John Lewis Remove Gender Labels 2017

During the past week John Lewis have made a lot of headlines, as they made history by becoming the first major UK retailer to remove gender labels from their children's clothing section. The new gender-less labels will read as either "Boys and Girls" or "Girls and Boys" and this applies to all of their own-brand clothing from newborn to 14 years. The only exception are the school uniforms, which are set to change to unisex labels. As well as this, they're also introducing a non-gender specific clothing range. The head of the John Lewis childrenswear Caroline Bettis, said: "We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear."

In my opinion, I don't believe clothing especially children's clothing should be sectioned and divided off, to let you know what you should and should not buy to fit in with the social constructs of the gender you identify as. Not only that, but I hate the sexist quotes that you see on children's clothes. Boys will get a quote or fact about space, or maybe football whereas girls will get a sad emotional quote like "More issues than Vogue" or "Training to be Batman's wife" It's just awful giving that mind set to young, impressionable people. Obviously, you can buy things from different sections and no one will stop you but I can only speak for myself and know that when I was a child, I was very aware of the social norms and would feel like I couldn't wear something if it had a "boys" label inside. There have been times where I had wanted something and saw that it was targeted at boys and as a result, would be left feeling deflated, but now children can buy something due to their likes and tastes, not just forcing them to stick to certain gender categories.

When I first heard the news, I was really happy and even posted on Twitter about how great I thought it was but since then, there has been a huge backlash that I've seen all over social media and various news outlets. With people branding the move as pandering and political correctness gone mad. Whilst others have claimed that it will make the shopping experience just plain confusing. I found the backlash pretty shocking because I think I must surround myself with people that share the same political and social beliefs as I do, but when a certain story blows up and goes viral, other people's opinions are filtered through and end up in your little circle, which kind of shows you that even though we're now in 2017, we still have a long, long way to go for acceptance on a lot of issues.

I think it can be good to see other people's opinions, even if they don't match up to your own as it creates a discussion and we really need them about topics like this, otherwise they just don't get spoken about. Personally, I think the move by John Lewis is 100% right and don't see it as pandering in the slightest and I really do hope other retailers will take notice and follow suit. I firmly believe that gender roles start very young, such as things like clothing, toys and activities all being gender specific, which could lead them to believing that can't like or do certain things as they grow up, which honestly is just completely damaging. It's crazy to me that people actually think the move is insane and are talking about boycotting the whole store, all because of a loss of a label.

Ultimately, we don't need labels for clothes. We just don't. Some boys like floral prints, pretty bows and Disney princesses. Some girls like dinosaurs, space and football. As parents, I think you can either chose yourself what you think is suitable for your child. Why do you need a label for that? Why is that so confusing to you? Or, maybe allow your children to express their creativity and individuality and allow them to pick what THEY like and would feel comfortable in. I believe it's important to allow children (and everyone else in general) to be who they are and want to be, not who you want them to be. Children aren't pieces of clay that you can mould into your idealisation of the perfect child. Forcing them to be someone they're not has proven to lead to mental health issues and it just needs to stop. Colours, toys, jobs, hobbies, and prints and patterns do not and will never define someone's gender. Let people be who they want to be. Just let people be happy.

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