The hot topic in the last couple of weeks has been UK department store John Lewis removing “gender” labelling from their children’s clothes. You can read about the announcement here. To my surprise, reactions online have been very much a mixed bag. something that I really did not believe was an issue has become the source of many an online fight.
Apart from anything, I’m 99% sure that John Lewis’ labels have always said “boys & girls”, certainly in their Oxford Street flagship store, which is the one we visit most often. The clothes have always been loosely arranged by “gender”, but I don’t remember ever seeing “boy” and “girl” labels in John Lewis.
What has surprised me most about this whole situation is how much people seem to think it will affect their lives. People ranting about “PC gone too far” and “the left brigade” and that old “trans-agenda” chestnut. People asking why it is necessary? Why it makes a difference? Why we need to bother?
Here’s some of the comments I’ve seen in the last few days…
“Utter rubbish and PR exercise.. Girls and boys are a different shape for a start, so how are they addressing that? If parents are that concerned they could easily cut the labels out themselves.”
“In my opinion this is just getting ridiculous. Cant wait to see the day when there are bra’s in the men section.”
” I think it’s a little over the top to be honest all this gender neutral rubbish. Half the time kids get something shoved on them and that’s that. I think it’s cute that girls can wear dinosaur dresses too but don’t see the kids shouting about it just the adults?!?!?”
“This is ridiculous! Social conditioning in the highest!!! And appealing to adults, just a marketing ploy, nothing to do with children, as which newborn/child can even read the labels?! Not saying girls can’t wear blue, boys red etc but this is going too far in my opinion!! Confusing for older children who can read, should my little girl feel double minded about being girlie because that lovely dress has a label on it for her brother too & vice versa?! This is catering to such a tiny minority, what about the HUGE majority?! “
Missing the point? The fact is, we DO need to bother. They’re quite right that labels make no difference to them, so I don’t understand why the hell fire of ridiculousness is ongoing. Some folk seem to be under the impression that this means no more pink and blue. I don’t know, maybe they think children’s clothing will now all be a dishwater shade of beige and we all must now dress our children in burlap sacks? This is just not the case!
The clothing is the same. It’s the same stuff. The same dinosaurs, tractors, fairies, superheroes and princesses. It’s the same rainbows, the same pink and the same blue. It just doesn’t have a label on it specifying who can wear it. Eden has stuff from all sections. It doesn’t mean we are raising her “gender neutral” – as far as I am concerned she is a girl until she decides otherwise – but it does mean that she is free to choose whether today is a princess day, a superhero day or a bit of both. No one is saying you can’t dress your child in head to toe pink or blue – you still can! No one is saying you have to buy “boy” clothes for your girl. It’s entirely the opposite.
Here are some pictures of Eden wearing clothes that are from both the “boy” and the “girl” section. With half of them, you’d never know which section they are from.
Labels do annoy me when clothes shopping. That and the fact that you will often find clothes in the “boy” section that say things like “future scientist” or “cool like Mama”(see above) and the “girl” section equivalent will say “future ballerina” and “daddy’s little princess”. It annoys me with character clothing as well – “girl” Paw Patrol stuff only ever has Skye, Everest and sometimes Marshall. If you want the whole gang you need to go to the “boy” section and then it’s all blue and dark colours, rather than the bright colours offered in the “girl” section. It’s silly really, because they’re just “Paw Patrol” clothes.
Part of me applauds the people who say “labels don’t matter to me” until they follow-up with “so why do we need to change anything?” Fact is, labels don’t matter to you and that’s fab – well done. However when your child is older and they, for example, pick a pair of shoes that they like and then wear them to school, only to be picked on by the class bully because those shoes aren’t “for” their preferred gender. That’s where there is a problem. That’s where we need to change. YOU might not reinforce gender stereotypes, but others do and we need to quit encouraging them with unnecessary labelling. It’s not confusing to children at all. Children don’t need labels.
Basically, it’s not about you. You, who thinks your little boy is suddenly going to turn into a girl. You who thinks wearing “boy clothes” will turn your pretty little princess into a raging butch lesbian. You who makes jokes about buying a bikini with a tractor on for your three-year old. It’s about the children – all of our children. It’s about letting them be able to walk into a shop and pick whatever they like. It’s about them not being swayed by a “boy” label or a “girl” label. I never want my daughter to say no to something she likes because she feels it’s “for boys”. At the moment, no, it doesn’t make much difference, but once she can read those labels I don’t want them to affect her choices.
So, really, what are you all losing your minds about? It’s progress, and it will happen regardless of your resistance because the world needs it.