Just over a week ago, John Lewis announced it was introducing gender neutral labels on children’s clothing. The move was met with a mixed response. Many people praised John Lewis for a trail-blazing, progressive step forward, but a significant amount of people have rallied against John Lewis for choosing to do this.
Some of those people have accused John Lewis of ‘bowing to the PC brigade’, others have professed they fear this will cause young children to become unnecessarily confused about their gender, and over 20,000 people have retweeted whatever garbage Piers Morgan had to say on the matter.
Most hysterically, the Telegraph said: “Not since Marks and Spencer decided to stock the burkini have I felt more disillusioned by a retailer”
To those people, I say this. You’re right to think that John Lewis removing an emphasis on gender is a big deal. It’s huge. A small gesture like this can help to trigger a fundamental change in mind-set for an entire generation. If other retailers follow suit, shopping habits will begin to change and viewpoints about what it means to be a boy or a girl will begin to alter – and that can only be a universally good thing.
Before you wield your pitchfork and burn effigies of ‘The Man on the Moon’ outside your local John Lewis store, let me make one thing clear. This isn’t about taking away or infringing on anyone’s rights. It’s not even about removing gender – it’s simply removing an EMPHASIS on gender.
With more and more fashion and toy retailers moving away from hyper-gendered marketing, eventually a little boy whose favourite colour is pink will laugh at someone who suggests it is wrong for him to like a ‘girl’ colour. More little girls might confidently announce they are going to be an astronaut or mathematician without even a shred of self-doubt or hesitation.
By offering them variety and choice, children will have the opportunity to express themselves in a way that feels normal to them. Children aren’t born with these ideas about gender, so why do we force this on them from the moment they are born? Is it merely to keep them in their place? To ensure that they don’t grow up ‘a bit different’?
By removing a gender emphasis, we are allowing children to be who they are and we are telling them that the world is their oyster – they can be anyone and do anything. If people can find fault in that, they can find fault in literally anything.
So finally, to John Lewis, I say this: As a mother to a young girl who is beginning to find her place in the world, I’d like to say thank you. Your decision will make it easier for her and for millions of children throughout the UK just to be themselves. It sounds very minor, but I can assure you, in a world that bombards you with slogans like, ‘boys will be boys’, and ‘Daddy’s little princess’ your decision could be life-changing.
You have risked a backlash by making this decision, but I urge you to stand strong. Any retailer that makes strides towards progressive change will inevitably experience some backlash from those who feel threatened by a challenge to the status quo. And in all honesty, you won’t lose your Daily Telegraph customer-base. As evidenced above, they won’t shop at Marks and Spencer for fear of coming within 50 yards of a burkini.
Your bold move has finally triggered a nationwide discussion about gender influence and society as a whole is beginning to wake up to the idea that gender conditioning has a huge impact on our children as they grow up. ‘Never knowingly Undersold’ has now taken on a whole new meaning to me.