Even before you're born, people are already talking about your gender and labeling it accordingly. This is shown through the massive amounts of blue or pink items purchased for baby showers and nurseries, or the pressure put on parents to find out the sex of their baby immediately. But gender isn't a black-and-white concept and people are now finally coming around to realize that. One example of this is one store's decision to scrap the boy and girl labels on children's clothing with a new line of adorable outfits for whoever wants to wear them. And it's a symbolic move that shows the times are indeed changing.
The retailer, John Lewis, is a major department store based in the United Kingdom (that also conveniently delivers to the United States). You can purchase a variety of things from John Lewis — from patio furniture to kitchen appliances to (now genderless) children's clothing.
This weekend, John Lewis became the first retail store in the United Kingdom, according to The Independent, to remove all gender labels from children's clothing and separate clothing labeled for boys and girls from its stores. Instead, the clothing will be labeled "Boys & Girls" or "Girls & Boys."
Caroline Bettis, the head of children's wear at John Lewis, told The Independent of the decision to get rid of gender labels:
We do not want to enforce 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.
This makes it clear that the store's decision isn't about making a statement, it is about the customer having the freedom to choose what items they want to buy and not be limited to one or two labels.
As soon at the decision hit headlines, some people on Twitter were widely in support of this decision:
Other Twitter users, however, didn't feel as if this change was necessary, taking to their accounts to express their distaste with the retailer's decision:
John Lewis is not the first store to make these kinds of changes to its children's department. In 2015, Target became one of the first American retailers to remove gender based signs from its home and toy departments. In a press release, Target called the gendering of items in these departments as "unnecessary." This small move accomplished so much in the fight for unnecessary gendering (because is there really a difference between headphones for boys and headphones for girls?). Not long after, the Disney Store followed suit with removing gendered labels from Halloween costumes online, according to Cosmopolitan.
Studies have shown that removing these labels is kind of necessary. According to Quartz, gendered toys limit the range of skills that both girls and boys can explore and can stop children from developing new interests. In fact, raising a gender neutral child, one who is exposed to both "boy" and "girl" toys and products, according to Parents, has its pros. This assures that children get a full view of society without feeling pressure to be placed into a "box." Retailers are simply just getting with the times.
Gender identity is evolving, according to CBS News, and the words "boy" and "girl" don't even begin to cover the terms used to describe complex identities of people. And as such, John Lewis' decision to get rid of the labeling of children's clothes, in spite of the backlash, is a commendable one.