Coat Season- Why does gender neutrality scare so many people?
Welcome back to my website, today I am talking about something that is very cose to my heart; gender in clothing. Sparking countless headlines in early September John Lewis became the first retailer to remove specific gender labels from its 0-14yrs own brand children’s clothing. However, this was a move that had been introduced in 2016 and no one had seemed to notice. This was followed by changes in signage, the clothing is no longer divided into boy or girl sections.
In making this decision John Lewis have not changed anything but the labelling. The clothes remain the same, there are skirts and dress as well as trousers still available. What has changed is the freedom of choice the new gender-neutral labelling can be seen to provide, children or parents are free to choose what pieces they want to buy. However, I would argue that this seems narrow-minded in itself, if the only thing that made a piece of clothing gender specific was a label, then did it really ever matter. If something so small as labels apparently caused a gender binary, then perhaps it would be a salient train of thought to argue that labels never had anything to do with it at all.
To fully understand the controversy that this move sparked I think it is clear that there is a bigger problem, that gender is governed by such flimsy markers that when they are removed the heteronormative binary -that keeps many people comfortable because it informs all their decisions- begins to crumble. The very fact that so many heterosexual people cannot fathom people being outside the gender binary highlights that the problems that surround gender neutrality lie within the codes of stereotyping and why our attitudes to others cling to it. Stuart Hall famously stated that we use stereotyping to order the world around us so that we can easily read and categorise people, but if more and more people don’t define as one gender or the other then it becomes harder to order them. In essence, it becomes more effort to understand others, the backlash to gender neutrality could lie in the fact so many people are lazy when it comes to existing with other people.
What I am saying is that some parents cannot work out how to deal with their children if they are not boys or girls, when you think of the gender structures placed on girls or boys when it comes to expectations and teaching it is quite obvious that some people would struggle to treat all children as equal. Allowing ‘boys’ to obsess over how they look and their relationships with other children would be hard to swallow if you have always expected boys to engage in active play and display a typical masculine lack of a range of emotions.
The problem lies in the fact that the people that hate the idea of children wearing gender-neutral clothing are not educated enough to deal with these recent advances in common sense. This may be a sweeping statement, but I genuinely think it’s not that I am any more enlightened than anyone else, but that other people are just ridiculously nnarrow-minded.
However this is where it gets harder to deal with, because it’s not their fault, the fault runs far deeper when you really think about it our whole society relies upon gender binary from health to travel. Everything needs to know our gender, so if that suddenly gets opened up to reflect that people can exist on a scale then it would make sense that the systems would begin to be undermined and could crumble.
That is where the anger in responses to stories like this comes from, fear of the unknown. The west as a whole perhaps has moved further and quicker in terms of understanding than some people can cope with. If the idea of gender neutrality was being treated like maths or science is in education then perhaps more people would understand it, but at the moment it feels like something that makes so much sense to me is only a fringe movement that some heterosexual heteronormative people will deem as a phase. The anger, in my opinion, is a cover for fear. Moves like this from John Lewis, hold up a mirror and show the problems within in the criticisers and not those they criticise.
Do one thing for me, look at the labels in your clothes and I bet you they won't say a gender, our clothes don't inform our gender nor do they say who can wear them, so why is it so important? My whole look today consists of peices bought from the women's section, but that doesnt make them women's clothes becasue they are just fabric. The perseon that is in the clothes is more imporatant than the section of the shop that the clothes came from...
A leopard print coat is a staple for this season, there are so many about at the minute, check out others here, here, here and here. I will see you on Tuesday with a very exciting post, have a great weekend everyone.
Shot by Pavlina Slavova
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Coat: River Island
Trainers: Alexander McQueen