Why we love John Lewis (and why some don’t get it)

On Friday John Lewis became the first UK retailer to announce they are taking a stand against gender stereotyping!

Following changes to brand labelling on their childrenswear range last year, John Lewis has also removed all in store signage dividing the floor space into girls and boys, and is looking at changes to their website for online shoppers too. Plans for a new unisex school uniform section are in the works, and the company is bringing out new ranges that are non-stereotypical in design – offering customers a greater variety of choice beyond just pink or blue.

The reaction to this announcement has been  wonderful, and it is fantastic to read the comments of support on the John Lewis Facebook page. Following the announcement made by Caroline Bettis, Head of Childrenswear at John Lewis, 75 posts (and counting) were added specifically praising John Lewis. These are a few of the comments:

 

I have never really shopped at John Lewis for my children but am eagerly awaiting your new unisex range. So, so happy that a mainstream retailer is finally taking this step!

Thumbs up JL. Children are children and clothes are clothes. Better labelling means more choice! Thank you

Thank you, JL, for taking the (controversial, who knew?) step of selling children’s clothes instead of ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ clothes. I hope other retailers follow suit #letclothesbeclothes

Well done for removing gendered children’s clothing! My little girl used to be embarrassed at wanting to wear/buy “boys” clothes. Now she can dress how she pleases without the stigma.

Boy or girl? Who cares it’s a child! congratulations John Lewis for taking a step in the right direction by taking gender away from your children’s clothes. 

Well done John Lewis for letting kids be themselves.

Oh thank goodness, another place I can shop for my 2 year old kid without having to check two different sections for everything. We’re grateful you’re taking steps towards moving on from the ridiculous blue and pink era we’ve been stuck in for so long.

 

Great move on removing gendered labels from kids clothes. Adults’ body shapes differ by gender but children’s don’t so there’s no practical need for the difference. All the gender labelling does is allow marketing to limit children’s expectations.

Thank you for supporting our children to be children, through your new clothes range. It increases my loyalty to John Lewis.

Thank you for removing gender labels on your clothes for kids. I have no idea how whichever team heading that idea got it out into the retail world, but it’s amazing. And shout out to your social media team who might be dealing with any pigheaded backlash – this is a progressive move despite what those stuck in their ways will say. I hope this is a direction you continue in because it really does help people. Well bloody done!

Great job John Lewis! New clothing range for kids is really fun…it was so refreshing to see dinosaurs and cool graphics for girls. Then I read today about your unisex range and it totally made sense. I don’t even think what your doing is radical. The naysayers will say it’s ‘political correctness gone mad’ but really it’s just kids being kids.

Like all issues that deal with parenting and gender, this has also been a divisive move for some, and to our 75 positive, there were 17 negatives. The Daily Mail seized on this and calls by a few to boycott the store, but there was a similar backlash to women wearing trousers, so lets plow through some of the comments attacking John Lewis.

  1. “You(John Lewis)have removed the gender between boys and girls to make them neutral. Boys are boys, girls are girls. Always have and always will be. By removing these labels, you are basically calling children A Thing!”

That’s a really interesting idea, but surely the word you are looking for is right there – its children. Gender is not sex, gender is a set of ideas, or traditional values – formed over time – about the role of men and women in society. Retailers exploit these negative “stereotypes” about gender to sell more clothes and make more money. By doing this they perpetuate gender stereotypes, like boys play sports opposite girls just care about looks. John Lewis have basically said they’re not going to do that anymore.

  1. I am really angry and disappointed to see you are now trying to redefine gender…Boys and girls no longer exist in your stores!Shame on you !

Why are you so angry? A group of parents got together and asked a retailer to be more responsible about how they sold their children’s clothing. The retailer agreed, created more choice and the parents were happy.

We understand that some parents may like the status quo, and feel that girls should look pretty in pink dresses, and boys need more practical clothing for their rough and tumble ways then they can – those things aren’t going anywhere.

What we are asking for is a more forward thinking approach from retailers, and not one based in the 1950’s. Those ideas are limiting and do not reflect how individual our children are. If that’s redefining gender then so be it, some would call it progress.

  1. Adult clothing next then JL ? The mind boggles!!

Nah, because its pretty well established men and women are different sizes and shapes, so a split adult department does make sense. However, since children are the same size/shape up until puberty, why do they need clothing that is either boys or girls?

  1. This is absolutely disgusting, why are you doing this. My children are girls and they will wear girls clothes and if they like boys clothes they can have them. You are destroying a persons identity by encouraging Gender Free, a man is a man and a woman is a woman end of.

Again, why so angry? There’s no such thing as girls clothes, they’re just clothes – it’s retailers that add the “girl” bit. They also add things like pink and flowers “for girls” opposite blue and dinosaurs “for boys,” creating a visual guide to gender that we can all spot whether we’re conscious of it or not.

Colours aside (did you know pink used to be marketed as a masculine colour?) there’s something really wrong with the message that girls and boys are so different, they need different toys and clothes. How then can we expect children to see, and treat each other, as equals?

When we looked at tops sold in Mothercare, there were over 20 STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) themes sold as “boys t-shirts” and not one for girls. The idea that boys and not girls will be more inclined towards Science themes is harmful to girls AND boys, and is insulting to all the Women who have forged a path in STEM fields.

Gap Marketing “Scholar” vs “Social Butterfly” 2016

 

  1. As far as I’m concerned you are just reinforcing gender stereotyping!!Girls are girls boys are boys. Let them wear what they want and play with what they want! It’s completely stupid!

That’s a whirlwind of a comment!! No one is attacking you, no one is going to tell you what to buy  or how you should be raising your children. No way, and in fact we find the idea abhorrent. When papers ask us to comment on the choices of individuals, we don’t reply, it’s not out place to judge others.

We don’t think parents are at fault, but feel that because retailers have created such a gendered high street, they should be the ones to fix it – even if this means slow baby steps.

We’re also not in favour of the term “gender neutral” because its really confusing, but its one the media loves so has gained real traction. When we think gender neutral its easy to get the impression that it’s about banning pink and dressing kids in beige. I really get why there’s so much misunderstanding around this one term which has unfortunately latched itself onto our campaign.

6. If adults have issues with their gender then it is fine they have options, but this idea of young children knowing what gender they want to be or messing with children’s gender is ludicrous and I can see generations having more and more mental issues as they are so confused.

Yikes, you’ve sort of taken this and run in a whole other direction! The right wing press love talking about gender, not just because there is so much confusion about what gender is, but also its relation to other subjects that some people find challenging. This confusion and fear tends to come out as anger, and nearly all the opposing comments come across this way. I’m pretty sure that whatever I write, they won’t be able to see the words for the red mist – but its worth a go.

There is no stigma attached to girls who wear clothes from the boys section, although the unhelpful label “tomboy” gets bandied about. Yet, it is considered demeaning for a boy to wear anything that contains the slightest hint of girl marketing. As a society we have a pretty awful history of demeaning women and girls, and what better way to illustrate this than the phrase “You’re acting like a girl.” Girls are told from the get go that their value lies in their appearance, and retailers have seized this idea and run with it. Its not only in the language we see used on products aimed at girls, but the shear volume of products too. So we’re not to blame for confusing girls about what it means to be a girl, those ideas were already well placed – and it’s retailers who are exploiting them.

This year girls and young women told us that they feel held back by gender stereotypes, sexism, and anxiety about how they look.” Girl Guiding Attitudes Survey

7. John Lewis is pandering to oddball parents that believe children should grow up and choose their gender.

The biggest thing for us oddballs, is we care about our kids and the messages that are reaching them. We want girls and boys to be treated equally, with equal opportunities, but also to think of themselves as equal, and you just don’t get that when the biggest retailers in the UK pitch “Genius” to boys, and “Beautiful” to girls.

We need to challenge traditional gender stereotypes, because our kids aren’t fools – they’re little sponges soaking up all this information. Researchers at Stamford university found our ideas about gender become pretty set by age 7, so why not instead teach them not about our differences, but what makes us the same – what makes us equal.

8. The idea being pushed is that we are all one and we must all wear clothes that are not individualistic  and which do not identity us as one thing or another. Are kids are not identity-less robots.

The funny thing is, that’s sort of how it is at the moment, but instead of children looking ONE particular way – it’s two, and retailers label this “for girls” and “for boys.”

 

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30 thoughts on “Why we love John Lewis (and why some don’t get it)

  1. I’m so glad this has come about! Bravo JL and LCBC.
    I think many parents are scared, the current issues on the news about gender are confusing and I agree the name gender neutral is unhelpful, and many responses come from there.
    Plus I only recently learned the difference between your biological sex and your gender. Taking away these stereotypes will free your children, not change them, do the research instead of calling names.
    BBC iPlayer “no more boys and girls” is a great place to start whilst it’s available.
    I was all confused too not that long ago, but now I get it, hopefully not too late for my 3 daughters x

    Like

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