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Gender Neutral – Has it all gone too far?

Gender Neutral – Has it all gone too far?

The concept of being ‘gender neutral’ has hit the news a LOT recently.

Whilst I agree with many of the concerns, the suggested solutions and the reasoning behind them… I can’t help but think that things are being taken a little too far.

Here’s why…

When the girls were born, I always knew that I didn’t want them to wear too much pink. I don’t know where than mind set came from, no one suggested it, enforced it or recommended it, it was just a personal decision that I made. From a young age, both Erin (and now Neve in mostly hand-me-downs) have worn mostly blues, greys, greens and yellows (with just the odd bit of pink thrown in for good measure). I love them in blue, but it definitely did raise a few eyebrows, especially in the early days. I used to get regular comments of “aww how old is he?” with one lady actually exclaiming “well how are we supposed to tell if you dress her in blue?!”. I guess what it came down to was that traditionally, rightly or wrongly, since the days of my great grandparents and beyond, girls were always in pink and boys were always in blue, and it will take a lot of work to unpick that perception.

My daughter loves Disney Princesses, and whilst yes, they are all beautiful, wear dresses and often reinforce the traditional female view, there is far more to these characters than their looks – and Erin is reminded of this daily. The Disney #DreamBigPrincess campaign sets to help shift the mindset of the anti princess movements by reminding people that Belle is intelligent and loyal, Ariel is curious and brave, Tiana is determined and ambitious, and Merida is strong willed and stubborn.

I will always teach my girls that they can be whatever they want to be, and for me this is the far more important issue of gender equality as opposed to gender neutrality. I am happy for her to be called a girl, to choose a toy from a ‘boys’ section, or even a pair of shoes called Dolly babe (which she would probably pick herself), but tell her she can’t be an engineer, a developer or a doctor, and I would most likely lose my shit.

My issue with the Clarks shoe debate, wasn’t that the girls shoe’s wear called Dolly Babe, nor was it that they were pretty and had a little diamante. It was that the leaders range didn’t include both girls and boys designs, reinforcing the message that both genders could be a leader, whether that be in business, sport or otherwise. Do I mind that there are shoes specifically for boys, and shoes specifically for girls? No. Because the majority of clothes for children do vary by their gender – and for me, that’s ok!

Clearly there are some gender issues which are completely unacceptable, like Sparkle’s and Stretchmarks who’s son was recently declined entry to a Princess Experience because he was a boy. Obviously these outdated and sexist practices have got to stop.

But going completely Gender Neutral? Where does it end?

Yesterday John Lewis announced that they are removing the labels stating “boys” or “girls” from their clothing line, and replacing them instead with John Lewis Unisex labels stating “boys and girls” or “girls & boys”, including skirts and dresses.

Many have applauded the move, stating that it prevents reinforcing gender stereotypes, but my view – is this really necessary? Is it that ALL references to boys and girls need to be removed? Where do you draw the line?

Go into any department store in the country and you will see a Menswear and Womenswear section, usually on different floors. Do we find dresses mixed in with the jeans and chinos? No. Would you expect to? No.

I have no issue with a boy wanting to wear a dress (the Chris Evan’s debacle was a total non story in my opinion) but the reality is that far more girls will and DO wear dresses than boys. That doesn’t mean that a girl cant wear combat trousers or a boy can’t wear pink, but that for cataloguing purposes if nothing else they are split by their mainstream anticipated target market.

You’re looking for a gift for your nephew and want a long sleeved top. Would you want to go to a floor of generic children’s wear and hunt through double the amount of stock to find one, or go to a section where you can quickly and easily find what you need?

For me, whether you are a boy, a girl or undefined, you should be able to wear whatever you like, whenever you like but since when has it been a bad thing to be a little different from the norm? Is it so bad that I have to pop into a boys range to find Erin a Tshirt with a monster on?

I am all for letting Toys be Toys and Clothes be Clothes, but this latest move by John Lewis reeks a little of jumping on the bandwagon.

What are your thoughts?






  1. The Mummy b bble

    I agree with you, I don’t really see the point! I hate clothes with slogans on like “born to shop” but I’m still going to put my girls in dresses. I also love dressing my girls in blue by the way. X

  2. heather keet

    I think they should just put all the clothes for kids in one big part of the store. My niece would pick out superhero stuff while her sister would go for the fairy dresses. #HumpDayLinky

  3. Lexie

    I know this is a really touchy subject, but I think it is getting to be a bit much. I don’t see why we need to pretend that gender roles don’t exist at all. In high school we read Why Gender Matters – a really interesting book on the physical reasoning behind gender differences. They are there – men and women, boys and girls are different. That doesn’t mean that we need to be confined by our genders.

  4. Chloe

    Hi, to be honest I wasn’t really fussed by John Lewis latest move foe gender neutral clothes, perhaps it’s just a marketing plot that worked very well #HumpDayLinky

  5. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz...

    Completely agree with you. i’m certainly not a girly girl but Anya loves pink, who am I to stop her? I thin that the baby sections have it right, have a boy section, a girl section and a neutral section

  6. Jacqui

    Thanks for posting this; I think it’s important to talk about it. I work in marketing, and shops have always liked to find new ways to help us buy more. We think that specific sections labelled “boys” and “girls” help us find something suitable quickly. Yet you won’t find many dinosaur-print t-shirts in the girls’ section, or kitten-print t-shirts in the boys’ section. So it’s really not that helpful unless your girl likes female stereotypes or your boy likes male stereotypes.

    There are other, more sinister downsides to separate departments though. They also give off subtle messages to buyers and to children: that things in the “girls” section aren’t for boys, and vice versa. So if you have one child of each gender, the shop has a better chance of selling you twice as many things. Splitting them up is smart marketing, dressed up as making it easier for shoppers. And… following that through, it also tells girls (and parents of girls) that it’s not normal for a girl to be into dinosaurs/robots/sharks, and that they ought to be interested in pink, princesses, kittens, sparkles etc. instead. It’s a small thing, and no one in their right mind would make a career decision based on what’s on which rack at John Lewis, but when you see this message everywhere, every day it’s that much harder for girls to become paleontologists. (Harriet and the Dinosaurs really should be a book series…)

    Boys and girls have pretty much identical body shapes up until puberty, so I’m totally fine with having one children’s department, yet separate men’s and women’s departments. I’d like to see clothes sorted by purpose – e.g. formal/school/weekend or by design e.g. monsters/animals/princesses/superheroes instead. Then I could head for the dinosaur section for my four-year old!

    Interestingly, my four-year old has never watched a Disney Princess film, doesn’t like pink and never wears dresses. But then again, no-one’s ever suggested it to him.


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Hi, I’m Lucy, a thirty something mum of two from Birmingham. A memory maker, tradition keeper, stationery addict and Mr Men fanatic. HR Advisor by day and sleep deprived Mama by night!

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