Let’s talk about a (slightly) new phenomenon. Something more exciting is happening than the tiring discussion on how to go about gender equality.
I’m talking about the phenomenon Gender Neutrality.
“Gender neutrality (adjective form: gender-neutral), also known as gender-neutralism or the gender neutrality movement, describes the idea that policies, language, and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than the other.”
Wikipedia doesn’t give you a full disclosure of what the term is currently developing into, but you get the idea. This term is a logical next step towards true equality of the sexes. With Generation Y at the forefront, more and more influencers are embracing the term and the look that fits with it.
Here are a few key players in different areas:
One of the first industries that started to embrace gender neutrality as a whole has been the fashion industry. With brands such as Hood by Air andTelfar paving the way, now big fast-fashion brands are following suit.
Always provoking with new ideas and looking into different cultures, this is a logical thing to do. For example; the fast-fashion brand Zara has introduced a range of gender-neutral clothing to its vast inventory.
Refinery29 tells us:
“The Spanish retail powerhouse quietly introduced Ungendered, a new section in its TRF label. The 16 items range from T-shirts and sweatshirts to denim and Bermuda shorts — unisex basics in neutral colorways, constructed from comfortable cotton and cotton blends. On the website, pieces from the inaugural collection are photographed on both a male and female model. And because it’s Zara we’re talking about (and specifically, its casual, more affordable TRF range), nothing tops $50.”
And there’s Selfridges latest initiative, Agender, a pop-up department that aims to create a ‘genderless shopping experience’ within the London department store. It explains itself as ‘a celebration of fashion without definition. Exploring and examining shifting gender boundaries through ground-breaking fashion, music and design collaborations.’
“Selfridges’ ambition was to create a space where men and women could essentially come and shop together irrespective of gender, and that you would choose clothes as an individual rather than based on your gender,” Faye Toogood, who designed the retail space, says. “For a department store, that’s very revolutionary. You still go up to the children department and everything is still segregated by pink and blue, boys and girls. This concept’s really about breaking down those boundaries… As someone that wants to buy the clothes in this space, you’re going to have to work hard to understand it.”
Louis Vuitton, who recently announced Will Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, as the new face of the women’s ad campaign is following this trend as well. In the luxury French brand’s latest campaign, which was published through Instagram, Jaden is seen wearing a skirt and honestly, still looking as fresh as always.
We can clearly see a shift going on here. Facebook has introduced a DIY gender selection tool now as well after taken a lot of flak from the LGBTcommunity over the past year about its pretty prescriptive gender options. Especially compared to the less popular Google+ network, which chose to introduce infinite gender selections two months ago.
Last February the site tried to update its gender options with 71 new choices, like “intersex” and “transgender”, after working with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). While a step in the right direction, this still forced users to pick from a pre-chosen list of gender terms.
Now Facebook has decided to scrap that and give people the right to self-determination and gender expression on the site. You would like to define your gender as a genderqueer anarcho-femme? Why don’t you!
Stores & Packaging
The big retail giant Target has been listening to their customers’ requests lately. Their teams have worked across the store to identify areas where they can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, in the kids’ bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, they’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves.
A typical female thing, such as tampons and panty liners have been changing as well. Brands such as Yoni and Lola are catering to the needs of transparency and a modern look & feel that is not stereotypical pink and flooded with sun rays and flowers.
With big changes, there are strong spokespersons needed to communicate their vision to the masses. A few important key players are:
During the 2011 Video Music Awards Lady Gaga showed up and clearly wasn’t Lady Gaga anymore; she was Jo Calderone.
Gaga’s creative director, Laurieann Gibson, spoke to MTV News days before the show went live, and she explained why Gaga wanted to stay in character all night long.
“The idea of her being a performance artist — and it’s starting the performance on the red carpet and the idea that the performance never ends for her — is the first time I’ve experienced this with an artist,” she said. “I love it. That’s something that is specific to her, and the whole night was the performance, and it was important that Jo was a part of the whole night.”
The famous actress that you might know from Orange is the New Black, who published a short film about gender roles, trans, and what it is like to have an identity that deviates from the status quo.
She has made a public move from androgynous model to the woman she felt she was since age 13, and is breaking down barriers in the industry by making a documentary about her gender reassignment.
“For a lot of your life as a trans woman, when you picture yourself old, you picture yourself alone. But the world is changing” — Andreja Pejić
What will this development mean for brand identities? Especially the brands that target specifically to female or male genders. Let us know what you think!
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Annet is a Hyper Island alumni, currently living in Amsterdam and working as a Brand Consultant.
Also gives workshops in various creative methods, creating purpose & team development.