Were John Lewis Correct To Get Rid Of ‘Girls’ & ‘Boys’ Labels In Kids’ Clothing? {Discussion}

This is a topic that we know a lot of you feel strongly about and is something that we have touched upon in the past. The fact that many people feel that gender segregation in children’s clothing is outdated and that items should not be labelled as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.

With John Lewis recently taking steps to remove all gender labelling on their children’s clothing we felt it was a pertinent topic for today’s discussion post. For those of you who missed the news they have changed all labels so they are not gender specific§ and are also introducing a range of unisex clothing in neutral colours and prints.

Do you think clothing should be unisex in labelling and style, should you be free to choose exactly what you want from whichever department or do you do this regardless? On the other hand do you feel it is all a step too far?

As always please do leave your views, let us know how you feel on the topic and chat constructively amongst yourselves.

x

mm

Lottie loves teaching her girls to be cake baking and crafting supremos. It may be messy but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
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44 Comments. Leave new

I am glad about it! Although it felt very much a PR stunt, it’s a step in the right direction. I hope my daughter is never afraid of wearing pink but also understands that there are clothes she can choose for running, jumping and exploring!
When online shopping, I’ll often look through both boy and girl sections to clothe my little one. When they’re so young there really doesn’t need to be such a distinction.
Honestly, it does seem that really this is in little girls’ favour and not boys. Boys clothes ranges were already lacking!!
Apologies for the sleep deprived ramble of thoughts!

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Having spent my career working in childrenwear design for commercial retailers, the non-genderisation of clothing is something I feel passionately about. It might seem like no big deal but the way we communicate gender roles and expectations to our children via clothing and toys can have a profound impact on their choices and self-worth later in life.

I really hope this move equates to more choice and better design. Unisex clothing is something indie retailers and designers have been on top of for years, it’s intetesting to see major players in the industry following suit. Whether it’s just a marketing ploy or not, it’s sending out a positive message.

At the very least, like Charlie above, if you’re someone who buys clothing for their children based on design and quality rather than gender intention, it certainly makes life easier when shopping!!!

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I’d welcome the unisex range as boys clothes are so limited it would be nice to have some additional options. I have never really looked at girls clothes for my son, but mainly because on first glance the selection is over whelmingly pink and frilly and whilst I have no problem putting him in pink (we have a few pink hues t shots and shirt), a lot of the time its the style of the things that would just look odd? As the above poster said I think this will benefit girls more than boys to be honest. That said he does own some fabulous Skye and Everest Paw patrol pjs as Skye is his favourite pup and she never features on the ‘boys’ versions!!

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Don’t get me started on paw patrol! My son loves Skye why leave her off the boys clothes 😡😤

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I actually think there is no need to have changed the labels. If you’re in the shop all the clothes are together anyway in the same department so it doesn’t matter what is on the label – you can look round the whole section and pick clothes anyway! Online I would still want a boys section (& they have) as I don’t want to have to wade through skirts for my two boys. As for it with the younger babies and children they can’t read so what’s the point? I think people are getting to hung up on gender… boys are boys! I honestly don’t want my boys to wear pink frilly dresses or “girls” clothes. Unisex stuff – yes. I like them wearing practical (but fun colours). If baby two had been a girl however I would have dressed in some of the boys stuff I already had if I felt it was unisex (ie a navy babygro would be fine by me!) but I wouldn’t in really boyish clothes. I think this label thing is aimed really at parents of girls who don’t want pink and frilly – but I think JL does a good job of not too much in the girls stuff when I’ve looked for my 3 yo niece. I also think some people just let their children wear whatever they like – boys in dresses – I think it sends a confusing message to them and their peers. Yes let children be children but in some areas of life they need guidance and restriction! I do think things are getting a bit ridiculous…
I seem to be in a minority with this viewpoint though…

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If a child is confused because a boy wears a dress then surely that child’s parent has failed to explain to him that people can wear whatever they want, and that boys sometimes like to wear dresses. It’s just clothing, how can it possibly hurt anyone for a boy to wear something that he feels happy in?!

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I disagree. When that boy in a dress goes to school and wants to wear a school dress then what?! I don’t think it’s ok to let children wear what they like – a parent is the parent not the child. I believe parents should set the boundaries. I’d never let my boys wear any sort of violent gaming branded type clothing (if that even exists?!) nor do I like things with skulls / scary stuff on. Just my opinion though.

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But then don’t forget that this was the attitude towards women wearing trousers not that long ago. At the end of the day, the western style of men “having to wear trousers” is simply based on fashion and ingrained ideas of what’s right or wrong. Of course you can make those choices as a parent for your children, but other parents might want to decide differently – neither is right or wrong but I don’t see any harm in a boy wanting to wear a dress – after all, kilts are essentially skirts 😉 And not all countries have school uniforms (thank goodness…) so why shouldn’t a boy wear a dress to school?

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I am so on the fence with this.
While I totally agree we should not be pushing our children to certain behaviours based on gender, that we should be teaching equality and buying whatever damn clothes we want – I do feel the world is going a bit mad at the moment on this topic. I couldn’t give a toss what labels say and I really don’t care if shops are split into boys/girls as it makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Seems we are offended by absolutely everything these days. I don’t care if a boy wears a tutu or if a girl hates pink – let them be who they want to be, but can we also recognise that boys and girls can often have typical traits based on gender and thats okay too??!

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But gender is a social construct! The idea that boys like cars and trucks and girls like fairies and princesses is a whole load of b*llocks. And I say that as a mother to a girl who LOVES fairies and princesses. But it is society rather than biology that says that girls like x and boys like xx. And things like this are damaging – they feed into the issues that come later down the line like women being paid less to do the same job as men, and men being unable to express emotions for fear of being deemed “weak” or unmanly.

I think the JL thing is a move in the right direction – though aside from the labels it feels pretty meaningless in my local store as it’s still very much dresses on one side, trousers on the other, and I’d prefer to see more mixing of patterns and materials across the range – eg the dinosaur print they’ve introduced for dresses would be great on things like trousers and tops as well as dresses. But it’s a step in the right direction. Clothing for little kids needn’t be gendered. And you know what, as an adult it’s really not that hard to find what you’re looking for – in store or online – so I’m sure you’ll survive.

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I just wish that the girls clothes were a bit more practical and warm. Fit for purpose. I often buy boys t shirts and hoodies in bright colours for my toddler daughter. She recently chose a green t shirt with a giraffe on it from John Lewis (boys) and a dinosaur t-shirt from next (also boys). Both of which she loves and looks great in.

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I found the whole thing a PR stunt. I’m all for making my life easier but this hasn’t. Hence I no longer tend to shop at JL whereas it used to be my first port of call.

I do all my shopping online as I don’t have time to go in store and it’s still separated by gender so defeats the point. I don’t mind so much as, like someone said above, I don’t want to wade through dresses for my little boy but I also do need ‘girls’ leggings for him as he’s a narrow little thing and the cut and style seems better for him – and leggings are leggings. Let’s not even focus on why the cut is different for girls. I’d be all for one option online ie girls and boys providing that they sort the filters out.

It would be much easier to sort by type of clothes. I also find the opening page really frustrating with JL.

John Lewis website has gone downhill massively recently anyway – too many crap brands that are over priced or I can get elsewhere and few ‘JL’ clothes.

Still, whilst I’m having a rant…..everywhere is Better than Next or Zara so small mercies…..

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Zara sizes. What the actual??!! They are all over the shop.

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I think, while a very cynical move, this is a good one. I’m so sick of flimsy girls clothes for my daughter, and the endless looks related slogans. Pretty this pretty that, princess blah. But then JL were never really the main offenders- the “baby genius” and “beauty queen” debacle was at Gap I believe? So I feel like this is virtue signalling, especially as it’s still separate online. You can just use the filter function to get rid of skirts in a search, so they could have integrated children’s clothes.

One thing I found cheering was that JL obviously think the feminist parent market is one worth going after!

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I feel very strongly about this, and am fully supportive of John Lewis and I hope others follow. As mother to two girls I battle the tide of pink princesses every day! My three year old is very much in the mindset of pink is for girls, and it terrifies me where she got that from but it is so embedded in society it is unavoidable. If it was just about clothes then I wouldn’t be so bothered but this is just part of a larger gender inequality issue. Did you watch the recent BBC documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls. Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09202jz sadly I don’t think it’s available on iplayer any more, but it was a very depressing view of gender stereotyping and how entrenched it is in our culture and our children and how the impacts are seen through our lives all the way through to the gender paygap. Clothing is one element of this teaching our girls from an early age that they should be focused on their looks by providing pink, frilly, sometimes skimpy clothing while the boys have practical tough clothing for playing out and exploring.

I recently bought my daughter a Gruffalo t shirt from Sainsbury’s in the boys section. So girls aren’t allowed to like The Gruffalo then?

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That was such an interesting show, but also totally depressing as I have a daughter and was so shocked by the negative views the girls hamd of themselves at such a young age. I don’t think it helps that there are so many slogan tops for girls that focus on them being pretty and not much else.

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Completely agree. I got a hoody from H & M that said ‘let’s go and change the world’. Boys section.

Girls section? ‘Today I’m a unicorn’

WTF?

Just been to Next and they have a few ‘Girls be kind to girls’ tops and things but still sparkly and still mneh.

The scary thing about that programme about schools was how much the school did to separate boys and girls. It’s scary to think we can do what we want but ultimately the place they will spend most waking hours from age five onwards is so gender biased

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I felt that the JL missed the point. Folk want more durable practical clothes for girls instead of flimsy and frills – in comparison to what is available for boys.
Also in getting rid of ‘girls are princesses’ and ‘boys for adventure’ – which in some stores is the case.
But I did find the comments on twitter hilarious, some people thought that JL we’re saying kids shouldn’t be classed as girl or boy aka taking the gender neutral phrase in the wrong way and swearing off not shopping there again.

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I really welcome it- I often buy boys clothes for my daughter, because they’re more practical and generally more interesting! Whilst JL was never the main offender for gender bias, I want my daughter to have more choices in the world and clothing is a good start.

Mind you, I can’t get her out of her orange panda jumper in which she always gets called a boy. Whilst it doesn’t bother me, it seems we’ve got a way to go before society can recognise that girls can wear clothes that aren’t pink and flowery: including lots of parents attitudes.

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100% on board with it. How does this actually affect anyone negatively, you can still walk into JL and buy whatever you like the look of. Easy! I want my kids to like what they like, not what they’re told it’s ok for them to like. There is still a very long way to go, but well done to JL for getting the ball rolling.

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I feel strongly about this and I think it’s a good move by John Lewis. The girls clothing sections can be overwhelmingly pink and cut small (in adults too – I often look at men’s tshirts just for some decent level of armpit coverage) whereas boys clothes seem to generally be dull colours – why can I never find anything in red or yellow for my son??

I hate children’s clothes with slogans that enforce gender stereotypes and I think retailers getting rid of these would be a bigger step for equality. But those stereotypes are everywhere for children and it makes me so sad. I’ve noticed on Paw Patrol for example, a few occasions where one of the (boy) pups shows emotion at a happy/sad outcome and then they immediately cover up their tears/emotions and put on a gruff, tough front. I know it’s a cartoon but this is so damaging!

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There’s loads of shops with cheery bright clothing for boys (I have two!) even JL! Bought a gorgeous bright orange with hedgehogs jumper from JL for my two yr old.
Totally agree about slogans – think they’re DREADFUL and never buy anything sloganned.

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I am probably going to go against most people on here and say that I don’t mind having boys and girls departments. It has never been an issue for me and as a mum of two girls I was quite happy to choose from the relevant selections. I loved brands that did lovely bright unisex designs when they were younger but found plenty of choice in most shops regardless. Over the years they have had a range of clothes and colours and I normally go for comfort and practicality over whether it is a girly or non girly outfit. They can be found at parties in pink fluffy tutus but equally running round the park in leggings and t-shirts (or aforementioned tutu if you are Molly!). I simply choose what I like and more to the point what they now like as they have a big say in what I choose with Molly regularly sitting and looking through the H&M website or browsing the Boden catalogue with me to choose her clothes.

For me the bigger issue is the designs, not whether it is boys or girls. What I don’t like is that now the girls are older the clothes choices for girls are quite dire unless you want to spend a fortune. It’s all glittery and over embellished and I don’t agree with this at all. The same goes for boys clothes in regards to colours and designs. There just doesn’t seem to be a middle ground, other that pricey boutiques of nice patterns and colours. For babies and toddlers I think it is an easier decision and a lot more choice. H&M for example has amazing baby clothes.

I personally don’t feel we need to do away with departments to stop people feeling like they can’t choose from there or so kids don’t feel they can’t wear them. At a young age I don’t think they really care what the label says and as they get older they are going to be faced with it regardless. I don’t shop in the men’s department of stores as the styles and cuts of clothes are so different for adults. I equally know I could buy from them if I wanted to and don’t feel that being dressed in ‘girls’ clothes my whole life has impacted on that.

xxx

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I totally agree with you Lottie. I don’t really give a damn whether clothes are in the “boys” or “girls” section and feel the world has gone a little gender neutral mad. What I do hate is the selection of clothes available for little girls. They are all inevitably pink, pastels or glittery. How on earth am I supposed to send my daughters to nursery in a pale pink winter coat to play in the mud kitchen?! All the best boys coats are bright primary colours, or practical navy/dark red. The only coats I can find for girls that are more sensible colours are £40-50+ which I refuse to spend on a coat for nursery.

And don’t even get me started on turning little girls into mini adults. I do not want me four year old in cold shoulder tops, leopard print Lycra, sequinned Boob tubes or lacy mini dresses (all of which I’ve seen in the shops recently!)

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Oh my gosh, I very almost wrote about the cold shouldered tops. WT actual!! Molly is 5, not 15. xx

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I totally agree with you Lottie and feel the same – the boys / girls section doesn’t bother me personally. I have a girl and a boy and my main issues are finding clothes that look like CHILDREN’S clothes not mini teenagers clothes!! I love Boden because the clothes are beautiful colours and have lovely child-like designs, but I don’t have the budget for Boden all the time. I don’t want my 3 year old daughter dressed like a 13 year old (why on earth is it that once they out of 2-3 clothes they jump up to the same range as 9, 10, 11 year olds?!! A 3 year old is clearly not the same as a pre-teen) and I find that soooo many baby boy clothes are navy, black or grey. Drab. I buy a fair bit from Next but I do find that a lot of the stuff I look at and think ‘that’s nice, if my child was 10. But not for a toddler’. It’s depressing! I wish the ‘baby’ ranges in all the big stores went up to age 4-5 rather than stopping at 2. To me they are still so young and I don’t want my little girl dressed up like a teenager. That is more concerning to me than whether it says boy or girl on the label. Also generally dislike slogan tops for both genders. I have noticed having a boy that about 80% of boy clothing is covered in cars / trains etc which is a bit annoying too x

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We bought navy blue coats from Uni Qlo for our twin girls for school.. think they were £19 each x

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Yes, yes and yes! I feel really strongly about this and I think some of the criticisms come from misunderstanding the point. Of course you can pick a girl’s top for a boy (I do this all the time) and vice versa, but when you’re 3, 4 or 5 years old, the peer pressure is already strong enough that you will get teased (or even bullied) for wearing something “girly” (=weak) or “for boys” (=aggressive). Not to mention that a lot of those slogans just enhance gender stereotypes (princess vs troublemaker anyone?). And just because you haven’t experienced negative comments, doesn’t mean others haven’t either. I’ve often enough overheard parents saying to their little boys “not the one with the butterflies, that’s for girls” or “no Hello Kitty isn’t for boys”. Gender stereotypes start early (as in that BBC documentary which was excellent – and depressing) and go both ways, girls are encouraged to be sweet (and sexy) and not too ambitious, boys are tough and outgoing and don’t cry.

The idea is not to remove pink/blue/slogan items from shops if that’s what you want but have some choice for those who don’t want to have their children in either pink or blue – or beige (the baby choice in almost every single store)!

The shops I’ve been in had the items sorted by tops, trousers etc so you don’t have to wade through countless dresses if that’s not what you’re after.

Sorry for the rant but this is something I’m very passionate about. I’d also suggest people look at the Let Clothes be Clothes campaign, that out all this much more eloquently than I can: https://letclothesbeclothes.uk

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Maike 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

You said everything I wanted to say but was too busy rushing everyone around to make my brain work for. Yes!

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Thanks so much for sharing that link, Maike – amazing campaign xx

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I wrote something about this recently too because even though I feel it’s 100% a step in the right direction I still feel pretty strongly that it’s depressing it’s a step we have to take at all. Why not just pick clothes from whatever section in the shop and have done? Why not just let kids be kids and let them know that whatever they want to wear/do/be is ok, that they’re loved and accepted no matter what and in turn they should (!) share that view as they grow up and bit by bit the whole girl/boy pink/blue princess/scientist thing will die out. Do we really need dedicated gender neutral clothing lines to make that happen? Of course I know it’s not that simple and probably naive (which is why I think it’s a step in the right direction) but teaching tolerance to little ones (and parents in some cases!) should be the starting point. While I am raising my boy as a boy (anatomically that’s what he is) I’ll still let him know that whoever he chooses to be – princess or scientist – it’s fine by me.

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Who cares! I have bought boys clothes for my little girl and it didn’t offend me that they were in the boy section. I liked it so I bought it, it’s that simple. Parents don’t have to choose dresses and pink for girls, there are jeans and t shirts etc in the girls’ sections, but if that doesn’t work, just buy what you like from another section. A non gender section just in case it offends that there is something pink in the girls section. Political correctness going a little too far I think

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But it’s not just what the parents buy, isn’t it? And it’s not at all about being offended about something pink. I appreciate not everyone agrees with the concept of removing labels but please try and read up a bit more about what’s behind this – it has nothing to do with political correctness but with equal opportunities.

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I wish I could ban the phrase “political correctness” from discussions like these! This is never and will never be the root cause for any sort of change.

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I haven’t been in a JL store since they did this and don’t really have many of their clothes for my daughter. I don’t know if this has been done in the best way but I totally agree with the sentiment behind it. For everyone saying why not just choose from whatever section you want, yes that’s great but there are some people – friends, parents, grandparents – who absolutely refuse to shop in the ‘boys’ section for my daughter. She’s 2, all she needs is some comfy t-shirts, jumpers and leggings/trousers for playing in (just like the boys her age do), yet many girls clothes seem to incorporate frills, ruffles, bows, a slimmer fit than boys etc which are all unnecessary. I just think it would be nice if we could let any child or parent choose clothes from the whole rainbow without judgment, instead of sticking to “girl” and “boy” colours and styles (and it would be nice if I could find some plain bright coloured tops!)

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And, maybe cynically, I think manufacturers are less inclined to make those type of unisex plain clothes as then parents won’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe if they have a second child of the opposite sex

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I think it’s excellent. As many have said I happily buy my son clothes from the girls section and my daughter wears his ‘boy’ hand me downs, label regardless. But it’s what other people buy them, and as they get older, what they feel pressured to wear. this represents a shift in attitude. As others have expressed it’s the princess/slogan issue that offends me the most. As it happens my son does love trucks and wants to be a pilot. However His favourite colour is also pink. My daughter is only two months old but I’m already scared of what she faces- of course she can love trucks and be a pilot too, but already I’ve had several people refer to her as ‘little princess’ and tell me I need to get her ‘girls’ clothes and ‘girls’ toys. If she wants to dress in pink and glitter then fine. But I don’t want her to feel she has to. I don’t want her to not be able to climb a tree with her brother because she feels she has to wear a skirt. Equally I don’t want my son to be prescribed that he’s adventurous, or ‘mummy’s little monster’ or such like when actually he is kind and sensitive and loving.i would argue it isn’t a PC issue, it’s about equality.

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The label isn’t the issue for me and I’d be happy to buy boys items for a girl and vice versa if it was a cute item of clothing. I want to see the same ranges available for both sexes for example dinosaur print dresses and tshirts etc all together. It would definitely help to move away from so much pink for girls, boys have so much better choice of colours.

My cousin was a much longed for girl after five boys! But she wasn’t interested in girly dresses at all. I bought her a camouflage tshirt and she practically lived in it until she outgrew it.

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It bothers me that so many places are doing “girl dinosaur” prints **eyeroll** but that the damn background colour is pink.

I mean, missing the point much JOHN LEWIS? SAINSBURYS. LOOKING AT YOOOOU

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Haha yes! My little girl has dinosaur PJs, they’re pink. Not only that, but in the background are stars and butterflies because you know, just dinosaurs would definitely be too scary…
What annoys me is having to trawl through the girls’ section and the boys’ section rather than just a childrens’ section.
Also, don’t get me started on boys are boys and girl are girls. More importantly we’re all people. Sure there are gender based traits, however it’s quite clearly a spectrum, with a heck of a lot of overlap.
I highly recommend the book ‘Inferior’ by Angela Saini about gender bias within scientific research. Rather like the BBC documentary, simultaneously fascinating and depressing.

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I’m 100% for it. For a myriad of reasons – not least of which is it may help trans children feel less alone/confused. I watched a documentary which said that many trans people realise at a really early age – some as young as 2 or 3. If having a unisex department makes just one child going through that feel more comfortable with who they are – then it’s been totally worth it in my book.

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I don’t have an issue with Boy and Girl sections in shops. It’s no different than Men and Women sections. How long before people are offended by that too (*eye roll*). I have a 3 year old boy and yes I bought him the ‘Boys will be Boys’ top from Asda that caused much uproar and was taken off the shelves.
What has happened to society? If you are offended by pink, fluffy clothes with horrid slogans, don’t buy them. People should just buy what they want, avoid what they don’t want. Why has society got a huge chip on their shoulder about everything these days? Soon we won’t be allowed to use the term ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.
(I can’t afford to shop in John Lewis or Boden anyway so I’ll stick with the girl and boy sections in Primark 😂)

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My little boy is 6 months old and I’m already getting fed up with segregated boy/girl sections in clothing stores. I don’t think the issue is so much about ‘allowing’ children to wear opposite-gender clothes, it’s that so much of what is available is so massively gendered. The things for little boys are so often really drab (Tesco, Next, M&S I’m looking at you) but when I’ve tried the girls’ section for something more colourful it’s all really really turbo-girly and doesn’t seem right either. Surprisingly Boots has some nice things in, and while they do separate into girls’ and boys’ items, most of the stuff is bright and colourful and doesn’t scream a particular gender. Babies and children’s bodies don’t require different clothing according to gender, because their bodies aren’t mature yet, so i can’t see why the manufacturers insist on making such different styles and cuts based on gender.

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