Last night, Kyle and I attended the Dress Code Politics forum held by the University of New Brunswick’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program. For those not from the area, the dress code among high schools has been a hot topic in Fredericton recently. The Fredericton Youth Feminists and FHS Feminist Group have made waves to eliminate the dress code at Fredericton High School and others in the area, and are requesting a district-wide sexual assault policy be put in place. It’s been a controversial issue, with a lot of media coverage (some of which, we learned at last night’s discussion, has been heavily twisted).
As we sat in the university hall listening to the forum panellists, which included three youth from the feminist groups in addition to professors from the university, we learned that the dress code issue and lack of sexual assault policy is not just a “women’s issue” (or worse, a “feminist issue”) but an issue of equality. While I could write an entire blog post surrounding the discussion itself, that’s not the main focus of this entry; it’s not what was specifically spoken at this forum, but the value and concern for gender equality that has sparked a new company decision.
After an inspiring evening, and late night discussion between Kyle and I, Wear Your Label has decided to remove gender distinctive clothing sections from our website. Instead of having “Shop Guys/Girls” you will soon only see: “Shop Clothes/Accessories”, in an effort to reduce the stigma surrounding gender issues and promote an overall more inclusive brand. Research shows that traditional gender roles do perpetuate the stigma of mental illness, and that groups such as transgender youth are more likely to experience mental health challenges. We want to create a "safe space" with our online community, and want everyone to feel comfortable purchasing and wearing our clothing, no matter what gender you identify with.
Plus, we've been getting an increasing number of messages lately from girls asking if certain designs are for guys only, or vice versa. Our response is: if you like the style, wear it. Who are we to say that something is better suited for guys or girls? While we will continue to design with influences of femininity and masculinity for certain products, going forth we want our customers to know that their buying decisions should not be based on whether or not the person wearing it in the picture identifies with your gender; rather, buy the designs you love and wear them with pride.
Removing gender distinctive sections on our site is just our small attempt at contributing to the gender equality movement and providing one more safe space for those who may not feel comfortable shopping elsewhere. We hope you stand in support with us on this decision, knowing that wearing your label means being self-accepting in whatever capacity that may be.
Wear Your Label