Hey! I’m excited to start publishing photos of my products in full use. I would also like to take advantage of the fact that it is still “pride month” to talk about gender neutrality which, as you know, is one of the Pell d’Arbre’s core values.
The young man in the photo above is my good friend Alejandro Castro. Pell d’Arbre’s earrings look great on him, don’t they?
I like to say that Pell d’Arbre is for people who like its minimalist design, who value exclusivity and who identify with the values that the brand defends and represents.
None of Pell d’Arbre’s products are exclusively for women or men, so you will not find these categories on the website.
I don’t need to specifically consider gender-neutrality when designing. Because it is not about designing things that are specifically neutral. Orange and grey ( just to give an example) are no more gender-neutral than pink or blue. It is about accepting that colours, shapes, patterns, textures, smells, etc., do not necessarily appeal only to one gender or another.
It is also about accepting that not all people fit neatly into the two binary genders. Gender is a spectrum and that’s wonderful.
A personal story
When I was younger, between the ages of 12 and 15, I loved to wear “boy’s clothes“, particularly “male skater clothes”. One summer, I was on holiday with my father and I needed a pair of shorts, because it was very hot and I only had long, thick and baggy trousers to wear. My father took me to El Corte Inglés and told me to look for shorts that I liked.
I knew that I would only find clothes with the characteristics I favored at the time – confortable, with wide fit and deep pockets – in the men’s clothing section. My father was already familiar with my style and was not surprised when I went straight to said section. When I found a pair of shorts that I liked we realised that they were all oversized and called the shop assistant to give us a hand. When we asked if she had those trousers in slightly smaller sizes, the lady very kindly replied, looking at my father, that the L would probably fit him.
“What does it matter? “
I was a bit distracted and didn’t realise that she was talking to my father, so I put the trousers in front of my legs and told her I was sure I needed something that was about two sizes smaller. The shop assistant looked at me very surprised and kind of stammering she said, “But that’s for men!”. My father shrugged his shoulders and said, “What does it matter, if that is what she likes?”. The lady turned around and came back after a while with that model of shorts in smaller sizes and with some “girl’s” shorts that “maybe I would like”. I took the ones I had first chosen, of course.
I think from that day on I understood that for many people stepping outside the box of femininity or masculinity was a problem. The truth is that I never forgot that event.
The beloved boxes
Today I know that the need to “put everything in boxes” is inherent in the way human beings process information. We love categories. They are actually wonderful and very useful most of the time. We need them both to make sense of the world and to communicate. But we constantly forget that they are not real.
Without categories it would be impossible to communicate and probably even to reason. “Chair” or “table” are categories. When we talk about a “chair” we know that we are talking about a seat with a backrest, usually with four legs, and which can only accommodate one person. “Chair” and “table” are different categories.
Although they have things in common, such as the “four legs”, they have characteristics that distinguish them more than the ones that make them similar, such as their function. Even if we wanted not to use these categories to talk about these objects, we would have to describe them using other categories (seat, back, four, legs, etc.), which would take longer and would not solve anything.
On the other hand, we know that not all chairs are alike, even if they fit into the same category. Also, if we stick a chair to the ceiling it will no longer have the seating function but most people will still call it “a chair”.
Categories vs Reality
When I say that categories are not real, I mean that they are nothing more than representations of the reality we know. I will give you an explanation that I heard recently (I no longer know where), please bare with me, I promise it will make it all clearer:
Imagine we are on the beach at night and in the sky there is a big, beautiful, full moon. Imagine that verbal communication does not exist, or that we simply do not speak the same language. But I want you to look at the moon, it’s wonderful and it’s a shame for you to miss it. I make a gesture with my index finger pointing to the moon and then with both hands I make a circle so that it is clear to you that I am “talking” about the moon. You see, the pointing gesture, or the circle with both hands are just representations of the moon but they are not the moon. Categories are just like index fingers pointing to something, but they are not real because they are not what they represent.
Gender, Neutrality and Categories
Genres are just categories, no more than representations. “Woman” is not a real thing, what is real is a human person with certain characteristics. Some that are shared with other people that society classifies as “women”. Others that are shared with other people that society does not identify as “women”. And others that are unique to that person.
For me, the question of diversity and gender neutrality requires understanding that genders are not real and that they are representations as broad as we want them to be. Just as a chair on the ceiling can still be a chair and a chair with a glass on top can be perceived as a table. All it takes is wanting to.
Chairs and tables don’t have feelings but people do. If a man wants to wear flashy earrings and still wants to identify with the male gender, why is it so hard for us to accept it? Should a girl have the right to wear baggy clothes usually attributed to the opposite sex and not have her life made difficult for it? When someone who was born with biological characteristics that make society identify them with one gender, but has always felt they actually fit the opposite gender’s box and wants to assume characteristics of that gender so that society sees them as they see themselves, who are the rest of us to say that they are wrong? If someone simply does not want to fit into any “gender box” or wants to create a new “box” why should that be a problem?
Gender Neutrality as an Excuse
Gender-neutrality as one of my brand’s core values is one of the ways I found to “solve” the problem I encountered that day shopping with my father. It is also an excuse to talk about some of the issues I touched on in this article and some others that I would like to ramble on about in the future. Finally, gender neutrality, as I see it, is a toolto end, not all, but many social inequalities that I wish did not exist.
And for you, what is gender neutrality?