The future is gender fluid
“We’re paving the way because we have to,” Deserre, 18.
Womxn are given a narrow cultural lens through which we’re talked about, represented and interacted with across all media. When it comes to diverse gender representation, advertising is still one of the most limiting of all [Geena Davis Institute, 2019]. Gender-based marketing is responsible for perpetuating many norms, not least those around gender, and continues to be a battleground for equality and diversity.
But in the fight for gender equality, the new generation is pushing hard against limited gender stereotypes within culture and in their digital lives, embracing gender fluidity, nonconformity and experimentation that push boundaries for everyone.
Some research suggests that 20% of teens identify as gender non-binary, non-conforming or transgender, nearly twice as many as millennials; 59% are comfortable using non-binary pronouns and 60% shop across gendered sections in fashion retail. Gen Z are leading the cultural shift around gender and if we listen hard enough and learn fast, they can help us push the marketing industry forward [GLAAD, Pew and Phluid Project research].
Fluidity isn't a trend, it’s a way of being
“We’re seeing a variety of being and want to see this represented authentically,” Tori West, Bricks Magazine.
The cross-generational teen experience of rebellion and experimentation is smashing together with the post-2000 experience of pervasive internet access, rapid uptake of visual social media platforms and growth of online communities, to see teens accelerating the disruption of gender norms.
Whilst the internet isn’t inherently or structurally gender neutral or feminist by any stretch - see Feminist Internet for more - many pockets of the social web are enabling womxn to define themselves more fluidly as a reaction to being held back from creative, financial and educational endeavours for, well, forever.
Youth culture shows us that fluidity applies to gender identity but also to style and careers, music choices and expression as a philosophy and way of navigating the world in contrast to the tribalism of older generations. Teens flex between subcultures and expressions of gender, adopt a spectrum of styles from normcore to maximalism, shift between activism and individualism, and find space in between to be who they want to be.
“I’m uncomfortable with the word trend when talking about gender. It’s great to see people from across the gender spectrum being visible and paving the way for others but this is not a trend”. Tori West, Bricks Magazine