Changing Identities

Crowd DNA exec Cathy Pearson reports on how the rise of interest in feminism also opens up conversation on the shifting role of gender as a defining feature of identity...

International Women’s Day (IWD), which took place on March 8, is a reflection of the growing awareness of – and support for – gender equality. People are no longer willing to sit back and allow gender to be a deciding factor in quality of life. As a cultural issue that is so important to the global population, it is pertinent time for brands and companies to voice their support.

Many of the prevalent global issues discussed during IWD – domestic violence, FGM and equal pay – have never been so highly recognised and debated than in 2015. All this talk of feminist matters has not only served to make significant impact in its own sphere, but also opened up wider discussions about the shifting role of gender as a defining feature of identity.

Gender has long formed social identities (think women as mothers, men as bread winners) and socially constructed gender remains dominant, but it’s no longer the case that just boys play football, while just girls go shopping. Gender expectations and stereotypes are being rejected and personal influences are transcending male/female boundaries. There is an overwhelming cry for acceptance of people based on who they want to be and what they want to do, regardless of the reproductive organs they were born with. Argentina now allows its citizens to choose from a long list of gender options, including transgender, for inclusion on official documents. And Facebook has followed suit by extending its gender options.

Growing acceptance of diversity in gender identity means interests and aspirations are experiencing huge shifts. People no longer want to follow stereotypical paths set by archaic societal views and instead want to be active in areas they’re personally passionate about. Previously male dominated hobbies are now opening up to become more inclusive of female genders, and life goals shaped around the home aren’t just yielding female interest; there’s fluidity in how gender is progressing and it needs recognition.

There’s a long way to go for gender-influenced legislation, but in a complex landscape you have to celebrate the communities forming around these issues. Offline, LGBT groups are advocates for diversity in sexuality and celebrity ambassadors are growing by the day to eradicate sexism. Online, social media has been extremely powerful for campaigns on gender equality. It’s encouraged conversations around uncomfortable topics, such as rape. Campaigns like #HeForShe – the UN initiative that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half” – has achieved viral success with the backing of popular celebrities, such as official spokesperson Emma Watson. However, it has also led people to question the other side of the coin making #SheForHe also go viral.

Brands should look to show their openness to shifting expectations and how gender can seriously affect people’s sense of identity. As outlined in the Crowd DNA 2015 trend The Purpose Revolution, modern consumers demand a clearly defined reason for being from every brand they interact with. Gender equality needs to become part of every brand purpose – however, it must only be used in authentic and meaningful ways and always backed up with actions as well as words.