The Genderless Phenomenon

The Genderless Phenomenon


We are given life brimming with possibilities, choices and decisions we have to make and yet we are welcomed with flowers, onesies and balloons colored either pink or blue. We are greeted with items that shout femininity or masculinity, male or female. Those two choices seem to be simple and yet, the spectrum of gender is one so vast that we have yet to finish discovering, identifying and choosing which one we identify with—if there is any at all. We can blame it on social media or we can blame the next pop star icon who refuses to identify herself with a label, but the Japanese seem to be way ahead of all this. And we’re talking centuries ahead.

During the 17th century, the Japanese had a third gender classification option aside from the universal male and female gender groups. This group was called “wakashu,” which is translated to “beautiful youths.”

It now seems that the rest of the world is catching up with the Japanese. Thanks to American imperialism, the “wakashu” practice died out after the Americans influenced the Japanese by instilling the Western way of life.

As the empathic younger generations encourage open dialogues about gender binaries and push freedom from gender oppression that is closely knitted to social, cultural and religious norms, genderless fashion has been the most distinct and striking way to express one’s sense of gender identity. With this gender shift, companies have started to cater, celebrate and capitalize on the genderless phenomenon.

Brands that offer genderless products are a product of today’s generations’ dislike for labels and the need to be accepted as how they are, regardless of gender and sexual orientation while existing brands have branched out into this category in an attempt to gain a market share of the phenomenon. Not only has the genderless phenomenon dominated the fashion scene, there are now genderless makeup, skincare products and even genderless perfumes in the market. What’s interesting is that consumers, those who do not identify themselves as genderless, are buying into the phenomenon and neuromarketing can explain why. According to Matt Johnson, PhD, academic neuroscientist, professor of neuromarketing, co-founder of 15Center, and author of Allure: The Neuroscience of Consumerism, the reason behind is is due to the phenomenon called social signaling, “which stems from human beings’ need to belong in a tribe” and in order to satisfy this innate desire, “we adapt and react through our facial expressions, gestures and opinions in an attempt to be part of that tribe without being aware that we are doing so.”

In a progressing world where differences are celebrated instead of frowned upon, society participates and shows support through their consumption. With celebrities, models and vloggers advocating for gender equality all the while selling products, it is no wonder that people of all gender buy and consume genderless products. Millions of people perceive these influencers as trendsetters—role models even. It’s neither you are what you eat nor you are what you buy, but rather you are what you post online.

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15Center founders Matt Johnson, PhD and Prince Ghuman are co-authors of Allure: The Neuroscience of Consumerism. To get early access, sign up here.

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