Dudes, Bettys, Ladies, And Men: The Gender Categories Of Online Retail

By Anna North

A tipster recently wrote to tell us that Forever 21 didn’t divide its wares into “men’s” and “women’s” categories — rather, its clothes were for “men” or “girls.” We decided to investigate — and to take a look at what its competitors call their male and female customers. Below, a breakdown.

Forever 21: At first glance, Forever 21 does look like it’s divided into “mens” and “girls” sections. However, a spokesperson explained to me that the “girls” section is actually for Forever 21’s little girls’ line, J. So really, the relevant adult categories on the site are “apparel” (which is all women’s apparel) and “mens.”

Urban Outfitters: “Men’s” and “women’s”

Zara: “Man” and “woman.” Watch out, the swirling snow on this website will make your browser slow to a crawl.

Abercrombie & Fitch: “Mens” and “womens.” It’s disturbing how many retailers dispense with the necessary apostrophes in these possessive nouns. Their clotheses are for womenses.

American Eagle Outfitters: Again with the “mens” and “womens.”

H&M: Changing it up a bit, H&M opts for “ladies” and “men.”

American Apparel: “Men” and “women.”

Aeropostale: “Guys” and “girls.”

Uniqlo: “Men” and “women.”

Hollister: In possibly my favorite gender-labeling decision, Hollister chooses “dudes” and “bettys.”

Daffy’s: This northeastern retailer doesn’t actually have gender categories on its website — I just included it in this list because holy shit, look at that splashscreen. This did not make me want to purchase clothing; it made me want to pinch myself to make sure I was awake/sober.

So Forever 21 isn’t as much of an odd man (or girl) out here as it first appeared — in fact, clothing retailers’ gender signifiers seem less indicative of a gender/age double standard (ie. boys want to be called men at 14 or so, women stay “girls” into their thirties and beyond) than they are extensions of each retailer’s brand. Aeropostale, geared primarily toward teens, markets to “guys” and “girls” — H&M tries to project class by catering to “ladies.” It’s also worth noting that of the ten retailers (not counting absurd Daffy’s) listed above, none offers a website design that’s friendly to folks who don’t identify as male or female, or who prefer not to buy their clothes according to such categories. Genderfork recommends 410 BC as a genderqueer-friendly clothing site (and notes that many American Apparel items are unisex, though the site may not label them as such). Other options include Marimacho, Rigged Out/fitters, or The Genderqueer Shop, which Brennan Williams founded “because I’m sick of shops making me choose between ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ clothes.” Judging by the prevalence of these categories, he’s probably not the only one with this problem.

Image via Vector/Shutterstock.com

Originally published on Jezebel. Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

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  1. Haha I actually work at a Hollister (actually my shift starts in a half hour), and for the record, all the employees actually refer to the clothing as Dudes or Bettys, too. It’s gotten to the point where I’ll be at a Macy’s or something and accidentally ask where the Bettys section is.

  2. That Daffys ad is referencing a famous piece of modern art. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who created the original, and the internet is not much help with “bent over woman-table”.

  3. I originally thought that Urban Outfitters had actually labeled their categories with the men’s section having a capital ‘M’, and the women’s section having a lowercase ‘w’. Upon further reading and other examples, I realized you were just using correct grammar.

    Things were about to get real ugly though.

  4. – “Mens” and “womens.” It’s disturbing how many retailers dispense with the necessary apostrophes in these possessive nouns. Their clotheses are for womenses.

    ^ I have been nonstop editing my frinds’ independant study essays for the past week and a half and I have had many major freakouts because one of them was filled with misplaced apostrophes ie:”The mother’s were feeling stressed”. Because she ‘swears that the teacher told her to write it like that’. Never mind the girls’ mothers’ stress, I was ready to blow a fucking gasket with the amount of times I had to correct that damn word!!!
    This comment related so much to my week that it made me lol. :)

    Sidenote: I almost only ever clothes shop in gift shops or buy clothing supporting my school, so I don’t have to choose mens or womens. Also it’s nice because it’s inexpencive and actually promotes something worthwhile like Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New-Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, or Newfoundland! Therefore they are also unique and don’t have big honking ABERCROMBIE (for example) logos on the front staring you down and trying to brainwash you: “Buy my company’s overpriced tight generic t-shirts and sexy stylish so-tight-you-can’t-move-in-me jeans that show off your asscrack or else you will be a looooooser!!!!”

  5. I get irritated when the restroom doors say “Ladies” and “Men.” I’m certainly not a lady. When do we get our promised Unisex Ally McBeal restrooms?

    • This happens on sports teams too.

      “C’mon ladies hussle up!!”

      Or the men’s teams are “The Lions” and the women’s teams area “The Lady Lions.”

        • At a college near where I grew up, the men’s teams were the “Gents” and the women’s teams were the “Lady Gents”.

      • That always pissed me off. “Lady Lions” sounds so condescending compared to its male counterpart. Just call them the Tigers or something so there’s no confusion.

  6. I’ve never been fussed by shops labels, I just make a beeline for whatever I like the look of and try it on, SCREW THE SYSTEM!!!

  7. That does it. I need to design my clothing line just for lesbos. Think of the possibilities! Slacks, three-piece suits, boxers..all in our sizes! Does this already exist?

  8. I just pay no attention to gender categories when I’m shopping. I go around the whole store looking for what I want. I suggest y’all to do the same.
    A gender fluid person

  9. I used to work at AA and everything they sell is unisex. They actually label almost everything unisex except skirts and dresses. What I had trouble with in most stores are shoes. I have a really tiny foot and I love guys shoes. Once at journeys I asked for some guy sneakers in a 5 and the guy yelled at me telling me that those were for men. I responded “well, you don’t know what is under my skirt! He was super embarrassed. Clothes are for everyone, and so are shoes. It’s very interesting to analyze how stores label their clothes and size them. It’s kind of like they are guessing who you are. Sometimes it sucks when they are wrong. The same applies to plus sizes. Why can’t they just be more sizes? Why is the plus necessary?

  10. “You know that’s from the boys’ section, right? The ladies’ versions are over here.” –Southern, middle-aged female clerk to me yesterday as I went to buy a sweater vest.

  11. I had that said to me too bookbound,i just smiled and said..isn’t it cute,what a find.That was at a jc penny store that i will never go back to. I do think that the employees need to be trained better,really how do you know that i’m not buying a gift for someone.
    The forever 21 store here is all girls,until i read this i didn’t know that there was guys stuff in there.I’ll have to take a closer look next time.

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