Social media responds to M&S' gender pronoun badges

·7-min read
Marks & Spencer have introduced optional pronoun badges for staff members. (Getty Images)
Marks & Spencer have introduced optional pronoun badges for staff members. (Getty Images)

Social media has had something of a mixed response to news that M&S has introduced optional pronoun badges for staff members.

As of now, employees at M&S stores and offices can have their preferred pronouns printed on their badges, which feature the M&S logo, a first name and the option of pronouns including "He/Him/His", "She/Her/Hers" and "They/Them/Their".

David Parke, the UK's food PR manager at M&S, shared a post on LinkedIn on International Pronouns Day of his own badge, which included "He/Him/His".

Mr Parke said the badges have "already helped start some very necessary conversations around gender identity and non-binary experience" at M&S.

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After images of his badge went viral, Parke acknowledged he wasn't expecting to be starring in the press coverage he sent to his boss this morning, but he was "proud to work somewhere that actively encourages us to use our pronouns at work". 

Writing on Twitter, he said: "I'm so grateful that Marks & Spencer actively encourages us to share our pronouns at work, whether on our name badge or in our email signatures."

Later he added: "it's so important to be amplifying these conversations in the workplace about celebrating all gender identities".

It was a sentiment backed by some other Twitter users who added their support for the move in response to Parke's tweets.

Some praised the move by the retailer, urging other companies to follow their lead. 

"Hopefully more organisations should follow, such as the big high street banks," one user commented. "What made me giggle was the quote that says companies should not be involved in politics! I am not sure how pronouns are political."

"So here for M&S doing this," agreed another. "It would be so nice if people that it doesn't concern could see it as the positive move it is for people that it absolutely does."

"It's excellent to see a company like M&S lead the way on this, hopefully we will see other companies follow suit," another user wrote. 

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"This is so fantastic, it doesn't hurt to be inclusive," another user expressed. "I'm cis and I include my she/her pronouns in my profile. If people have a problem with inclusivity they should take a cold, hard look at themselves."

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Others shared details of their own workplace pronoun badges.

But while some were all in favour of the new inclusive badges, others weren't so sure about the move, with some claiming they would boycott the retailer. 

"I won't be shopping with you anymore as I don't feel safe in an environment that has pronoun badges," one wrote.  

"I'm a gay man, I don't believe in the existence of gender identity and pressuring gay men to comfirm [sic] pronouns is homophobic. We are real men."

"Just to let you know, unlike @marksandspencer, I don't need a pronoun to denote what I am. I'm quite assured in my status as a woman. It doesn't need verifying. You don't need to be 'correct' with me. I'll be grateful for anything that's not insulting," added another.

M&S new badges give staff members the option to mention the pronouns they prefer to use. (Getty Images)
M&S new badges give staff members the option to mention the pronouns they prefer to use. (Getty Images)

Others questioned whether introducing the pronoun badges was the best way to be inclusive. 

"If we donโ€™t fight the Pronoun thing it wonโ€™t stop there," one user tweeted. "Next it will be everyone must just be โ€˜Mโ€™ or โ€˜xโ€™ so that we can become one big grey splodge & so all be the โ€˜sameโ€™. Iโ€™m NOT going into @marksandspencer unless they drop this stupidity. Inclusivity does not mean this."

Other social media users questioned how it would impact staff who didn't want to wear the badge. 

"Sure it's 'optional', but it singles out staff that would prefer to opt-out of identity-based virtue signalling in the workplace," one user posed. 

Earlier this year, in a bid to be more inclusive of staff members, M&S established a group of senior leaders to implement a diversity and inclusion strategy "aimed at creating an inclusive culture within a diverse environment for our colleagues, customers and communities".

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M&S aren't the only company encouraging employees to record their gender pronouns in recent years.

Lloyds of London issued a 29-page document to staff with instructions on how they could create a "stable emotional work environment" for trans and non-binary colleagues, which included asking someone which pronouns they prefer to use.

Meanwhile Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm, launched an internal campaign to "provide education on what the different types of pronouns are" and "guidance for the way to use them". It said the move was a "way to show respect and ensure a more inclusive environment".

Watch: Gender pronouns explained, and why you should absolutely respect kids when they change them.

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