Several week ago, we at IHID became aware that members of the community have been put off by Frogmouth’s claim of gender neutral language on their website accompanied by practices that demonstrated something differently.
Frogmouth, a popular vendor for player and referee jerseys, offers two cuts: “straight cut” and “curve cut.” Sounds gender neutral, right? Well, it may have been except for the words “often preferred by cis men” next to the “straight cut” option and “often preferred by cis women” next to the curved cut option.
We e-mailed Frogmouth on April 3 regarding this problematic gender-specific language and received word back in an email dated April 5 from Kris Rago (whose signature line includes the title of “Manager, Department of Customer Happiness”) that the concerns were being forwarded to the CEO of the company. An April 8 email from Frogmouth assured us that language changes were in the works.
Indeed, by last week, the descriptive words following the different cuts were changed to “form fitting between chest and waist” for “curved cut” and “looser fit between chest and waist” for “straight cut.”
We commend Frogmouth for making this change. However, there is more to this story than meets the eye. Despite quickly changing the language when IHID wrote in with concerns, other members of the community had already expressed their displeasure at the gendered options being offered prior to the change. Their concerns were met differently. Below, a nonbinary individual, who had already written to Frogmouth less than two months prior, shares their frustration with Frogmouth’s gendered language, Frogmouth’s initial response, and the feelings that have arisen from their exchange with Frogmouth:
Frogmouth seems to be a pretty popular brand for derby jerseys. At least, three of the teams I’ve played for in Seattle have directed me to their website to order my jersey. I just joined a new team, which did the same – sent me to Frogmouth to order a jersey. I don’t like their jerseys for several reasons, but that’s not the biggest issue. I contacted them to attempt a discussion about fitting issues and finding the right cut and size to fit my body. During this discussion, I decided to point out something that really bothered my about placing my order, what would have made me abandon the whole order if I had another option for a team jersey: the unnecessary use of gendered language.
I wrote, “I just want to express that the use of ‘often preferred by cis males’ and ‘often preferred by cis females’ is an unnecessary gendering. This is a surprising practice from a company that claims to be gender neutral. As a nonbinary person, it feels very gross to have to choose a gendered shirt. I hope that you will reconsider this language on your order forms and take a more gender neutral approach, so that your practices align with your mission.”
I received a response from Nicole Negrete, of the Department of Customer Happiness, who wrote, “As for the gendered terms, I understand your point, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’ve attempted to remain gender neutral with the specifiers curve cut and straight cut, and these additional explanations are meant to clarify a bit further. I’m sorry that they have actually taken away from the gender neutral messaging and caused distress. I’m passing this feedback along to discuss other possible descriptors.”
I later received a message from Kris Rago, the Manager of Department of Customer Happiness, who wrote, “Hi! Nicole had shared your comment to our product note, and I wanted to follow up, as I apologize for the feelings this caused while ordering. Our product style descriptions are designed to be gender neutral while also recognizing that not all customers have the vocabulary to navigate a non-binary world. Some people get confused by non-binary language because almost all the clothes they buy use gender binary descriptions. We list our gender neutral products in a way that helps bridge the gap for these customers. We hope this will help them understand what to buy while also encouraging them to think differently about gender, and that one day we will be able to say nothing more than ‘straight cut’ and ‘curve cut’ without causing confusion. Thank you again for the feedback, as it’s always appreciated.”
This message felt very much like a non-apology. It felt like Kris was basically saying “I don’t care how you feel. I think our customers are too stupid to read gendered pictures, so we’re using language to help them, and we’re doing it at the expense of nonbinary folks. Our claim to be gender neutral makes us look good, so we’re going to keep saying that and doing nothing to back it up.” I didn’t bother responding because it felt like nothing I would say would make a difference.
I contacted the team that I had just joined and asked if I could have access to the logo so that I could just make my own jersey. I will never order from Frogmouth. I was already disgusted with how they silenced black women in response to their 23 Campaign, so I should’ve just asked for the logo when my new team sent me the link to the Frogmouth jersey. I don’t care how many apologies they issue or if they change the language on their website. None of it feels authentic to me.