Argos, Currys and more urged to stop pinkwashing and get serious about inclusion

A person communicating on a mobile phone walks past a branch of Argos

As big brands pack their Pride flags away for another year, it’s time for many to start being serious about inclusivity all year-round, writes Include Mx campaigner Tom Pashby.

Most people probably sail through online order forms hardly even thinking about what they’re typing. For many people like me, it can be an immensely frustrating experience because of companies forcing us into using a binary gendered title like Mr or Ms.

That’s why I started the Include Mx campaign – which has successfully encouraged major brands to add the gender-neutral Mx to their forms.

I started Include Mx in late 2020 because, despite being an out non-binary person who was very active in public life, I still found myself at the mercy of corporations who viewed me as just another customer who they could ignore and refused to add Mx to their title options. This would leave me with the choice to either misgender myself, which can be deeply uncomfortable, or to boycott their services. I found that many household brands had ‘required’ title fields, and that many of these were limited to Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms and maybe also Dr, but of course we aren’t all able to get a PhD or medical degree to be able to choose that gender-neutral title option.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I ordered some household goods from Argos during the first few months of the pandemic and had to misgender myself to get the deliveries. I decided it was time to put my campaigns and communications skills to use, mainly with the selfish aim of being able to use forms without having to think about my own gender, but also to make life easier for fellow non-binary and agender people, and anyone else who doesn’t want to reveal their gender identity to corporations who probably only want that information for targeted marketing purposes.

A picture of Tom Pashby: they have a closely-shaved head, are smiling and wearing white glasses

Tom Pashby started the Include Mx campaign after years of frustration. (Tom Pashby)

This Pride month, as has become the trend, many large brands change their corporate logo to incorporate the colours of the Pride flag. People in the queer community regularly joke about how this annual changing of the logos suggests that on 1 July, when the logos revert to their original colours, we stop existing. But it raises serious questions about brands’ actual actions relating to their practises towards the LGBTQIA+ community, including their employees and customers.

So when I saw Argos had changed their logo to incorporate the Pride flag, including the trans pride colours, I was hopeful that this meant they had chosen to include Mx after years of requests from non-binary people, including public calls from my campaign Include Mx. Regrettably, this was not the case. Their online order forms still require you to choose a title from Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms and Dr. If you’re a man, imagine not seeing a masculine title (Mr) and having to select from Mrs, Miss, Ms or Dr? It’s annoying and you would probably select one which you don’t want to use just to get the order confirmed.

It is, of course, not just Argos which disappointingly don’t include Mx, despite requests from my campaign and from individuals who use Mx. NowTV, Moss Bros, Currys, Wickes, Premier Inn, Burberry, Cotswold Outdoor, Holland & Barrett and the Post Office are just some names which, at the time of writing, don’t include Mx on at least one of their forms, despite repeated requests to make this simple change. Some of them have pledged to make the change, meanwhile others have ignored feedback.

Some brands go to great lengths to be as inclusive as possible towards their customers, while still failing to include Mx. Cotswold Outdoor have over 30 title options, including Sqn Ldr (Squadron Leader), 2nd Lt (Second Lieutenant), Lord, Lady and even a question mark, but no Mx.

The best ways forward for brands who are trying to be more inclusive would be to add Mx to their existing list, make the title field optional, leave it as a blank space, or to scrap the title field altogether, and plenty have already done this.

Lots of brands have been excellent, either by including Mx long ago, or by adding it quickly after being asked to by customers. Dunelm, Debenhams, Hotel Chocolat and Homebase have all either added Mx, added Mx and made the title field optional, or got rid of the title field. In even more positive news, NHS England, the National Trust, M&S, SSE/OVO, Wilko and Triodos Bank UK all publicly explained why they believe it is important to include Mx and to improve accessibility for non-binary people.

Regardless of including Mx often being a simple change to make, brands shouldn’t be covering themselves in the Pride flag if they are actively refusing to make themselves more inclusive towards this section of the LGBTQIA+ community.