M&S DENY U-turning on allowing self-identifying women into female changing rooms – after Tory Baroness congratulated them on the move she thought they had made
- The upmarket retailer faced protests earlier this year and in 2019 for policy
- Baroness Emma Nicholson claimed on Monday they had backtracked
- She he wrote in letter to firm she was ‘delighted to learn’ the policy had changed
- But an M&S spokesman insisted there had been no change to the policy
Marks & Spencer has denied U-turning on allowing its female changing rooms to be used by anyone who describes themselves as a woman.
The upmarket retailer faced protests earlier this year and in 2019 for allowing ‘people to use the fitting room they prefer’ in both men’s and womenswear departments, regardless of their biological sex.
On Monday night, Conservative peer Baroness Emma Nicholson, who campaigns for single-sex spaces, claimed M&S has since backtracked on their policy and had returned to being single sex only.
In a letter to M&S chairman Archie Norman revealed on her Twitter account, she wrote that she was ‘delighted to learn’ the policy had changed and that cubicles would be ‘single sex once more.’
But when approached by MailOnline, a spokesman for the firm insisted there had been no change to the policy and added that fitting rooms remain closed because of the coronavirus crisis.
Marks & Spencer has denied U-turning on allowing its female changing rooms to be used by anyone who describes themselves as a woman
In her letter, Baroness Nicholson had said: ‘I was delighted to learn on Friday that your policy on customer changing facilities has changed and that cubicles for trying on clothes before purchase will now be single sex once more.
‘I write to thank you for this most welcome of policy changes which properly reflects the needs of the population at large, and particularly while assessing before purchasing some of the excellent, good value and high standard clothes of all kinds which you have on display.
‘I wish Marks and Spencer every success in this run up to Christmas and the New Year.’
But an M&S spokesman denied the policy change and said: ‘Our fitting rooms have been closed for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis and currently remain closed.
‘When open, they consist of individual lockable cubicles; and are managed by a colleague to provide assistance and to ensure customers’ privacy.
‘The fitting rooms are located within our womenswear and menswear departments and therefore are mainly used by customers of that gender.
On Monday night, Conservative peer Baroness Emma Nicholson, who campaigns for single-sex spaces, claimed M&S has since backtracked on their policy and had returned to being single sex only
‘However, in line with most other retailers we will generally allow people to use the fitting room which they prefer, with our colleagues exercising discretion and common sense.’
In her Twitter post, Baroness Nicholson wrote above a photo of her letter, ‘M&S beats the competition as it always has when it really matters.’
In May, Equalities minister Liz Truss made clear that shops and service providers are legally entitled to deny people born male access to female spaces.
In a letter published by her office, she said: ‘I have made my commitment to protecting single-sex spaces for women and girls clear.
‘As part of this work I will ensure that Government guidance gives a clear message to service providers, schools and others, putting their ability to provide single-sex spaces beyond doubt.’
And in an earlier letter to M&S in May, Baroness Nicholson had claimed M&S had ‘misunderstood’ the law on equality and single-sex spaces.
Referring to Ms Truss’s stance, she told Mr Norman: ‘I believe you may wish to follow the Government’s line and resume single-sex spaces for the changing rooms in your stores.’
She warned that allowing anyone who self-identifies as a woman to enter female changing areas puts women and girls at risk of potentially being spied on.
‘Since changing of clothes can lead to voyeurism, newer legislation (the upskirting law) calls this laxness of provision into question,’ she wrote.
In a letter to M&S chairman Archie Norman revealed on her Twitter account, she wrote that she was ‘delighted to learn’ the policy had changed and that cubicles would be ‘single sex once more’
M&S said at the time it had assured Baroness Nicholson its fitting rooms ‘provide secure and private spaces’ with individual lockable cubicles.
‘We recognise customers will self-identify and respect their right to choose the fitting rooms they feel comfortable in.’
M&S’s changing room policy first came to public attention in November last year when feminist campaigner Jean Hatchet complained a man had entered the women’s cubicle area at a store in Yorkshire during a teenage girl’s bra fitting.
The 53-year-old took to social media with a post that read: ‘Cubicle or no cubicle. Curtain or no curtain. Open space changing or not.
‘Men should not have access to any of these female spaces alongside women. @marksandspencer please clarify your policy on female changing rooms.’
A spokesperson for M&S replied to Ms Hatchet’s post saying: ‘As a business, we strive to be inclusive and therefore, we allow customers the choice of which fitting room they feel comfortable to use, in respect of how they identify themselves.
‘This is an approach other retailers and leisure facilities have also adopted.
‘We understand your concerns and I want to make it clear that if any customer was to act inappropriately or cause intentional offence, the necessary action would be taken.’
But the revelation of the policy sparked fierce backlash among both male and female shoppers with some even calling for a boycott of the store if M&S did not reverse it.
One user, @injiduducu, replied to the online thread and said: ‘I can tell you their policy – any man can use the women’s changing rooms. If he does something bad, they will deal with it.
‘[M&S has] removed the first and most effective line of safeguarding. This shows utter contempt for thier core customer base.
‘The arrogance is breathtaking.’
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