RA: Bathrooms: A small step towards making the big accommodations for transgender individuals

In the article, “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’” Emily Bazelon examines society’s inability to make accommodations in certain settings, such as the bathroom, for those in society that identify as transgender. She begins by noting recent action taken by the citizens of Houston to reject a proposed ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity along with other criteria. Residents voted against this proposal on the premise that they did not want men in the women’s bathrooms. Bazelon goes on to counter these opinions by pointing out many school districts across the nation create an inclusive space for students that identity as the opposite sex. Even though these schools manage to be accommodating when it comes to interactions, for example using their preferred pronouns and allowing them to play on the sports teams they choose, the bathrooms still pose an issue. Bazelon critiques the school’s’ ability to create an inclusive environment for these students.

When presenting the definition of the word “accommodate,” Bazelon suggests that it has a “compulsory aspect — it’s a word that involves moving over to make room for other people, whether you want to or not.” By providing the historical context of the Americans with Disabilities Act from 1960, she suggests that our country has managed to make accommodations on the past, but for some reason are struggling to do so in the present. Even though these adjustments are necessary, Bazelon believes that they perpetuate this idea of “normal and the other.” It is important that as a society we develop a sense of inclusion and normalness harmoniously. This has proved a difficult task as a result of our historical development. Bazelon notes that since the Victorian Era men and women have been separated in many spheres, including the bathroom. Certain standards for how women conduct themselves in the setting have created an exclusive “enclave.” Bazelon theorizes that this construct has been threatened by allowing the “male anatomy” to enter this secluded space. Women have a hard time not seeing trans women as men. By making this argument Bazelon highlights an underlying problem facing the transgender community: mental inclusion. Even if accommodations are made in the bathrooms that is only one barrier that has been taken down. Society as whole needs to shift their thinking about the way they view those of the transgender community. If some can not even look past allowing those into the bathrooms how can they create an inclusive society.

Bazelon concludes her article with an anecdote about a 12-year old transgender girl. Her school allows her to change in the locker room with the other girls in her class. She says that this makes her feel normal and there is no difference between her and them. Allowing her to do so is a key decision on the school’s part. This gives her the ability to be a part of the gender she identifies with. It is one step closer to creating an inclusive space, and hopefully a more inclusive society as a whole.

 

Works Cited

Bazelon, Emily. “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

RA: Role of Design in a Genderless Society

Suzanne Tick confronts the role of design in establishing acceptance and change of the growing gender spectrum, in her article “His & Hers: DesigninImage result for genderless design fashiong for a Post-Gender Society.” Tick begins by examining the foundation of the “design landscape” today. She notes that it is mainly rooted in modernistic, male perspective, and goes on to criticize this structure. These traditional forms have partially been shattered as women acquire more power. She believes the inclusion of open spaces in the workplace, a desire for natural light and other softer design plans are a result of more “gender sensibility.”

Tick examines how the line between masculinity and femininity becomes blurred in areas of fashion and beauty. Designers have begun to incorporate trends that are typically male-centric into their women’s clothing lines. Even makeup has transcended its female intended consumer and companies have targeted the male market.

Trends like these, according to Tick, promote androgyny and a lack of a clear gender binary. Individuals are not as upfront with their identified gender and often have an ambiguous appearance. Tick believes gender is no longer an essential characteristic of a person, rather something they choose whether or not to disclose. She thinks that students’ decisions to not indicate male or female on school forms is a major step toward invoking change and inciting acceptance. Tick is critical of design and believes that if institutions, such as schools, are following this progression then design needs to be doing so as well.

Tick provides context for transgender people in the work force. She celebrates Martine Rothblatt, the first female CEO to be born biologically male. Other changes have been made in corporate America; as seen in the implementation of gender neutral bathrooms. Ticks believes this is a sign of acceptance and an attempt to create a safer, more inclusive environment for those outside of the gender binary. Although the bathroom accommodations are a step in the right direction, Tick is disappointed that design, both architecturally and artistically, are failing some in our society. She argues that the Americans with Disabilities Act has failed so many. However, she is confident that this is only the beginning of a transformation in non-gender design and that with time society will move past the issue of a lack of accommodations. She believes we are in a time in which design needs to accept all individuals and create spaces where they can express their individual identities.

 

Works Cited

Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis Magazine. Metropolis Magazine, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

RA: Urban communities make up for suburban failures

While most view the suburbs as an ideal place to live and raise a family, Fleming points out the flaws of the seemingly perfect living environment. At the beginning of Chapter 5: “Suburbia” in his work The City of Rhetoric he discusses the historical context of Section 8 housing and describes the criteria necessary to qualify for the program. It is essentially a government subsidization (a voucher) to provide housing for low income citizens. This was put in place so that those living in housing complexes in the central city could leave and move to places with better housing and education in addition to less crime (93). Fleming notes that even when given the opportunity to leave the communities, people were still inclined to choose a residence in the same area or others similar to it. However, this did not remedy the problem of racial and economic segregation. It only perpetuated the issue and most believed that the true solution would be to provide housing in the suburbs.

Northern suburbs of Chicago.
Northern suburbs of Chicago.

Fleming defines the suburbs in a multitude of ways but comes to the conclusion that the suburbs are less populated, less crime ridden and most often residents with higher incomes and newer homes. It is based on a sense of community and the American idea of privatism. At the same time those that live there are criticized for reaping the benefits of a centralized government, good schools, paved roads, clean air, while disliking it at the same time (96).

Fleming chooses to examine Chicago when looking at the contrasts between the different types of  “suburbs.” He believes that Chicago is a good example of the “decentralization, fragmentation and polarization” that has taken place in the “civic landscape” (98). The development of the varying characteristics, mainly income and quality of living in the suburbs, caused many disparities to become apparent. For instance, the educational institutions in the more affluent suburbs received significantly more funding and resources despite having smaller populations than those in the low-income suburbs.

Cabrini Green housing complex
Cabrini Green housing complex

When trying to provide solutions to these issues, more troubles arise. Fleming points out that when multifamily complexes are proposed in the suburbs most often the land costs are too high and the zoning/ tax policies prohibit the constructions. As a result, these affordable housing units are placed in the suburbs with the weakest economies (103).

Schaumburg, Illinois illustrates Fleming’s ideas about the effects of suburban development. It is however referred to as an edge city: “intensely planned, job-rich, low-density communities (106). They are most often placed near or next to highways and allot a large portion of space to office buildings. Fleming points out that this contributes to social polarization. There are so few minorities and so many private interests. Since the town was established it had experienced growth in population but not in diversity. Typically white, middle-class citizens inhabited the area. This type of suburb proved the disparities Fleming had argued about this type of living.

In the conclusion of his chapter, Fleming states that with the vouchers provided through Section 8, people should be able to choose to live wherever they choose. The suburbs should be open to all of those that wish to live there and should not be limited to one race, income, age etc… However, if this is the case then those living in the suburbs now will leave and develop a more exclusive and less inclusive place to live. He ends by saying that a suburb in not an ideal public sphere and that the city is most often the more practical solution to the many problems facing the living environments of low-income citizens.

RA: Role of physicality in relationships

In his text City of Rhetoric, David Fleming suggests that our physical place in this world plays a role in our function in society. Where we situate ourselves results in the formations of different groups of people. Most often these are based on socioeconomic class, ethnic background and even political ideology. We see that this association of like people has an effect on the ability to connect with one another and create an inclusive space. Fleming begins to examine the different types of areas people live in in his chapter entitled “A New Civic Map for Our Time.” He begins by discussing the importance of being an active member in your given society; Fleming writes, “it does not matter where you are a citizen, just be one” (37).  People most often consider political participation important when it deals with a national scale, however, Fleming finds it most important to be active in your local surroundings. Each person experiences a very different political environment based on where they live. Those in largely populated areas have a set system in place to govern and are often able to participate in public discourse as a result of the wide variety of ideas and beliefs filling the area. As for those situated  somewhere with a smaller population they often have their own people governing and are sharing similar belief systems with one another. In this case there tends to be less space for debate; the citizens share their living environments along with their belief systems.

Fleming takes his ideas regarding geographical position and begins to examine their impact on our rhetoric. His implication that we are a nation-state, appears to affect our development of linguistic understanding as a society. The political forces that drive our government are the same that drive our educational institutions. Fleming notes that in schools, the current events discussed and the history lessons taught are centered around national politics rather than more local issues. This issue is paralleled in the teaching of reading in writing although in a different sense. He explains this by saying, “because of the centralized nature of the publishing industry…composition was largely the same wherever it was taught, a sameness that was…specifically American” (39). This instruction did not take into account the many different subcultures that had emerged in the millions of neighborhoods these students descended from.

Tadic, Nenad. The Power of Neighborhoods. Digital Image. Gapers Block. N.p. 21 February 2104 Published. Web. 2 October 2106.

Fleming goes on to discuss the impacts of urbanization. The development of these areas subsequently resulted in the development of neighborhoods; people choosing to live in the same vicinity as one another based on likeness. Fleming says this was a result of the heterogenous nature of the urban environments. A sense of “complexity” and “intermingling” had been established in these places and people needed to created a more “rational” community (46).  By creating these neighborhoods people were able to establish a small space within a larger one; which goes back to Fleming’s ideas mentioned earlier. A dilemma is presented in this situation; how can democracy be established and public discoursed be conducted? Smaller democracies promote public participation and a feeling of a shared common good whereas larger democracies allow for diversity and individual freedoms. Fleming proposes a solution: the city. This remedies the division between the vastness of the nation and the seclusion of a neighborhood. It unites the two and allows for a more cohesive functionality. Flemings ideas are later explained through examples, such as the city of Chicago, and he proves that the landscape of a city remedies the issues mentioned earlier while also creating new ones.