The Fight for the Reinvention of Gender Roles

In Suzanne Tick’s “His and Hers: Designing For a Post-Gender Society,” Tick addresses society’s attempt at becoming more inclusive and accepting through progressive reforms including changing bathrooms, and transgender individuals challenging societal norms in the workplace. Tick claims that “gender neutral design” is the next “frontier in the workplace,” citing the idea that the once traditional  roles of males and females are no longer clearly defined. However, these ideas of inclusion are still met with some opposition, and Tick makes a call to action for fellow designers to help push the effort in promoting this accommodation for non-binary individuals.

A problem many activists run into is that in many ways, society is still set in its ways regarding binary gender norms that have been in place for generations. Tick claims that the “design landscape is still deeply rooted in Modernism” which was shaped by the male perspective. Modernism was a philosophical movement beginning with the dawn of the industrial age, where men like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie of the oil and steel industries still dominated power roles. Even today, being a CEO at a major company is considered to be a largely male role (Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, etc.) Even Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook, while pushing forward societal progression by coming out as gay, is still a man.tim-cook

While this is true, Tick provides an example of the changing paradigm by telling the story of Martine Rothblatt, the transgender CEO of United Therapeutics. Another prominent figure demonstrating the changing tide in the business world is Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has done a number of things for consumers in the Senate including helping with the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Cropped Approved CFF
Cropped Approved CFF

The push for inclusion is also evident in the “He for She” movement, pushing men to help in the effort for gender equality; an example of the binary sexes working toward gender equality together (Watson).

Going back to the design aspect of this progressive paradigm, Tick brings up the widely discussed gender binary bathroom issue. People who have undergone gender reassignment surgery often have problems finding their place in the workplace. Tick reinforces this by talking about a specific case where one person who had had such a surgery experienced discrimination by their co-workers when they went to HR saying they weren’t comfortable having the person in either the men’s room or the ladies room. Some major corporations like Google have gone so far as to create unisex bathrooms to make sure all of their employees felt comfortable at work (Tick).

In her final call to action, she talks about how the Americans With Disabilities Act has still not been fully implemented, with many buildings around the country still without accommodations for handicapped or disabled persons. She wanted to make it clear that this same mistake should not be made with the implementation of accommodations in public spaces for non-binary individuals. However, she says all of the information above including the implementation of non-binary bathrooms and more women challenging the traditionally male roles in the workplaces are significant first steps. This movement is spreading, now with students “standing up to institutions” by not checking the binary genders presented in many college applications, additional advances in the changing paradigm. In her own words, Tick states “Masculine and feminine definitions are being switched and obscured,” so it’s society’s job to accommodate for these changes.

The “Accommodation” Problem

In “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating,’” Emily Bazelon makes a number of cases in favor of bathrooms being inclusive for all– including people who identify as transgender. She addresses the issue of the binary bathroom system that has been previously implemented through recent legislature and stories from individuals while additionally providing examples of ways this can be and has been combatted. Additionally, she ruminates of the issues of the word “accommodation” itself, claiming it sets up a “distinction between the normal and the other” (Bazelon).gnb

Bazelon begins her article by discussing the difficulty many people had addressing the gender binary bathroom issue. She mentions the discomfort created on both sides when people asked (or even just wondered) if people were in the “correct” bathroom. She goes on further to mention the rejection of a “broad, equal rights ordinance in Houston” (later known as the “bathroom ordinance,”) where lawmakers voted against legislation allowing for people to enter bathrooms based on their gender identity vs. the gender that was assigned to them at birth (City of Houston). This could be a result of the hyper-conservative mindset of Houston as a whole, whereas lawmakers reflect the views of their constituents. A similar situation was created in North Carolina with the implementation of the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” a discriminatory law allowing for the denial of entry into public restrooms unless the user is of the same gender identity as their birth certificate. Many have condemned the implementation of the latter, citing its discriminatory and socially regressive nature, including activists and politicians.adfgpfps

Despite this blatant discrimination by state legislation in multiple states, some efforts have been successful in making bathrooms more inclusive. Bazelon cites an incident where a transgender student was denied access to shower with her peers at school by her school district in Illinois. The U.S. Department of Education required the district to allow the girl to shower with her peers. Bazelon also mentions how a simple “privacy curtain” could fix this problem of discomfort created amongst peers in bathrooms. If everyone were able to dress and undress behind a piece of fabric obstructing the view of others, then the problem of intrusiveness is eliminated.

Even though efforts are being made to “ accommodate” for transgender persons across the country, part of the problem could be the word “accommodate” itself. “It often sets up the distinction between the normal and the other,” states Bazelon. It could be argued that a distinction needs to be made in order to satisfy politicians on the more conservative end of the spectrum, while making sure the rights of transgender people are met in the Constitution.

Looking at the bigger picture, even women’s restrooms are disadvantaged. Starting in the Victorian era with the birth the Industrial Revolution, where women more often found themselves in the workplaces that used to be dominated by men, bathrooms were created separating men and women (Bazelon). However, women often have to wait significantly longer than men in the bathroom, considering women only have stalls while men have the luxury of urinals to get in and out of the bathroom quickly. Another form of accommodation could take place in the form adding more stalls to women’s restrooms proportional to the number of stalls/urinals in the men’s room.mb wb

Barring the efforts of conservative state legislators trying to deny transgender accessibility to the bathroom of their gender preference, many progressive efforts have been made to ensure LGBT rights are not encroached on. Bazelon’s concerns of the word “accommodation” itself seem unfounded, because it implies inclusion, regardless of the frame of thought that it implies “normal” people going out of the way of “other” people. The point is, we are moving towards a more inclusive, “accommodating” society.

An External Description of The Metropolitan Police Department HQ

     Today, the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Headquarters is located at 300 Indiana Avenue Northwest; on the same city block as The Newseum and about a block away from the Judiciary Square Metro stop. Its close proximity to a Metro stop, the National Mall, and Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Where the Capital Building resides,) helps explain some of the importance of the building historically. As I was leaving the Metro stop, I found myself looking at the National Building Museum, and as I made my way toward the HQ itself, I passed many well-dressed people, further reinforcing the implication of the hum drum normalcy and even affluence in the area.

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     The Metropolitan Police have been around for more than 150 years. Starting in 1790, when Maryland and Virginia both ceded land for the nation’s capital, or the “Federal City,” as it was called, it was policed by the two states in their own respective precincts for about ten years. The district initially had 10 police precincts, as opposed to the updated 7 which are located 101 M street SW, 3320 Idaho Ave NW, 1620 V Street NW, 6001 Georgia Ave. NW, 1805 Bladensburg Road NE, 5002 Hayes Street NE, and 2455 Alabama Ave SE respectively, the capital residing in District 1. On September 20, 1803, the Mayor of the District appointed the first superintendent of police, with the constables receiving regular salaries March 11, 1851. The Metropolitan Police force was officially recognized under the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln as a result of the Civil War, when the Confederates were amassing forces across the Potomac and it was suspected that Confederate sympathizers were in the capital.history

     One of the most interesting things I found about the building was the building’s name itself. It was named after Henry H. Daly, the officer killed in the shooting that took place November 22, 1994 at the HQ, killing FBI Special Agents Martha Dixon-Martinez, Michael John Miller, and Metropolitan PD officer Henry Daly himself, as referenced in Ruben Castaneda’s S Street Rising. An observation I made looking at the entrance was the presence of large cinder block barriers in the street leading up to the entrance, and a number of short concrete poles closer to the entrance. I’m assuming those are in place to try and prevent a vehicular attack on the building probably built as a follow up to the ‘94 attack or a post 9/11 precaution. This is only a theory, but the Metropolitan Police HQ is the only building I’ve seen with that magnitude of fortification near the entrance. Also notable was the building’s plain appearance. It looked just like the rest of the buildings on the street: flat, tannish stone structures. Parking was available at the very front of the building by the sidewalk. Two statues of eagles stood on either side of the entrance near the concrete barriers. 

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     The combination of the building’s proximity to Pennsylvania Avenue NW and it’s likeness to the rest of the buildings on the block illustrates its importance without allowing any sort of extravagance unafforded to the rest of the buildings. The building’s history is present even in the name.