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.

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