Gender-Neutral Design Becoming a Universal Design

Suzanne Tick, leading textile designer, in her article “His & Hers? Designing for a Post-Gender Society” focuses on the gender revolution occurring in today’s workplace where individuals are finding androgyny as a commonplace. More specifically, Tick describes this revolution as a human phenomenon that is forcing the current design landscape in the work place to modify itself to accommodate it. In other words, she introduces idea of gender-neutral design in the workplace where people can exercise their androgyny safely and comfortably.  For example, the author expresses that the focus of gend

An example of the implementation of gender inclusive bathrooms at American University.

er-neutral design in the workplace has become the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms. However, this transition has not been smooth because the success of a gender-neutral design depends on the individuals using that designed space. Tick gives an example where both female and male employees expressed discomfort over the idea that a transgender coworker would be using their bathrooms. What she means here is that gender neutral designs in the office depend on our current work culture to react positively to them, and by doing so the creation of a safe space where individuals can just be no matter who they identify as, is possible. For Tick, then, gender neutral design in the workplace matters because it leads to the concept of universal design in a post-gender world.

The concept of universal design in a post gender society is a big conversation in response to the need of changing individuals to feel accommodated and accepted.  In other words, in a world
where androgyny has become a commonplace, neutral spaces need to be created where everyone can express their own individuality safely. On one hand, the architectural world has responded to this conversation with the implementation of gender-neutral design which is a step in the right direction. On the other hand, however, not all individuals agree with this changing design landscape and their rejection of it makes it unsuccessful. This leads to the conclusion that universal design is a great concept because it responds to accommodate our post gender world, but since the success of gender-neural spaces depends on the individuals the space is in direct contact with then it is not truly universal yet.

If further interest in the topic persists, check out my blog post about gender-neutral bathrooms in American University.


In Chapter 10 “Afterword”, David Fleming concludes his book by hoping that in the future the forces that keep us apart and repress our public life will be overcome. More specifically, he places the future of our public life on the youth. For example, Fleming theorizes that if the youth is taught not only the benefits but the tools to create a strong public then in the future they will demand one. From this, Fleming suggests that the current public and their “solutions” is not able to help the rehabilitation of our public life. For Fleming, then, the youth represents possibilities for experimentation and initiative that he hopes will turn out be successful.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “Chapter 10 Afterword .” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 2009, pp. 211–214.

Space Generates Opportunity

Shops on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, an affluent neighborhood in the Chicago community of West Town.
Shops in the Chicago Lawn, the ‘guetto’ of Chicago.

In chapter 8 “Toward a New Socialspatial Dialectic” of City of Rhetoric, David Fleming rhetorically explains the idea that space matters because the organization of it can lead to an equal field of opportunities for all individuals to express their rhetorical voices. More specifically, he argues that there exists a link between individual’s environments and their opportunities. For example, Fleming exposes that one side of the conversation believes that all environments are different and as such provide the individuals whom inhabit them different resources that determine their success. Fleming sides with this view because it explains the unequal distribution of opportunities for individuals. For Fleming, then, designing spaces that provide equal opportunities for individuals increases their possibility for success.

Why should creating an even playing field for individuals matter? The reorganization of spaces that provide all socioeconomic individuals equal opportunities contributes to eradicating the greater thought that chronic poverty is causes by poor individuals themselves. Even though creating spaces that even the playing field doesn’t guarantee the eradication of poverty it increases the chances for its decrease.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “Chapter 8 Toward a New Socialspatial Dialectic.” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 2009, pp. 179–194.

(Original Text with explanation of what was changed can be found below)

Continue reading Space Generates Opportunity

American Civic Identity

In discussion of American civic identity, a controversial issue has been whether cognitive-affective characteristics (advocating for certain values and principles) or ascriptive characteristics (race, gender, social status) are the determinant of it. On the one hand, most endorse that the civic identity of Americans is best defined by cognitive-affective characteristics; in other words, their identity is defined by shared political principles and values instead of by traditions of inegalitarianism . From this perspective, they believe that each citizen is politically equal meaning that ascriptive characteristics are forgotten upon entering the political arena. On the other hand, however, David Fleming argues that in history Americans have never been able to ignore personal and social attributes and that we shouldn’t want to. In the words of Fleming, one of this view’s main proponents,

“To bracket differences does not in fact lessen their effect; it perpetuates the very inequalities that bracketing was meant to set aside, the claim of neutrality allowing its advocates to pretend that privilege no longer functions when in fact it has now been made implicit and inexplicable and thus more powerful and pernicious (Fleming 22)”.

According to this view, bracketing inequalities does not eliminate them but highlights them contradicting it’s whole purpose. In sum then, the issue is whether citizens can and should transcend inequalities when facing each other politically.

My own view is that since the state is a creation of the people and not the other way around then the people shouldn’t have to bracket their identities for the state. Though I concede that American citizenship is founded on the ideal principle that every citizen has an equal voice, I still maintain that the inequality of voices is what makes the citizen equal. Although some might object to the incorporation of ascriptive characteristics in politics, I would reply that these political communities who advocate universal human rights were created in the first place by citizens who understood the importance of context and thus were not disembodied from their identities. The issue is important because our current political government is based on the principle that people will forget traditions of inegalitarianism and become unbiased decision making citizens and I believe that it is clear that the American citizen is not an unbiased one.


Fleming, David. City of rhetoric: revitalizing the public sphere in metropolitan America. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009. Print.