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.

The Rhetoric of Mixed-Income Communities

Northtown Village mixed income housing development. Source here.

In chapter 6 “The New Urbanism” of City of Rhetoric, David Fleming explains the idea of the economically diverse urban village in Chicago. More specifically, Fleming argues that mixed-income urban communities (created to avoid conflict by walling out differences) are based on unrealistic dreams of social harmony. For example, he shows that reports on the success of mixed-income communities show that communities are biased toward high-income residents especially when the success of mixed-income development plans relies not only on the rich but on low income residents meeting the standards of higher-income residents. With this, Fleming then suggests that the mere foundation of mixed-income urban communities does not allow for social harmony. For Fleming, then, building communities amongst diverse people is not the answer for avoiding conflict because it creates inequality instead of harmony.

Why does this matter in a broader context? If we define that a healthy public life is the goal in a broader context then the building of communities that absorb the diversity among its individuals (that intend to stabilize conflict but instead have the opposite effect) place us farther away from achieving this goal. Promoting mixture instead of difference increases inequality and conflict and in turn decreases the number of interactions between people that leads to a healthy public life.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “Chapter 6 The New Urbanism.” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 2009, pp. 121–148.

 

Diversity (Digital Archive #5)

Dupont Circle houses chic boutiques, trendy bars, and popular culinary attractions. This attracts a variety of people that seem to range from middle to upper class. On a Sunday morning, which is when I visited the site, Dupont Circle was filled with children, owners and their pets, couples, and groups of people. There was a jazz band set up in one of the green areas and it gave the area a very relaxed and happy mood. Alongside the benches in the green pastures people sat and chatted and enjoyed the morning peacefully. Based on the kinds of people that I saw I can conclude that Dupont Circle attracts a varied but homogenous class of middle to upper class people.

Meeting Schedule & Member Contribution Form (Digital Archive #4)

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This scanned document is the two pieces of literature that are offered at the center. The first page of the first document details the times, dates, and locations of the meetings for the week. On the back page of the first document is a list of the rules of conduct of the club and the consequences for violating them. The second document is a member inscription form for those who would like to contribute monetary support to the club, since it is a nonprofit. The second document lists membership costs and fees by month and year, it also gives room for solitary donations. At the bottom of the page it explains the need for such contributions:

“membership contribution allows the Club provide a safe, clean, organized, and welcoming space for a variety of 12-Step Recovery groups, and helps assist for a prudent reserve in order to stay in Dupont Circle for the long-term.”

The club has depended on these contributions for the last twenty-eight years and continues to do so.

Farmers Market (Digital Archives #3)

I visited the site on a Sunday Morning and encountered the infamous tradition of the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. Upon walking around, checking the different stands and what they offered, people watching, and a little grocery shopping I was able to get a feel of the type of people that Dupont attracts. The prices at the Farmers Market were definitely on the pricier side for what was being offered, meaning that the Farmers Market attracts people that can afford to buy four dollar tomatoes and two dollar apples. Attracting a group of a higher class creates a friendly and serene environment where people feel comfortable taking their families, friends, and pets. The Farmers Market isn’t the only indicative that these neighborhood is one of affluence the types of restaurants and shops that it houses also are a big indicator.

Street View (Digital Archives #2)

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      This video shows the shops and business along the street of Connecticut Avenue where The Dupont Circle Club is located. A series of clothing stores, restaurants, and trendy shops adorn either side of the club. As can be seen the street is clean and well-kept and so are the surrounding buildings. Homeless people are not evident near the building or the surrounding buildings. As can be heard in the video there is minimal noise in the surroundings, it is actually very quiet for the number of people that it attracted the morning I went. I can deduce that minimal noise disturbance can also indicate to a well-mannered higher class group of people.

Entrance (Digital Archives #1)

Above is an image of the Entrance of the Dupont Circle Club building located on 1623 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC 20009.  The Dupont Circle Club shares a building space with two other business: Monica’s Psychic Reader & Advisor and Sherpa Prep a GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) test prep center. The exterior of the building is narrow and the least attractive amongst its neighbors. Further down the sidewalk almost up to the next block a number of homeless people crowd the street. However, the stores on either side are brand name stores that cater mostly to a higher income class group.

Segregation Lead to An Ill Public Life

 

The image depicts a public shared space where individuals can exercise politics to enrich public life.

In chapter four “Ghetto” of City of Rhetoric, David Fleming discusses a healthy public life. More specifically, the controversial issue of whether homogeneity leads to dehumanization. On one hand, Chicago’s whites argue that the homogeneity or segregation of the city is an achievement for white civic life. On the other hand, however, the author, David Fleming contends that segregation is not conducive to a healthy public life because it does not allow for safe spaces of public debate. For example, one of this views main proponents, Massey and Denton, write, “People growing up in such an environment have little direct experience with the cultures, norms, and behaviors of the rest of American society and few social contacts with members of other racial groups”. In this passage, Fleming suggests that segregation dehumanizes individuals by teaching them to avoid other individual’s affairs. For Fleming, then, what is at stake here is the dehumanization of all segregated individuals that in turn promotes the decline of political and social participation.

Why does this matter then? In a larger context, the dehumanization of individuals by means of homogeneity or segregation is what contributes to an ill public life. A healthy public life, according to Fleming, is achieved when spaces allow for individuals to exercise politics.  Place or locality plays a big role in this because spaces that work to categorize people also create universal truths in those specific contexts. However, segregation does not allow for a common space where all these different categories of individuals can come together and diversify their universal truths.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “Chapter 2 ‘The Placelessness of Political Theory.’” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 2009, pp. 19–35.