In her article “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” Suzanne Tick argues that design must change parallel to society’s understanding of gender. Men, women, and everyone in between are shedding their gender-based identities and expressing themselves in new ways. To stay relevant, designers must follow suit and create spaces that reflect this collective rebirth.
Recent years have seen progress in gender equality that is changing the way people interact with each other and the built environment surrounding them. Tick asserts that the respective roles of men and women have been confronted by scientific and technological advancements and by the modern interpretations of gender in media and politics (1). In both a legal and social capacity, women are gaining more rights and respect. All of this has resulted in a depreciation of the importance of gender because men and women’s now equal footing leaves nothing to be gained by exploiting one or the other.
If gender is becoming a social factor that no longer bears significant weight, Tick believes the design of physical spaces must acknowledge this. Modernism, the design movement that dominates the field today, was born out of male necessity with women as an afterthought (2). The sharp, brutal forms of masculine design have to be softened to match the new age in which they will serve. Elements like nature and texture have become more important in aesthetic choices and should continue to do so as designers embrace the idea of gender-fluid spaces (4). The fashion industry has already made significant progress in this direction. Entire lines of makeup products for men and masculine clothing for women have entered the market. Tick stresses that interior and architectural design should be next to join the movement.
The controversy over bathrooms has been a major hurdle to the future of design that Tick envisions. As possibly the most inflexible gendered spaces, bathrooms fundamentally conflict with the movement away from traditional gender identity. They are spaces where, as they are now, people must make what is for some a difficult choice about their identity just to use them (10). Instead of creating “accommodations” that simply build upon the existing and out-of-date environments, Tick believes it is crucial that bathrooms be included in this design revolution (10). Unisex bathrooms made in addition to gendered restrooms are a step forward, but they should not be the last step designers take (12).
Gender identity is rapidly changing in the eye of the public, and Tick believes designers would be remiss not to acknowledge it. Previous design forms have favored and enforced gender roles and biases, but these are no longer compatible with the mindset of today. Design of physical spaces must incorporate gender-fluidity and grow from there. Some industries and large companies are already taking this societal shift into account in their products or physical spaces, but many are still left to transition.
Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis Magazine. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <http://www.metropolismag.com/March-2015/His-or-Hers-Designing-for-a-Post-Gender-Society/>.