Design and a Post-Gender Society

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Suzanne Tick, in her “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” the central argument is that modern-day designers must use their craft to promote acceptance and change in society. Before stating her claim, Tick refers to the breakdown of traditional concepts of femininity and masculinity defining societal norms. The path her article follows begins by explaining traditional concepts of gender, then how the perceptions of gender are changing, and finally, the affirmation that design can be a method to view these changes and further them.

Immediately after stating her claim, suggests that the modern design landscape is still stoic and rooted in the past. Tick states it is “still deeply rooted in Modernism, a movement shaped by a predominantly male perspective.” She introduces this perspective and then furthers her point by stating historically, men have dominated design because of the tendency to gravitate towards power roles in offices. After reading this part of her article, her readers may seem alarmed, dismayed, or disappointed because Tick’s writing suggests the male-centric paradigms on which the design landscape is based on is negatively hegemonic.

In the next part of her article, Tick argues that the male-dominated design workforce is subject to change, and she does this in two sections. First, Tick references well-known phenomenons like Emma Watson’s He for She campaign, and the successes of the LGBTQ rights movement. According to Tick, these movements initiate the need for solidarity of all genders because they implore men to “join the cause for gender equality, both here in America and around the world.” Men are beginning to help deconstruct norms in society that have benefited them for so long. This is supported by the second section, which suggests that women are becoming more prominent in the workforce because of the role of Mother Nature, which inspires workplace sustainability, hospitality, and softness.

Tick acknowledges that this change may not be easy, but she argues it is a natural human phenomenon. In this part of her article, Tick relates her argument back to the design landscape and names designers and their work as evidence of changing gender norms. For example, Alexander Wang’s women’s coat from Fall 2015 has “masculine tailoring with a military coat,” and Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin makeup line “has been designed to be appealing to the male buyer.” However, this may confuse people because it is human nature to be uncomfortable with concepts that don’t inherently make sense. Tick introduces the struggle of being labeled an outcast, much like Martine Rothblatt, trans CEO of United Therapeutics. However, Tick cites that the change is only natural. She suggests that issues regarding gender and bathrooms, for example, are rooted in the need to include and support others. She also suggests that design has evolved in a way to support people with disabilities for the same reason.

To close her essay, Tick emphasizes the concept that the changing design landscape is evidence of the emergence of a post-gender society. In her words, “…we need to design for the accumulation of different human beings who are out there by being respectful to individual needs, and creating environments in which people can have their own individuality.” By saying so, Tick affirms that the hegemonic concept of male-centrism in the workplace is breaking down, and design can viewed as a medium through which we can both see and add to this change.

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