Should “He & She” Still Exist?

“Identity is no longer clearly defined as female or male, but by increasingly visible manifestations of sexuality or lack thereof.” This quote, among many in Suzanne Tick‘s article “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” suggests that binary gender identification is currently being defied. In some cases, “traditional” gender roles (as we know it) have been manipulated and switched around. Tick argues that designers should consider the societal shift in their work to encourage the use of post-Modernistic styles, which will complement the progressive movement in identity.

Tick states male dominance is still heavily prominent in design, especially where the Modernistic form is still present. In other industries, such as in technology, male employment is statistically higher. Today, women are increasingly gaining access to leading positions and this change has been reflected in the architecture of buildings and selected materials used in the interiors. Since fashion trends change so often, they are first to undergo modification. A coat form Alexander Wang’s Fall 2015 clothing line had typical men’s style tailoring. Annemiek van der Beek debuted “a collection of make up for men“, though usually, make up is targeted to women.

In defying gender, Tick included an account of students not putting their gender, refusing to identify with male or female. At the end of that paragraph, she refers to her audience using “we”, referring to her fellow designers about the need to accept nontraditional gender roles. The last section of her article shifts to the topic of bathroom and those issues should be dealt with in the workplace. She sides with making accommodations in the design of restrooms (and other public space), so individuals don’t have to select a gender and they can be comfortable in the given environment.

Intimidate, Frustrate, and Accommodate: The Fight for Equal Rights to Public Restrooms

Under a New York Times Magazine collection of essays titled “First Words”, Emily Bazelon explores something most people in the United States would consider a simple right: the act of using a public restroom. In contrast to the aforementioned statement, reality reveals access to public restrooms is not as welcoming to a progressive population of individuals who identify as transgender. This struggle has since driven a call of action for “accommodations” to be made in favor of the implementation of gender neutral restrooms.

Bazelon opens the article with a general description of most public restroom entrances; a door (or the adjacent wall) adorned with an acrylic sign, labeled either for men or women. She addresses the reader in second person:

“They’re fundamentally fraught spaces, where we undress and obey the dictates of our bodies and therefore feel vulnerable. If people think you’ve confused male and female and walked through the wrong door, you risk discomfort, or even real trouble.”

The first instance of legislation discussed in the article was a proposed ordinance for the city of Houston, Texas. It would have defended individuals against discrimination in public spaces, which included restrooms. Groups in opposition of the ordinance created a grim campaign video (also inserted below) that focused on violence in bathrooms to sway voters not to pass the law. School districts are also handling transgender rights, on a case by case basis.

After defining the origin of “accommodate”, Bazelon provided examples of historical accommodations in the United States. Citizens have been granted permission to observe religious practices in the workplace, and more recently, the Americans With Disabilities Act broadened access to public spaces that were previously unavailable to the physically challenged. The separation of restrooms occurred much earlier as a way to accommodate women who left their homes during the day to work or enter places “previously dominated” by men. Over time, women have collectively designated the women’s restroom to be an estrogen-dominant territory.

Today, activists are fighting for gender inclusive (or “all-gender”) single-stalled restrooms for transgender people to have a form of privacy. Bazelon continues to describe the account of a preadolescent transgender girl who simply wants to fit in with her peers. The school allows her to use the same locker room as the rest of the girls.

The author later compared accommodations for disabled people to the start of making accommodations for transgender people. Bazelon claims making  changes in spaces, such as public restrooms and locker rooms, are all “about relatively small adjustments for the sake of coexistence.” In the last paragraph, she references a resource guide, developed by the Transgender Law Center, that provides information on how someone can protect themselves from a bathroom access issue. Bazelon also inserted quotes from the text which where examples of what could be done if someone was encountered in the restroom. She then ends the article, focusing on a specific word from the resource guide: “belong.” The human desire to fit in and belong is not inessential; it’s vital.

Cut Off & Shut Out: A Summary of Schindler’s Article

In Sarah Schindler’s article, “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment”, she deconstructs the various gambits communities and governments (local, state, and federal) use to target and deter a specific group of people from having the opportunity to experience a public good. Schindler chose to divide her article in five parts with each section focusing on a different aspect of “architectural exclusion”. The organized sections develop a logical argument that exposes the detrimental structural components that stall movement and integration within the borders of a certain area.

After the detailed table of contents, Schindler opens the article with short representations examples of oppression. All of the descriptions are cases that occurred in the United States; every one taking place in the past 100 years. The first two main sections of the piece discuss the theory and practice of architectural exclusion (1935).

The first part analyzes the writings of other scholars who discuss the limitations of design in any given “built environment” (1940-41). Continuing in the same path, the second part provides more detailed accounts of architectural exclusion. Throughout the entire, Schindler claims architectural exclusion is a common form of social injustice that tends to victimize individuals who are “poor” and “of color”. She argues that this population is more likely to deal with obstacles of urban development that hinder their ability to be more dynamic.

Throughout the piece, Schindler draws from actual instances of exclusion to prove the theory of architectural exclusion is real.

“A paradigmatic example of architectural exclusion through physical barriers is Robert Moses’s Long Island bridges that were mentioned in the Introduction to this Article. Moses set forth specifications for bridge overpasses on Long Island, which were designed to hang low so that the twelve-foot tall buses in use at the time could not fit under them”(1935).

She creates a strong argument by insisting built environments not only influence the appearance, but that it also affects those who occupy the environment itself.