As Rawsthorn says, “Design has to find new ways of enabling individuals to express an increasingly fluid and nuanced multiplicity of gender identities, not just in easily customisable fields like fashion and graphics, but in objects, spaces, software, and so on.” Some projects rise to the challenge: Toca Boca’s learning apps are deliberately gender neutral, as are the Twine video games designed by Porpentine and Anna Anthropy.
So, is it possible to design without gender? Of course it is, if we take the problem into account. If, on the contrary, we try to continue designing with teams that share the same demographic and social-cultural context we will probably not get very far in the race to achieve a more egalitarian society. As the architect Zaida Muxi says, from the different realities we live, we obtain different experiences, and therefore different baseline data to tackle the technical resolution of any project.
Taking again the example of Caroline Criado’s book, it would not have occurred to any of us that pregnant women could need a parking space closer to the office door if we had not been pregnant ourselves (although to use this word for men is a bit much) because our experiences make up our reality and contemplate its solutions.
The challenge faced by design is to be genderless because, nowadays, there are many barriers to be overturned, such as gender roles, and many new realities, such as transsexuality. Genderless design means building cities and spaces without gender or hierarchies, inclusive languages, and products that take into account physical differences and the needs of as many realities as possible.
It is not an easy road, but it is without doubt the road towards a fairer society. Designers need to be curious and daring to increase their baggage of experiences, to read everything and everybody, to work on empathy with other people and to insist from their schooldays on an inclusive and collaborative education. Whilst we travel this road, there is no harm in continuing to enhance the value of female role models in all fields, and of course in design, as an innovative methodology to resolve our realities, always with the premise of considering the needs of all genders to the detriment of none.
Let us hope that one day the adjective “genderless” will no longer be used because it will be unnecessary, owing to its being obvious and superfluous.
– Sara Antolín.