Working together in a small group and providing each other with feedback, fresh perspectives and further ideas was, as always, incredibly helpful. I didn’t leave the lesson with a refined design outcome, or even a refined problem statement, however I did leave with a mind ticking full of ideas. It was clear from my inability to properly articulate my problem statement and possible design outcomes to my group that my idea needed to be further developed and refined. My first step in doing so was to review all of the research I had done over the semester and use this as a basis for redefining my problem statement and allowing me to narrow the focus of my potential design outcome.
The design outcome idea that received the greatest response was that of a data-scraping tool which collects Twitter data regarding relevant issues to do with feminism, femininity, and the sexualisation of the female body; for example, a collation of data on “thigh gap” mentions compared with “pay gap” mentions. Both my peers and my tutor were highly amused by this play on language, and we spent some time brainstorming other possible language juxtapositions that could be collected. I soon realised, however, that it would be a struggle for me to find an ample amount of material. Not wanting to leave this possibility behind altogether, I realised that I could combine a few of my previously outlined possible design outcomes as a way of fleshing this idea out; the thigh gap/pay gap comparison was a starting point, and, into this, I integrated an exploration of the broader constructs of “femininity” and “masculinity”, how this impacts the way we perceive and relate to our own bodies and selves, and the role these constructs and resulting “everyday sexism” play in the oppression of women.
Project title: TBC
Generative design based off data and opinion collection, integrating data visualisations as content
The culturally and historically constructed concept of “femininity” is limiting, and detrimental to all attempts towards gender equality. It is also detrimental to young women’s perceptions of themselves, thus their mental health, as well as to interactions between women and men. Femininity and masculinity as cultural constructs are a form of bodily control and a maintenance of patriarchal power, reinforcing gender stereotypes and maintaining the oppression of women. Women aged 18-24 are vulnerable as they begin to navigate and develop their identity within the “real world” and need to be provided with platforms which encourage empowerment and self-acceptance, and challenge inhibitive social constructs and resounding societal expectations and norms.
The possible change:
The proposed design intervention will specifically focus on women aged 18-24 in Australia, existing to redefine the constructs of “femininity” and “masculinity” and tackle the issues of gender stereotyping and bodily objectification. The design will aim to foster a sense of communal empowerment and encourage self-acceptance, and provide an impetus for discussion between young women. Through a communal movement which redefines “femininity” and “masculinity” and allows for the involvement, contributions and collaborations of many, the issues of socially constructed oppression mechanisms will be addressed and explored in an optimistic and supportive way.
The design action to support change:
Through data scraping social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram, I have identified key issues that concern 18-24 year old women in regards to self-empowerment, the sexualisation and objectification of the female body, and the impacts of the social constructs of “femininity” and “masculinity”. I intend to break down these issues and provide a service to young women in the form of a zine which encourages self-empowerment, explores themes of gender and self-love, and deconstructs societal expectations, norms and taboos in a positive way. The development of a zine is appealing, affordable, and has the potential for collaboration and expansion in the future as word-of-mouth and personal experiences give the zine a voice within its context. While this design operates on a small scale, it also operates on a very personal level, which arguably has the potential for a higher impact on its audience. The zine could potentially include literature, art, stories, data visualisations, and information drawn from data, as a way of empowering and redefining “femininity” and exploring the notion and effects of the patriarchal worldview.
This design action has the potential for exploring key issues relevant to feminism in our modern discourse, as well as providing a platform for various forms of discussion regarding the historical background, social contexts and resounding impact of “femininity” and “masculinity” as patriarchal constructs. It could explore the way in which our expectations of “femininity” impact the way we view women’s bodies and the way women view and relate to their own bodies, as well as having the potential for exploring “everyday sexism” and the subconscious objectification of women’s bodies that occurs in our society. I intend to collate relevant data from Twitter and Instagram as a basis for these explorations within the zine, as well as calling for submissions from people who feel that the zine’s focus is relevant to their own life experiences.
Madeleine Lumley Prince