Among all the little things that my bathroom contains, such as a scissor, a manicure set out of stainless steel, various bottles - mostly glass objects, containing shampoo, lotions and oils, a wooden brush and some chaotic snarl, which seems to be hair accessories and bracelets, I see this pink, cute and ergonomic little object - a Venus Gilette razor.
I am wondering why I bought this pink razor. I would never buy something pink. But I bought it, because I needed a razor, and this razor is a „women’s“ razor. I am a woman, thus, I bought it, finding myself in the here and now, being sceptical towards my shopping choice.
I am wondering, what makes this razor female, and why is an object designed according to a certain gender? does the razor stand for a much bigger movement in our designed environment?
Forms play an important role, of course. Socially, angular, square forms and large, dark things are considered male-occupied. Cute, small, soft and round products as feminine. What is decisive to the customer, however, is the overall appearance of a brand and the whole atmosphere that creates it. Also the product names: My lady razor is called "Venus Devine", the one for men „Power 3 Turbo". The content and sound are aimed at the stereotypes. The appearance in the business, the strict division into women's and men's areas, play a role. If you look at this critically and design-analytically, you get a lot about our society. Societal issues like gender inequality, sexism and unbalanced power distributions come to my mind here.
It is only recently that the awareness of the gender has a considerable influence on design as well. This is strange, because design determines our ordinary everyday life everywhere and at any time, and thus also the people of every gender and sexual orientation who are active in this everyday life. There is not a moment in that we are not faced with design, signs and services. And this does not happen solely as a process between subjects and objects, this interaction takes place indispensably as a gender.
Not only cosmetic objects are undergoing a gender transformation. One example is Lego, especially „Lego Friends“ - only designed for girls. A once so beautiful, clever, gender-sensitive game, which has always brought together small boys and girls, is reversed in a way. Previously, Lego wanted to build its own world and let the imagination run wild. "Lego Friends" is designed in Pink and Lila, the characters look like in the manga comics, with dry hips and huge kolo eyes. They are called "Olivia", "Emma" and "Stephanie" and go to the vet with their cats, or having a latte macchiato drink. As if girls were too stupid to construct! There can be seen a setback in design, as opposed to a transformation.
Gender sensible design that caters to a wider spectrum of gender identities, means something else. For example the office chair "Lei" by the Swedish designer Monica Förster. One must know that all high-priced ergonomic office chairs, that is, the ones for the boss days, are only measured by male standards, without this being communicated. It is always about the men's back. But women have a different figure, as well as a different posture. Förster has developed the first high-quality office chair, which is oriented towards women shapes.
Of course todays designers find themselves in a difficult situation, because target groups are not as easy to define as they were 30 years ago. Most people are no longer just a particular target group. They are quite different in the morning when they go to work, and when they go to a club in the evening. The one-dimensionality point of view on specific target groups is projected. Design doesn’t reflect variety, but a generalized and narrowed view over customer targets. This would be an opportunity for companies and designers to abandon this specificity and to be more open to the customer - particularly in the area of gender. In short, sex has a decisive impact on the theory, research and practice of design as well as on utility, use and consumption.
It seems quite difficult to state, what today’s designers roles might be in a capitalist system, specifically in product design. If one wants to make handmade niche products, but rather professional mass products, then one must certainly cooperate with capitalist enterprises. Product design is still clearly in men's hands. Especially when it comes to the more famous names, a few women are breaking it through. This is very clear in the automotive industry. If women make a name at all, then only in the area "color and trim design", meaning everything in the direction of color concept, interior, textile selection. Women are certainly not responsible for rims.
Do we have to think about whether a man or a woman designed an object in order to understand or like it better? Maybe this might be to extreme, but what is clear about stereo-type designed object is, that society rates girls and boys differently. Everything that is cute, sweet, cuddly, is also later transferred to the female resumé. And the core, hard, resolute, willing to take decisions stands for men. Girls, therefore, experience less recognition from very early age. The theme of gender design is, however, seemingly closer to women; they have major problems in design visibility. This is what I can see on myself: I could immediately list at least 20 names of male designers, for female designers, I have to think harder after five or six already.
My pink lady razor made me think about gender design and why the things surrounding us are supposed to be democratic, rather than specified. For a long time, some companies have understood how important ecological and sustainable products are. Now a modern awareness must also develop in the direction of gender.