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What Design Can Do: violence against femininity

Collaboration between members: STBY, WDCD and Antonia Weiss

On 15 September STBY and WDCD organized a workshop to get a better understanding and explore the area of gender equality and violence against women. The first question was what to even call the area.

The session involved experts and designers to figure out what issues need addressing, and that they cannot address alone. The thought behind this approach is that designers are particularly well positioned to address complex issues that need several different partners to get to solutions.

There were three groups: all a mix of experts from different organisations and designers. The groups were asked to each find a problem that none of the experts can address with their organization alone, a problem out of their reach. These were:

-            How can we stop violence in cyberspace?
-            How can we humanize gender?
-            How can we create a safe space for everybody in society?

The groups each explored their own issue, but we could at the end see clear connections between the issues too.

Overall: imagination and creativity needed to address a deeply rooted problem with gender

The main connection between the groups was that however we frame the topic, we do have to conclude the problem is structural and deeply integrated in society. It is also as much a problem for men as it is for women, and any gender, all can be victims, all can be perpetrators - we are in this together as humans. We must address the problem on a cultural and social level, taking a legal approach (forbid and punish) or political approach alone is not enough. These perspectives (social, cultural, legal, political, and others even like technical) need to be combined to be successful, we expect, and they need to be contextualized as big differences exist around the world without one single culture being exempt of the problems. In essence we are looking at a situation not dissimilar from ethnic or sexual inequality. Similar struggles are fought around gender, and violence is abundantly present in all three situations. This makes the topic ‘big’ and as individuals we will feel very powerless if we present it this big. However, it also makes the topic personal and this points towards the opportunity (or better: need?) for every individual to address it. How is the question and this is where WDCD could come in: we need imagination and creativity to find new ways to address the inequalities and violence motivated by people’s thinking about gender.

Where are we now?

Together, at the end of the workshop, we concluded that our explorations had been successful in finding at least a glimpse of new ways to address this very old problem that manifests itself in new ways all the time. That means there was a general feeling that design can make a difference if designers collaborate with experts. Everyone wanted to stay involved and see how we can push this further, into topics and projects that can make a difference.

The way we set up the workshop and our way of bringing people together to address this was much appreciated as open and different to what the individual experts can achieve in their own organizations, leading to ideas and directions that are additional to their current possibilities. Also the designers appreciated how we organized this as they know how difficult it is to get access to this level of expertise as a designer who wants to work on these topics. This puts WDCD, with the STBY partnership, in a strong position as a kind of matchmaker who is capable of creating the situations to define and start addressing the topics that matter in society. We could build on this capability, and put it at the core of a future programme on the topic of gender inequality and violence


What Design Can Do: violence against femininty
15 September 2017

Written by Shay Raviv