Inclusive – Task_01 – Gender

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Some primary thoughts with no editing as I want to keep them as first thoughts + some visual responses + some links. Hope it flows!

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Patriarchy is embedded in all societal flows – history has shaped that frame of understanding (even in certain cases subconsciously in contemporary days) and it is challenging to come to conclusions, reflections and thoughts that can overturn it. The socio-political elements of it, in all situations from family environment, to education, to sport, to work, are important to be reflected upon. I have a couple of students looking at the role of male power in graphic design and typography, so will be interesting to open cross-connection not only with gender but with the concept and dynamic that a patriarchal system brings to the table with its socio-political elements, as well as the socio-economic aspects of it, building up the history of the roles of men and women, the expectations given to men and women in a variety of forms, and the dynamic of change, and if change, what change…

Just a few days ago we were celebrating 100 years of women voting in the UK – on February 6th 1918 the Representation of the People Act came to force and women were by law first given the vote in UK. How has patriarchy changed by then? Rooted in historical kingdoms and violence, and powering injustice throughout the centuries. Reading Hooks’s Understanding Patriarchy paper, I find troubling and real the fact that still there is a visible sense of a political and social system that identifies males as dominant, powerful, somehow superior, in charge. I mean, even the current BBC (just as one of the various examples coming to light now..) issues with equal pay between men and women covering same roles of talent, experience, responsibilities.

And then how men (who aren’t patriarchal in their being) can challenge that idea of men. At points, as a man, I want to argue back, trying to bring up examples where this isn’t the case. I analyse further my surroundings and can see that things are changing within new generations (still a lot to change of course…), but I also see how that patriarchal dynamic is so very present in family life, in university, in politics, in religion, in economics. And in certain circumstances, even where patriarchal ingredients are far from present, somehow there are situations that at points recall it. I can reflect on countries where I lived such as Italy, Spain, France, Burkina Faso, the US and the UK. Patriarchal systems, within their different degrees, are actually present in various entities and national facets. And so, perhaps, national identity could also be an area to be analysed in its connection and roots of patriarchal needs…? I wonder what are the relationship with nationalism (from a soft to a more strong believe in it) and patriarchal/dominant flow in life for example. Just mind-mapping here…but this also makes me think further about the internationality of my course and group of students and how we can build-up a constructive discussion around it; but also a cross-exchange with tutors, looking at the roots of our academic disciplines too.

From this, to actually shape a more inclusive debate around this topic, I connect with inputs of Hooks’ paper within religion – I grew-up within a catholic system, went to catholic school (and studied post-school with nuns) until I was 10 years old, and lived in a surrounding flow of catholic structure. I think there are good things in the structure, and in certain values (although I am not catholic) but also we should think of: God as male…? As the father…? As the lord…? Why not immensity without gender? Patriarchy within religion and, as that cannot be detached from a social and cultural aspect of society, then reflects on the forming of diverse shapes of the societal framework, even within its grades of colours within/of patriarchy in relation to faith. And so, when researching or reading about religion and the arts (i.e. music, paitings, sculpture, etc), how can’t we reflect on patriarchal practice then, as it is very present and underlined in the messages that artistic creations are also proposing within their tones, layouts, compositions, colours, narratives.

And then, what role has that played, in consequence, within the political responses…? I think of Italy here, just as an example due to my origin for instance, and how we see constant men’s powers and approaches not only leading the country, but also shaping a cultural discourse that then, at points, translates into not putting ethics first, leaning at times into corruption, scandals, etc…a male chauvinism and sexism that fully reflects the patriarchal philosophy in all its negative aspects. OK…now it just came to my mind what just happened in London last month within a gala for charities and how MPs are calling for action and change now, but how unknown that was?

And then, these men are fathers, they are sons, they are husbands, creating psychological imprints of social injustice. A social injustice that then can be fought by men and women who can change it, limiting the patriarchal needs that often come from unseen dynamics, or familiarity…and then often accepted within a “role play”.

And so, roles to play…



Roles to play that then clash with different perspectives. And here, connecting to the documentary on Marsha P. Johnson, a patriarchal system would not accept differences on gender identity, or recognise the importance to value diversity. And so, within the role playing, I start reflecting that performance is then an artistic response to this “role playing” model and scenario of thinking, allowing factors of fashion, music, drama, comedy to come to the surface as arguments and tools for social change and impact. This comes also into graphic design, media art, digital hacks…as well as photography and other creative practices, and so the artistic community questions the boundaries that we are given. Here is something within the Arts Council that I was looking into last year:, as well as this one where I have also worked on with parallel workshops and discussions:, and then this project of a former student of mine, looking at queer identity in art and design, and playing with concepts of product design:

I want to see Grayson Perry’s UAL talk next Wed 14th Feb afternoon, part of the Changing Mindsets programme. If you can go, here is the registration form:

Within the arts we can push those boundaries more and more with artistic experimentation and cultural inclusion. But how can we expand outside to create a more open discussion within local communities for example? Personal change to internal institutional change to outreach development for opening new exchanges?


2 Replies to “Inclusive – Task_01 – Gender”

  1. It is interesting what you said: “and then, these men are fathers, they are sons, they are husbands, creating psychological imprints of social injustice” and how that synchronises so well when Hooks refers to the “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal” government. And then consequences; some of them right in front of our eyes, things that our leaders do themselves, so often hypocritically, just like the male-only charity gala you mentioned. This makes me remember a recurrent opinion that I have about teaching: one of the most important things we have to teach, whatever the discipline, is independent critical thinking. If our students learn to think for themselves, instead of letting themselves be influenced by this ‘culture’, they shall do what is right. I think ‘doing bad things’ is something that children learn through observation, not something they decide to do spontaneously (generally speaking); so we need to revert this.

    My method for promoting students to think for themselves is split in two:
    1. I give them freedom in their assignments – just like we were given the freedom to complete the assignments for this unit; Aisha’s most common answer to our queries was: “up to you”. I think this is very valuable. From my experience, at first students become very nervous, they do not know what to do with that freedom and they often ask me ‘how I would prefer them to complete their assignments’; I constantly reply: ‘you are not doing this assingment to please me or anyone, you are doing it to learn and I will assess your scientific knowledge, your rationales and your critical thinking – if I like e.g. the product that you made is unimportant because we are different people with different tastes. Your grade is based on your written work, not on my opinion on your product’.
    2. Many students’ nightmare: when it comes to projects, I ‘force’ them to think by themselves by resufing to spoon-feed them, meaning that the things I know they can easily find the answer for by themselves, I do not give them the answers; I tell them ‘I do not know, you tell me’.

  2. Really keen to see the work on the role of male power in graphic design and typography. As I mentioned on my blog post Graphic Design is a discipline characterised by obsessive standardisation and formal cues which can definitely perpetrate.

    I have always enjoyed the contribution of practitioners like Neville Brody for example has challenged many axioms of the field infusing it with elements of post-modernism. However what happens when anti conventionality becomes a convention or worse when anti-conventionality doesn’t facilitate the solution of a design problem but actually adds noise to it ?

    When it comes to not “doing bad things” as mentioned by Diogo above much impact comes from observation and influence of surrounding culture for that reason i find your call to push boundaries and seek open discussion within local communities very pertinent.

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