From the moment we enter this world, humans are immediately labeled by the gender norms of society – and all the characteristics that go with them. Masculine and feminine become all-encompassing terms to describe behavior, actions, and activities. And these gender labels aren’t just for humans – they even extend into the world of interior design.
Gendered terms have permeated almost every area of our life, from our clothing to our careers to the ways we express ourselves. And while many people are now redefining the role of gender and what that means to each individual, it continues to have a major influence on how we characterize every part of life. And in our homes, spaces are often characterized as masculine or feminine based on the design style, colors, textures, and materials used. But since a room does not have a gender, it doesn’t make sense to describe it with gendered terms. That’s why we’re no longer using these terms – and encourage you to do the same.
Keep scrolling to learn more about the origins of using gendered terms – and how we can refer to interiors instead.
Read even more about how to refer to design in our post Room For Improvement: How Design Terms Can Be More Inclusive.
Masculine & Feminine IN DESIGN
When we examine masculine and feminine, it becomes clear that these terms are based on stereotypes and long-held cultural “norms”.
“Masculine” is used to refer to anything typically associated with men and the physical characteristics of strength and ruggedness. While “feminine” is an all-encompassing descriptor for all things stereotypically female, soft or delicate. Therefore when describing interiors, masculine is often the label used for industrial spaces, dark colors, and lots of woodwork, while feminine is used for spaces with light colors, floral motifs, and softer more pastel shades.
But when we generalize interior design in these terms, we not only enforce gender stereotypes, we also limit design and how we think of materials, patterns, colors, and styles.
By allowing all design components to exist outside the realm of gender classification, we can see interiors for simply what they are – beautiful spaces.
Removing gender labels from interiors also helps us see how we have categorized other inanimate objects, and how constricting it can be for us to use gender to describe things in those terms. And while we have all been conditioned to categorize and apply gender, the good thing is we can also unlearn these ideas. We want to challenge that norm and we want to challenge the design world to think beyond some of the things that have become so commonplace. So, challenge yourself to re-think how you view a space – without applying gender to it.
HOW DO WE de-gender design?
Rather than using the word masculine to describe a dark, moody, minimal, rustic or any combo of the aforementioned descriptors, instead, take the gender out of it and describe the room by what is in it. The room could be moody and minimal, or industrial and bright. It’s about de-gendering with your description vs boxing it all into one word.
The same goes for rooms that may be classified as feminine. Rather than calling a pink, light and airy room feminine instead call it light and bright or pink and inviting. Challenging ourselves to not lump a room into what gender we think would gravitate towards that room will help us to de-gender design and work towards a more inclusive and descriptive design vocabulary.
Simply think of things as what they are, and not what you’ve been told they are. You may be surprised at just how a small shift in perspective can give you a whole new outlook.
What are your thoughts on de-gendering design? Let us know in the comments below?