Gender Neutral Object – Desk Chair

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For my object I tried to think of something used equally by both genders. Everyone sits down, everyone uses chairs. By this logic a chair is absolutely gender-neutral.

Upon further investigation, a desk chair is more than that. This isn’t a chair you would necessarily find in any cubicle as the comfort is at least above average. I picture a chair of this design (although likely much more expensive) in the office of a high-ranking person. CEOs and other high-ranking business people are traditionally men. When you look at it this way, the chair is masculine.

On the other hand, a comfortable desk chair has some traits we commonly categorize as feminine. The cushion has more curves and is gentler. It’s something used to seek comfort over standing or sitting on the ground. It’s flexible, not stubborn (it leans back and spins). By this logic, the chair is feminine. Really it is all a matter of perspective.

When I encounter someone who is androgynous in person I often feel slightly uncomfortable. This stems from the initial confusion, but more importantly from what I should call them. Calling a woman “sir” or a man “ma’am” is pretty embarrassing and might make them feel bad about their appearance.

One distinct example I can remember is when me and one of my friends were serving people at a benefit meal in high school. My friend Ryan served this kid in a t-ball outfit (with a hat on) and said, “Here you go buddy.” The grandfather plainly says something to the effect of “that’s a girl.” My friend felt really awkward. However, what was more bothersome to me was that the grandfather was reinforcing traditional gender roles by being offended, while simultaneously expecting us to not assume a kid wearing a t-ball uniform is a boy.

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4 thoughts on “Gender Neutral Object – Desk Chair

  1. Chairs are very good example, because that made me think of my husband’s desk chair at work. His chair is “sports biased” believe it or not. His desk chair is ORANGE and in his definition it is a Longhorns chair and I wouldn’t sit in it because I don’t care about Longhorns, haha.

    My desk chair at work is designed for a petite, which I am, and it is not as cushy as the chair in the photo bit it is as gender neutral as petties go. You gave good points about how a desk chair can appear as feminine or masculine. Some are designed to be feminine or masculine, but I believe more and more are now gender neutral. You stated, “I picture a chair of this design (although likely much more expensive) in the office of a high-ranking person. CEOs and other high-ranking business people are traditionally men. When you look at it this way, the chair is masculine.” and that doesn’t sit with me well because there are a couple of high-ranked females. That made me think of office clericals and they are typically females (like me) and they do not get as nice chairs like the males do. So, with gender neutral chairs, anybody can have a nice cushy chairs, right?

  2. What a great idea-using chair as your example! I really like your explanation and argument in a very logical way. I currently have a chair like this design at home and the fact that I really hate sitting on it because it is very large and uncomfortable. I am a petite myself so I like things simple. My boyfriend bought the chair so the chair just like your photo is more suitable for his size. From afar, seeing this chair made me think that it is gender-neutral for businesslike people. But that perspective of mine has completely changed after I sat on the chair and I immediately knew that it was more fitting for the men. After sitting on that chair, I have to admit that I felt like every item is designed for men. However, I agreed that it is a matter of perspectives and gender plays a large role in interior design choices.

  3. Using a chair is really smart for this discussion example. Chairs are something that come in an unlimited amount of designs and except very oddly colored ones would always be seen as gender neutral. By them being so common in our every day life I feel as if people often overlook them as an item that can be seen as gender neutral. From traditional computer chairs to table chairs, the market is filled with so many different designs that there is always options for what someone chooses to use depending on their preferences and while choosing they still have a wide range of gender neutral options.

  4. I feel like your description of encountering an androgynous person is the same for pretty much everyone. People are always uncomfortable with things that they’ve never seen before. Once they become more familiar with the unfamiliar thing, they start being more comfortable around it. That’s one of the reasons I think some people are super aggressive towards androgynous people, because they don’t understand them & have most likely aren’t even trying.

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