a colleague was asking for feedback on something he was designing for a class.
him: “they choose their avatar… they can choose a boy avatar or a girl avatar.”
me: “do you have any non-boy or non-girl avatar options?”
him, making ‘come ON sava’ eyes at me: “sava, these are 12-year-olds.”
me: “all the more reason to show them that gender doesn’t need to be a thing!”
him, patting my knee: “that’s your thing, sava.”
me: “that’s the world’s thing!”
but I was already ignored, written off as the crazy person who wasn’t focusing on the right thing.
I let it go… because at that point I would’ve become an asshole for “derailing the conversation” and making it about gender. but honestly? I think that these are exactly the kinds of situations in which we need to examine how we are propagating gender-normative behavior in the things we design and build.
not paying attention to this and not addressing it in everything we do further propagates the stereotypes and the bigotry and the sexism and the gender inequality that pervade our society.
I will address this issue with my colleague again, within a more appropriate context and setting (even saying that makes me angry at myself – any context in which it is not addressed should be the appropriate context!) because it’s important to be aware of our own biases and conditioning and inclination to conform to the prescribed gender dichotomy. or any kind of bias that excludes anybody.
we need to recognize that we, as educators, researchers, teachers, designers, human beings… have a responsibility to challenge things that encourage bias and exclusion.
maybe my colleague will read this and maybe he’ll think about it and maybe he’ll understand the point I’m making and maybe he’ll change the options in his design.
I can only hope.