Gender Mortise-Tenor Joint

Discursive Design, 2020

When people discuss matters under the premise of mutual respect, there will always be a party politely said: "Sit down first", "Let's sit down and talk.”

Gender Mortise-Tenon Joint are such two chairs.

Sit down first, then discuss gender equality.


For the first time, I realized that gender equality is not a completed cause, but still like a joke, on the Internet. Feminist male-bashing has come to sound like a cliche. Feminism, its loudest proponents vow, is about fighting for equality. The man-hating label is either a smear or a misunderstanding. However, on the Internet, and on the social platforms in China where I work, feminists are constantly being stigmatized and even labeled as "boxers". Discourses about justice and equality seem to be cast as conspiracy in the face of attacks on stigma.


Yet a lot of feminist rhetoric today does cross the line from attacks on sexism into attacks on men, with a strong focus on personal behavior: the way they talk, the way they approach relationships, even the way they sit on public transit. Male faults are stated as sweeping condemnations; objecting to such generalizations is taken as a sign of complicity. Meanwhile, similar indictments of women would be considered grossly misogynistic.


When more such quarrels and attacks appeared on my mobile phone, I was deeply aware that the online world has greatly contributed to an unhealthy conversation environment, resulting in gender antagonism no longer out of reach. This deeply hurt the unfinished cause of equality.


We need a healthy environment for dialogue, we need to respect each other, we need to identify with each other, and we lack a platform to provide these. Undertakings similar to gender equality are even more needed. Therefore, I want to make design as the “platform".


When I remembered that my design purpose was to stimulate discussion, everything became logical. I imagine what a formal and dignified dialogue environment should be like. It should provide seats for speakers, which is the most basic. Speakers should invite each other to sit down and start a dialogue from an equal perspective. Therefore, I use the "chair" as a key artifact for an equal dialogue.   


I need this kind of chair to have a strong morphological semantics. On the basis of preserving the function and practicality of the chair, it can exist quietly in social life, and can be a tool to stimulate discussion anytime and anywhere.


To this end, I designed the following structure.

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The specially designed structure allows the chair to remain stable without being affected by external forces. When the experiencer wants to sit down as usual, she/he has to consider the difficulty of sitting firmly. It is puzzling that the two chairs face the same dilemma in the opposite state. Both parties need to work together to splice the special connection keys together to find a solid way to build trust. The suggestive discursive context composed of two chairs integrates the thinking of gender relations into the movements of the experiencer. Establish connections, establish stability, support each other, find balance, and break opposition. 

Please be aware that personal behaviors that lack attention and empathy, such as large movements and sudden changes, may have adverse effects on people in the same environment as you. Whether this is unintentional or not.

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When you find that your behavior is not essentially different from another person, do you still criticize it? When did the cautious mood begin to appear?