(Hu)Man Enough: Design Interventions for Facilitating Familial Conversations About Gender and the Discontainment of Masculinity
A world of hegemonic masculine content immerses children indiscriminately, no matter whether guardians support hegemonic standards for boys. Portrayals of masculinity in the media imprint the male societal construct on children, leaving guardians to protect their children from the emotional harm of toxic masculinity. Through my design research and graphic design practice, I aim to help guardians intercede and establish conversations about healthy gender expression. Guardians often are the first role models children have, so they must challenge their preconceived expectations of how men and women should act, encourage healthy behaviors, and support personal expression. Guardians can be more productive in facilitating impactful conversations with their children when they can thoughtfully talk about their fears, uncertainties, and disappointments. I created Many, a brand to provide a roadmap to guardians on the journey of their child’s self-discovery. I designed a website and a conversational guide in the form of a children’s book. The core messages relayed in this children’s book span identity, vulnerability, self-love, and more. Guardians can educate themselves on gender issues and media messaging on the website as well as self-reflect on their gender expectations through prompts designed as a precursor to reading the book with their children. As opposed to using lecturing, this book facilitates the practice of listening. This communication is built into the narrative and allows the child to voice their ideas about these important topics. Tandem growth of guardian and child is possible through the shared exploration and answering of the provided prompts. Guiding conversations through the many versions of boyhood creates a safe emotional space for introspection in the early developmental years (ages 0-6). Educating on healthy gender expression (respectable human behavior) will hopefully break of the cycle of patriarchal exploitations of marginalized groups. Disrupting the inner policing of performative-masculinity of self and others will inherently disrupt the societal restriction of non-male-heteronormative expression and agency.
Branding, Masculinity, Gender, Sexuality, Parenting, Boyhood