DESIGN

SEXUALITY AND POWER – part 3

In English for example, there are well distinguished grammatical genders such as he-she-it (where the order is significant as well). However when generally speaking it is always the male sex that is being referred to –unless otherwise stated. This is the very point of Wittig, that the female has to be referred; otherwise it is only the male.

Zdzislaw Beksinski

On the contrary, in Hungarian there are no grammatical differences between male and female, grammatically everyone is equal, therefore the word sex does not signify the notion of being male or female, but refers to the sexual act instead. Furthermore gender is a collective noun for both the anatomical appearance (the English sex) and the social gender.

Jacek Malczewski – Thanatos

Another very interesting and controversial example is the Slovak interpretation of the sexes. Male, female and neutral sexes are used; however there are certain exceptions to the grammatical rules, such as the word ‘little girl’ (dievca) which has a neutral gender as if to suggest that it is an open option, it still can ‘turn into’ anything. Yet the word ‘hero’ (hrdina) as a rule should be ‘she’; however for some reason it is again an exception, and grammatically it is male suggesting that being a hero must be a masculine thing. These examples clearly show how different cultures establish linguistic structures, therefore how the public opinion is shaped and embedded about issues on sexuality.

Obraz 1675, Sucha Dolina – piękna śmierć starszej pani, Jerzy Duda Gracz, 1994

The visual language of sexuality seems to suggest just the same as the verbal form analysed above. The simplest example of both visual and spatial separation of genders is the public toilet: different systems of representation, different notation. However controversial, not only do the signs refer to man and woman, but the space is created and distinguished for male and female. This well supports Butler’s claim that ‘the body appears as a passive medium on which cultural meanings are inscribed’ (Butler, 1990:12).

Auguste Belloc

Society seems to construct possible ‘gender configurations within culture’ (Butler, 1990:12) based on biological factors. From an architectural point of view the exterior symbolises the masculine and the interior the feminine referring to the biological features of the sexes and intercourse itself. Moreover as the kitchen appears as a stereotypically feminine space, the study belongs to the man. It is clear how visual elements refer to sexes, moreover how they are associated with different gender roles, a construction of categories of femininity and masculinity established by the society. On a greater scale, the private home indicates the woman, while the urban area indicates the man.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

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