Please submit your thesis statement as well as an abstract. The thesis statement should be 1-2 sentences (including a subject, claim, and context; see document linked below) and the abstract is around 300 words that does some of the following: establishes the topic, previews primary sources and methodologies, references guiding research questions and is essentially a roadmap of the paper. See Kristina Wilson’s ‘Like a Girl in a Bikini Suit’ for an example of an abstract.Criteria for evaluation: please see Anatomy of a Thesis Statement.pdfPreview the document for what we will be looking for in a comprehensive thesis statement. For abstracts, please refer to the Guide for Writing Abstracts.pdf.Preview the documentAnatomy of a Thesis StatementThesis statements go beyond the main ideaof your research paper, as a main ideais misleadingbecause it suggests a topic only.Thesis statements, like all statements (sentences) always have a subject/topic, but what youwant to say about that topic in an originalway is theclaimthat anchors your research.Ask yourself if your current thesis statement has a claim that you can support with evidence.● Is this support merely gathering information or fact transposition?○ If the answer to that question is “yes” your claim has already been researchedand reported on by other researchers. How can you take this information and interpret it in a context that is unique to yourinterests about how this topic affects the constructed environment?○ Interpretation of existing research IS KEY. Without this interpretation, you are not doing research.Consider the following thesis statement from a book on Victorian Interiors:“The products of industrialization and commercialization, from factory-made furniture to commercially canned soup, permeated, and I argue, enriched the site that was supposedly the haven from these forces during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.” (Grier 1988)Now consider what each part of the sentenceis doing to get the author’s unique point across about the effects of industrialization on interiors:“The products of industrialization and commercialization, from factory-made furniture to commercially canned soup, permeated, and I argue, enriched the site that was supposedly the haven from these forces during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.”Topic:“The products of industrialization”→ What about it?Claim:“permeated, and I argue, enriched the site that was supposedly the haven from these forces during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.”Strong claims express a main idea about the topic(“permeated and enriched the site”) and are specific.This is a weak version of the same thesis statement: “The products of industrialization and commercialization had many causes and effects on the interior.” :(This main idea can be dual-sided (as in complementary or highlight contradictions of its effect on the constructed environment). In the case of this example thesis statement, the effects of industrialization were so prevalent that they made their way into the interior, but not only that, the author goes one step further to argue (“I argue”)that these products actually enhanced the lived experience of a Victorian interior. This specifies what kinds of causes and effects the author is primarily interested in interpreting.Context: This thesis statement is also effective because it builds in context to the argument/claim.“..I argue, enriched the site that was supposedly the haven from these forces during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.”By mentioning that the site was supposedly viewed as a “haven from these forces during the last quarter of the nineteenth century” the author achieves two things:She lets us know that the previous belief/interpretation of Victorian interiors was that they were decorated so richly to avoid and dissociate from the harshness of the emerging industrial life outside of the home.She also gives us a time frame of 1875-1900.Including context in your thesis statements may not always appear as time, but it should narrow down the field enough to let your readers know how your interpretation builds upon or differs from existing research. Context also narrows down the topic to a type of product you are considering, a specific building or typology, a project, material, or time frame. ← This is how you recontextualize an existing topic that may have been written about before.Definition:An abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of 300 words or less, the majoraspects of the entire paper in a prescribed sequence that includes: 1) the overallpurpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basicdesign [methodology] of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result ofyour analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.The abstract allows you to elaborate upon each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Therefore, enough key information [e.g., summary results, observations, trends, etc.] must be included to make the abstract useful to someone who may want to examine your work.How do you know when you have enough information in your abstract? A simplerule-of-thumb is to imagine that you are another researcher doing a similar study. Then ask yourself: if your abstract was the only part of the paper you could access, would you be happy with the amount of information presented there? Does it tell the whole story about your study? If the answer is “no” then the abstract likely needsto be revised.What to include (content):The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique orevaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts asa surrogate for the work itself. That is, the researcher presents and explains all themain arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. Aninformative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptiveabstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it also includes the results and conclusionsof the research and the recommendations of the author. The length variesaccording to discipline, but an informative abstract is usually no more than 300words in length.Formatting:Abstracts should be formatted as a single paragraph in a block format and with no paragraph indentations. In most cases, the abstract page immediately follows thetitle page. Do not number the page. Rules set forth in writing manual vary but, in general, you should center the word “Abstract” at the top of the page with double spacing between the heading and the abstract. The final sentences of an abstractThe abstract SHOULD NOT contain:concisely summarize your study’s conclusions, implications, or applications to practice and, if appropriate, can be followed by a statement about the need for additional research revealed from the findings.The abstract SHOULD NOT contain:Lengthy background or contextual information,Redundant phrases, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and repetitive information;Acronyms or abbreviations,References to other literature [say something like, “current research shows that…” or”studies have indicated…”],Using ellipticals [i.e., ending with “…”] or incomplete sentences,Jargon or terms that may be confusing to the reader,Citations to other works, andAny sort of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references to them.The comments: and the feedback I got from the professorThe only thing I would note here is that you thesis should preview the specific way you are going to illustrate this point about the recent investigations of Rococo Interiors- and be more clear about the timeframe you are exploring:Gender inequality has been prevalent in interior design history from the fifteenth century until recently, when it was changed by Rococo exposure, making modern women recognized.So it was recently that Rococo exposure that made modern women recognized? I don’t think that is the point you are trying to argue- so you need to clear up your associations. Are you saying a ‘recent re-examinations of Rococo interiors has revealed women’s contributions to the field?Also- how are you going to show us this argument- what are your examples/case studies/mediums that you are examining this through? Is it examination of paintings? Of correspondence? Of academic literature?Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design
Author(s): Cheryl Buckley
Source: Design Issues, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 3-14
Published by: The MIT Press
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Cheryl Buckley
Made in Patriarchy:
Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and
1) See, for example, Nikolaus Pevsner,
Pioneers of Modern Design: From William
Morris to Walter Gropius (London: Pen-
guin, 1975); Reyner Banham, Theory
and Design in the First Machine Age
(London: Architectural Press, 1975);
Women have been involved with design in a variety of ways – as
practitioners, theorists, consumers, historians, and as objects of
representation. Yet a survey of the literature of design history,
theory, and practice would lead one to believe otherwise.
Fiona MacCarthy, A History of British
Women’s interventions, both past and present, are consistently
Design, 1830-1970 (London: George
ignored. Indeed, the omissions are so overwhelming, and the rare
Allen and Unwin, 1979); Open University, History of Architecture and Design
acknowledgment so cursory and marginalized, that one realizes
1890- 1939 (Milton Keynes: Open Uni-
these silences are not accidental and haphazard; rather, they are
versity, 1975); John Heskett, Industrial
Design (London: Thames and Hudson,
1980). In these basic textbooks of design
history, two or three women are consis-
tently mentioned. Some books, such as
those forming the Open University
series, acknowledge more women designers, although in all cases the work of
the women who make it into the history
books could be described as modernist.
More recently, Adrian Forty has
the direct consequence of specific historiographic methods.2
These methods, which involve the selection, classification, and
prioritization of types of design, categories of designers, distinct
styles and movements, and different modes of production, are
inherently biased against women and, in effect, serve to exclude
them from history. To compound this omission, the few women
who make it into the literature of design are accounted for within
acknowledged a few more women in his
the framework of patriarchy; they are either defined by their gen-
book Objects of Desire: Design and Soci-
der as designers or users of feminine products, or they are subsumed under the name of their husband, lover, father, or brother.3
ety 1750-1980 (London: Thames and
Hudson, 1986). Some historians have
been careful to declare their biases when
analyzing a particular period. For example, Penny Sparke, in the preface to her
book, An Introduction to Design and
Culture in the Twentieth Century (Lon-
don: Allen and Unwin, 1986), states, “I
should also declare my bias where its
subject matter is concerned. As I am
dealing solely with the period after 1900,
and with design in its most democratic
sense, my main concern is with the
relationship of design with mass-production industry” (p. xvi). She explains that
she does not find craft or fashion irrelev-
ant; indeed, she argues that they are
extremely important. However, she
focuses on specific areas of design
and their relationship to one mode
of production.
2) Consider as an example the near silence
about women’s involvement in the
Bauhaus. Although women were trained
and taught at the Bauhaus, the vast literature on the subject makes scant reference
The aim of this paper is to analyze the patriarchal context within
which women interact with design and to examine the methods
used by design historians to record that interaction.
To a certain extent, this paper is also an attempt to pinpoint
some of the key debates to have emerged in design history in Brit-
ain concerning the role of women and design. Most of these have
taken feminist theory as their starting point. Feminist theory has
been particularly useful in that it delineates the operation of patriarchy and the construction of the “feminine. “4 It has shown how
femininity is socially constructed and how sexuality and gender
identity are acquired at conscious and unconscious levels in the
family and through language acquisition. The work of feminist
historians and art historians has also been important, especially
the critiques of the discipline of history revealing the ideological
reasons for the silence about women.5 As Parker and Pollock have
argued in their book Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology,
“To discover the history of women and art is in part to account for
Design Issues: Vol. III, No. 2
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to their presence. (I include here Gillian
Naylor’s recent updated version of her
the way art history is written. To expose its underlying values, its
assumptions, its silences, and its prejudices is also to understand
that the way women artists are recorded and described is crucial to’
early book on the Bauhaus.) We know a
great deal about Marcel Breuer, Walter
Gropius, Laszl6 Moholy-Nagy, Johannes
the definition of art and the artist in our society. “6 In their writings,
Itten, and Wassily Kandinsky, but how
much do we know about their female
feminist historians have challenged the centrality of individuals as
agents of history and the focus on professional structures and
modes of activity. Instead, they have pinpointed domestic labor
3) The Irish-born designer Eileen Gray has
been defined by her gender as a feminine
designer. Unlike her contemporary Le
Corbusier, her work has been consigned
to the so-called decorative arts. It is only
and non-professional activities as crucial areas of women’s history,
and they have located alternative information, such as oral
sources, to counterbalance the great weight of “official”
more recently that historians have noted
her role in the European avant-garde as a
modernist designer and architect.
In recent years, a feminist approach to design history has been
Margaret Macdonald and Louise Powell
are examples of women designers whose
work has been subsumed under their
placed firmly on the agenda. Feminist design historians, theorists,
husband’s names. Louise Powell was a
and practitioners have attempted to coordinate their activities
pottery designer at Josiah Wedgwood
through teaching strategies, the organization of conferences, and
and Sons in the early twentieth century.
She worked with her husband Alfred
in publications, because, as Griselda Pollock has stated, a feminist
Powell, and, until recently, he alone wasapproach
credited with their joint contribution to
is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective –
Wedgwood. it is a central concern of contemporary design history. As she has
new design development at
Margaret Macdonald is another womanpointed
out, “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an
designer whose work has been ignored in
the history books. When she is acknowl-
strategic terrain.”7
edged, it is only to account for a decora-
tive element in work produced by her
husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh,
Central to a feminist analysis of women’s role in design is an
which debt is inconvenient to a historical
analysis of Mackintosh as a full-fledged
examination of patriarchy.8 Patriarchy has circumscribed
modernist. See, for example, Thomas
Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintoshwomen’s
opportunities to participate fully in all areas of society
and the Modern Movement (London:
and, more specifically, in all sectors of design, through a variety of
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977).
4) See, for example, Kate Millet, Sexualmeans
– institutional, social, economic, psychological, and histor-
Politics (London: Abacus, 1972); ical. The resulting female stereotypes delineate certain modes of
Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch
(London: Granada, 1981);Juliet Mitchell,behavior
Psychoanalysis and Feminism (London:and
Penguin, 1975); Michele Barrett,
Women’s Oppression Today: Problems
as being appropriate for women. Certain occupations
social roles are designated female, and a physical and intellec-
tual ideal is created for women to aspire to. These stereotypes have
Marxist Feminist Analysis (London:had enormous impact on the physical spaces – whether at home or
Verso, 1980).
at work – which women occupy, their occupations, and their
5) See, for example, Sheila Rowbotham,
Hidden From History (London: Plutorelationship
Press, 1980); Jill Liddington and Jill
Norris, One Hand Tied Behind Us:
with design. Design historians who examine women’s
role in design must acknowledge that women in the past and
Rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movementwomen
today are placed within the context of patriarchy, and that
(London: Virago, 1978); Judith L.ideas about women’s design abilities and design needs originate in
Newton, Mary P. Ryan, and Judith R.
Walkowitz, eds., Sex and Class in
and Kegan Paul, 1983).
6) Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, capitalism
Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideol-ety
ogy (London: Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1981), 3.
7) Griselda Pollock, “Vision, Voice and
Recent debate within feminist history and theory has
highlighted the dependent relationship between patriarchy and
Women’s History (London: Routledge
and the ability of both to reshape and reformulate soci-
in order to overcome potentially transforming processes.9
To what extent, then, does patriarchy form the framework for
women’s role as designers? In a patriarchy, men’s activities are val-
Power: Feminist Art History and Marx-
ued more highly than women’s. For example, industrial design has
given higher status than knitted textiles. The reasons for this
have been organized on the theme of
ism,” Block 6 (1982): 5. Conferences
“Women and Design” at the Institute of
Contemporary Arts, London, 1983;
Leicester University, 1985; and Central
valuation are complex. In an advanced industrial society in which
culture is valued above nature, male roles are seen as being more
School of Art and Design, London, cultural than natural; female roles are seen as the reverse of this.
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1986. Several papers have been published
As a consequence of their biological capacity to reproduce and
from these conferences, including
their roles within patriarchy of caring for and nurturing the fam-
Cheryl Buckley, “Women Designers in
the North Staffordshire Pottery Industry,” Woman’s Art Journal (Fall 1984/
ily, women are seen as being close to nature. As Sherry Ortner has
argued, “female is to male as nature is to culture. “10 Even women
Winter 1985): 11-15; Anthea Callen,
“The Sexual Division of Labour in the
designers, who through the design process transform nature into
Arts and Crafts Movement,” Woman’s
Art Journal (Fall 1984/Winter 1985): 1-6;
culture, are tied to their biology by patriarchal ideology, which
Lynne Walker, “The Entry of Women
defines their design skills as a product of their sex – as natural or
into the Architectural Profession in
innate. Women are considered to possess sex-specific skills that
their design abilities; they are apparently dexterous
decorative, and meticulous. These skills mean that women are
Britain,” Woman’s Art Journal (Spring/
Summer 1986): 13-18. See also issues of determine
Feminist Art News that concentrate on
Women and Design: Textiles and Fash-
considered to be naturally suited to certain areas of design produc-
ion in Vol. 1, No. 9 and Design in Vol. 2,
No. 3. One can also consult Tag Gronberg
tion, namely, the so-called decorative arts, including such work as
and Judy Attfield, eds. A Resource Book
jewelry, embroidery, graphic illustration, weaving, knitting, pot-
on Women Working in Design (London:
The London Institute, Central School of
tery, and dressmaking. Linking all these activities together is the
Art and Design, 1986). The editors of
this book were the organizers of the Cen-
notion that they are naturally female; the resulting design prod-
tral School’s 1986 “Women and Design”
ucts are either worn by women or produced by them to fulfil
essentially domestic tasks. Significantly, men can be the designers
8) Patriarchy as a concept has been defined
by various feminist theorists. An early
definition is found in Millet, Sexual Poli-
of clothes, textiles, or pottery, but first the design activities have
to be redefined. Dressmaking, for example, has been seen as
“natural” area for women to work in. It is viewed as an obvious
tics, 25: “Our society … is a patriarchy.
The fact is evident at once if one recalls
vehicle for their femininity, their desire to decorate, and thei
that the military, industry, technology,
universities, science, political offices,
finances – in short, every avenue of
obsession with appearances. Fashion design, however, has been
power within society, including the coer-
appropriated by male designers who have assumed the persona of
cive force of the police, is in entirely male
genius – Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and, more recently
Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion as a design process is thought to transcend
the sex-specific skills of dexterity, patience, and decorativeness
hands.” The central problem with this
definition of patriarchy is that it is a uni-
versal and trans-historical form of
oppression that is being described. It
presents specific problems for a Marxist
with dressmaking. Instead, it involves creative imagina-
feminist approach located in historical
tion, and the aggressive
analysis. Sheila Rowbotham has argued
in her essay “The Trouble with Patriar-of the male stereotype.
chy,” New Statesman 98 (1979): 970, that
this “implies a universal form of oppression which returns us to biology.” A
business and marketing skills that are par
This practice of defining women’s design skills in terms of their
biology is reinforced by socially constructed notions of masculine
ful definition of patriarchy that attempts
to overcome this problem of universal
feminine, which assign different characteristics to male and
female. Sonia Delaunay, the painter and designer, is noted by hisoppression is outlined by Griselda
Pollock: “patriarchy does not refer to thetorians
static, oppressive domination of one sex
over another, but a web of psycho-social
relationships which institute a socially
significant difference on the axis of sex,
for her “instinctive” feeling for color, whereas her hus-
Robert, is attributed as having formulated a color theory.
Delaunay embodies the male stereotype as logical and
intellectual, Sonia embodies the female stereotype as instinctive
which is so deeply located in our very
sense of lived, sexual identity that itand
appears to us as natural and unalterable,”
in “Vision, Voice and Power,” 10.
emotional. To compound this devaluation of women designwork, designs produced by women in the domestic environ
9) This debate is especially useful for the
(their natural space within a patriarchy) are seen to represent
development of a feminist approach touse-value
rather than exchange-value. The designs produced by
a domestic environment (embroidery, knitting, and
design history and design practice within
Western capitalist countries. (This
does not aim to examine manifestations
applique) are used by the family in the home rather than
of patriarchy in non-capitalist countries,
exchanged for profit within the capitalist marketplace. At this
nor does it aim to examine design history
and practice in those countries.) For usepoint
capitalism and patriarchy interact to devalue this type of
essentially, it has been made in the wrong place – the
ful discussions of the relationship
between patriarchy and capitalism, see,
for example, Heidi Hartmann, home, and for the wrong market – the family. 11
“Capitalism, Patriarchy and Job Segre-
So, one result of the interaction of patriarchy and design is the
Design Issues: Vol. III, No. 2
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gation by Sex,” in Martha Blaxall and
Barbara Regan, Women and the Workplace: The Implications of Occupational
Segregation (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1976), 137-169. Also,
Rowbotham, “The Trouble with Patriarchy,” 970-971.
10) Sherry B. Ortner, “Is Female to Male as
Nature is to Culture?” Feminist Studies 2
(Fall 1972): 5-31.
11) See Parker and Pollock, Old Mistresses,
68-71, for an interesting account of how
women’s domestic designs can be
upgraded to fine art status by dissociating them from home production and the
gender of the maker.
12) Fewer than one percent of industrial
designers working in Britain today are
women. From research carried out by
the Design Innovation Group, Open
University, Milton Keynes, Britain,
from 1979 onward.
establishment of a hierarchy of value and skill based on sex. This is
legitimized ideologically by dominant notions of femininity and
materially by institutional practice. British art and design education at degree level, for example, reinforces this hierarchical and
sexist split between male and female design activities. Because of
sexism few women industrial design students survive to the end of
their courses which are outside the female stereotype. They succeed well with fashion and textile courses which are considered to
be suited to female abilities, but fare badly with industrial design,
which is considered male. 12
Design historians play an important role in maintaining
assumptions about the roles and abilities of women designers by
their failure to acknowledge the governance of patriarchy and its
operation historically. As a result, women’s design is ignored and
unrepresented in the history books. Clearly, then, one of the main
issues for historians to tackle, if they are to account adequately for
the role of women designers, is patriarchy and its value systems.
First, the terms by which inferior status is assigned to certain
design activities must be analyzed and challenged. The ideological
nature of terms such as feminine, delicate, and decorative should
be acknowledged within the context of women’s design. Second,
it is crucial that design historians recognize the patriarchal basis of
the sexual division of labor, which attributes to women certain
design skills on the basis of biology. Third, they must acknowledge that women and their designs fulfill a critical structuring role
in design history in that they provide the negative to the male positive – they occupy the space left by men. If, for instance, historians
describe men’s designs as bold, assertive, calculated, then
women’s designs are described as weak, spontaneous, or lacking
in rationale. Design historians, then, should recognize that “because of the economic, social, and ideological effects of sexual difference in a western, patriarchal culture, women have spoken and
13) Parker and Pollock, Old Mistresses, 49.
acted from a different place within that society and culture. “13 By
their failure to acknowledge patriarchy, design historians ignore
the real nature of women’s role in design, both for women designing outside of mainstream industrial design and for those few who
have found employment within it. Both produce designs formed
within patriarchy. Fourth, historians must take note of the value
system which gives privilege to exchange-value over use-value,
because at a very simple level, as Elizabeth Bird has pointed out,
“the objects women produce have been consumed by being used,
14) Elizabeth Bird, “Threading the Beads:
Women Designers and the Glasgow Style
1890-1920,” unpublished conference
paper, 1983.
rather than preserved as a store of exchange-value. Pots get broken
and textiles wear out.”14
Historians must also beware of regarding the professional site
of production more highly than the domestic site of production,
because this inevitably leads to a focus on the value of design as it
contributes to the capitalist system. This is problematic, irrespective of the sex of the designer, as it excludes an important area of
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design production from history. Finally, historians should h
Sheila Rowbotham’s point, in Hidden From History: “[U]nbia
history simply makes no declaration of its bias, which is de
rooted in existing society reflecting the views of the people
15) Rowbotham, Hidden From History,
influence. n15
16) Attributed to Penny Sparke in Anne
Massey’s review of the 1983 Women in
Design conference at the Institute of
Contemporary Arts, London, in Design
History Society Newsletter 20 January
1984): 8. This view has been reinforced
by Stephen Bayley, director of the
Boilerhouse project at the Victoria and
Albert Museum, London, and is quoted
by Judy Attfield in “Feminist Designs on
Design History,” Feminist Art News 2
(No. 3): 22. More recently, Clive Dilnot
has addressed the issue of the diversity of
meanings of design and the designer. See
“The State of Design History, Part I:
Mapping the Field,” Design Issues I/1
(Spring 1984): 4-23, and “The State of
Design History, Part II: Problems and
Possibilities,” Design Issues 1/2 (Fall
1984): 3-20.
17) In his discussion of craft history, Philip
Wood does not consider the issue of gen-
Central to a feminist critique of design history is a redefinit
of what constitutes design. To date, design historians h
esteemed more highly and deemed more worthy of analysis
creators of mass-produced objects. Subsequently, they h
argued that “design history … is a study of mass-produ
objects. “16 Feminists have challenged this definition as prejudg
the nature of design by emphasizing only one mode of product
and thereby excluding craft production. This challenge is comp
cated by the development of craft history as an academic discipl
distinct from design history, although, to date, craft historian
have not dealt adequately with women’s craftwork.17 In fact, it
been dealt with in a cursory way and mirrors the approach
design historians by seizing upon a few famous names.18 Ar
ably, if a feminist approach to women’s design production is to
articulated, it must cut across these exclusive definitions of de
and craft to show that women used craft modes of production
der. See Philip Wood, “Defining Craft
History,” Design History Society News-
specific reasons, not merely because they were biologically pred
letter 24 (February 1985): 27-31.
posed toward them. To exclude craft from design history is
18)This can be seen in two ways. First,
Edward Lucie-Smith, in his survey book
The Story of Craft (London: Phaidon,
1981) makes few references to women
beyond the usual handful, for example,
effect, to exclude from design history much of what wom
designed. For many women, craft modes of production were th
only means of production available, because they had acce
Vanessa Bell, Marion Dorn, Elizabeth
neither to the factories of the new industrial system nor to th
Fritsch, Jessie Newberry. Second, some
training offered by the new design schools. Indeed, craft allow
craft historians, like their colleagues in
design history, have written monographs
of major women craftpersons. For exam-
ple, see Margot Coatts, A Weaver’s Life:
Ethel Mairet 1872-1952 (London: Crafts
Council, 1983). Although such a mono-
women an opportunity to express their creative and artistic sk
outside of the male-dominated design profession. As a mod
production, it was easily adapted to the domestic setting a
therefore compatible with traditional female roles.19
graph is informative and provides a much
needed account of the work of an important woman craftworker, as I explain later,
the monograph is a problematic vehicle
for writing design or craft history.
19) This is especially true of textiles (knitted,
woven, quilted, appliqued, and embroidered). Some women, however, such as
Women as consumers and objects
To date, most historical analysis has dealt solely with the role o
women designers, even though women interact with design
variety of ways. Feminist design historians have thereby adopt
Katherine Pleydell Bouverie and Norah
the methodologies of mainstream design history, which este
Bradon (contemporaries of Michael
the activities of designers and emphasizes their role as agent
Cardew and Bernard Leach in the British
studio pottery movement) or Jessie
Newberry and May Morris, developed
craft modes of production for
history. (As I describe in the next section, there are serious pro
lems inherent in this methodological technique.) Most importan
for this discussion is the point that design is a collective proces
philosophical reasons. These women had
the financial independence, social backinvolving
groups of people beside the designer. In order to dete
ground, and educational training to do so.
mine the meaning of a given design at a specific historical mome
it is necessary to examine these other groups.
Probably the most historically neglected group is the consum
indeed, it can be no accident that the consumer is often perceiv
by design organizations, retailers, and advertisers to be fem
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Just as patriarchy informs the historian’s assumptions about
women designers’ skills, so it defines the designer’s perceptions of
women’s needs as consumers. Two basic ideas inform the
designer’s assumptions about women consumers. First, women
primary role is in domestic service to husband, children, an
home; and second, domestic appliances make women’s liv
easier. The first assumption stems from the central classification
of patriarchy – the sexual division of labor. As Heidi Hartman
has argued, “the sexual division of labor is … the underpinni
of sexual subcultures in which men and women experience life di
ferently; it is the material base of male power which is exercised
(in our society), not just in not doing housework and in securing
20) Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Toward
a More Progressive Union,” in Lydia
Sargent, Women and Revolution. The
Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and
Feminism (London: Pluto Press, 1981),
21) A good illustration of this process of flux
can be seen during wartime when female
superior employment, but psychologically as well.”20 Accordin
to Hartmann, the sexual division of labor is not static, but in a sta
of flux, changing as required by economic, political, and soci
developments.21 A relatively constant feature of the sexual divi-
sion of labor, however, is the delineation of women’s role a
housewives and as carers for the family. This role is basically the
labor is required to meet the shortages
same one that the Victorian social critic John Ruskin identifi
resulting from male conscription.
and glorified in his writings.22 As a result of this sexual division o
Women are employed in work normally
labor, designers assume that women are the sole users of hom
considered the preserve of men, for
example engineering, ship-building,
munitions. In peacetime this process is
reversed, and women are encouraged
appliances. Product advertising presents women as housewive
who use domestic appliances and family-oriented products. When
back into the traditional female roles of
British advertisers make the rare representation of women drivi
housewives and mothers as prescribed by
motorcars, it is significant that they are not shown speeding alo
22) For example, John Ruskin, Sesame and
Lilies, (London: Collins, 1913). More
recently, successive British governments
have reiterated the importance of the
woman’s role in the preservation of the
family. For example, the Conservative
party social services spokesman, Patrick
in a Porsche. Rather, they are shown parking their modest an
convenient hatchback near the supermarket.
Design historians have played their part in reinforcing women
position in the sexual division of labor. In Reyner Banham’s well-
known celebration of the first machine age, he identified two sexe
Jenkin, told the Conservative annual
– men and housewives. Banham defined the female sex as hous
conference in 1977, “the pressure on
wives whose lives are transformed by “woman-controlle
young wives to go out to work devalues
motherhood itself …. Parenthood is a
very skilled task indeed, and it must be
our aim to restore it to the place of hon-
our it deserves.” Quoted from Anna
Coote and Beatrix Campbell, Sweet
Freedom: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation (London: Picador, 1982), 85.
23) Banham, Theory and Design in the First
Machine Age, 10.
24) Philippa Goodall, “Design and Gender,”
Block 9 (1983): 50-61.
machinery,” such as vacuum cleaners.23 Informing this paean
woman-controlled appliances is the belief that these produc
make women’s lives easier. Banham, like other historians an
theorists of design, fails to acknowledge that designs take on dif
ferent meanings for the consumer than those designated by the
designer, the manufacturer, and the advertiser. Philippa Good
has outlined the reasons for these shifts of meaning.24 She cites th
microwave oven and freezer as products designed ostensibly
lighten household chores but which have ultimately created more
work. Both products have been widely introduced into the home
under the pretext of convenience. The question, however, is con-
venience for whom – the housewife or the family? Convenience t
the family means having rapid access to food at all times. To the
housewife, this is not convenience. It is instead a duty, a duty to
provide food at all times, even when the shops are shut or the mar
ket closed and most of the family has already eaten. Goodal
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argues that, “In numerous such ways women’s work is increased,
the qualitative demands raised. The tyranny of the whiter-thanwhite-wash is now for many a daily event, rather than a weekly
one. ‘Simplicity,’ ‘convenience,’ ‘serving the loved ones better’ are
slogans motivating and directing our work as consumers and
25) Goodall, “Design and Gender”, 53.
producers. “25
Advertising serves to enforce the meaning of design as defined
by the designer or manufacturer. It stereotypes women as
mothers, cleaners, cooks, and nurses in order to define and direct
the market. In effect, the category woman, as constituted in patriarchy, is appropriated by advertising. Woman is either the sub-
ject of patriarchal assumptions about women’s role and needs as
consumers, or the object in sexist advertising. As Jane Root has
argued in relation to representations of women in TV advertising,
“Women are often made absurdly ecstatic by very simple products, as though a new brand of floor cleaner or deodorant really
26) Jane Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality
(London: Pandora Press, 1984), 55.
could make all the difference to a lifetime.”26 Advertising creates
both an ideal use for a product and an ideal user. The actuality of
the use and user are unimportant when confronted with a powerful fantasy – the immaculate designer kitchen with superwoman in
control, combining with ease the roles of careerist and perfect
wife. Like television and cinema, advertising appropriates
women’s bodies. Women are objects to be viewed; they are
sexualized things whose status is determined by how they look.
“These advertisements help to endorse the powerful male attitude
that women are passive bodies to be endlessly looked at, waiting
to have their sexual attractiveness matched with active male sexual
27) Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality, 68.
desire. “27
It is clear that analyses of patriarchy and the issue of gender are
28) See Millet, Sexual Politics, 29-31, for discussion of gender.
central to the debate concerning women’s role in design.28 Historians should map out the operation of patriarchy and make gender
as a social construct distinct from sex as a biological condition.
Gender is embodied in historical and contemporary representations of women as consumers, objects, and designers; but it does
not remain fixed, having changed historically. They must
remember that as a consequence of patriarchy, the experiences of
male and female designers and consumers have been quite different. Design historians should outline the way that patriarchal definitions of women’s roles and design needs, which have originated
in the sexual division of labor, have shaped design in the past and
present. A feminist critique of design history must confront the
problem of patriarchy, at the same time addressing itself to the
exclusion of women in the historiographic methods used by
design historians. Though many of these methods are problematic
for design history in general, not just a feminist design history,
feminist intervention, as in other disciplines, has demarcated the
29) Quoted by Pollock in “Vision, Voice and
Power,” 5.
basic ones. Rozsika Parker described them as “the rules of the
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The rules of the game
Methodologically, the pivot of contemporary design history is the
designer, whose central role has been legitimized by art historical
precedent in which the figure of the artist is all-important. Some
art historians, such as Nicos Hadjinicolaou, T. J. Clark, and
Griselda Pollock, have done so; the last wrote, “The central figure
of art historical discourse is the artist, who is presented as an ineff-
able ideal which complements the bourgeois myth of a universal,
classless man . . . our general culture is furthermore permeated
with ideas about the individual nature of creativity, how genius
30) Pollock, “Vision, Voice and Power,” 3.
will always overcome social obstacles. “30
Numerous biographies of designers have focused the production and meaning of design on the contribution of the individual.
In this approach, design history mirrors art history in its role as
attributor and authenticator. First, it attaches meaning to a name,
thereby simplifying the historical process (by de-emphasizing
production and consumption) and at the same time making the
role of the individual all-important (by aiding and simplifying
attribution). Second, as a direct consequence of this first strategy,
historians have analyzed the design in terms of the designers’ ideas
and intentions and in terms of the formal arrangement of elements
(just as formalist art history analyzes a painting or sculpture),
rather than as a social product. The design is thereby isolated from
its material origins and function, and if it conforms to dominant
definitions of “good” design, it and its designer are obvious candi-
dates for the history books. At this point, the design has been
firmly positioned within the confines of the individual designer’s
oeuvre, aiding attribution and authentication of the design as art
31) Note the saleroom prices of design
objects, especially the “classics,” such as
furniture by Charles R. Mackintosh or
pottery by Keith Murray.
object and simplifying historical analysis.31 The history of design
is reduced to a history of the designer, and the design is seen to
mean and represent what the designer identifies. Extraordinary
designs are judged in terms of creativity and individual extraordi-
nariness. This is problematic for women, because “creativity has
been appropriated as an ideological component of masculinity,
while femininity has been constructed as man’s and, therefore, the
-32) Pollock, ‘Vision, Voice and Power,” 4.
artist’s negative. “32
The notion that the meaning of design objects is singular and is
determined by the designer is simplistic, ignoring the fact that
design is a process of representation. It represents political,
economic, and cultural power and values within the different
spaces occupied, through engagement with different subjects. Its
meaning is therefore polysemic and involves the interaction of
design and recipient. Designs, as cultural products, have meanings
encoded in them which are decoded by producers, advertisers,
and consumers according to their own cultural codes. “All these
codes and subcodes are applied to the message in the light of gen33) Janet Wolff, The Social Production ofArt
(London: Macmillan, 1981), 109.
eral framework of cultural references; in other words, the way the
message is read depends on the receiver’s own cultural codes.”33
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These cultural codes are not absolute and are not controlled by the
designer’s intentions. Indeed, these intentions are constrained by
the existing codes of form and representation, which shape cultural products. In effect, the designer has to use these to design.
The dominant codes of design are both esthetic and social; the
former “operate as mediating influences between ideology and
particular works by interposing themselves as sets of rules and
conventions which shape cultural products and which must be
34)Wolff, The Social Production of Art,
used by artists and cultural producers;”34 the latter are governed
by modes of production, circulation, and use within a specific
social situation. The codes or signs by which design is understood
and constituted, in an industrial, capitalist society such as our
own, are the product of bourgeois, patriarchal ideology. This
ideology seeks to obscure its codes by presenting its designs as
neutral and ideology-free and the receiver of these codes as univer-
sally constituted, that is, the singular and unproblematic user or
producer. “[T]he reluctance to declare its codes characterizes
bourgeois society and the culture issuing from it; both demand
35)Roland Barthes, “Introduction to the
Structural Analysis of Narratives,”
Image, Music, Text (New York: Hill
Wang, 1977), 116.
which do not look like signs.”35 This obscureness presents
for the historian who attempts to take account of the
designer or consumer as gendered individuals with specific class
allegiances who then bring particular sets of meaning to designs.
The focus on the designer as the person who assigns meaning to
design is seriously challenged by developments in the fields of
sociology, film studies, and linguistics, where debates on authorship have arisen. These critiques have questioned the centrality of
the author as a fixed point of meaning. As Roland Barthes put it,
“A text’s unity lies not in its origins but in its destination . .. the
36)Barthes, “The Death of the Author,”birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author. “36
Image, Music, Text, 148.
The centrality of the designer as the person who determines mean-
ing in design is undermined by the complex nature of design
development, production, and consumption, a process involving
numerous people who precede the act of production, others who
mediate between production and consumption, and those who use
the design. The success or failure of a designer’s initial concept
depends on the existence of agencies and organizations which can
facilitate the development, manufacture, and retailing of a specific
design for a distinct market. Design, then, is a collective process;
its meaning can only be determined by an examination of the
interaction of individuals, groups, and organizations within spe-
cific societal structures.
The monograph, the primary method used by historians to
focus on the designer, is an inadequate vehicle for exploring the
complexity of design production and consumption. It is especially
inadequate for feminist design historians in that the concentration
on an individual designer excludes from the history books unnamed, unattributed, or collectively produced design. Historical
casualties of this exclusion are the numerous craft works produced
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by women in their own homes, often in collaboration with other
37) This type of craftwork is still produced
by women today; note particularly the
production of knitted textiles in Britain.
women.37 Nor can women’s relationship with design as consumers and as objects of representation figure in the construction of
the monograph. The recent critiques of authorship have proved
useful to feminist design historians by highlighting the inadequacy
of the monograph as a method of analyzing design and by showing
that designers do not design merely by courtesy of innate genius,
but that they have been constituted in language, ideology, and
social relations. The designer can usefully be considered as the first
38) Here I do not intend to deny the possibility of an autonomous realm of creativity;
rather, I want to suggest that the design-
of many who will affix meaning to design.38
From this discussion emerge two other important points for
ers’ meanings are combined with a series
analyzing women’s relationship to design. First, women’s cultural
of meanings gained from the interaction
codes are produced within the context of patriarchy. Their expec-
of the design with other groups and agen-
cies. To understand design at a specific
tations, needs, and desires as both designers and consumers are
historical moment requires rather more
constructed within a patriarchy which, as I have argued, pre-
from the historian than an analysis of
what the designer thought.
scribes a subservient and dependent role to women. The other side
of that point is that the codes of design, as used by the designer,
are produced within patriarchy to express the needs of the domin-
ant group. They are, therefore, male codes. As Philippa Goodall
has observed, “We live in a world designed by men. It is not for
nothing that the expression ‘man-made’ refers to a vast range of
39) Goodall, “Design and Gender,” 50.
objects that have been fashioned from physical material.”39 In
Making Space: Women and the Man-Made Environment, the
Matrix group of feminist architects argue that male architects and
planners design urban and domestic spaces using a language which
defines women’s role according to patriarchal values: “[T]he physical patterning of this ‘natural’ setting contains many assumptions
about women’s role outside the home. It leads, for instance, to
housing layouts based on ‘rural’ meandering paths which imply
that the journeys of women … are without presence …. The
implication is that journeys that are not fast or in straight lines are
40) Matrix, Making Space: Women and the
Man-Made Environment (London:
Pluto Press, 1984), 47.
not really going anywhere.”40 Matrix point out that this patriarchal design language has implications for women training to be
architects, as well as for those who use buildings. Women
architects are expected to adopt values and codes of form and representation formulated within the context of patriarchy. They are
expected to “acquire an outlook similar to that of middle-class
41) Matrix, Making Space, 11.
males, the dominant group in the architectural profession. “41
The second point is this: to legitimize this process of cultural
coding, the language of design is presented as a universal truth.
Exclusive definitions of good and bad design are constructed,
based almost entirely on esthetics. These definitions serve to isolate design products from the material and ideological conditions
of production and consumption. Inevitably, these definitions also
serve the interests of the dominant group, which attempts to disguise its interests with the mask of universality. Design historians
have played a central role in the acceptance and reiteration of these
definitions of good design, presenting them as unproblematic. As
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Rosalind Coward explained, these are in fact “nothing other than
the individual expression of general class taste and the particular
42) Rosalind Coward, Female Desire:
Women’s Sexuality Today (London:
Virago, 1984), 65.
43) See, for example, Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The
Aristocracy of Culture,” Media, Culture
and Society 2 (1980): 225-254; also,
ideas promoted in that class.”42 Pierre Bourdieu has argued that
taste is determined through specific social conditions, such as education level, social class, and gender.43 He has shown that dominant groups retain their positions of power and enhance their status
Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction (London:
by specific mechanisms, one of which is to invent the “esthetic”
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979).
category as a universal entity.
The esthetic theory which informed these dominant notions of
good design and good taste, and which legitimized the analysis of
design as distinct objects, was modernism. The theory of modernism has had an enormous impact on design history by emphasizing both formal and technical innovation and experimentation as
the significant features of design. Although designers now operate
in a postmodernist context, many design historians unconsciously
adopt modernist criteria when deciding what should enter the history books. The concept of differentness is still privileged by historians, thus revealing the structural relationship between historians and the designs they promote within capitalism. Innovative
and new designs have a crucial role to play in capitalist production,
a system that demands greater production and consumption
stimulated by designer-created difference and codified by design
historians and theorists.
The theory of modernism has had significant implications for
44) This type of historical account does exist
at the level of doctoral theses. Unfortunately, they rarely seem to get published.
More recently, there is some evidence
that things are changing, for example
Fran Hannah’s book Ceramics (London:
Bell and Hyman, 1986).
45) Consider, for example, the work of the
women designers at Josiah Wedgwood
and Sons in the 1920s and 1930s. These
designers produced work ranging in its
style of decoration and shape from traditional to moderne. Most historians have
given these designers little acknowledg-
ment in the history books, choosing
instead to concentrate on the formally
and technically innovative work of the
designer Keith Murray, whose work fits
historical evaluations of both mass-produced design, which is
traditional in style, form, material, or production techniques, and
for craft. These evaluations are largely nonexistent because design
that is not innovative and experimental has rarely been analyzed
by design historians.44 Women’s design, which often falls under
the label of traditional, has been especially ignored.45 Another
area of design associated with women to have fared badly in the
hands of modernist design historians is fashion design, arguably
the most extreme manifestation of modernism, in that throughout
the twentieth century it has been continuously innovative and
experimental. Like modernist art and design, its meaning is tied to
that of its predecessors. It is therefore possible (though highly
neatly into a modernist analysis of pot-
undesirable) to analyze fashion in purely formal terms, and here
tery design.
the problem lies. Unlike other modernist cultural forms, fashion
46) This point must be qualified in that sev-
eral designers – notably Yves Saint
Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld – have
declared themselves to be uninterested in
fashion and more interested in “classic”
style. See the Metropolitan Museum of
Art catalog, Yves Saint Laurent (New
York, 1983), 17. The implications of this
are clear: These designers are distancing
themselves from the transitory nature of
fashion and are instead aligning themselves with universal style and good taste.
47)See Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in
Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (Lon-
makes no claims to represent universal truth and good taste.46
Indeed, the converse is true, in that fashion subverts dominant
notions of good design by eagerly accepting what was previously
considered ugly. It undermines universal concepts of quality and
taste, and it foregrounds the relativism in notions of beauty. Fur-
thermore, fashion as an important area of design is trivialized
because of its association with women. It is seen as a marginal
design activity because it caters to women’s socially constructed
needs and desires.47 For these reasons, design historians have
tended to avoid the study of fashion.48
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don: Virago, 1985), for a full discussion
of these issues.
48) Note that fashion design is not included
in any of the basic surveys of nineteenth-
and twentieth-century design history,
even though it is undoubtedly the prod-
Women and design as a subject of study highlights a whole set
of issues and problems that must be confronted by historians if a
feminist design history is to be articulated. The desire for a
feminist design history grows increasingly urgent as we acknowl-
uct of social, technical, political, and cul-
edge the paucity of histories of women and design that have taken
tural developments which parallel other
proper account of patriarchal notions of women’s skills as design-
areas of design.
ers, the stereotyped perceptions of women’s needs as consumers,
and the exploitative representation of women’s bodies in advertising. It is crucial that these historical analyses of women and their
relationship with design are based on feminism. Without recourse
to feminist theory to delineate the operation of patriarchy, and to
feminist history to map out women’s past, it is impossible to
understand fully the way women interact with design and the way
historians have recorded that interaction. Attempts to analyze
women’s involvement in design that do not take issue with gender,
the sexual division of labor, assumptions about femininity, and the
49) See Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman’s
Touch. Women in Design from 1860 to the
Present Day (London: Virago, 1984).
hierarchy that exists in design, are doomed to failure.49
Feminist design historians must advance on two fronts. First,
This is an example of such an account.
we must analyze the material and ideological operation of patriar-
See my review in Art History. Journal of
chy in relation to women and design. This effort must be com-
the Association of Art Historians Vol. 9,
No. 3 (September 1986): 400-403.
bined with an examination of the relationship between capitalism
(if we are discussing design in capitalist societies) and patriarchy at
specific historical conjunctures to reveal how women’s role in
design is defined. Second, we must critically assess “the rules of
the game” to understand why design historians have excluded
women from the history books, and then to enable us to develop a
history that does not automatically exclude women. This history
must acknowledge the various locales where design operated and
the various groups involved with its production and consumption.
It must reject the temptation to analyze the individual designer as
sole determiner of meaning in design. Finally, historians must not
lose sight of their central objective: To develop and expand the
body of historical research which seeks to account for women’s
relationship to design and then set this research firmly within a
historical framework of feminist design.
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Gender Inequality in Interior Design History
Gender inequality has been prevalent in interior design history from the fifteenth century to
eighteenth century, when it was changed by Rococo exposure, making modern women artists
This study’s primary purpose is to identify and understand the concept of gender inequality in the
history of interior design using academic literature. The research singled out female artists and
designers to explore their socio-cultural context through the Rococo and Baroque periods in
Europe. The interior design revolves around the production of art used for interior decorations.
From the fifteenth to early eighteenth century, most of the interior design artworks were
developed by men due to the stereotype that existed against women. As a result, there is little
scholarly information on women’s interior design compared to their male counterparts because
there was an easy availability of artworks to male artists. Artworks by modern women have been
revealed through the discovery of their works in religious organizations. The recognition of
interior design artwork by women artists started during the late Baroque period, and these artists
include Marie-Denise Villers and Marguerite Gerard, who depicted proficiency that beat the
dominance of male artists in the industry. It was a period the experienced a revolution and
breakthrough for the female artists in the interior design industry. Interestingly, more feminine
artists engaged in interior design, shedding light on women artists’ artwork since the 19th century,
and significantly influenced the entire interior design industry. Therefore, gender inequality in
interior design history was influenced by various factors such as resource discrimination,
specialization, and stereotyped roles. In the past, the art industry exclusively consisted of men
due to gender inequality that held women artists because of commercial recognition in the open
market. Apparently, gender inequality still exists in Italy because women had few roles in the
production. In conclusion, the rise in women’s revolution in various fields has reduced the
differences, giving feminist artists a chance to exploit their talents. Embracing gender equality in
the interior design industry will encourage revolution in many areas.

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