Creative, Feminism | Posted by Michelle C on 12/2/2013

Can You Tell Just By Looking?

 I’m a Communication Design student and for a recent Feminist & Gender Studies class, I was asked to produce a ‘Public Gender Intervention’ project: so I designed this info-graphic flowchart called,  “Can You Tell Just by Looking?”.
The main issue I wanted to address with this project is that of gender expression (the outward performance of gender), and therefore of a socially constructed idea of gender based on appearance. I also wanted to examine the non-existent relationship between gender performance and sexual orientation (who a person is sexually attracted to). With this chart, I’m attempting to intervene in the normative societal myths and preconceptions that the two are inextricably linked, and am touching on how appearance falsely influences the assumption of sexual orientation.
The flowchart directly addresses the behavior of determining a person’s sexual orientation based on their appearance alone, which I believe is a detrimental social habit chock full of stereotypes and assumptions. I wanted to help debunk these stereotypes because though it may be common knowledge to some, many people in our culture today still consider these false ideas to be facts. As you go through the motions of following the chart, you inadvertently trace over the paths of visual stereotypes: all of which end in “no”. I chose to create a flowchart specifically for this reason, because they’re typically used to find an answer – and, used here in a tongue-in-cheek way, the viewer eventually follows the paths to discover that there is, in fact, no answer to the question posed in the title of the chart.
I hope this project raises more awareness about the issue of gender expression versus sexual orientation: I hope it conveys (in a visually interesting way) the point that the two are not – in any way – linked to each other and that you can’t tell just by looking at someone a characteristic so obscure as to who they’re attracted to, based purely on the way they aesthetically express themselves. I believe we all attempt to categorize people — I think it’s human nature to try to place things in a box so we can understand them on our own terms and based on agreed-upon definitions — but I’m interested in why we still feel the need do this because (as I hope this project demonstrates) these ‘boxes’ are fallacies, themselves.
Basically, in my opinion, the majority of people assume another person’s sexual orientation based on appearance alone which, to me, is an assumption that needs to be disassembled. I hope as many people as possible see this chart and internalize its message.
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  • Amber Johnston @ at 6:14 pm, December 2nd, 2013

    I am a Women’s and Gender studies major. This is awesome! Even though I am studying gender performance (graduate may 2014), your critique made me stop and really think about gender and culture. I think this would be great in schools and everywhere! Keep up the good work.


  • Gaydar Is Not Real | thefeministblogproject @ at 10:54 am, December 6th, 2013

    […] Gaydar Is Not Real […]

  • TJ @ at 5:50 am, March 22nd, 2014

    As a lesbian – i.e. a type of women who is constantly pressured by society to ‘admit’ that I enjoy sex with men when I don’t – I find the valorisation of being ‘uncategorised’ and ‘having an open mind and resisting the boxes society puts us in’ incredibly ignorant and homophobic.

    Lesbians have had to fight tooth and nail to have our unique identities recognised as valid and real – for feminists to turn around and say that it’s more ‘radical’ and ‘progressive’ for women like me to be open to the possibility to hetero sex is something I find fucking nauseating, particularly coming from someone enrolled in a Gender Studies class.

  • TJ @ at 5:51 am, March 22nd, 2014

    Like, given how much shit homosexual women endure, did you REALLY have to lump us alongside heterosexuals, and give ‘uncategorised’ women their own little congratulatory box?

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