Playing with Binaries: Gender Relations in Toy Design

Koyun, Havva Bilge
In this study, I explore the ways in which gender binaries are materialized through design processes in different toy design practices. I frame it with a body of literature that considers gender as a socially constructed phenomenon that is naturalized through material and discursive repetitions. Design as a material practice consists of multi-layered entanglements in which intersected oppressions and inequalities based on gender, sexual identity, class, ethnicity are both constructed and reproduced. Toy design specifically has been in the limelight within design areas because of its entrenched traditional binary gender segregation practices from design brief to toys’ placement on shelves and its possibility to shape its user group, which is characterized by their vulnerability. Even if the toy design itself is emblematic for reproducing the ‘pinks and blues’ polarization, it actually harbors a variety of material practices and complex relations in which all actors temporarily co-construct gender with momentary interactions. To provide a perspective into the multifaceted social and technical relationships, I identified three designers who are situated in different relationships and conducted interviews with these designers and members from communities that these designers were in close contact with. I draw three main conclusions on reproduction and deconstruction mechanisms of gendered materialities in design: The temporary fixations of designers and products in the binarized system reproduces gendered materialities, mobility of designers and products in this system engender different socio-material and socio-technical encounters that lead to both reproduction and deconstruction of gendered materialities, material participation that based on transformative and holistic gender-deconstructive approach not just unhinges but reconstructs gender norms through communities.


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Citation Formats
H. B. Koyun, “Playing with Binaries: Gender Relations in Toy Design,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2021.