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  • Procrustes' Descendants

    If you are an incumbent designer, or at least interested in design, you may have heard of the assertion that design is a language. Reiterated too much, the proposition is no more than platitude, though Bang & Olufsen proclaimed it one of their philosophical commandments. Since a language is a means of mutual communication based on the consensus of the users, design might adopt the tacit agreement as its prerequisite, if the truth of the hackneyed sentence is acknowledged. In this case, any designed objects would be assigned to the vehicle for the communication, responding to the necessities and desires.

    Either deliberately or not, many designers claim to be more intellectual, superior and more advanced beings than the general public, as a group of potential users. Taking the phenomenon which the terms like "designers' social responsibility" or "design for better world" are widely being used into account, their self-consciousness could be socially acceptable. It is not deniable that such cocksure attitude acted as motivations to delight people, educate society and change the world. However, too much water drowns the miller. Like a mom standing by her sick daughter and explaining to a pediatrician symptoms like “She has a sore throat and a runny nose.” instead of the kid, we have seen too many designers who styled themselves omniscience and omnipotence conservators. There are a considerable number of designers daring to perform experiments to the users, especially to women, regarding them as an inferior species like guinea pig.

    Once they take the initiative in trend, there is no more design as a language. Having lost the fundamental function for reciprocal communication, design is degenerated into a one-way and violent tool like orders spit out by a commander with a menacing look.

    It is not absolutely necessary to mention the chastity belt, appeared in a Konrad Kyeser's treatise "Bellifortis", to show a historic evidence. The neck rings, elongating Padaung tribe women's necks, were originally created and fettered to gratify men's lust and aesthetic pleasure. It is a sad irony that the rings are now the major source of their income. The sequentially taken x-rays show how the oppressive convention brings about an irreversible deformity to a woman's skeletal structure.

    Thanks to the Dow Corning's material technology, Pamela Anderson became an irresistible in the Baywatch and even in the movie Borat recently. The silicone bag which was tremendously popular for mammary prosthesis once looked like a perfect solution for the women craving for something to satisfy the aesthetic criterion set by men one-sidedly. After the critical harm caused by pleural effusion of the chemical was revealed, brine bag is now being inserted as a substituent.

    After the ancient matrilineal society was over, as hunting and battles became crucial for survival, the leadership in the family and the society was transferred to man. In spite of considerable ameliorations owing to restless efforts the male sex still has much more power in most fields in our society. The prevalent inequalities created an ideal paragon of woman - meek, obedient and beautiful - and it was widespread and succeeded as a tradition by education in home and society. Though there were brave female pioneers, the fact that more than 40,000 women were burned at the stake as "witches" during the period between 15th and 18th century testifies that the progressive attempts were considered as revolts against the androcentric system. The despotic atmosphere restricted even woman's freedom of expression so that the discriminative view of woman prevailed. It is obvious that objects devised by hegemonic designers played an important part to turn the viewpoint into social conventions and then solidify them.

    The early vibrators were enthusiastically marketed even a few decades before the astonishing Kinsey Reports. Did the designers perform thorough research and enough surveys about the users? Did they really understand and sympathize with women? Without sufficient anthropometric and podiatric studies on women pedes, how did the designers decide to promote the stiletto heel without hesitation? Did women realize the elevation in their social status on the raised heels?

    Design, regardless of its temporary popularity, without mutual communication between the designer and the users, is merely a new edition of the Procrustean bed.

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