Being critical of gender when it’s applied to everyday items


Graphic by Alan Li

The systematic gendering of our world is apparent in our daily lives and own living spaces. There are those who strive to deconstruct the binary and those who reinforce it. 

When looking for a new rug for my bedroom, I was searching  for a simple grey and white area rug on I went through the specifications of each rug and noticed a category for gender. This was mixed in with other specifications like material, primary colour and even if it was stain resistant or not.

There were rugs listed as girl, boy or neutral. What made these rugs so specific to a certain gender? I question what biology has to do with room décor. As expected in a North American context, the so-called boy rugs were often cool-toned, dark, featured animal prints and geometric, whereas the girl rugs were predominantly floral, colourful, often warm-toned and featured birds and butterflies. 

These themes are taken directly from the male and female expectations in society. Men are supposed to be strong, powerful, smart and not light as a feather and nurturing.

One theme in particular that I think is important to consider is the use of educational rugs in playrooms and bedrooms for children. When searching for educational rugs under the boy category on the Wayfair site there were a whopping 187 results. 

For girls, there were only 26 results and these rugs primarily focused on numbers, animals and the alphabet. When you look at the boys’ rugs there were maps, multiplication tables, solar systems and my favourite, dinosaurs. 

Of course, you can buy whichever rug you wish, but when looking for a rug for your little girl you might only go to those search settings and not even be aware of the other options you are missing. 

Maybe your son loves flowers and your daughter loves math, but they will not see their options in the given categories.

The neutral educational category has rugs that are for girls and boys and additionally have music and more language and religious options.

All of the rugs should be neutral and made for any child who finds them captivating, comfortable and fun for their room. The assumptions on what a boy versus a girl likes are made for you.

Is it okay if a girl wants to have a periodic table of elements rug? Definitely, but the categorization within these rugs gives a restriction on what is deemed to be acceptable.

They have set a standard that can make young children feel like they must fit into a certain mold to be accepted. These divisions within décor can be discouraging for designers and decorators alike because of the limitations within the traditions of home decorating. 

A designer may want to create a purple rug with cars on it, but then where does the rug get placed on the website? It should be advertised as an option for every buyer. 

Room décor should be a way for someone to fully express who they are and their creativity.

The world can be a tough place full of expectations and the gender scripts creep into our private spaces at home too.

One’s own uniqueness should start from square one and if your room does not reflect who you are and is not filled with things you like, then it is uncomfortable to be yourself in your own home.

These commodities shape us into who we present to the world and I think the construction of gender should never be a way to classify home décor.

It limits how personal our own living spaces can be, and ultimately the way we think about ourselves and other people. 

Leave a Reply

Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.