Woman-Centered Design through Humanity, Activism, and Inclusion
Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in Journal › Journal article › Research › peer-review
Women account for over half of the global population, however, continue to be subject to systematic and systemic disadvantage, particularly in terms of access to health and education. At every intersection, where systemic inequality accounts for greater loss of life or limitations on full and healthy living, women are more greatly impacted by those inequalities. The design of technologies is no different, the very definition of technology is historically cast in terms of male activities, and advancements in the field are critical to improve women’s quality of life. This article views HCI, a relatively new field, as well positioned to act critically in the ways that technology serve, refigure, and redefine women’s bodies. Indeed, the female body remains a contested topic, a restriction to the development of women’s health. On one hand, the field of women’s health has attended to the medicalization of the body and therefore is to be understood through medical language and knowledge. On the other hand, the framing of issues associated with women’s health and people’s experiences of and within such system(s) remain problematic for many. This is visible today in, e.g., socio-cultural practices in disparate geographies or medical devices within a clinic or the home. Moreover, the biological body is part of a great unmentionable, i.e., the perils of essentialism. We contend that it is necessary, pragmatically and ethically, for HCI to turn its attention toward a woman-centered design approach. While previous research has argued for the dangers of gender-demarcated design work, we advance that designing for and with women should not be regarded as ghettoizing, but instead as critical to improving women’s experiences in bodily transactions, choices, rights, and access to and in health and care. In this article, we consider how and why designing with and for woman matters. We use our design-led research as a way to speak to and illustrate alternatives to designing for and with women within HCI.
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