Jessica Lyons 

Gender refers to culturally learned social roles, as well as the way an individual identifies themselves in addition to their anatomical reality. Gender constructs are embedded in our most dominant institutions - education, family, religion, governance and in the architecture that hosts them. 

Gender refers to culturally learned social roles, as well as the way an individual identifies themselves in addition to their anatomical reality.[1] Gender stereotypes still exist in society for all sexualities, this in turn creates boundaries of what is socially acceptable. A person’s ability as an employee, the roles we take on in society or the clothes we wear are not and should not be related to our physiological identity. The elimination of the societal constructs of Gender could be achieved in business, government, language, education and social institutions. This requires viewing all genders as identical on the inside. There is still a privilege given to certain genders based on historic social structures but by creating an environment which eradicates the hierarchy given to certain genders, and forming a gender plurality and acceptance of all genders within society, the realms of gender discrimination may dissipate. Gender constructs are embedded in our most dominant institutions - education, family, religion, governance and in the architecture that hosts them. My project intends to focus on the education sector, where a persons social understanding is at its most influential.

Gender in History

The idea of Gender constructs being broken down is not a new idea. Throughout history there are examples of pushing the boundaries of the social structures of gender from addressing domestic duties within a family setup to more recently within the fashion and media world. These are relevant because they show progression of breaking the social ideas, which is something that would need to happen to create a more accepting society. Some examples from history are:

Domestic duties

In 1974, the Cuban government created The Cuban Family Code where laws were put in place to ensure a more equal gender culture within the home, requiring men to share housework and child care. The law enabled issues of inequality within genders to slowly diminish, however certain aspects of the law serve to enforce the stereotypical gender roles by strengthening the idea of the importance of the Cuban family and therefore heterosexual marriage. In the 1980s a paper came out by Dolores Hayden called, “What Would a Non-Sexist City be like?” Hayden claims that by addressing the gender stereotypes associated with childcare and domestic work within the home it would allow for a more equal society. By making allowances for childcare in parallel to work some of these issues could be resolved, removing the taboo for men to stay at home and the women to go back into work after childbirth. So why don’t the majority of large corporations provide childcare facilities?

Media / fashion

Fashion has become hugely progressive in removing gender norms from the way we present ourselves. Gender neutral clothing is coming to the forefront of fashion, from acne producing gender neutral underwear to Rag & Bone producing gender neutral clothing. By promoting gender transgression and not conforming to preconceived social ideals of gender, and dressing outside of these more and more, the realms of discrimination seem to dissipate. Society has constructed preconceived notions of how we are supposed to look and represent ourselves as a gender, as seen in figure 1.

Institutional Bathrooms

There has been a change in legislation in some states in America where institutions are required to provide all gender restrooms within their buildings, allowing all gender identities to use the bathroom rather than having to conform to gender binary, removing any discriminations that may occur.

The New Groundswell

A new wave in popularity of raising and educating children in a Gender Plural environment, where Gender stereotypical roles are eliminated and all gender branches are accepted. Traditional, formal pedagogies like the Maslow theory, which the majority of British state schools use, are based on the idea of formally structuring and testing a pupil throughout their education. The progressive pedagogies that exist, for example the Montessori Method and Forest schools would render a more Gender plural environment as the children who learn through these methods are free to choose their own path and rate of education. In these environments there is less classification, less hierarchy, less definition and more freedom to do what the student wants or be what the student wants with less exposure to societal constructs of gender stereotypes.

Pedagogical Theories :
Formal Pedagogies

Throughout formal pedagogical spaces there is a pattern of spatial arrangement where teachers have more control. The spatiality of the spaces works for the type of pedagogy, where the pupils are tested and have a structured syllabus, however this renders spaces where the pupils are stuck to a desk or sit in rows in a lecture theaters. This forms quite a sterile learning environment to be in, where there no spaces for students to explore.

Montessori Methods

In Montessori education, the children are taught from day one to share all tasks allowing for gender roles to diminish within the school environment. Montessori schools are predominantly formed spatially in an open plan arrangement, allowing for free movement of the pupils, to engage with multiple work stations as they please.

The ambition of this project is to address the way gender is viewed within society today by separating anatomy from perceived ideas of gender roles or identities, and investigating the spaces where gender stereotypes are most prominent. The ideas of gender identity and roles are adapting on a personal level but society needs to allow this freedom of personal choice. By focusing on the time in ones life when one is at their most susceptible to their surrounding environments, the aim is to untackle how education can be instrumental in the social construction of Gender and might the impact in changing educational spaces help to make the social constructs around Gender dissipate?


1.     Gendered Toys, [https://thesundaysundae.files.wordpress. com]
2.     Photograph of The Women’s Day Off, 1975. Scandinavian Review.
3.    Montessori Card Forms, The Montessori Method.
4.     Gender and Education [http://www.genderandeducation. com]
5.     Dr Maria Montessori in the garden of the school at Via Giusti, 1910 [] 6.     Top - Balfron Tower playground, Erno Goldfinger, 1967. Bottom - Assemble, Brutalist playground, 2015. 
7.     Apollo School, Herman Hertzberger, 1980 - 83)


1.     “Gender” 2016 2016. (22 Jan 2016)
2.     Montessori, Maria (1912). The Montessori Method. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company.