Ideation & Prototyping Week 10: Secondary Research & Mess Mapping

This week, we are starting our final group project which asks us to design an intervention for a real-world problem. After reading the brief, I quickly started brainstorming and thinking about the kinds of problems that would benefit from intervention from a tech perspective.

I looked around the house and saw a packaging of earplugs that says “women’s earplugs” because they are purple. This made me think about some ridiculously gendered products I have encountered in the past, and how gendered marketing enforces gender stereotypes and sexual binaries.

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Pink earplugs ads catered toward female buyers because… they are pink??

The discussion around gender neutrality, gender performance, and stereotypes have gained more attention in the online communities. However, this increased visibility still does not translate to a wide acceptance of gender neutrality and greater recognition of sexual stereotypes, especially among non-queer males.

For my final project, I want to explore different ways to help people to understand, acknowledge, and unlearn their conceptions of gender and gender performances. I want to directly address and confront my audience about how they think about gender, especially pointing out how our society imposes gender norms in seemingly inconspicuous and innocuous ways.

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To get a good sense of the ways in which society imposes gender, I started my secondary research on Reddit. I found pages that are full of examples in real life that shows how sex is being used as marketing tactics and mechanisms to enforce certain performances. To understand these examples on a more conceptual level, I also searched for academic journals and articles on gender stereotypes. I came across the term “hegemonic masculinity”, which offers insight into a cultural framework that justifies and reinforces the dominance of men and consequently, the marginalization of other gender identities.

Hegemonic masculinity is a term used to describe the hierarchical position of certain males against other men and women; it provides explanations for the subordination and marginalization of individuals that do not fit in the stereotypic notion of being a man, such as women and LGBTQ+ individuals (R.W. Connell 2005). This model of manhood outlines the practices that shape the socialization and aspirations of young males (Kupers 2005). To perpetuate models of being a man, it requires establishing social orders and domination of a specific class by making it seem natural and commonplace (Donaldson 1993). For instance, aggression and toughness are considered as necessary and natural qualities for men in the military in order to thrive in combat (Messerschmidt 2015).

While hegemonic masculinity gives explanations for the gendering of human society, it only offers a single perspective into a complex and multi-layered social dilemma. I hope to discuss and elaborate more on the direction of my project with my teammates and eventually create something that challenges how we think about sexuality and gender.


Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Donaldson, Mike. “What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?” Faculty of Arts — Papers (Archive), Oct. 1993, doi:10.1007/BF00993540.

Kupers, Terry A. “Toxic Masculinity as a Barrier to Mental Health Treatment in Prison.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2005, pp. 713–724.

Messerschmidt, James W. Hegemonic Masculinities and Camouflaged Politics: Unmasking the Bush Dynasty and Its War Against Iraq. Routledge, 2015.

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