The conversation about breaking down gender stereotypes in regards to popular culture — take, for instance, the universal symbol for women’s restrooms, which depicts a stick figure wearing a tent dress, whereas the men’s symbol simply shows… a person — is one that’s brought up frequently. But what if it turned out that that stick lady wasn’t wearing a dress at all? (And no, that’s not to say she’s nude.)
Late last month at the Girls in Tech conference in Arizona, software developer Axosoft introduced a new concept in female lavatory signs: Instead of that old, familiar, monochromatic “woman” symbol, the shape was colored-in to resemble a person wearing a “superher”-esque red cape. The clever design made its way to Twitter, and voila! #ItWasNeverADress was born.
Now being called a full-fledged campaign, itwasneveradress.com (empowered by Axosoft) describes itself as “an invitation to shift perceptions and assumptions about women and the audacious, sensitive, and powerful gestures they make every single day.
Lawdan Shojaee, CEO of Axosoft, poses with a poster. Photo: @lawdanshojaee/Twitter
“In science, technology, arts, mathematics, politics, houses of worship, on the streets, and in our homes, insightful women are often uninvited, overlooked, or just plain dismissed. Through storytelling, community building, innovation and creative disruptions, It Was Never a Dress will foster necessary conversations, vital voices, and images from around the world that honor ALL women. When we see women differently … we see the world differently!”
It’s a brilliant yet simple and effective idea, particularly in the male-dominated fields of tech and science. And so far, responses to the initiative have been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to having a viral hashtag on Twitter, #ItWasNeverADress has been picked up domestically and internationally by such news sources as The New York Times, Time, Yahoo News, and Huffington Post.
What should we expect next from #ItWasNeverADress? According to the campaign’s site, this is only the beginning. “In the coming weeks, we will be inviting submissions for sharing stories, images and ideas about perceptions and realities,” it says, before inviting visitors to sign up and join the conversation. In the meantime, we’d be a bit surprised if we don’t start seeing that superher-fied graphic as a sticker stuck over a whole lot of signs in the near future. Though we don’t generally support the defacing of public property, it’ll be hard not to smile when we see that caped woman greeting us at the restroom door.