Swings, MUGAs and Girls = Women (duh)

January 22, 2023

I don’t know if you know this, but girls eventually become women!!

And, while research shows that there is an obvious and notable physical transformation when females morph – in my first hand experience, their brains stay entirely intact.

(It is only when they start to become crones* that I wonder what heck happens!)- I mean, Where is my damn phone? (for the 1000th time today!). 🤔

There is an organization in Northern England that is doing some great research on how to make public gardens and outdoor spaces more friendly to teenage girls.

Their research has shown that girls don’t like MUGAs.

In landscape terms, this is a MUGA: (Multi-Use Games Area)

(apparently MUGA’s are also some sort of Cancer scanning tool – which sounds equally frightful)

If girls in the study don’t like MUGAs, then by the transitive property,** we can deduce that that women don’t like MUGA’s either.

But something interesting happened during the research (which involved showing girls images of all sorts of outdoor spaces).

This picture above got a different response. Can you guess what it is?

If you are a woman, I bet you know.

These are the thoughts that passed though my brain in rapid succession when I saw this image:

  • “What kind of child molester is lurking in the creepy white van?!?”
  • “Mom’s don’t drive pychopath cars.”
  • “No logo = No go” ***
  • “Oh, I’m supposed to be considering the MUGA? I’m sorry, I got distracted. But yeah, the MUGA is meh, I don’t want to hang out there. Not even when I was a very sporty 15 year old.”
  • “Can someone get me a cup of tea? I need to calm down.”

-My Rational Adult Woman Brain

The teenage girls also got sidetracked by the unnerving van parked where it should not be. I trust the research team learned an unexpected lesson about what makes inviting places for women.

Guess what elicited the opposite effect of a MUGA?

Adult sized swings.

Girls/Women like swings. Especially ones that feel safe.

This tracks:

There was a tree swing outside the house I lived in, in college – it was a common/favored place to have the best most impactful, life-changing, conversations (break-ups, proposals, degree program changes, early career decisions, etc. etc).

A mega-swing in Moscow’s, Gorky park is the recipient of a many design awards. I suspect it wasn’t just for the cool lighting it incorporated.

Consider an empty swing in the landscaped distance – it is a whole story (and focal point) in single glance.

Swings don’t have to look like something from the playground. Here are some of my favorite ideas for placing a swing your own garden.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Natural and pretty swings can be created between two trees. Much better in my opinion than having to construct a purpose built frame and then make it not look like it was just plopped down in the garden. 2) Swing frames are a great vertical structure to grow vines like wisteria. 3) A swinging garden bench in Chicago designed by Hoerr Schaudt. 4) No place to hang a swing, how about a swing chair? by Joe Parr Design. 5) Limited on space? I think this would be perfect for a snicket**** (from Pragma-trading) 6) Stylish women might like their swing to double as sculpture. 7) Peg and Awl keep it traditional and simple with their handmade olde fashioned wooden tree swings. 8) Macrame swing. 9) Fermob’s 1900 hanging chair comes in many pretty colors, but I am partial to ‘cactus’. 10) Not pictured – porch swings and swings instead of benches are two other ways of easily adding a swing to your life.

“An abandoned zipline structure was located atop a hill in the small Spanish village of Librán. A desire to revitalize the region has begun taking form in various ways, one of which was the commissioning of a large public swing to both overlook the town and serve as a new regional icon.” 

I think it might actually be a boy on this swing in Spain. Not that it matters – all people like swings. But it is especially worth pointing out that boys often really like to be where girls like to be (in case you haven’t noticed). So swings are universal, and are great garden features (Plus, they are downright affordable and way prettier than a backyard MUGA).

Please, always feel free to design for completely for yourself, and if you are working on gardens the public sector – don’t forget to design for women – we deserve a break from always doing the work of watching out for every sketchy white van.

Until next week!

P.S. I thought this was a great and helpful sketch for not overcomplicating a way to hang a rope swing from a tree branch or an overhead bar. (From Peg and Awl)

P.P.S. Matt and I are progressing with our Literally, A Rabbit Hole podcast and our new courses (so excited!). If you’ve been wondering where that link went to apply to be on the show and ask your own three questions – here it is again. (everyone that has applied so far has asked fantastic questions! We can’t wait to have you all join us!)

* The english language can be so disappointing. I literally can’t find a more flattering single word for older woman. 🙄

** If girls brains = women’s brains; Girls don’t like MUGAs → Women Don’t like MUGAs.

*** A business logo on the van would only slightly diffuse the situation. We all know that Ted Bundy pretended to be a police officer; it isn’t a stretch to think one of his groupies might pretend to be a plumber.

**** As I dove down the rabbit hole of swings, I discovered a much better word for ‘side yard’. Where side yards are afterthoughts, dumping grounds, and generally the last place we tend to turn our design eye – snickets are something else. A snicket (defined as a passageway between walls or fences) is magical. Can we all please agree to make an immediate lingual switch?

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