March 25, 2009

Public vs. Private Space

At the beginning of the semester, we looked at public vs. private space, as well as how different individuals interact and experience different spaces depending on their gender and other identities. We looked at various articles, including Nancy Duncan's "Renegotiating Gender and Sexuality in Public and Private Spaces." The issues surrounding space as public and private are abundant, as well as the interconnections between spaces as some are seen as both public and private, or as public by some, and private by others. One important question to ask in any case, is how do we determine what is to be considered public space, which spaces are to be considered private, and who has the right to decide this?

Public spaces are usually considered to be places that large numbers of people occupy and carry out their business and other interactions in an "acceptable", considerate manor. Private spaces are usually spaces that involve privacy, intimacy, comfort, sense of freedom and liberation, etc. Public spaces (such as the workplace) continue to be viewed as masculine spaces, while private spaces (such as the home) are still seen as the female's domain (i.e., the "domestic sphere"). But what happens when something occurs to violate or damage such a private space? What happens when someone brings something otherwise considered "private" into the public? And what do we do when groups of individuals are visibly and notably excluded from certain spaces based upon their gender, sexuality, or race (as women and other minority groups often are)?

We were assigned collages as part of our course requirement, and I created a collage that represented both Nancy Duncan's article (previously mentioned) and Daphne Spain's article "Space and Status". The collage involves an interpretation of public and private spaces, as well as the exclusion that many women face on a daily basis from many public spaces throughout the world. I have included a photo of my collage for you to see yourself, to make your own judgements and interpretations of what public vs. private space and exclusion from space means to you.

Fear of Night

So, my friend Kerrilynn just came over to show me her video that she made for our Women's Studies 211 class (the same class that I created this blog for), and it was amazing! She deals with so many issues of gendered spaces in our society, as well as how individuals interact with particular spaces depending on their gender (sound familiar?). One particular segment of her video really resonated with me, and I thought that I would share it on my blog as it relates to what I've been talking about in the last few posts (interactions with space differing depending on one's experience of gender).

This particular segment of Kerrilynn's video deals with fear of night, especially women's fear of nighttime and darkness. At the beginning of the segment, she mentions that not only are most women terrified of going out alone at night, but darkness itself could be described as a social construction. To demonstrate this, Kerrilynn films herself walking quickly along streets and paths in Charlottetown after nightfall with a worried/frightened/scared-shitless look on her face. Without any words spoken at all, the viewer can really see that she is truly afraid of being alone in the darkness.

So what does this mean? Why are most women afraid of going out alone at night? Some women are even afraid to go out at night with other women unless there is a man present. Why the sense of danger once the sun has gone down? Is it because women become less visible at night, therefore are less protected from danger? Is there an assumption that all of the "predators" and rapists come out at night with the specific intent to prey on lone women?

During week 6 of our WS211 class, one of the assigned readings was Hille Koskela's article, "'Gendered Exclusions': Women's Fear of Violence and Changing Relations to Space". This article goes into great detail about women's increasing fear of violence, as well as where, when, and why women are becoming more and more afraid of certain spaces. One of Koskela's main arguments is that women are becoming increasingly afraid of night and darkness, and only venture outside during daylight hours because of the perception of possible violence, harassment, assault, or some form of victimization at night. She goes on to say that fear itself is a social construction, which is perpetuated through discussions with friends and news reports in the media (115). And while some may argue that fear cannot possibly be a social construction because we all feel it, and it's just a "natural instinct", one can argue back that it is impossible to know whether or not humans are innately fearful, because we have all been taught to be fearful of certain things from the moment we are born. Furthermore, fear has been perpetuated throughout history by the various forms of media and communication that continue to invade our minds, homes, and beahviours to this day. Fear has become entrenched within us, but we have somehow come to assume that it is a natural part of the human experience.

So what do we do with this information? What can we do to reduce women's fear of night, darkness, and space in general? This is an increasingly problematic issue, as women's fear is increasing with time, not decreasing. Thoughts?

March 22, 2009

Gendered Bathrooms

I wondered how long it would take me to finally write a post on gendered bathrooms, seeing as it's probably the most obvious example of gendered space that anyone can think of! But I was waiting for the right time and the right inspiration to come along - which it did on friday. My professor (Kate Bride) gave me a letter written by Dean Spade to his coworkers about de-gendering bathrooms, and I thought that he had some really excellent things to say. So rather than summarizing his points, I figured I'd give you an exerpt of his letter (because sometimes good things are better left to speak for themselves!). Here's what Dean Spade has to say about gendered bathrooms:

"As you may know, bathrooms are a very serious issue for transgender, transsexual, and gender variant people. Most bathrooms are “gendered,” meaning that they are marked with signs designating a room for “men” and a room for “women.” For many reasons, this creates serious obstacles to using these facilities for trans and gender variant people. For one, many trans and gender variant people have appearances that are not consistently read as “male” or “female.” This means that every time we need to use a bathroom, we face a decision about which bathroom will be safer, never knowing whether we will encounter harassment, embarrassing stares, or even violence or arrest. I, myself, have been kicked out of both “women's” and “men's” bathrooms numerous times, and unlawfully arrested and held overnight for using the “men's” bathroom. Most trans and gender variant people have experienced severe harassment and/or violence because of being understood to be in the “wrong” bathroom. Additionally, many of us have a strong gender identity that does not conform to what some people expect when they look at us, so when we go into the bathroom with the sign that makes the most sense for our internal gender identity, we again frequently encounter a number of uncomfortable and/or unsafe experiences. Finally, many trans and gender variant people do not feel that they fit neatly into the either of two binary gender categories (“male” and “female”) and having to constantly be faced with a difficult decision on how to stay safe and retain dignity while trying to use facilities that are labeled in this way is a serious burden. The culmination of these experiences of humiliation, harassment, and violence day in and day out over the years produces in many trans and gender variant people severe and persistent anxiety about using public bathrooms. Medical professionals report that a disproportionate number of trans and gender variant people experience health problems stemming from the lack of access to safe bathrooms, and having to wait long periods to use a bathroom." - Dean Spade

To read more, visit

March 21, 2009

Interpreting and Interacting With Space

Over the past few days, I have been struggling with what else to post on this blog. I felt like I was running out of things to say or share without sounding repetitive and redundant, because there's only so many ways that I can rant or share information about the problematic nature of gendered spaces (such as bathrooms, proms, and women-only gyms). But after talking to my professor (Kate Bride), I realised that there is another angle completely that I hadn't examined. Not only do gendered spaces affect us, but the ways that we interact with particular spaces depends greatly upon an individual's gender (and the way that they experience/perform that role).

So, I've decided to take my blog in this new direction - to observe and examine the ways in which individuals encounter, interpret, and behave within particular spaces depending on their gender. I'm interested in examining different social norms and rules that dictate and guide our behaviour while occupying a particular space. Obviously I will also continue to share articles that I find and ideas that I have about gendered spaces in general, but I think this additional angle will bring a lot of depth to my blog and offer a greater insight into my attempt to problematize gendered spaces (and now, how gender plays a role in experiencing space).


March 14, 2009

Gendered Technology

Another fabulous post from the blog I mentioned previously. This blog post is in the form of a paper written by Kalyn Schofield, and discusses how technology remains to be a male-dominated field from which the majority of women are excluded. Society circulates jokes and assumptions about women being incompetent, technological dupes - thus perpetuating the relationship between technology and masculinity. Read the rest of this essay at the link below:

How Aging Changes the Experience of Gendered Spaces

It's no secret that gendered spaces include domestic zones - such as the kitchen, laundry/sewing room, workshop, etc. I came across this great blog the other day that contains posts on gendered spaces and technologies, and found it absolutely fascinating what some of the authors had to say. I thought them so great in fact, that I thought I would share the links with you to read further. I think they're definitely worth a look!

This post deals with a woman's experience with her aging Great Uncle, as she witnesses his struggle to master the domestic sphere after the passing of his wife. She explains that he didn't even know how to use a toaster, microwave, or oven until she and her family intervened. This post is really moving and is a perfect illustration of gendered spaces at work in our lives.


March 11, 2009

Lesbian Safety Talk: Problematizing Definitions and Experiences of Violence, Sexuality and Space

I just found a GREAT article on Sage Publications, called "Lesbian Safety Talk: Problematizing Definitions and Experiences of Violence, Sexuality and Space", by Karen Corteen. Here's the abstract for the article:

The `Violence, Sexuality and Space' Research Project is the first major research project in Britain to explore how `safe', `public' spaces are created and sustained in response to homophobic violence. The research presented here examines lesbian safety talk and centres on lesbian focus group participants' responses to headline findings from a large-scale survey. The article illustrates the complexities involved in defining and interpreting violence and safety. It highlights the temporal and relative context of space, together with the importance of subjective, social and ideological constructions of violence and safety. The impact of sexuality on risk assessment and safety strategies is discussed alongside the influence of gender presentation, gender deviation and interpretative frameworks.

And the Link for the actual article:

Corteen, Karen. "Lesbian Safety Talk: Problematizing Definitions and Experiences of Violence, Sexuality and Space." Sexualities 5.3 (2002): 259-280.

Pre-op Transgendered Man Banned from Women-Only Gym

Wow, so this is an absolutely crazy article that I found about a Pre-operation Transgendered Man who was banned from a Women-Only gym in St. Catharine's, Ontario, and decided to sue based on a violation of human rights and discrimination. The article is from The Calgary Herald, written by Nigel Hannaford, and he has some pretty critical and sarcastic things to say - however, he is objective and presents some very important parallels to be made between this case and other "absurdities" within Canadian society. Hannaford says he learned about this case through The Globe and Mail, but I searched and searched and couldn't find the original, so this will have to gives you the gist of the situation at least. Follow the link below to read more, and to make your own judgments on Hannaford's argument!

Gendered Gyms

So I just got home from the gym this morning, and lo-and-behold, what did I discover? The gym is a gendered space! What first drew my attention to this fact was the amount of couples working out together - they were everywhere! I suppose I should note that the couples I noticed were heterosexual couples....because judging from what I've seen of PEI so far, there would be a pretty intense backlash if a gay or lesbian couple were showing their affection for one another at the gym on campus. Which brings me to my second point - when did it become appropriate to kiss, fondle, smack bottoms, etc. with your significant other at the gym?? I thought we were supposed to be working out, not making out...maybe I missed the memo on that one.

The gym as a gendered space also got me thinking about the "women only" gyms that have popped up over the past few years - Just Ladies Fitness and Curves to name a few. What is the purpose of these women-only gyms? Are they there because women become too self-conscious when working out in the presence of men? Are women more comfortable surrounded by only other women? These questions are of great interest to me, therefore I am now making it my personal mission to find out some more information on these gendered gyms, and why they continue to be maintained as such! More to follow soon...

Thanks for reading,

March 2, 2009

Prom as a Gendered Space!?

My roommate is currently doing a project about how prom is a gendered space. At first, I thought, "no way, prom's awesome! It's not restrictive or gendered at all!". But after I thought about it some more, and talked to my roommate about some of the research that has been conducted on this topic, I couldn't believe it - Prom IS a Gendered Space!

Think about it.

For starters, every prom has a "Prom King" and a "Prom Queen",
who are crowned near the end of the evening, followed by their first dance as newly-crowned prom-royalty. It's never "Prom King" and "Prom King", where two guys get crowned and get to dance with each other, or vice versa - never a "Prom Queen" and "Prom Queen" called to the stage to accept two glittering crowns. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if that ever happened!?

Secondly, the guys are all supposed to go out and buy black tuxedos, and the girls are supposed to go out and buy fancy, feminine gowns. Guys are supposed to ask a girl to the prom and buy her a corsage to match her dress, and girls are supposed to greatfully accept any offer they get - because showing up at prom without a date is pretty much social suicide.

While at the prom, there are fast dances, and slow dances - and it's the slow dances that really illustrate how much of a gendered space prom really is. During a slow dance, a guy is supposed to take his date (a girl) onto the dance floor, where they should proceed to dance in an excruciatingly slow circle - his hands on her waist, her arms around his neck and head on his shoulder. Why is the slow dance a gendered activity? Well - think about your own prom. If a guy had dragged another guy onto the dance floor and proceeded to intimately slow-dance with him, what would have happened? What about two girls? EXACTLY - social outrage, shock, and disbelief.

I could go on for hours about other things that make prom a gendered space (washrooms, chaperones, dance etiquette, etc)....but I think you get the idea. I also realise that some of the situations and scenarios I described are a tad stereotypical - but I think they still make an important point. So for those of you who loved prom as much as I did, and now have a slightly tainted view of prom? I sincerely apologize. For those of you who hated prom - I guess I just gave you a few more reasons to hate it even more! Cheers.

February 28, 2009

Gendered Space in Traditional Architecture

This is a fascinating article that I found by Clare Melhuish, I hope it proves to be just as fascinating for you - Enjoy!

"Traditional architectural forms throughout the world frequently demonstrate clearly differentiated spaces for the sexes, reflecting an acknowledgement of, and response to what are perceived as women's and men's differing roles, needs and natures in society. While modernisation and westernisation may result in a questioning of those assumptions, age-old building traditions nevertheless offer insights which may not only be of interest to anthropologists, but also of value to those engaged in contemporary practices of design and construction.

Catherine Keys' research into the spatial arrangements of the Warlpiri aboriginal people in Australia focuses attention on the traditional provision of domestic accommodation, or jilimi, specifically designed for single women (Keys 1999, 2003 ). This would form one of the three different types of domestic ‘camp' which also included the yupukarra (married or family camp) and the jangkayi (single men's camp). During an individual's life-cycle, and reflecting evolving domestic needs, he or she would move from one type of accommodation to another. When government agencies in the 1980s began building different housing types for aboriginal communities, it prompted a backlash from Warlpiri women who wanted a return to the traditional single women's accommodation."

Read More

For more articles pertaining to gendered space, visit

Protesting Gendered Spaces on Facebook!

It is to my surprise and delight that I came across a Facebook group today called:

Get Your Gendered Spaces Off My Fucking Campus NOW!

How exciting eh? Apparently I'm not the only university student who's distressed by our society's persistent and harmful dichotomies. This group is run by Dan Foerste from the State University of New York (SUNY), and they hold rallies and events to increase knowledge and awareness across the campus and around the community about the problematic nature of gendered spaces. Their focus seems to be primarily on the problems that transgendered individuals face due to issues such as gendered washrooms and dormatories. They are also concerned with the severe lack of knowledge in the health care system, faculty members, and security staff on campus, surrounding the issues faced by transgendered individuals and the problematic nature of gendered spaces in general.

Here's the link to the group's page if you're interested in reading more about their mission and goals (you may need to be signed into facebook to actually see the page):

G.S. Blog Post - Ingie Hovland

I came across a great blog post this evening, written in August 2008 by Ingie Hovland. Though brief, I think that the post includes a great quote about gendered spaces, and their effects on the lives of women and men. I thought it would be interesting to include the link here for you to read yourselves, as I definitely think it's worth the read! Enjoy.

February 27, 2009

Gendered Spaces - by Daphne Spain

Here's a book that I think might interest you if you wish to read further on the subject of gendered spaces. It's called (conveniently) Gendered Spaces, written by Daphne Spain. Here's a brief synopsis that I found on, where you can also purchase a copy today:

"In hundreds of businesses, secretaries—usually women—do clerical work in "open floor" settings while managers—usually men—work and make decisions behind closed doors. According to Daphne Spain, this arrangement is but one example of the ways in which physical segregation has reinforced women's inequality. In this important new book, Spain shows how the physical and symbolic barriers that separate women and men in the office, at home, and at school block women's access to the socially valued knowledge that enhances status.
Spain looks at first at how nonindustrial societies have separated or integrated men and women. Focusing then on one major advanced industrial society, the United States, Spain examines changes in spatial arrangements that have taken place since the mid-nineteenth century and considers the ways in which women's status is associated with those changes. As divisions within the middle-class home have diminished, for example, women have gained the right to vote and control property. At colleges and universities, the progressive integration of the sexes has given women students greater access to resources and thus more career options. In the workplace, however, the traditional patterns of segregation still predominate.
Illustrated with floor plans and apt pictures of homes, schools, and work sites, and replete with historical examples, Gendered Spaces exposes the previously invisible spaces in which daily gender segregation has occurred—and still occurs. " (, retrieved 27 feb,2009)

For more information about this book, visit:


Hello, and welcome to my blog!

I created this blog as part of an assignment for my Women's Studies: Gender, Sexuality, and Space course. However, I have every intention of continuing this blog well after the completion of this course, because the issues that I wish to discuss here do not just start and stop within the timeline of a university class. I believe that the damaging and controlling effects of gendered spaces are felt by each and every individual on this earth, therefore I hope that this blog will provide a critical examination of such spaces and how we can go about changing their impact.

What do I mean by gendered spaces? Well, to be general, a gendered space is any space or place which has both visible and hidden expectations, rules, and guidelines for men and women (usually different), detailing "appropriate" behaviour and actions. Gendered spaces reinforce gender roles and stereotypes, and help to preserve existing norms and boundaries of society. A more detailed explanation and picture of gendered spaces will appear in the subsequent posts that follow this one, but I hope that this brief explanation will be sufficient for the time being!

Thanks again for visiting my blog - Hope you Enjoy!

Erica Van Driel