Women and space

(404 Posts)

No, not 'beam me up Scotty' space grin

We were talking on another thread about how women are socialised to be a certain way when they share space with men. To subconsciously self-police how they use that space, their body language etc.

I should confess that I have a professional (ish) interest in this topic, as the idea of space and place as an important construct in people's lives has been popping up in a research project I am doing at the moment. So I would be really interested in exploring this topic. I might even drag my sorry ass into some literature, I'll let you know if anything interesting pops up.

My own experience is that I've not even really thought of the issue of the gendering of space before, in a personal sense. Perhaps because I've always been more concerned with voice: being allowed to speak. Anyway, I look forward to the enlightening discussion that will ensue...

Should add that space and place as a metaphorical device in people's speech has been popping up in my research. Not actual physical place and space. IYSWIM?

rudely marking place while not really contributing anything as this sounds interesting

the first thing that comes to my mind (and it's not quite the same thing as what you're talking about i don't think, so feel free to ignore) is wrt the physical amount of space a woman's body takes up/is entitled to take up compared to a man's and how that can relate to disordered eating behaviours (see susie orbach)

Oh ho, that is very very interesting. The idea that women should be as little as possible so as to make less claim on space? But that seems strange when you consider that in the past, bigger women were considered more attractive at the same time as having many more social and legal restrictions and much lower status relative to men.

DontGiveAwayTheHomeworld Wed 28-May-14 14:52:31

It's one of those things that you don't realise until you really think about it, isn't it? The one for me is walking down busy streets, women tend to duck around people and apologise a lot. Men more often bulldoze their way through and expect people to get out of the way. Is that the kind of thing you mean?

Interesting how it translates to speech too. Pretty sure we've all been talked over by men at some point, as if their voice is more valid than ours.

slightlyglitterstained Wed 28-May-14 14:56:20

Can remember hearing that women tended to take up less space & making a point of not letting men spill over onto my seat on trains. Some of them got quite huffy but didn't dare say anything. grin

that's true

though my own eating problems (apologies for the sample of one) at least in part were a manifestation of my desire to take up as little space as possible, not to demand anything, not to have needs (including physical space as well as sustenance), if that makes sense

funnyvalentine Wed 28-May-14 14:59:02

Interesting topic smile

Sheryl Sandberg talks about the fact that women don't take their place at the table, physically as well as literally.

there's the obvious thing too about stereotypes of men sitting with legs apart, women with legs together, and the body language interpretations that surround that

MooncupGoddess Wed 28-May-14 15:01:50

Good subject. I am currently trying to train myself not to step out of the way/into the gutter whenever I see someone walking towards me... I didn't even realise I did this until I discovered the FWR board! It really has developed my thinking in so many ways.

slightlyglitterstained Wed 28-May-14 15:04:09

I wonder if you could teach defensive use of space in the same way you do in cycling proficiency, where they encourage you to take up space on the road so you get noticed and drivers have to acknowledge you?

Thinking of reports like this: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8296971.stm

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Wed 28-May-14 15:06:17

Bounces off walls into space, err, place marking.

DonkeySkin Wed 28-May-14 15:10:16

You're probably aware of the fact that feminists have been humorously documenting the opposite phenomenon, men who take up way more public space than they need to, for some time:

www.buzzfeed.com/juliegerstein/this-tumblr-has-a-great-idea-for-men-who-take-up-t

MrsWinnibago Wed 28-May-14 15:11:35

I've always been aware of SOME men taking more than their fair share of space and have battled them..sometimes physically for my equal share. Wrestling for the arm rest or for that extra inch of arse space on the bus...

tribpot Wed 28-May-14 15:15:12

Does Woolf's A Room of One's Own relate? I can't tell whether you're talking about physical space or the concept of space smile But I guess it is more common for the man and children in a relationship to have a space of their own, whilst the woman exists more solely in the communal space?

Interesting topic.
I think that houses are often seen as women's space, especially if the woman has chose how the rooms look and is responsible for caring for and maintaining that space. However, most of the women I know do not have any space of their own. Their male partners have garages, sheds, studies where they can keep their hobbies and interests and where they can retire for peace away from the family. The women tend to use public/family space for their activities (so everything has to stop and be cleared away at regular intervals) and not have anywhere private where they can shut a door and not be expected to share the space with the rest of the household.

Um, I don't think I'm putting this very clearly, sorry. I'm trying to get at the sense that men have a right to personal, private space but women are expected to allow their space to be shared.

tribpot said what I wanted to in a fraction of the words, while I was shillyshallying around debating whether to post.

scallopsrgreat Wed 28-May-14 15:23:03

I think street harrassment by men falls into this taking up space phenomenon. Public space is male space and some like to remind women about that. It can stop us from going certain places e.g. down certain streests and also make us want to be less conspicuous.

I was thinking about public space. How women defer to men in it.

But isn't it interesting how space has such significance? Metaphorically, linguistically, in terms of freedom, in terms of personal space and space to personalise. I'm happy to discuss it all smile

deXavia Wed 28-May-14 15:27:57

I remember when the ghastly men are from mars, woman are from Venus came out... I had so many friends laugh that men and dexavia are from mars...because I need to " cave"

I loathe people in my space. But with having kids I concede that they over ride that with their desire to be with me. And then I concede too much.
I'm very lucky to have a partner who knows how twitchy I get without space and helps ensure I get it. But i wonder how many woman, mothers get use to that invasion and then accept it not just from their kids but in general..?

treaclesoda Wed 28-May-14 15:33:21

Public space is male space. This might be too literal an interpretation of your subject but do you know what illustrates that statement most clearly to me? Public toilets!

Eg if I go to an average shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon, maybe 3/4 of the customers are women. Yet DH and I can both need the toilet and he can be in and out in seconds, because there is a ratio of maybe 3 urinals in the men's to every one cubicle in the ladies. So I might have to queue for 20 mins for something that takes him maybe 2 mins tops. Because heaven forbid that a man should have to wait in a queue! I've even had men tell me that it's not possible for a man to wait when he needs to pee, therefore this set up is both fair and correct hmm. But it definitely makes me feel that even a female focused environment like a shopping centre is actually at heart geared towards men.

This is fascinating. Mostly just marking my place.

I do what slightly does, especially with the arm rest. I find it very funny that not a few men eventually comment 'excuse me, I am trying to work!' as if it's never occurred to them before that they might not actually be due all the space there.

I think the idea of women being multitasking is huge here - as if we can somehow fold away all of our different trains of thought, whereas men just don't have the mental space to do that, diddums. hmm

Incidentally, this is one reason it really pissed me off that J K Rowling has Hermione's magic expanding bag as such a major plot point in the last book. Yes, I know it could be a subversive parody of the way women are expected to be good at using a tiny bit of space to provide ancillary services and planning to their menfolks but it wasn't, was it?!

Interesting how this thread relates to the 'friend zone' one. That's space imagined as exclusionary and I think the phrase derives a lot of its power because it uses that metaphor, doesn't it?

CalamitouslyWrong Wed 28-May-14 15:38:35

There's loads of research within feminist geography along these lines.

treacle, I think the whole thing around public and domestic toilets is interesting. That men retire for 30 uninterrupted minutes of toilet time/ reading/ playing with phone while women with children complain about the door being knocked the moment that their bum hits the seat. And women with young children often have to bathe, shower and use the toilet while actually sharing their bathroom with a child, which doesn't seem to be expected of dads to the same extent.

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