Pop Theory 18: We Still Need Feminist Spaces

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Pop Theory 18: We Still Need Feminist Spaces

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I adored Turkey’s cities and sites—the land’s rich cultural and religious history spans Hellenistic to Ottoman times. The overlay of Paganism, Christianity (both Roman and Greek Orthodox), and Islamic religions is astounding and, as evinced in the monuments and ancient ruins, visually stunning. But Turkey left a bad taste in my mouth; my experience was tainted by overt displays of misogyny and patriarchal power. If you think being harassed as you walk down the street, say, in NYC is bad, then let me tell you it is quadruply as bad in Turkey. Why? I think it boils down to the fact that men dominate public spaces, so that the moment they see a woman walking freely down the street they go batshit crazy. Especially a white, foreign woman who they do not read as one of their own; not their sister, not their mother, not their wife—so why not “take advantage”?

I was assaulted twice in Turkey: the first time a man ground his fist into my lady-region (and made a mocking and disturbing “c’est la vie” gesture to my girlfriend as she proceeded to tell him off); the second time a salesman decided to grab my breast in his shop. The details are inconsequential beyond my psychological well-being; the point is that I was perceived as a thing that men could easily possess because I was in their space. They own the space and everything within it. Period.

Whether from misogynists on the right or post-feminist “radicals” on the left, the argument for women’s spaces has been dismissed as “irrelevant” in this “Age of Gender Fluidity.” And, sure, gender is fluid and malleable and can be played with. But sex cannot. And the primary material with which we establish our gender or genders is our biologically determined sexed body. This is not to say that women’s spaces should be determined by biology alone, rather that women’s spaces should be created by those who identify as women and who value the particular cultural and sociological matrix that is “woman.”

And I realize that for all queer women—femme or butch or trans identified—the notion of “woman” is complicated. It speaks to our intelligence and our civic-minded nature that we persistently question every element of our self-fashioned identity.

But, in a way, making space for women, doesn’t have to be that difficult. Or, rather, I want to emphasize that women need to start claiming spaces, from their vaginas to the boardroom and beyond.

Perhaps as a way to steer clear of accusations of biological determinism (because being “woman” is more than just biology), and as a way to reclaim the “F” word, I should propose that we make feminist spaces.

And so I want to ask you, what are the values associated with these spaces?

For starters, how about:

spaces that can be sexually and erotically charged without being dehumanizing but are empowering;

and,

spaces that are never deemed property of the individual but all always shared, egalitarian spaces, where there is both an acknowledgement of and a respect for the other bodies that inhabit those spaces.

What other values would constitute feminist space?