Models of memory and place – chapter 3

 

Some more past ramblings… 

Gender roles

Doreen Massey has written in depth into the subject of gender roles, and the effect of which on space and place. Firstly I must define space and place, space is considered significant in only its physical dimensions, heavily influenced by time and lacking social interactions.  Space is repeatable, place is unique.

‘The particular mix of social relations which are thus part of what defines the uniqueness of any place is by no means all included within that place’ (Massey. I believe this uniqueness is akin to the character of a place.)

This implies the meaning of a place far exceeds the physical space it inhabits, past experiences influence how we perceive the place we are inhabiting at the time.

Massey explores the interconnectedness of geography, identity and gender roles. She attributes place, both the memory and interpretation of such as female.

The construction of home as a woman’s place has, moreover, carried through into those views of place itself as a source of stability, reliability and authenticity. Such views of place, which reverberate with nostalgia for something lost, are coded female  (Also discussed in Gillian Rose, Feminism and geography) Home is where the heart is (if you happen to have the spatial mobility to have left) and where the woman (mother, lover-to-whom-you-will-one-day-return) is also. (Massey)

Furthermore, the stability of place extends place itself, the mother represents stability, a figurative anchor, and not ‘herself a living person engaged in the toils troubles and pleasures of life’ (Massey)

In chapter 8 Massey vividly relives a memory of when she was living in Manchester, only nine or ten years old. She remembers riding the bus into town, passing the Mersey flood plains and seeing all the boys playing football.

I remember all this very sharply. And I remember, too, it striking me very clearly -even as a puzzled, slightly thoughtful little girl- that all this huge stretch of the Mersey flood plain had been entirely given over to boys. (Massey)

 

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She never visited these fields, feeling barred from this place reserved for the boys. The memory of what defined a ‘woman’s place’ (By ‘woman’s place’ I refer to the stereotypical view that the woman should be providing for her family by staying at home, preferably in the kitchen.)  resonating strongly (This resonating memory is one shared, even though not experienced by many. This relates back to the idea of collective memory. See chapter 2.) creating a psycho-physical barrier of sorts ‘they seemed barred, another world’. (Massey)

 

A man’s place, a woman’s place

Certain places are considered as male, just as certain places are deemed female in nature. Less so now, but to a certain extent we still find ourselves governed by these social conventions e.g. the woman’s place is the kitchen, men are the breadwinner (As explored by Massey in the chapter ‘The woman’s place’.) I could spend a while delving into these stereotypes, men can’t multitask, woman are useless at DIY etc. but I think these are constantly being proven wrong in our modern age.  And therefore any commentary I have on the subject, I feel, would be an outdated approach; however I am going to look into some theories surrounding these stereotypes. The relation to place is still very relevant, the link of women to the home is one that remains constant, this is a largely due to the subordination of women.

This section will explore the portrayed stable nature of the woman, as opposed to the view that men are the mobile force that supplies the woman with the means to survive. I feel this is relevant in terms of these models of memory and place, as the social conventions that these preconceptions create help shape our experience with a place; they act as a form of popular collective memory.(see chapter 2)

The character of men is stronger than that of women and can bear the attacks of enemies better, can strain for longer, is more constant under stress therefore men have the freedom to travel with honour  in foreign lands. Women, on the other hand, are almost all timid by nature, soft, slow and therefore more useful when they sit and watch over things. (Taken from Marc Wrigley’s, Untitled: The Housing of Gender. Sexuality and Space ( 1992)

Alberti also goes one to state that a man should ‘abstain from such activities as properly pertain to women,’  (Wrigley) and that to stray from ones designated gender roles is a dangerous act. For a woman to be interested in an active role, a role outside of the confines of her four walls begins to call into question her virtue, as if women lack self control, as if she is at the mercy of her deepest desires.  It is this perceived lack of control that requires women to be bound to a space, if they are unable to control themselves, women much be domesticated; much like that of a wild animal. (The subject of marriage is discussed n Marc Wrigley’s untitled: the housing of gender.)

The role of the explorer is often portrayed as male. To demonstrate this point I will refer back to Psychogeography and the Flâneur. Benjamin describes the acts of the Flâneur in depth in his collection, The Arcades project. Always represented as male, the Flâneur is a wanderer of the streets of Paris.

He (the Flâneur) experiences the city as a ‘colportage phenomenon of space’ ([Benjamin. Benjamin’s relationship to the city was a tenuous one. ‘The city is heaven, the city is hell. Benjamin loved and loathed it. In this tension that Benjamin reveals himself as a walking contradiction’ (Gilloch) this experience of the city is an integral part of his views on the Flânuer.) Often his wanderings are carried out in an intoxicated state; he is a solitary observer, an unconscious social journalist ( ‘The social base of the Flanerie is journalism’ (Benjamin,  he observes and responds.)) He develops empathy with the subjects of his observations; he is mastering the art of reading faces.

Empathy with the commodity is fundamentally empathy with the exchange value itself. The Flânuer is a virtuoso of this empathy. He takes the concept of marketability and takes it for a stroll. Just as his final ambit is the department store, his last incarnation is the sandwich man. (Benjamin)

The idleness of the Flânuer is frequently referred to, with this point in mind; in refer back to point earlier, by which the man is supposed to be the provider, the force that drives women to survive. He (The Flânuer) is not strong in character, is not strong to fight off enemies, he is instead an aimless wanderer, a man he forgoes sobriety and avoids the responsibility typically associated with manhood and family.

20140923055159-Flaneur1

I move to my last point on this matter, the home as the place of women. Marc Wrigley’s untitled: the housing of gender is where my main focus lies, because rather than taking a purely feminist stance on the issue, he instead explores the role of psychoanalysis and recent architectural influences.(Here I link back to chapter 1, and the theories of Bachelard. As for the purpose of this series of writings, he is the main source of architectural analysis.)

As touched upon in the previous section, gender roles play a substantial part in the subject of sexuality and space. Sexuality and women are treated in very similar ways, they are seen to be something to be contained, controlled and privatized. (One could argue this is Influenced by memory, enforced by place.)

The role of architecture is explicitly the control of sexuality, or, more precisely, women’s sexuality, the chastity of the girl, the fidelity of the wife, just as the woman is confined to the house, the girl is confined to her room. (Wrigley,  ‘akin to that of a wild animal’)

Marriage is a mechanism of control, architecture is the tool used to achieve this control. The house serves many functions, one of which is the protection of the man’s blood line; another is the isolation of the man’s wife from other men.

 In fact it is the man who is immobile, fixed to the house-in the sense of both family and building. The woman is mobile. Her ‘’natural’’ immobility in the interior is enforced in the face of her mobility between houses. The apparent mobility of the man is produced by the confinement of the woman. (Wrigley)

The house is only considered the woman’s place because the man needs control, of both the woman and her sexuality, and he can only achieve this through physical barriers. The woman has the freedom to move and choose houses, but the illusion of control enforced by the house ensures she believes her state of immobility. She, in fact, is the one in control, but is yet to realise.

There is a spatial confusion, the woman’s desires to be in control is fulfilled by that of the house. The man is then free to travel as he wishes the security of his home and family is at no risk. (The theory being she maintains order in the home, and by being confined in such, she is kept from infidelity.)

This chapter has strayed from my initial survey into models of memory and place slightly. When looking into the role of gender on places, it becomes difficult to include the subject of memory. I instead aimed to look into how we perceive and interact with place depending on our gender. By focusing on architectural notions this chapter has hopefully tied into the first chapter, in which I explored Bachelard and his theories on interior space and memory.

I shall be back. 

Some More books – 

 

Massey, Space, Place, and Gender 

Miles, City Culture Reader second ed 

Assorted writers, Sexuality and Space edited by Beatiz Colomina

 

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