Gendered Spaces Are Socially Constructed Locations Essay

Gendered Spaces Are Socially Constructed Locations Essay

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Gendered spaces are socially constructed locations commonly defined by their utility to service a particular gender. They are founded by historic common and continual performative usage upon which specific designs are built and a collective understanding and expectation is attached and is shared. Just as these identifying markers have come to legally and socially define a space as gendered, through signifying dynamics (i.e. - unfettered access, physical interaction with its utilities) the spaces themselves reciprocally identify their users as a particular gender. Consequently, the societal expectation in the United States is that only women (a.k.a. owners of biologically determined female bodies) will enter and use a Women’s Room, while it is equally anticipated that only male-assigned-at-birth, male-bodied individuals will enter and use the Men’s Room. This collective expectancy therefore locates only penises inside Men 's Room and only vaginas within Women 's Room; in this way, gender-specific public restrooms broadcast a heteronormative binary gender discourse that pivots on essentialist-based sex/gender linkage.
In patriarchal cultures, gendered spaces may also come to be those locales where specific gender identities and sexed bodies are permitted or restricted from various knowledges and subsequent mobilities, thereby limiting certain individuals ' agency and autonomy (Spain 1994). In gendering their users, public restrooms also segregate individuals along dominant heteronormative and patriarchal discourses (Overall 2007). In these productive ways, gender-specific restrooms are not static social structures possessing simple benign utilitarian features but rather serve as socially-restraining spaces that derive their auth...


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...simultaneously created spaces-of-distinction, places-of-separation, and zones-of-reproduction that tend toward replicating some of the problems it was conceived to remedy. Through participant observations, open-ended interviews of bathroom users and university administrators, in addition to future online surveys, I argue that these all-gender sites are simultaneously valuable sanctuaries provided to a vulnerable class, locations that segregate a particular community from the rest of the population, therefore limiting productive social contact, and zones that replicate social relations. I suggest for continued construction of both gender-specific and non-gendered restrooms with changes in designs that de-gender the rooms while fostering future integration of the user populations to alleviate continued social, political, legal and psychological distancing between them.

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