How does public space feel different for women compared to men? As presented in class today, safety, visibility and morality, are all factors when considering the gender differences in public spaces. Women are genetically weaker than men, that’s no secret, but is this why women often don’t feel safe in public spaces? Is the threat of kidnapping and rape so engrained in our minds that we can’t walk down a sidewalk without having to constantly look over our shoulders? Personally, I find it tiresome to live in a state of constant fear. Although I don’t think women should live in constant fear, I do think that they should always be aware of their surroundings. The image below is a dark city street; a street that Watson would say is not safe for women. Although I choose not to walk around in fear, this is a street that I would also choose to avoid.
When it comes to the safety of women in public spaces, especially in big cities, could transportation have an impact, or even limit the travel and mobility of women? Sophie Watson certainly thinks so. In her essay, “City A/Genders,” Watson writes, “the lack of safety associated with the public spaces of the city, the lack of street lighting and the imagined and real dangers of public transport, particularly at night, curtail women’s easy movement” (237). As discussed in class today, women are usually taught to avoid dark, unpopulated city areas due to the many threats of big city life. However, it seems that the same does not apply to men. In fact, Watson goes on to say that “public spaces are often more suited to the needs of young adolescent men than women with young children” (237). In this respect, safety in public space is much different for women than for men. It seems as if women must always be looking over their shoulders, while it seems that the streets and ways of transportation in big citites were made to catur more to the needs of men.
As also discussed in class today, the visibility of women and men in public space differs as well. There is the possibility that women are more visible in public space than men simply because of the way they adorn themselves. When women go out, especially for a night in the big city, it is not uncommon to see them dressed up wearing high heels and jewelry that really catches the eye. On the other hand, men, no matter how dressed up they are, aren’t normally seen wearing eye-catching jewelry and tight, attention-drawing clothes.
Then there is the difference between women and men concerning morality in public spaces. Why is it immoral for a woman to go out for a night on the town and have too much to drink, but when a man does the same thing he is just simply “having fun?” Watson makes the point in her essay that the home is more or less the dwelling place for women. She discusses how it is the norm, especially in middle and upper-class households, for the women to stay home with the children while the men go out to work each day. This suburban way of life has been a consistant cultural norm. Maybe the idea that women should be at home raising children is why they are more or less “judged” more intensely than men. Just is has been a cultural norm for women to stay home, it has also been a cultural norm for men to leave the home each day for work.
This is a picture of the well-known homemaker, June Cleaver. She represents the tradational values of the All-American house wife. It would be rather strange to see June Cleaver out for a night in the city, leaving her children and husband at home. Are women seen as immoral if they choose to go to public spaces alone? Maybe that’s why women are judged more harshly than men… maybe some people see that as neglecting their families and homes?
The Blackwell City Reader