A Space for Mom

I found today’s discussion of gendered spaces to be quite interesting and enlightening. For though I have been exposed to the concept of “separate spheres” in a Victorian literature class, I have never given much thought to rooms actually being geared towards a particular gender. Sophie Watson’s City A/Genders added greatly to my enlightenment concerning the ideas that city spaces, such as the home, are gendered and that women in general are not given a feminine space within the home.

The concept of separate spheres as I understand it is that a man’s place is to be the provider and worker outside of the home, while the woman’s place is to be in the home serving as the nurterer, cook, maid, mother, sexual partner ( for her husband), and taxi service for her family. According to Watson the woman has no place of her own. She makes this claim when she says in her text, City A/Genders, “The home, while seen as the domain of women, particularly in the middle-class homes, offers each member of the household their own space except the woman. Children often have a playroom, men have the study, garage, shed, or workshop. The women’s space is a site of labor–the kitchen, while the “master” bedroom suggest a sexual sleeping area where men have control,” (The Blackwell City Reader, 237).

 When I read Watson’s text, I immediately thought of June Cleaver and 1950s women; however, that picture in my opinion does not accurately fit the post-modern woman, whether or not she stays at home.  I find Watson’s argument to be interesting because her point of view is actually the direct opposite of what I have always heard concerning the home. Growing up I always heard people say that men needed a “man cave” because the rest of the house was the woman’s with which she could do as she pleased. This idea particularly applies in the idea of how a space should be decorated, which says much about who actually uses the space. For instance, my father has basically no say in the manner of how our home is decorated, save our shed in the back yard. The house was always seen as my mother’s to decorate as she wanted and to use as she wanted. In fact my mother uses the space of our home much more than my father. My dad only ever uses my parents’ shared bedroom, the bathroom, the study, the kitchen, and the den, while my mother uses their bedroom, the bathroom, the den, the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room, the study, the dining room, and our back porch. Though Watson claims that the woman’s only space is also a place in which she does labor, I must beg to differ. My mother finds enjoyment in cooking rather than seeing it as a place of hard labor; therefore, that space becomes uniquely hers in a sense. My mother also is the only person in our family who ever really uses our formal living room. It is in this living room that she reads, talks on the phone, and plays the piano. All of which are things she enjoys. It is her space.

Though I find Watson’s feminist perspective to be enlightening in regards to the concept of “separate spheres,” I do not necessarily agree with her. I know that my family’s situation might be quite different from other families’ situations in regards to the woman having a space of her own; however, I certainly do not agree that women are prisoners and/or slaves in their homes. Though I agree that the home is considered a more feminine space than is the workplace, I do not believe that the home is always to be seen as a concentration camp in which the woman works and receives no freedom of her own.

Works Cited:

The Blackwell City Reader

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1 Comment

Filed under City Cultures

One response to “A Space for Mom

  1. This is an interesting response, and it definitely shows how the idea of gendered space in the home can be more complicated than what Watson presents. I think there is a difference between the spaces you list that your mom and dad use, though — privacy. I wanted to talk about “man caves” yesterday until we had our cool discussion of bathrooms. The woman of the house gets to decorate everything but the man cave or shed, but all of the spaces that are “hers” are public. Everyone goes into the kitchen, and you might eat Christmas dinner in the formal dining room, but no one but your dad goes into his shed. If this seems like an interesting idea to think about, you might want to think about the way publicity and privacy work in Traffic in Souls or Skyscraper. The working women in the novel we’ll read next week all live in a kind of respectable dorm where they can only have gentlemen visit in a public room on the ground floor.

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