I grew up in a house full of women–my mom and two sisters–so perhaps I am predisposed to appreciate spaces where no men reside. In my adult life, I have frequently found myself more at home in radical, queer, women-only environments, and while they are by no means perfect, I prefer them to the exhaustion of butting heads against guys who just don’t get it. Most of the time, I’d rather use my energies hashing out issues, finding solutions, and creating community with other women. (Sorry dudefriends. You know I still love you!)
I have mad respect for folks who fight for gender desegregation and break into male-dominated careers. I certainly support the many brave women who do this work. It’s just not a path I find myself paving. Instead, I focus on creating spaces where women can find a reprieve from the hassles and dangers of the sexist world in which we live.
Moving to India has only deepened my resolve in the need for women-only spaces, as my view of how the public arena is affected by gender has been changed by my experiences living in a country where patriarchy is thickly visible. While walking down the street or riding in a subway, you can feel the boundaries and tension between the sexes. I’ve written a lot about the intersection of gender, race, class, national origin, and public space in India over the past year and a half because it is something I am only able to escape when in the privacy of my own flat. Therefore, I am constantly thinking and re-thinking these issues, and I can’t seem to come up with many answers… only more questions, like where is the balance between reclaiming public space and demanding a space of one’s own? And how does one negotiate one’s need for safety with one’s desire to live freely? And how much of that should be an institutional responsibility?
There are no easy answers, but I wonder what yours may be.