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Women in Space

posted by shainaagbayani

June 19, 2011

Women in Space

Second Wave feminism sought to address the dearth of women's presence in the public sphere, particularly in the workforce, recognizing that their bodies were disproportionately tied domestic work in the private space of the home.

So when Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to enter space on June 16, 1963, this majestic symbol of women entering a "space" to which only highly entitled - educationally and career-wise - individuals could access became a hallmark event for feminists. Since then, the types and amount of spaces that women occupy have increased to an extent which has encouraged the common perception within the non-academic-feminist Western world to be that Westerners finally inhabit a post-feminist era.

A series of conversations and experiences that I've had both (1) recently in academia and (2) over the entirety of my life elsewhere consolidate my belief that public "space" is still much more occupied by men despite the typical statistics that anti-feminists will cite, such as the fact that North American women presently comprise a larger part of the workforce than men.

I'll be referring to space in a most elementary form - conversation - although we could certainly cite how women are still more systemically occupy less space. A recent conversation with a "feminist" male friend was one of the many triggers of my reflection on the topic. He stated that , as someone understanding and supporting of the concerns of feminists, he still catches himself being more heedful of men's opinions that than that of women, for instance in environments of political activism.

I then reflected on spaces in conversation, in my political science conferences, for example, where women have either outnumbered men or have constituted a roughly equal proportion. So, affirmative check for visibility and presence. Yet I can categorically say that the male voices in these spaces are more constantly heard and more assertive. Although there are surely anomalies, I've observed that in most of my classes, female views are less frequently shared and, when shared, less assertive, often accompanied by prefaces like "I don't know if this is right, but" or "I know that this may be generalizing but", etc.

Even in my Women's Studies classes, the amount of participation and level of confidence in the expressions of handful of men out of the hundred or so women have outweighed that of females. Even in a non-academic, non-activist environment, I find that women, including myself, in a group of men, feel less entitled to expressing their opinion despite our consciousness that we're just as valuable of human beings as them.

May this be related to what is stereotypically conceived of as women's over-analysis of everything before they speak, and the restraint that follows? I can't be sure, although that certainly applies to my case and that of other women to whom I speak.

There has always been a history of women being stigmatized for creating spaces for themselves by voicing their opinion which continues on today. For example, the fact that the adjective "gossipy" and "loud-mouthed" much more commonly attaches to women than men is a function of the long historical process through which docile, tight-lipped women who complied to patriarchal societal norms were seen as the respectable ones, and those who spoke out against them were "deviant".

In a similar light, I've also been thinking about how conversational spaces can very silently and unintentionally become oppressive due to class, which more often than not ties to race (yup, I'm going to stretch my analysis over the whole rainbow of gender, race, and class folks, so hold your horses, you non-existent audience). But that's something I'll leave for my next space of musing.

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Some people discriminate and

Some people discriminate and some don't, it's difficult to deal with discriminatory people because they are usually narrow minded, but if you can't avoid it, then you must prove them wrong. It's really not about the gender (or I guess it shouldn't be) but what you do and the way you deal with people that makes someone respect you and recognize your accomplishments.

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awesome, I liked this alot.

Do you connect your

Do you connect your assertion, supported by a number of researchers and studies, that women occupy less space in discourse due to the policing of women both internally and externally through the deployment of such terms as "loud-mouthed," "gossipy," and "bitch." This is, perhaps, a leading question, but would you connect this policing with the phenomena that you note of "women's over-analysis of everything before they speak, and the restraint that follows"?

Also, I'm reading, and non-existent I am not. :)

I don't connect this lack of

I don't connect this lack of discursive space directly to policing through the deployment of these terms and their stigmatization of women's speech(I'm rather quiet but would actually prefer to be much more vocal even if I knew such invective terms would be cast at me, and I actually think that most women I know wouldn't mind too much being called such terms).

In all honesty, I'm still struggling to figure out the social roots of this over-analysis, because in the West, I don't think that it's stigmatization against women's opinions simply by virtue of them being women that "silences" them. Operating on arguments of biological determinism alone is really problematic and surely inaccurate, so I'm left thinking that it's cultural and familial, and rather than punishment for speaking, a lack of encouragement to voice one's opinions and to recognize one's thoughts as valuable.

But I would love to get thoughts on this from any women or men who share my observations.