Something that’s been playing on my mind a lot really is the importance of space. Headspace, physical space, special awareness, outer space, just space, space, space, everywhere and how to get it.
Maybe I’m just becoming more and more aware of it since moving out of the capital. I first realized I was Lon-done, after my last venture home with a good friend of mine. I noticed a huge difference in my attitude and behavior, and just general stress and anxiety levels, and since then it has really come into the forefront of my thinking. What is it about the space there that makes me feel anxious, stressed, and uneasy. It wasn’t just about a general feeling of lack of safety, walking alone at night, feeling threatened or being followed, it was deeper, it was in the air and in the eyes of the people I encountered, in my everyday and it was only moving out that I really began to recognize it.
Space has really come into the forefront of discussions recently. Some seem to be outraged at the idea of women only spaces, about defining space for ourselves, about finding places where we don’t feel threatened or where we feel able to discuss freely our feelings of unease, or our histories with our space being invaded. Maybe I should re-phrase that….
Some seem to be outraged at the idea of women, deciding for themselves that they want these spaces. It is all too familiar to us that women over history have been separated, whether that’s for religious purposes or otherwise. It was only last year that the proposals for women only carriages on public transport were taken seriously into consideration. Obviously, those of us with a brain were outraged at the idea. Mainly of course because the idea of tackling women’s safety should not be to separate women, but a total social makeover of how men objectify and handle women in the public as their property. Women ultimately have no ownership over this, and if anything it felt like punishment. But now there is a calling for it I think, but this time from the voices of women, not from male politicians deciding what’s best for us….
For some women and some men of course, we have to accept that because of their encounters with men, they do not feel safe in environments, with men included in them. It is not a radical notion from radical feminism that suggests that women are not entitled to this. For those that have been subjected to the hands of male violence, which have had their personal space or their bodies violated, who is to say that these women are not entitled to women only spaces. We see that men are, in fact it is part and part of our British cultural history that workingmen’s clubs, for example were set up for men to drink, socialize and do whatever it is they do in there with the intention of excluding women from those spaces, so where are ours? Where are the workingwomen’s clubs, and our clubhouses? Our buildings to call our own and relax and unwind in as a collective. Not only for social purposes, but now also because there are more and more women that are coming forward with the opinion that perhaps they don’t want to share spaces with men.
As a self declared inclusive feminist, my personal feminism, and views is that I would like to work towards a movement where any and all genders are welcomed, in order to create equality for all genders. However, as a woman that has also been subjected to sexual abuse, I have to admit to myself that no matter how empowered I do feel (and I am lucky to feel so, compared to some) that I cannot deny the presence of fear that sometimes rears its head when in certain shared spaces with men. I wonder what it would be like sometimes not feel afraid. To be in a space that is owned by women, and created and developed entirely for the needs of them. I do not want my life to not have men in it, but simultaneously I cannot deny those elements of fear and anxiety that come with that.
Currently, I have the absolute privilege of working on a production premiering at the Vault festival this year, 252AM, written and developed by the Shady Dolls theatre company. In 252AM (after man), the piece is set in the future, a world without men, governed entirely by women (there is a heck of a lot else going on but you’ll have to see it to find out…) although I don’t want our future to be that, I do understand those that do. How can we undo some of the damage that has been caused, and is still being caused to women, and when do we, if ever, finally have a space to call our own……
This year, Femin(h)ism will be looking to develop platforms for women to find their voice, through the written or spoken word in a practical environment, and within that explore official safe spaces for women, to meet creatively or otherwise.