Personal Anecdote: Why We Need Women’s Spaces

Once upon a time, when I was a wee undergraduate*, I did not like the fact that my university had a Women’s Room. You see, I considered myself a feminist, and the idea of a Women’s Room — a few square metres of space within the huge grounds of the university campus, given only to the use of women, when there was no equivalent for men — well, surely that was sexist.

One day, after an extremely awesome fellow-student had gently been trying to bring me around to the idea, I ranted at length about this TERRIBLE SEXISM to a group of mostly-male friends. They nodded solemnly, and agreed with me, and then one of them had a Brilliant Idea: Next year, he would apply to start a men’s group, to counter this awful travesty**. Well, I’ll support you in that. It would be called the Gentleman’s Club, he said. Um, okay. And because he wasn’t sexist, like those terrible Women’s Room people, he would let women join too! Yay! He would even provide us all with Playboy Bunny costumes, free of charge!



Clunk.

And all of a sudden, I knew exactly why we needed a Women’s Room.

*Fortunately, not all wee undergraduates were or are as silly as I was.

**It never happened, luckily. He seemed to lose interest in it the moment our D&D game started, and he became busy recruiting minions to fight the dragon. Or something.



Categories: Culture, gender & feminism, Life, Sociology

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38 replies

  1. What if he had instead said ‘it would be nice to a place to be able to easily access information on men’s health and similar social issues that didn’t feel hugely exposing like in the medical office foyer’?
    (Which was one of the good things I found about the women’s room at my uni.)

  2. Well, had he said something like that, I wouldn’t have had a problem — nor would I have a problem with it now.
    But the fact is, that wasn’t the type of space he wanted at all — he wasn’t after a safe space to read up on men’s health. His idea of a supposdely egalitarian “men’s” space was a space in which women were all dressed as Playboy Bunnies. And that helped me to see that having a Women’s Room is about more than just access to resources (although that is a very important aspect of it) — it’s also about having a safe space. This friend of mine basically saw his “men’s” room as being exactly like the rest of the campus — a place where gender equality existed in theory, but where ultimately, men were able to dictate the terms of that “equality” — which in turn, helped me to see that in many ways, most of the campus (and indeed, most of the spaces that I inhabited), were indeed, “men’s spaces” (though “heterosexual men’s spaces” would be more accurate), as my friend understood the term. He wasn’t interested in a safe space for men that could be used positively for resources or to examine notions of masculinity, etc — he just envisioned a space that replicated and intensified the heteronormative, heterosexist, and misogynist environment that already existed.

  3. I went through that phase, Beppie.
    I still have a hard time explaining the importance of a woman’s only space, mostly because I get irritated by the same old arguments over and over. “But I don’t want a woman’s only space!” Well, okay then. Don’t go to one. I’m not going to force you. But somehow, when one starts talking about something, it’s obviously “And I will bend you all to my whims.”

  4. Glad you have changed your mind. I’ve changed my mind about a few things I have previously supported, but not developing the Women’s room.
    At Adelaide Uni there has been a women’s space that included showers, toilets, large sickbay (2-3 beds), lounge, and study space for nearly a century – as i recall it was built by bequest of an early female student. (I attended Flinders Uni and though I once knew the full story of the University of Adelaide Women’s room it escapes me now)
    At Flinders we established a Women’s room as part of a review and use of student Union space in the late 1980s. Its location has changed a few times since then but I am almost certain that both spaces have survived the VSU debacle. Creating Women’s space at Flinders Uni is something I remain proud of achieving. I think some campuses now have queer spaces.

  5. Best thing about the Women’s room at my uni was a little stash of vouchers which you could take whenever, which entitled you to go down to the Uni chemist and get two period pain tablets for free. The little voucher had a message on it saying “hope your day gets better!” And it always did – I think the message of support was almost as useful as the medication 🙂
    It also helped that the chemist staff were brilliant – they saw the voucher, gave you the pills immediately, smiled symathetically,and advised you to eat something small to help stablise your stomach, and to go into the fiction library and lie down on the cushions!

  6. Ha! How times have changed.
    I love women’s spaces. There’s a beautiful relief when entering. But I still often think of all the trans women denied access to some such spaces.
    Chally’s last blog post..Not Staying Silent: Deference

  7. Yes, Chally, that is a concern for me too, especially since trans* women have even fewer safe spaces than cis women.

  8. Thanks for this post. I was one of the people who wasn’t entirely sure why the women’s room was necessary but I knew I vaguely supported it being there should people need it. I had a male friend who claimed it was sexist to have a women’s room and if he was to apply to start a similar space for men he’d be denied. I wasn’t quite sure what to say and found myself rolling my eyes at him a lot. So this discussion is informative for me.

  9. “I wasn’t quite sure what to say”
    Neither was I, and I didn’t really understand why we needed them, when I were an undergraduate.
    Now I would say that public space *is* men’s space, and that’s why we have a need for separate women’s space but not for separate men’s space.

  10. It was funny to see this post Beppie in light of yesterday’s conversation! I know we were discussing the Women’s Room in general when you arrived, but I’d just been having a discussion with the friend you met from my law class about how when I ran the Women’s Room, every time we had an event some random young guy would come up to me and go ‘So where’s the MEN’S ROOM?? Haw Haw’, to which I’d say ‘The bar’, or ‘The universe’, or just smile blankly and turn my back. Every one of them thought they were comic geniuses and the first to make that ‘joke’. Sigh.
    Your anecdote about your male friend highlights it exactly, that whole ‘I LOVE women, especially when they’re naked and writhing around a pole for my pleasure’ thing. 😦

  11. At my old university, I soon tired of responding to cries of “But why isn’t there a MEN’S space???” with “You have the entire School of Engineering building, isn’t that enough?”
    What killed me was the guys who railed against the notion of a Women’s Space, “oh, except for, like, this chick I saw talk who said she was raped and only felt safe in Women’s Space, I guess it’s okay for people like her”. Because only women who have *actually* been *properly* raped could possibly deserve a Women’s Space.
    I still wish I’d asked this guy, “but what if she, like was DRUNK and had been FLIRTING with her attacker?????” just to give him enough rope to hang himself and his asshattery.

  12. I really wish I had been going to university back when those reforms and changes were first happening, asshole male comments and all.
    The young men at my uni mostly don’t care about such things which I sadly put down to my understanding that women of their generation are so well-oppressed that they don’t need to complain about it, and the young women all seem to have taken some kind of pledge to forever hate feminism/feminists.
    I heard two in the bathroom once, complaining about a lecturer; one of them whispered to the other “I think she’s like, you know a feminist or something”.
    They seem to think feminism is about having all male human beings executed.
    Also, capitalism has fucked campus life up considerably; our women’s room was attached to the student’s association which has just been given the heave ho from the main building to some far flung corner of the campus, and as far as I know there are no plans for a new women’s room at all yet.
    The old rooms in the main building are being renovated to make way for a big new stationary/book shop (the co-op book shop has also been given the flick).

  13. I love being a feminist. See, when I read this,
    You see, I considered myself a feminist, and the idea of a Women’s Room — a few square metres of space within the huge grounds of the university campus, given only to the use of women, when there was no equivalent for men — well, surely that was sexist.
    I thought you meant that the fact that men didn’t need a safe space and that there was only one tiny place on the campus safe for women was sexist.
    Unfortunately, it seems that my interpretation isn’t the norm. I really wish I could just implant feminist enlightenment into the whole world. It would make our job so much easier.

  14. Unfortunately the women’s room at my old uni contained a butch girl with a buzz-cut reading Playboy when I went there.
    I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t go back.
    It was unpopular enough with teh menz that they regularly sabotaged the facilities dirty protest style until the union locked off the ensuite.
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Black and Asian Britons “do not exist”

  15. @ Deus Ex Macintosh:

    Unfortunately the women’s room at my old uni contained a butch girl with a buzz-cut reading Playboy when I went there.
    I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t go back.

    My first response to this was that her personal styling choices and fetish choices should not have been viewed as a threat in this way, and then I realised that the exact same arguments are used by hypermasculinity-apologists who argue that men’s “natural expressions of sexual desire” should not be regarded as threatening by non-neurotic women.
    I feel in my gut that there is a powerful difference but can’t articulation at WTF3am in the morning. Anyone care to step up to the plate?

  16. Given the dynamics of first year university, I suppose what I was looking for in a “safe” environment that day was a non-sexualised one. Ordinarily I’m also a “your kink, your business” kind of person but that was probably one of the days I’d just worn a couple of hours group work getting patronised by arrogant pricks who used filthy language and sexualised bullying (I was fat) to shut me up. (In my French group for example, I had a middle aged Brazilian classmate explain to his twelve year old son in front of me why it is perfectly acceptable to rape women. The aim I imagine, was to put me in my place.)
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Black and Asian Britons “do not exist”

  17. I have to say, I’d certainly find it jarring to see a Playboy magazine in the Women’s Room like that. Potentially, I suppose, she could have been reading it as part of a Woman’s Studies class, analysing the content in terms of feminist theory, but I think it’d be more in keeping with a safe environment to at least cover it up.
    Having said that however, I do think that my early reactions against the Women’s Room, when I was 18-19 years old, were implicitly formed by some lesbophobia on my part — not that I ever would have admitted it (and I hate admitting it now). Even though I always framed it in terms of sexism (the “but there’s no men’s room!” attitude that I told you about above), when I look back at the way I felt then, I think there was a certain fear, which I never articulated to myself (because I considered myself open minded, etc), of coming into contact with women who might be attracted to other women. (Ugh, how I want to knock some sense into that girl!)

  18. At Flinders there were some location and management issues which were overcome through creative solutions re management and decision making. I did not know of women complaining about porn or being hit-on in the women’s room, but there were issues about preventing young lovers (het. and hom.) from hiding in its openness from time to time.
    I suppose I have in saying that probably argued against supporting specific queer spaces on campus, but would need to think more on that. The Women’s room works with the sex out of it – we organised a user/management committee and a resource area, and there were condoms and dams and tea and coffee and companionship and sisterhood and baby change stuff and campaigns like the Nestle boycott and the Women’s dance to organise etc..
    As a ‘mature age’ single for much of my time at Uni and a person who has Epilepsy I liked the idea of having a little comfy kind of home base at Uni, we adopted the different but equal-before-the-law view of gender relations and had no qualms whatsoever that a women’s room was helping to redress the power imbalance. If it was good enough for The U of A it was good enough for us as well.
    From time to time right wing boys would run in elections and say stupid things, but by and large the political agenda that arose from women on campus was towards reproductive issues and as such seen as legitimate and so able to gain political support.
    btw it seems to me Beppie that you have gained some wisdom without needing to knock herself around too much. The thing I still find difficult is when to accept the ‘counter-intuitive argument’ such as that which comes up when discussing whether the Women’s room is sexist or not.
    There is a lot of double-edged-swordness in politics and it often depends on the context to discover whether that push for a Women’s room is coming from the Taliban or RAWA? For instance there are good reasons why same sex educational facilities benefit certain ages and personalities allowing girls and young women to take leadership roles they may not otherwise do if in the presence of boys.
    Discovering when the counter intuitive answer is the correct one is always difficult, but it does get easier as time passes and you begin to realise that all that is solid melts into air.

  19. I recently had a net argument about this issue which really made me quite angry. Someone had started up a discussion entitled “what happens in the women’s room?” in a discussion board with people from my uni. HEAPS of people wrote back. Some of the replies were:
    – ” why is there a women’s room, and no men’s room? seems sexist to me…”
    – “I demand an equivalent Men’s Room”
    – “I’m a woman and have never been there, probably will never be there, and am really not sure why women need to have this “relic” from back in the days of “liberation”.
    – “The Women’s Room is pretty great. I don’t feel so oppressed by men there. All those books on menopause are pretty handy too.”
    I run our Women’s Room O-week stall on campus, and I KNOW women use to space, and use it well, because they come up and TELL ME. One thing I found really strange was that this year the QueerSpace people ( who were set up next to me) kept insinuating that the existence of the Women’s Room stall was just trivial, and that they really didn’t think there was any need for one. I was kinda under the impression that they would understand that access to public space isn’t equal, but the people I was talking to apparently didn’t :/
    Hmmm I also think there is a need for a parents room on our campus (in addition to the womens room), which I think would be a much better use of space than what some of the sexist, racist, all-male political clubs use their allocated campus space for. So far nothing though.

  20. This resonates for me so much, Beppie. It was only about three years ago that I was a “feminist” like Younger You, angrily telling the feminists around me to stop telling me I was oppressed, arguing against affirmative action, and generally believing the world to be an equal place.
    …yeah, the penny dropped suddenly and unpleasantly for me, too.
    Jet’s last blog post..Rape Culture: Still Not Funny

  21. I don’t hyperventilate about needing equivalent men’s spaces and can accept it if some women want such spaces. Generally though I find it disappointing, personally, and the reason may lie in this ostensibly reasonable statement:
    “Now I would say that public space *is* men’s space, and that’s why we have a need for separate women’s space but not for separate men’s space.”
    Which men, again, own this space? Skinny bespectacled nerds? The low paid? The ‘effeminate’? Those that can’t fight, or talk about footy? I know this blog is a gendered space, in a sense, a home of feminist critique, and that I don’t come here to troll means I essentially accept a fair swathe of that critique. So I’m not saying this to aggravate, but essentially you are privileging the biological over the many other ways the maleness you see as dominating public space is manifested.
    The particular example that disappoints (again, I’m not jumping up and down or wanting to start male clubs or the like, just trying to persuade) me is the rise of female-only gyms. Simply because I, like quite a lot of men I would think, have no desire to share large filthy spaces with shouting, oofing gangs of trogs standing around the machine ogling each others lats and dropping Fs and Cs at every juncture. But what happens when a couple of female only gyms open in the area (as in my area) is that what is left is dominated by males, and makes less effort to clean up its spaces and try to appeal to what is now a smaller market.
    I know you’re talking about a more personal space, and I’ve reduced it to something far more benign, but please be aware that, while I am very cognisant of the continuing advantages my gender has on a general level, I don’t feel ownership of many public spaces and don’t think identifying “a patriarchy” should equate to “excluding males” in situations where there may be an alternate way of imagining the space in question.
    With respect.

  22. Which men, again, own this space? Skinny bespectacled nerds? The low paid? The ‘effeminate’? Those that can’t fight, or talk about footy?

    I think you’re way off base here pointing the finger at women’s spaces for these problems. Universities have plenty of spaces for men in these categories. The university I went to had multiple nerdspaces (science fiction club, computer club, various faculty clubs), queer space, and various other special-interest clubs for people who didn’t focus on football.

    The particular example that disappoints (again, I’m not jumping up and down or wanting to start male clubs or the like, just trying to persuade) me is the rise of female-only gyms. Simply because I, like quite a lot of men I would think, have no desire to share large filthy spaces with shouting, oofing gangs of trogs standing around the machine ogling each others lats and dropping Fs and Cs at every juncture.

    What you’re saying here is that women have a moral responsibility to be present in these spaces, in order to “fix” men’s problems with toxic masculinity? I get that you personally are not responsible for this particular masculinity issue. Neither, however, am I. The only people who can fix it are the people engaging in it.

  23. Armagny, even the less overtly masculine (and btw masculinity is socially constructed, not biological) types of men that you mention, are privileged over women and minorities.
    You think it’s difficult for the less-overtly masculine male in non-female only gyms? Try being a female in one of those gyms. Try being an unfeminised female in one of those gyms, and staring down the over-entitled he-men who expect you to vacate equipment for them because their work-out is naturally more important than your’s.
    I mean, seriously, try it. Try challenging patriarchy and gender roles if you recognise them as problematic, or if you feel excluded by the dominant paradigms that define masculinity.
    Don’t whine to feminists about them. Help us do something about them.

  24. “I think you’re way off base here pointing the finger at women’s spaces for these problems. ”
    No finger pointing intended. Sorry if it was felt. Aim was quite different to taking a me-vs-you approach to the issue.
    “What you’re saying here is that women have a moral responsibility to be present in these spaces”.
    Nup, no responsibility to do anything you don’t want to.
    “I get that you personally are not responsible for this particular masculinity issue. Neither, however, am I. ”
    Agreed. Somewhere close to the source of my grievance, I guess.

  25. “Universities have plenty of spaces for men in these categories. ”
    Yes! Not only that, but men *control* universities! Already!
    The types of men Armagny mentioned, run the bloody universities!

  26. No finger pointing intended.

    And yet, you dropped this nugget in _this_ space, a space about women’s spaces. Along with a couple of phrases that suggested you knew it was inappropriate in this thread. Yet we’re expected to all turn around and focus on your “What about the men?” issue, _here_.
    Don’t piggyback off women’s oppression to push your own barrow. Maybe you could find a thread about masculinities and men’s spaces to talk about this issue. Or start one. Whatever.
    What alternate ways of imagining the space do you have in mind? It’s not just about whether the ostensible purpose of the club is one usually considered “masculine”. If you think that the only place women are subjected to horrendous sexism and the risk of sexual violence is in the conventionally-masculine sporting spaces you describe, you need to think again about that as well – anyone who has spent some time as a woman in nerdspace rapidly gets an education on just how women are treated by less conventionally-masculine men as well.
    Unless all you’re trying to say is “Well, I’M not part of the problem!” If you’re not, you’re not. If it’s not yours, don’t pick it up.

  27. Others have already made most of the points I would have made in response to Armagny, but I do have a couple of things to add:
    Which men, again, own this space? Skinny bespectacled nerds?
    As I mentioned in one of the footnotes to this post, the conversation reported above took place with my D&D group.
    but essentially you are privileging the biological over the many other ways the maleness you see as dominating public space is manifested.
    I don’t think so at all. Not only is are transwomen women (although unfortunately, they may be excluded from some women’s rooms, as Chally noted above), the main reason for needing a safe women’s space is the cultural construction of masculinity, in which being “a man” is seen as intrinsically bound up with sexist behaviour towards women. Now, it is true that there are men who don’t buy into this, but these men (a) are still privileged because of it, and (b) will often still behave in ways that are informed by that privilege, even though they personally don’t want it — and, as a woman I can tell you, that is really fucking difficult to navigate. Women’s spaces provide a place where women can take stock of those gendered cultural pressures without having to negotiate with the people who are privileged by them. Not all women want such a space, and some might only use it once or twice, but the important thing is that it’s there for those of us who do want it and/or need it.
    I think it’s also really important to keep this in persepctive — even the biggest women’s rooms only take up a comparitively small section of any campus — they are certainly not contributing to gender segregation on any campus; they are simply a safe place of respite for the women who choose to use them.

  28. Some of the comments above are very reasonable responses to what I said. I think the comments suggesting I’ve never ‘taken on the patriarchy’ or am ‘pushing a barrow’ by raising this are pretty unfair, to say the least. But it’s clear you’d prefer I didn’t go on so I’ll drop it, lesson amply learned.

  29. Thank you for dropping it, Armagny.
    But I think there was a point missed in the discussion, and I want to clarify it for anyone else who may be reading:
    Skinny bespectacled nerds still sit with their knees wide apart, and feel free to monopolize the armrests, and never notice that the woman next to them is shrinking up against the wall <because he’s taking her space.
    Low-paid men still walk down the middle of the sidewalk and bump women aside rather than yield to other human beings as a considerate person would.
    Effeminate men still feel free to interrupt, talk over, and generally ignore women more than he would do to other men.
    All men are conditioned to hog space/time and to not be aware of it, and most of them haven’t done the work necessary to reform, so practically all public space is male-dominated space. The fact that a particular man is on the low end of the male social hierarchy doesn’t mean he isn’t treating women as even lower.

  30. I second DEM’s comment about women’s room. I only visited the women’s room once when I was an undergraduate at university, and like DEM, I was looking for a non-sexualised, non-threatening space.
    When I visited the women’s room, there was a very aggressive butch woman who was doing “the man thang” – sitting with her knees apart, taking up all the space, making suggestive conversation. I am certainly not homophobic. It didn’t bother me that the butch woman was a lesbian, and in fact, the friend who was accompanying me to the women’s room to check it out was a lesbian. However, my friend and I felt distinctly uncomfortable in this woman’s presence and left after about 5 minutes.
    I had come to the woman’s room precisely to avoid that kind of aggressive, sexualised behaviour, and I was really disappointed to encounter it there. I don’t particularly care whether the behaviour emanates from a man or a woman. The behaviour of this woman shows that men certainly don’t have a monopoly on aggressive sexualised behaviour, unfortunately.

  31. Oh yeah, when I’d get asked “where’s the Men’s Room” I’d point people to the Games Room in the basement where there was always a bevy of guys and the occasional girlfriend. Or I’d point in all directions and say, here you go, men’s space. The sheer amount of panic induced by men considering a potentially politicised women’s space where they couldn’t get in and watch what we were doing, is a signal in itself that we’re onto something here. The amount of times the Women’s Room was vandalised at my campus is also interesting. I’ve often found that space fraught, a hothouse of intolerances and exclusions, but I don’t think that means the concept is inherently crap. When I was working at another campus, I resurrected a Women’s Room – it was extremely non-“political”, but it was sure a very comfortable space for many women to go, especially Muslim women who were more used to a homosocial culture.
    To those above saying that they felt threatened by butch lesbians acting “like males” in the Women’s Room….. well…. um…. I’m trying to construct a reasoned response here…. Let me tell some stories…
    I used to be terrified of the Women’s Room. Then I realised uncomfortably that I was queer and really needed to do something about it. There was a coming out meeting I finally got up the courage to go to, I entered the room, I realised too late it was the wrong day, I’d come into the wrong group, it was the Lesbian Collective! I full on hallucinated all the most distilled stereotypes I had of lesbians, and backed out quickly in terror. Later I became the Queer Rep at the campus, and so I knew I’m not the only one who’s been terrified of the Butch Lesbian In Women’s Space, and we are talking queer women terrified of that. Straight women I knew had even more terror.
    Another story: I lived in a mostly lesbian household, that was actively a women’s safe space. I didn’t want much to do with guys. Now, I ran into problems, because unlike the other women in the house, I was not ultra-feminine. I was out the back with my power tools constructing my room out of the back shed (long story). Unlike the others, who were more new age, I was into computer programming, science, industrial and metal music, my appearance wasn’t femme either. I ended up being told explicitly that I was “triggering” one of the women, because I “acted like a male” and that “reminded her of her abusive father”, therefore she didn’t feel “safe” in this women’s safe space we’d created.
    Oh yeah, and I’ve been abused by some in the Women’s-Studies-centric campus feminism for the way I talk too, which was a result of several years in geekdom down at the Engineering Department, I supposed it sounded “male” to the women who chewed me out for it.
    Feminism means to me choices to express yourself (and your gender, or gender ID) however you want with respect, and that’s okay. If you’re acting butch and you’re also abusive, that’s a problem and not safe, but only because you’re abusive. Linking masculine women with abusive men, or indeed, men is a way of saying that “naturally” women are feminine, therefore women’s spaces must be feminine in order to be free of men, and “safe”.
    If someone’s reading Playboy, then leave her appearance out of it. You don’t have to look butch to be into porn. It’s a question of whether porn is okay in that particular space. I’m into a lot of porn, but I know some women are really triggered by it because of past horrible experiences. Other women are made very uncomfortable by it for reasons I might be less careful of respecting. We are schooled as women to find overt displays of sexuality by women “nasty” and “lower class”.
    The last point I have to say is that “safe” is always going to be a relative definition. Whose safety?

  32. If someone’s reading Playboy, then leave her appearance out of it. You don’t have to look butch to be into p0rn. It’s a question of whether p0rn is okay in that particular space. I’m into a lot of p0rn, but I know some women are really triggered by it because of past horrible experiences. Other women are made very uncomfortable by it for reasons I might be less careful of respecting. We are schooled as women to find overt displays of sexuality by women “nasty” and “lower class”.
    Yes. This. I wanted to say something like this myself, but I couldn’t quite articulate my thoughts. As I said above, I do believe that it’s inappropriate to openly display p0rn in a university Women’s Room, but there seems no need to bring appearance into it, particularly as there are plenty of women who do not present as butch who do enjoy p0rn and/or erotica of one type or another.

  33. One of the reasons I had gone with my friend to the Women’s Room is because I wanted to find a space that was safe for her because she really didn’t like interacting with men much. She had been brought up in a very religious household. Because of this, she felt like sexuality and physical expressions thereof were sinful. It later transpired she was lesbian. I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to convince her that she isn’t going to go to hell, or that physical interaction with another person is quite fun, not sinful. It’s a bit of a sad story.
    Porn per se isn’t a bad thing, although it’s not my personal cup of tea. If I came across a friend reading porn in the privacy of her own home, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. However, in a semi-public space where there may be women who are nervous of men, and nervous of such things (because they have been abused or something like that), I think it’s important to try to be sensitive and aware of that kind of thing.
    I should say that I don’t have anything against butch women. I was just trying to illustrate the picture. Perhaps it would have been better if I had said, “woman with very short hair and combat pants”. I would strongly agree that just being a stereotypically “masculine” woman should not be equated with abusive behaviour. I also agree that it’s important for a wide range of women to feel comfortable in a women’s room – not just women who behave in typically “feminine” ways. Personally, I’m generally more comfortable with women who behave in a stereotypically “masculine” way. I’m probably quite a “masculine” woman myself in some ways.
    Feminine does not necessarily = safe. Another friend of mine was in an abusive lesbian relationship (physical and psychological). My friend was the more stereotypically “masculine” of the partnership, with her then-partner having the more stereotypically “feminine” appearance, behaviour and interests. But it was the more stereotypically “feminine” woman who was abusive.
    Mind you, I don’t think masculinity per se should necessarily be equated with abusiveness. Abusive behaviour is the desire for power and dominion over another, and that’s something which can be seen in both men and women. Anyone who has gone to an all girls school (as I have) knows that there are many abusive women out there – they just tend to be a little more subtle about it generally.

  34. I think I’ve been spaminated because I used the p-word too many times in a post? Can pls has unspaminated kthx?

  35. Rebekka, I couldn’t find your comment in the spam filter (though I could be doing something wrong), but when I had the same problem before, I just changed all the letter o’s to zeros, and that made it work.

  36. Oh noes!
    I was taking issue with the comment that
    “P0rn per se isn’t a bad thing” and that the reason why it’s not ok in public is because “in a semi-public space … there may be women who are nervous of men, and nervous of such things (because they have been abused or something like that”
    because (a) I think p0rn itself IS a bad thing, it objectifies women, it portrays them as receptacles for men, the issues of consent are problematic, etc etc etc.
    And I am not “nervous of men”, I am not “nervous of such things”, if by “such things” you mean depictions of sexuality or even p0rn0graphy – I think it’s demeaning to women, but I can certainly look at it without it reducing me to a bundle of nerves – and I have not been abused or “something like that” – I am a feminist and I object to p0rn in public (and if it comes to that, I object to it in private as well) because I am a feminist, not because I’m “nervous”.

  37. I take your point, Rebekka.
    Even as a woman who DOES believe that it’s possible to create woman-friendly p0rn/erotica/whatever-the-right-terminology-is*, I recognise the importance of the issues you raise — certainly, the reasons that displaying p0rn is inappropriate in the Women’s Room add up to much more than just “but some women might be triggered” (although, of course, the potential for something like p0rn to act as a trigger should not be dismissed either).
    *Which is NOT, in any way, to say that I think the vast majority of p0rn is fine and dandy, esp. not products of the mainstream industry.

  38. Well, as to whether pornography or erotica is always a bad thing, that’s another debate altogether. *shrug* I’ve got a few stories, as a consumer and producer, that problematise the blanket assertions that some make about what naked people on screen must always mean, but y’know, there’s the whole capitalist patriarchal version of pornography that is pretty raw stuff in an explicitly feminist site such as the Women’s Room.

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