Something-Only Space

Shakespeare's Sister had a post about a Women-Only Beach today.

I have very ambivalent feelings about "women-only" space, or "men-only" space, or "anything-only" space.

Understand -- this comes from a woman (or womyn, should I say?) who spent 3 + years living on wimmin's land -- land held so strongly as a place for wymyn ONLY that the UPS guy was allowed only to the mailbox at the edge of the property, and my father, brothers, and sons could not visit me there.

For me, this was a good thing at the time. I could wander the land, shirtless (and pantless, if I could handle the weather), any time of day or night, without fearing for my physical or sexual safety (at least at the hands of human beings). I experienced a level of freedom than is unusual for most women (especially dykes) in our culture. I got to imprint a template into my own being which allowed me to move forth into the status quo world in a completely different way. It was like exercising a muscle that I had not known existed.

However . . .

I also experienced some things in that time that have resulted in an inadvertent pricking up of my ears whenever I see the phrase "Insert-Word-Here-Only".

While living in womyn-only space, I knew wimmin who were so "anti-male-anything" that they would not have roosters (or any other male animal) on their property. I was confronted by a butch dyke who treated me with the precise tactics of oppression that are associated with "maleness" in our society -- bristling up to me with a threatening stance because she was physically bigger than I. I watched people who were born with a vagina discriminate against people who went to incredible expense, and through incredible trauma, and gave up male privilege, straight privilege, and "normal" privilege just to have a vagina.

I also got to experience: Going to sleep at night with my doors unlocked and feeling completely safe, walking naked through the garden with narry-a-thought, and working in a business where my gender and sexual orientation were not a constant blip on the radar of my boss, employees, or co-workers.

See, there's that ambivilence thing for me.

I think that "Something-Only" space can very be useful for showing us how ingrained our training is -- to stay in the closet, modify our behavior based on our gender/orientation/spirituality/whatever. For me, it was like the negative space in a painting, which defined and clarified the thing that had always been with me, though I had not been aware of it.

Ultimately, though, I recognized that the "Women Only" space I inhabited was still a "going away from" -- an escape or haven from "Willy World" (the patriarchal theme-park in which I had been raised) into another form of insularity -- simply a new form of theme park. Gone was the familiar "Eternally-Present Dick" ride that I had grown up selling cotton candy next to -- now I had clambered aboard the "Half the Population is Evil" roller-coaster ride.

I want to be clear -- I am not condemning, in any way: Women-Only, Men-Only, Tranny-Only, etc., etc., etc.-Only spaces.

I just want to make sure, for myself, when I enter an "-Only" space, that I am moving forward or toward -- consciously heading into a space that is designed to bring me to awareness of what the "only" is meant to emphasize. So, in "Women-Only" space, I would want to have the opportunity to really study and experience what, if anything, is really unique to being a Woman (and I don't think that pedicures and manicures, or even simple the simple absence of all humans with penises, will necessarily allow me that).

In many ways, I think that "Something"-Only space is useful to show us what we are going away from. Like going on a fast, so that you understand how the foods you have been eating are affecting you , or hauling all your own un-recyclable trash around with you for two weeks, so you can comprehend exactly how deeply you have relied on a dysfunctional waste system.

After all, the women interviewed about the article on the women-only beach very clearly state that they are trying to get away from the cultural oppression that they experience daily as Italian women.

“Life is still quite tough for women in Italy. Men give us no peace.” She said that at Riccione, “no one stares at you to see if you’ve got cellulite. You don’t have to tie yourself up in a beach sarong to disguise your imperfections. Men are so critical. We can’t all be Miss Italy”.

The owner of the beach (a man) says, in the article: “It is simply for women to be themselves.”

Which implies that women cannot be themselves in the presence of men.

I felt very sad as I read this, and I bristled in the same moment -- because the services offered at this beach are pedicures, manicures, fitness classes, and hair-stylings -- things that are probably designed to make the women more attractive to the very people they exclude from the beach. Does that seem weird to you? (Maybe it's just me. I consider that it is a possibility that it is just me.)

OK. That's my rant.

And here's my pro-active statement:

I declare Teh Portly Dyke a Consciousness-Only Space. If you are not conscious, don't tread on my beach.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 3:47 PM  

10 comments:

Phydeaux Speaks said... June 28, 2007 at 10:06 PM  

I knew wimmin who were so "anti-male-anything" that they would not have roosters (or any other male animal) on their property.

It makes me so sad to read that - and not because I'm male. I cannot understand how men can treat women such that anger that strong is generated. Behavior like that is totally alien to me (for which I am extremely grateful).

Men in Trees returned to the air tonight and I dusted off the TV to watch the rebroadcast of the premiere episode. During one scene, two of the characters were discussing the gender ratio of the (fictional) town of Elmo, Alaska:

"There are ten men for each women here."

"So the men have all the power."

"I wouldn't exactly say that."

"Oh, you're saying that the women are the 'men' here."

"No, I'm saying that we can be what we want to be."

If only that statement held true in real life - everywhere.

I hope this qualifies as consciousness!

Phydeaux Speaks said... June 28, 2007 at 10:08 PM  

Pardon the typos, it's late here on the East Coast.

PortlyDyke said... June 28, 2007 at 10:25 PM  

Oh Phydeaux -- I would definitely deem you as "Conscious" -- isn't it a bitch?

Gender Blank said... June 29, 2007 at 7:30 AM  

Now you're just discriminating against the unconscious. Bigot.

PortlyDyke said... June 29, 2007 at 9:57 AM  

"Now you're just discriminating against the unconscious. Bigot."

Yeah. But the beauty is -- they'll never realize it. ;)

Moira said... June 29, 2007 at 12:59 PM  

Agreed. Wev-only spaces are important. Important enough that I don't begrudge the people making rules for who can get into those wev-only spaces. The big example of this is, of course, MichFest, with the no-tranny rule. As a tranny, I'm just fine with that. It's good to have a place where you can get away from PatriarchyLand for a while and breathe without having to wonder if it's making your tits look perky enough.

Where I get bitchy and snarly is when folks claim that great big categories, like "woman" are theirs and theirs alone to define. (Oddly enough, they tend to use the Patriarchy's rules for defining "man" and "woman" and get really bent out of shape when you point that out.) Public restrooms have to be used by a whole lot of people, and alas, shouldn't be subject to the same rules as MichFest. It's risky as hell for a transwoman to use a men's restroom. It's less physically risky for transmen to use a women's restroom, but causes its own problems.

I've never understood the anxiety. The only time things aren't all tucked away is in a stall, so who the hell cares? What, you're gonna get Y-chromosome cooties?

And what the hell does a rooster have to do with the Patriarchy anyway? He's not even human.

PortlyDyke said... June 29, 2007 at 4:27 PM  

"Where I get bitchy and snarly is when folks claim that great big categories, like "woman" are theirs and theirs alone to define."

Amen to that, Moira -- and as for the rooster biz -- I thought it was hysterical that they kept chickens, and wanted chickens, and by keeping only hens, they thought they were keeping themselves "pure" -- so they bought only hen-chicks from the farm store -- where the hell did they think those hens came from ?!?

I went to an SM fest once where they had a very creative rule -- if you could slam your dick in a drawer and not scream, you could come in. (This to get around the fact that they started with a "no-dicks" rule that excluded dykes who were packing.)

JackGoff said... June 29, 2007 at 5:59 PM  

I have to say, though, I like the idea of women's-only space in terms of having a refuge for women who do not feel they can be themselves in the presence of men. I'm not saying that it is impossible for all women, of course, just that not a few women have found freedom and empowerment in the fact that they are not around men. These women are more of the separatist bent, and a lot of women in these communities have discussed how empowered the lifestyle has made them. I really want to support that, though I do agree that cutting of an area from a certain type of people, regardless of how you discriminate, has a large amount of ethical problems wrapped up in it. I just want to say I have no problem if there are women who do actually need that space in the midst of patriarchal bullshit. Anyway, just my thoughts. :)

TheCunningRunt said... July 1, 2007 at 7:17 PM  

The only wev-only space I've ever felt was necessary for me personally was a Me-only space. Other than that, I'm most comfortable in all-in spaces.

Kate217 said... July 2, 2007 at 10:29 AM  

Well, I'm not sure that I pass the "conscious" test, but I'm hoping that you'll give me the benefit of the doubt.

I had to laugh at the rooster comment as W.S. Gilbert wrote the following exchange in Princess Ida (or Castle Adamant)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Florian: And there are no males whatever in those walls?

Gama: None, gentlemen, excepting letter mails--
And they are driven (as males often are
In other large communities) by women.
Why, bless my heart, she's so particular
She'll hardly suffer Dr. Watts's hymns--
And all the animals she owns are "hers"!
The ladies rise at cockcrow every morn--

Cyril: Ah, then they have male poultry?

Gama: Not at all,
(Confidentially) The crowing's done by an accomplished hen!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Blanche: Attention, ladies, while I read to you
The Princess Ida's list of punishments.
The first is Sacharissa. She's expelled!

All: Expelled!

Blan.: Expelled, because although she knew
No man of any kind may pass our walls,
She dared to bring a set of chessmen here!

Sach.: (Crying) I meant no harm; they're only men of wood!

Blan.: They're men with whom you give each other mate,
And that's enough! The next is Chloe.

Chloe: Ah!

Blan.: Chloe will lose three terms, for yesterday,
When looking through her drawing-book, I found
A sketch of a perambulator!

All: (Horrified) Oh!

Blan.: Double perambulator ...

All: Oh, oh!

Blan.: ...shameless girl!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Needless to say, it wasn't fully appreciated in 1884, when it was first produced.

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