Thursday, June 28, 2007
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