My initial idea for this study, was for a kind of transitory exploration of the roles of, for, and by, gender in Perth’s public spaces today. I started out with few questions, and expected answers to be evident. Instead I have found many more questions. I suspect the answers are deep within the cultural psyche, and formed by the mingling of Perth’s European heritage, with its ancient influences, modern commodification and Americanisation, and masked by its post-modern hieroglyphs – in a flux of multicultural otherness.
What is ‘gendered space’, and how can it be read? Firstly, by feminist discourse, space is not gendered solely by formal physical, or aesthetic characteristics like phallicism, pictorialism, or naturalism, etc. It is gendered by its relation to, association with, or incorporation by people, groups, or discourses. In this sense (and this is one difficulty), a single space can be gendered feminine one day, masculine the next, and gay another. It can be feminine by day and masculine by night, or vice versa. It can be one gender by design, and another by incorporation or use. In fact it can be differently considered several genders at once, according to discourse, and this is further clouded by censorship and protectionism based on age – and – space is racialised. Where a white space is invisible, a black or Asian space is obvious (and vice versa).
Now, how can I thread the needle? How can I isolate gender to form an argument of value, when all is mere perception, ‘including mine’? This can be no more than an exploration of discourse, awkwardly attached to my heuristic urban snapshots (intrusions).
How is our urban space experienced? Our experience, it would appear, is built upon the historic cultural discourses. The stereotyped gender oppositions of masculine/feminine, public/private, outside/inside, culture/nature, etc (to list but a few), and the urban/rural, city/wilderness – rhetoric much the same. They interleave and overlap.
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