chapter  17
Doreen Massey
‘Space, Place and Gender’
Pages 6

I can remember very clearly a sight which often used to strike me when I was nine or ten years old. I lived then on the outskirts of Manchester, and ‘Going into Town’ was a relatively big occasion; it took over half an hour and we went on the

top deck of a bus. On the way into town we would cross the wide, shallow valley of the River Mersey, and my memory is of dank, muddy fields spreading away into a cold, misty distance. And all of it-all of these acres of Manchester-was divided

up into football pitches and rugby pitches. And on Saturdays, which was when we went into Town, the whole vast area would be covered with hundreds of little people, all running around after balls, as far as the eye could see. (It seemed from the top of the bus like a vast, animated Lowry painting, with all the little people

in rather brighter colours than Lowry used to paint them, and with cold red legs.) I remember all this very sharply. And I remember, too, it striking me very

clearly-even then as a puzzled, slightly thoughtful little girl-that all this huge

stretch of the Mersey flood plain had been entirely given over to boys. I did not go to those playing fields-they seemed barred, another world

(though today, with more nerve and some consciousness of being a space-invader,

I do stand on football terraces-and love it). But there were other places to which I did go, and yet where I still felt that they were not mine, or at least that they were designed to, or had the effect of, firmly letting me know my conventional

subordination. I remember, for instance, in my late teens being in an Art Gallery (capital A capital G) in some town across the Channel. I was with two young men, and we were hitching around ‘the Continent’. And this Temple of High Culture,

which was one of The Places To Be Visited, was full of paintings, a high proportion of which were of naked women. They were pictures of naked women painted by men, and thus of women seen through the eyes of men. So I stood there with

these two young friends, and they looked at these pictures which were of women seen through the eyes of men, and I looked at them, my two young friends, looking at pictures of naked women as seen through the eyes of men. And I felt

objectified. This was a ‘space’ that clearly let me know something, and something

ignominious, about what High Culture thought was my place in Society. The

effect on me of being in that space/place was quite different from the effect it had on my male friends. (I remember that we went off to a café afterwards and had an argument about it. And I lost that argument, largely on the grounds that I was

‘being silly’. I had not then had the benefit of reading Griselda Pollock, or Janet Wolff, or Whitney Chadwick…maybe I really was the only person who felt like that…)

I could multiply such examples, and so I am sure could anyone here today, whether woman or man. The only point I want to make is that space and place, spaces and places, and our senses of them (and such related things as our degrees

of mobility) are gendered through and through. Moreover they are gendered in a myriad different ways, which vary between cultures and over time. And this gendering of space and place both reflects and has effects back on the ways in which gender is constructed and understood in the societies in which we live.