Design, gender, politics…

In my seminar class at CCA this semester, we started to talk last week about gender roles and the city in very general terms. In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into more readings that will directly address how participation, or lack thereof, in the public sphere affects spatial and design outcomes; the built environment, if you will. To these ends I shared a few clippings with my students that i will re-post here with some addendums.

First, some sad news about a female “community activist” (even though the newspaper calls her “activist,” in many ways she was more of a social instigator), Kirsten Brydum, killed in an apparent robbery in New Orleans. She organized a barter exchange at San Francisco’s Dolores Park and was traversing the country in search of instances of “collective autonomy” (an idea which I speculate perhaps came, at least in part, from a popular anarchist writer, Hakim Bey ~ link). [SFgate | tribute] By the way, these ideas of like collective autonomy and self-organizing bring us back full circle to Lefebvre, the urban revolution, and the myriad groups that are involved in such actions, and which might give us some starting point to think about alternate ways of producing (social) space. And if some of this sounds like total gibberish to you, it’s because in class we’ve been reading different texts, such as Neil Smith’s Uneven Development, that propose a non-capitalist social production of space, but leave us with very few programmatic ideas.

Second item: the Chronicle reported that in more officialized circles, women have been losing ground in local elections. Link. The article is predictably chock full of all sorts of gender stereotypes, even coming apparently from the women politicians themselves, such as women being more “civil” (domesticated?) than men, or that gay supe Tom Ammiano “said he might not always have liked the legislation that came out of female-heavy boards, but he appreciated the communication and civility.” Huh? Tell me, Sarah Palin is surely showing a lot of civility right about now? But I digress, we surely need to think more about how the absence of women in such forums is not an issue of less civility/more male barbarity, but an issue of potentially perpetuating undemocratic, unequal spaces in the city.

Third item: A TED talk (hello? could we talk about exclusivist?) where Liz Diller talks about social and spatial conventions, and challenging these. She also talks here a bit about intervening on Lincoln Center, NYC, a complex of buildings made by a team of male architects in that era of macho white-driven urban renewal (Wasn’t this from the Moses era?) But, I wonder why she equates her own intervention on the site–her own female intervention on a male architecture–with a “strip-tease”? She seems to fall back on some not-so-subtle (gendered) language of domination, proving perhaps what Bourdieu calls “internalized dispositions.” This could be a good talk and a set of projects to refer back to as we discuss Foucault, Bourdieu and perhaps Massey: link here. (Thanks nam!)

Last but certainly not least, speaking of women that are kicking ass and fighting the city, I got an email from none other than Dominique Lowell, after I posted my little update on her work a few weeks ago. Word has it that Dominique is returning to the spoken word stage in NYC with “Sit Yr Ass Down or You Ain’t Getting No Burger King.” And see Dominique LIVE in New York October 17 at Cornelia St. Cafe (6pm) and October 18 at Bowery Poetry Club (2 pm)” Info here

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