Gendered Spaces in the Modern Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Suggesting the significance of food as a social activity, kitchens in suburban homes sometimes have their own entrances. The kitchen entrances are convenient for carrying in groceries. Regardless of where the kitchen is located in relation to the front door, it is almost always a shared space in which guests and residents may linger and socialize. Built-in items like countertops and breakfast bars encourage guests and residents to set down their drinks while chatting or to eat food.

Any other side or back doors that offer entryways into the home are used for special occasions. Sometimes a side or back door becomes a default front door depending on the layout of the home. In cases in which the family has a housekeeper, the housekeeper is often told to enter through a side-door, denoting differences in class and social status.

A garage can become the main entrance because of the car-centered culture we live in too. Garages are usually cold spaces used for storage; if they are converted into living spaces then they will be separated further from the house using locked doors. A typical suburban home has either a driveway or a garage to house the car or cars used by family members. Cars are themselves separate spaces, used to differentiate between the different family members. Each person may have his or her own car: and that person's car is rarely driven by another family member.

Cars are frequently gendered, with some connoting masculinity and others femininity. Occasionally cars also imply gender roles. For example, the mom might drive a minivan to take the children to and from soccer practice while the father drives a sports car as a sign of his perpetual virility.

The suburban home landscape consists of foreground and background elements. In the foreground are the immediately apparent objects: large pieces of furniture, walls, room dividers, doors, and other architectural elements. Background elements are less apparent and include the activities performed in one of the rooms. Foreground elements determine the background behaviors. For example, a living room with worn-in sofas and bean bag chairs welcomes guests to make themselves at home whereas a living room with pristine white leather sofas and a lot of glass decor might not be as inviting and the guest waits for a prompt by the owner to sit down. The number and placement of televisions in the home has become a powerful signal too. If a sofa faces two seats then that room is more conducive to socializing whereas a sofa that faces only a television is used for tuning out the world.

Residents and guests commonly challenge the home's geography. Couples might have sex in the living area. Children might play games in the bathrooms. Teenagers might eat lunch in their bedrooms. Homes are often used incompletely. Some rooms are used more than others. A basement, a garage, guest rooms, and storage spaces might never get used at all whereas a living room and kitchen are constantly being used. Dining rooms often stay empty except on large holidays for family gatherings. For everyday use, the kitchen table might be the main dining space.

Gender roles are communicated via home micro-geography. Commonly a masculine environment, the garage might house a workshop, car-related items, and large equipment like chain saws. Similarly, a teenage boys' room might be sparsely decorated and with masculine elements whereas his sister's room includes more soft elements like pillows. A woman might have access to a large walk-in closet whereas her husband uses a small closet for his clothes and shoes. Therefore, the residents of a home adapt to its geographical spaces. The residents also adapt the space to their needs, sometimes by renovating but often by simply rebelling against the geographic barriers that walls and doors establish in the home.

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