Gender, to most people, refers to the sex of a person that more often than not necessitates a certain kind of expression that regrettably implies their sexuality. So the topic of gender broadly constitutes three components- Sex, Gender expression and Sexuality.
We all know how the sex of a person is determined. Sex is often confused with Gender. Sex is the biological term for Male, Female and the Androgynous. When humans became social beings, they needed to create certain standards and rules for the sake of organization (much like our governments on a much smaller scale) because small groups become larger and more complex with time. I’m guessing, back in the day, their genitals were the first difference they noticed while assigning roles, given that’s how they reproduced. This was in all probability the origin of Gender Expression. The men assumed certain roles with duties to fulfill and so did the women. These roles were passed on from generation to generation and these norms persist hundreds of thousands years later, which is why we live in societies that are focused on the Gender Binary.
Gender expression refers to the appearance, mannerisms and other personal traits used by a person to communicate their gender which could range between masculine and feminine. These traits can change voluntarily to some degree unlike one’s sex characteristics (puberty, menopause and the like) that cannot be changed. It is an expression of the gender that one identifies with. The inherent sense of being male, female or anything in between, manifests in the way we talk, walk, style our hair or choose our clothing.
That brings us to the third component, Sexuality. What can I say about sexuality that hasn’t been said already? Therefore, in my opinion Gender is fluid; gender expression is merely expression without the prefix of gender; which gender you identify with and which sex you like to get intimate with is your business.
But, when we study spaces and their evolution, we have to go with society’s model which is that gender and sex are classified into two opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. ‘Gendered spaces’, in today’s world, are places in which a specific sex and particular types of gender expression are par for the course and others are beyond the pale. Spaces are gendered in order to maintain the organization of gender by emphasizing the ways of being a woman or a man. For instance, blue is for boys and pink is for girls. Also, in heteronormative societies spaces are gendered because they manage and maintain relationships between men and women.
Gendered environments are perceptibly culture specific but one very common form is labeled as the public-private divide. This divide is prevalent in most cultures but especially common in the Indian context. It has been established that most Indian societies have evolved into patriarchal societies over time. Men have dominated and they continue to dominate in Public spheres. Any woman who has driven a car on the chaotic Indian roads can vouch for that; any woman who has travelled by public transport can certify it; and any woman who has tried to financially support her family can endorse that statement. This divide has manifested itself physically on both the public and private spheres; architecture and urban planning of not just Indian cities, but any modern city of the world.
But I live in India and this is what I see here- There is the big bad monster of a city and the ever sprawling ever neglected suburbs, satellite cities and rural towns and villages. There are the resilient man-made structures and the disregarded fragile environment. There are ambitious men with boundless opportunity and an equal number of unmotivated women that are stalled by both, tangible and intangible boundaries. For that reason, in the posts to come, I will be exploring various public spaces within my city (Chennai, India) and continuing the commentary that began in Amsterdam.
-I do not own either of the images used.-
Anschauung is a German term from Kantian philosophy that doesn’t have an exact english translation but could be loosely explained as one’s perception and intuition.