Gender and the City Day 1

DSC_0007lightNeukölln Berlin – May 2nd 2013

Our workshop started yesterday and thanks to your active participation we had quite a few lively conversations already on our topic.

Because we are all coming from different backgrounds and have different entries of awareness regarding gender, some questions arose yesterday, in particular during our walk.

  • What are we looking for?
  • Is the choice of this neighborhood, with a strong immigration, especially Turkish, biased?
  • Isn’t our point of view, because we are looking for specific answers, biased?
  • Taking pictures of people on the street is very intrusive… should we stop and ask the people first, thus starting a process of understanding of these people we are capturing in our observation …
  • I feel uncomfortable, our action is very colonial in its approach, we feel our place is granted, this is invasive
  • I couldn’t really observe the gender situation at first, because the social aspects of the street, poverty, immigration issues where so pregnant
  • I cannot dissociate culture, gender, class, everything needs to be treated on the same level, why should we sort gender out?
  • Male/Female is too caricatured
  • What is a perception of the street from a female point of view as opposed to a male point of view?  For instance, one male participant, doesn’t necessarily feels male inside, how is it changing its perspective?
  • I never realized this… I never watch the city under this gender angle…

At Genre et Ville we have been conducting quite a few observation rounds already.  All in France.

Each time theses mix feelings arise.  What are we doing, and why?  Is this the right approach?

We have had some back and forth thinking.

  • Should we be more directive?
  • Should we start thinking about solutions already?

Over the past months, we have decided it would take time to simply accept the observation process, without trying to alter it with commands or further development.

Freeing oneself of pre-conceived ideas, getting rid of layers of education, culture, construction takes time and patience.

Capturing the built environment within which we are working takes a lot of time as well.

How do we perceive public space?  Is our behavior and our occupation of public space the result of Habit? Falling into some kind of normality? What is normal?  Is it just plain usage?  Necessity? Are we falling under some kind of rule? Power?

Geography, architecture, history and urban planning are not without meaning in the way we are allowed and we allow ourselves to invest the public space.

A disappearance… We also wonder why the gender issue, and in particular the place of women in the public space is so hard to place as a frontal issue.  Why this issue cannot stand for itself and has to be relegated to second of third place (poverty is more important, culture is more important, gays, lesbians bi trans are important as well).  Why the interrogations about women’s place never seem to be the most important topic?

For all these consideration, we feel that it takes patience and observation at length to start capturing what is under the layer of our organization, our « living together in the city ».

Patience, taking one’s time, letting go, working with our 5 senses… changing lenses on our glasses… allow for serendipity…

This is our goal for the next few days.

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