Term Paper: Gendered Spaces of the Suburban Home

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Gendered Spaces

Spaces in the modern suburban home are produced primarily through barriers and obstacles: walls, room dividers, doors, and windows. The barriers used to separate one space from another signify role-related restrictions on behavior. For example, a person is expected to chop vegetables in the kitchen, but not in the living room. Access to materials is restricted due to the barriers placed on collective spaces in the home. The television is not viewable from the bathroom but it is from the bedroom. Although most spaces in the suburban home are for collective use, some are not. Private bathrooms and private sleeping areas are not uncommon in the suburban home. Closets, work space, and some objects of furniture may be private too. Private spaces are signaled through doors, especially doors with locks. Collective spaces are sometimes in rooms without doors such as the living room.

Collective spaces may be indoors or out. Some spaces are set out for entertaining: including kitchens, living rooms, dens, and back yards. Other spaces are collectively used but temporarily privatized, such as sleeping areas, bathrooms, and closets. Bathrooms are generally the only acceptable spaces in a home used for performing ablutions: bathing, brushing teeth, and eliminating. However, most rooms offer multiple uses. Bedrooms are not just for sleeping; they can also be used for love-making. The living room can be a place for deep discussions, for playing games, or for watching television.

Furniture also helps create separate spaces in the home. The placement of furniture and decorative objects signals what the space is used for. A sofa set in front of a television suggests that the family watches television in that room; a sofa set in a library suggests a different type of activity. Tone and mood are conveyed also via texture, color, and patterns. Separation between rooms can often be achieved using different colors or different styles of interior design.

A suburban home is arranged in predictable ways. The front door is the main entrance through which people enter the home. A person enters through the front door and usually proceeds through a small hallway, a foyer, or some sort of transitional space. The transitional space is small, to discourage lingering. The foyer is a space in which the guest is either welcomed whole-heartedly into the home, or kept at bay.

In homes set in temperate climates, items like coat closets, shoe racks, hat racks, and jacket hooks may be located in the transitional space: the space that divides indoors from out. The transitional space sends signals to guests to remove their coat and shoes before entering the remaining areas of the house. In homes in which wearing shoes is unacceptable, the presence of a lot of shoes in the transitional room urges guests to remove their footwear. A front closet is, unlike closets in the bedroom, available for the use of guests to remove their winter or rain coats. Similarly, a half bathroom that is attached to the front entranceway entails guest bathroom: whereas a bathroom that is en-suite to a bedroom will be more private.

The transitional space is also the symbolic barrier between the welcome and the unwelcome. If a person delivers pizza, he or she will not make it past the front door or foyer. On the other hand, a family member or close friend would linger only long enough to remove his or her shoes before proceeding into the main parts of the house.

After proceeding through the transitional hallway or foyer, the individual usually enters another collective space. Rarely will the foyer lead to a privatized space in a suburban home. In other words, few homes are designed so that the bedroom is the first room seen after the front door. A kitchen is another common entry point into the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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