A SPATIAL SECOND SEX:
SPACE AND PLACE IN BEAUVOIRIAN FREEDOM AND APPLICATIONS FOR FEMINIST ACTION
B.A., American University, 2010
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Science Social Science Program
This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree by
has been approved for the Social Sciences Program by
Joern Langhorst, Chair Brian Page
Brown, Sarah (M.S.S., Social Sciences Program)
A Spatial Second Sex: Space and Place in Beauvoirian Freedom and Applications for Feminist Action
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Joern Langhorst
Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex is often interpreted as a feminist or phenomenological work. However, analyzing this text alongside critical theory and feminist geography reveals the spatial nature of Beauvoir's philosophy. This thesis investigates concepts of space and place in The Second Sex. Using a comparative textual analysis, I contend that Beauvoir perceived the male home as a disciplinary space through which man confined woman in a state of immanence, disrupted her ability to make place, and barred her from establishing a sense of self. I suggest that Beauvoir uses four themes-spatial enclosure, identification with material objects, task repetition, and a blocked horizon- to demonstrate that the home obstructed woman's transcendence and freedom.
This thesis posits that Beauvoir's spatial thinking can be extended to a contemporary context in order to examine feminist approaches to issues of gender and space. Thus, this study offers a model for engaging Beauvoir's philosophy as an analytical framework through which to consider the modern home. This thesis investigates advertisements for luxury homes that feature images of women and a popular self-help book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Using Beauvoir's notions of immanence, transcendence, and bad faith, I question whether either of these circumstances offer women the ability to craft an authentic identity through the making of place. In doing so, I suggest that Beauvoir's scholarship is
applicable for shifting the way people relate to their personal space and provides potential avenues for changing gendered spatial relationships throughout the physical world.
This form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Joern Langhorst
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. AN INTODUCTION TO GENDERED SPACE, PLACE, AND HOME ..............1
II. A SPATIAL SfCOA/DSfX: SPACE AND PLACE IN BEAUVOIR'S FEMINISM ...32
III. PURCHASING VS. PRODUCING PLACE: THE CONTEMPORARY HOME AND FEMINIST
IV. CONCLUSION: THE RIGHTTO THE HOME ..............................100
AN INTRODUCTION TO GENDERED SPACE, PLACE, AND HOME Statement of the Problem
Many societal structures, including the spaces people inhabit, produce gendered experiences for men and women. Geographers hold that spatial location plays a key role in human life. Creating meaning in a particular place is an important mechanism for grounding oneself in the world and establishing a sense of self.1 Feminist scholars working in this field agree, but contend that the discipline of geography and the physical spaces people occupy are masculine. They argue that the history of the study of space is dominated by a white, male, bourgeois subject whose spatial meanings have been cast as the norm and the ideal.2 To this end, feminist geographers assert that men have designed, funded, and shaped many of the spaces through which women live their lives, thereby leading to a tacit prioritization of men's needs and desires in building design and city landscape.3 These critiques led feminist geographers to demand increased access to public space and a greater inclusion of women in the fields of planning, architecture, and geography.4
The work of feminist geographers is important. They have generated new recorded knowledge and have refocused geographic questions. Feminist scholars studied women's interactions with everyday public spaces, women's private spaces, and buildings and public
1 Space is a physical reality while place is a site of meaning. Place-making is the act of creating meaning from a space. For a more robust discussion of terms, see Key Terms and Concepts below.
2 Gillian Rose, Feminism & Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 1993), 3-5.
3 Rachel Pain, "Space, Sexual Violence and Social Control: Integrating Geographical and Feminist Analyses of Women's Fear of Crime," Progress in Human Geography 15, no. 4 (1991): 422, doi: 10.1177/030913259101500403.
4 For an anthology that contains essays about these topics, see Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, and lain Borden, eds., Gender Space Architecture (New York: Routledge, 2000).
space designed by female professionals. A rich scholarship exploring the gendered nature and
how space informs gendered identities continues to grow. Yet, little work exists on women's ability to make place, or create meaning and a grounded sense of self in the material world.
The literature has yet to fully evaluate the ways in which a masculine physical and philosophical world constraints and alters women's place making and how this affects women's sense of self. In this thesis, I consider how the places that women make are informed and formed by gendered spaces and an idealized masculine relationship with space. I question whether women can authentically define place on their own terms under these circumstances and ask what women's place making might look like.
To begin to answer this question, I suggest that we turn to Simone de Beauvoir and her iconic feminist work, The Second Sex. Broadly speaking, feminists disagree about Beauvoir and The Second Sex. For example, they laud Beauvoir for highlighting individual women's voices while analyzing woman's situation from a philosophical perspective. Dissatisfied with the scientific, historical, and theoretical explanation, Beauvoir sought the root of woman's oppression, ultimately arguing that man defined woman not as herself, but in relation to himself.5 On the other hand, however, feminist criticize The Second Sex. Milder criticisms charge that Beauvoir is limited by her white, middle class, Eurocentric perspective.6 Others accuse her of being masculinist, essentialist, heterosexist, racist, and out of date.7
5 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier (New York: Vintage Books, 2010), 5.
6 For example, see Elizabeth Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988).
7 Dorothy Kauffman, "Simone de Beauvoir: Questions of Difference and Generation," Yale French Studies 72 (1986): 121-31, doi: 10.2307/2930230. According to Kauffman, some of the harshest criticism came from Helene Cixous, who held a meeting in New York in the late 1970s where she characterized Beauvoir as feminism's big bad wolf and mocks her concepts as phallocentric.
Though significant to some critical frameworks, this rather stale debate overshadows
questions of space and gender prevalent in Beauvoir's thought. Thus, in solidarity with Lori Marso's recent book, Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter, I contend that Beauvoir is not passe. Her scholarship continues to shape our political and feminist thinking and new themes remain to be explored.8 Marso suggests that scholars can continue to learn from Beauvoir by reading her as a theorist of encounter. For Marso, this means examining Beauvoir's concept of freedom through her encounters with other people and situations, as well as interpreting Beauvoir's work by placing her in conversation with other voices.9
Just as Marso mines new potential from Beauvoir, I too propose that Beauvoir's work offers other venues for productive scholarship, namely that of spatial relations. When we read Beauvoir in conversation with feminist geographers and spatial concepts, we can begin to understand the deeply spatial aspect of her philosophy. To demonstrate this, I offer a close reading of the recent translation of The Second Sex in order to illustrate how Beauvoir ties metaphorical and literal concepts of space and place with her assertion that women could not authentically establish themselves in the masculine social world. My thesis is that Beauvoir's spatial philosophy problematizes spatial access as a route to freedom and imagines a different way of being in and with space. Ultimately, it is my hope that this thesis will shed light on this little explored area of Beauvoir's work.
8 Lori Marso, Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 19.
9 Marso, Politics with Beauvoir, 16, 205. In her own work, Marso "encounters" Beauvoir alongside thinkers of her own time, such as Hannah Arendt, Frantz Fanon, and Richard Wright, as well as contemporary figures like Lars von Trier, Chantal Akerman, and Gillian Flynn.
The significance of this study lies not solely in revealing the details about Beauvoir's
spatial metaphors and their link to women's oppression, but rather in suggesting that we can use Beauvoir to alter how feminist scholarship and activism approach issues of gender and space. Therefore, this study has three goals. First, as described above, it seeks to uncover an area of Beauvoir's work that is thus far unexplored in the literature. A spatial interpretation of The Second Sex challenges the work of critics who claim that we know all there is to know about Beauvoir. Second, I offer a model for using Beauvoir's ideas of space to examine consumer marketing that targets women in the selling of built environments, especially home space. At first glance, women purchasing space may be interpreted as a sign of empowerment. However, on closer inspection, and with Beauvoir behind us, we can question whether access to public places and ownership of expensive property are truly feminist goals. Beauvoir's concepts of place making call into question women's freedom to create domestic place. A third goal of this study is to critically examine Beauvoir's ideas about women and place making to consider ethical and authentic place creation. Therefore, this study will place Beauvoir in "encounter" with a contemporary movement that helps ordinary people remake domestic space. In doing so, I suggest that Beauvoir's scholarship is applicable for shifting the way people relate to their personal space and provides potential avenues for changing gendered spatial relationships throughout the physical world.
Theoretical and Methodological Statement
The framework that serves as my point of departure for this study is heavily reliant on critical theorists such as Michel Foucault and Jurgen Habermas. Ontologically, critical theorists
see the world as an apprehendable reality that is shaped by social, political, cultural, economic,
ethnic, and gender values that are so solidified over time that they rigidly structure society as if they were real.10 These structures act agentally in order to discipline the meanings humans make in the world. In a sense, human beings are so dominated by these structures that their ability to find freedom is severely curtailed. Some critical theorists, including Foucault, contend that the built environment is one such structure in which these values are inscribed.11 Epistemologically and methodologically, critical theorists tend toward the diagnostic and dialectical. They use logical discussion to search for the root of an issue in human society. Those of us holding this worldview see inquiry as a dialogue between the researcher and the subject that is ultimately influenced by the values of the researcher. In other words, findings are mediated and shaped by the position of the researcher. Therefore, knowledge is not neutral. Additionally, this paradigm contends that the purpose of research is to critique the social and political order in order to challenge it. The hope is to reconstruct certain structures in order to increase human freedom.12 This is sometimes also referred to as the transformative worldview.13
To a great degree, the critical theory worldview aligns with feminist theory and methodology. Feminists, too, argue that the goal of research should be to understand and dismantle the structures of oppression, to challenge hierarchy, and to work against injustice.
10 Egon Guba and Yvonne Lincoln, "Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research," in The Handbook of Qualitative Research, eds. Norman Denzin and Yvonne Lincoln (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994), 109.
11 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 2nd ed., trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1977), 143.
12 Guba and Lincoln, "Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research," 109. This point is also made by James Anderson, Communications Theory: Epistemological Foundations (New York: Guilford Press, 1996), 186-197.
13 John Cresswell, Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 4th ed. (Los Angeles: Sage, 2014), 9.
Like critical theorists, they argue that the researcher is not passive, and they reject the idea that
research can take place objectively from the point of a universal subject.14 However, there are also important differences between feminism and critical theory. One critique of critical theorists is that they fail to write from or about any perspective but their own. Because academia was, and remains, dominated by men, this can erase women. As Mary McLeod notes, critical theorists may epistemologically disagree with the notion of a universal subject, but they often write from this position. For example, in her analysis of Foucault's work, McLeod observes that while Foucault demonstrates that spaces shape human behavior, he ignores women's spaces, fails to account for gendered differences in the disciplinary mechanisms of space, and does not write from women's viewpoint. As a result, "femininity becomes a lack, an absence, the unconscious which cannot be represented."15
Feminists also challenge the macro-level structural studies often undertaken by critical theorists. They charge that this approach can unintendedly uphold the structural inequalities that critical theorists hope to reconstruct. For example, studying dichotomized categories, such as public / private and powerful / oppressed can reinforce false polarity; abstract identity grouping, for example, studying "class," creates biased interpretations in knowledge; and the uncritical positioning of the researcher objectifies others.16 Many feminist theorists and researchers advocate for a degree of relativism in research. In this sense, they align with constructivists in arguing that social, political, and physical locations create multiple
14 Joey Sprague, Feminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers: Bridging Differences (New York: Alta Mira Press, 2005), 8-13.
15 Mary McLeod, "Everyday and Other Spaces," in Gender Space Architecture, eds. Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, and lain Borden (New York: Routledge, 2000), 185.
16 Sprague, Feminist Methodologies, 13.
constructions of reality.17 Humans create multiple meanings and perspectives through their
interaction with one another, society, and the material world, and these perspectives can shift through time and space.18 This paper approaches reality as a blend of these perspectives. Societal values and institutions structure the world, but the experience of the world is mediated through one's own social position and location.
The act of creating knowledge is always for something or someone. The act of writing is, too. Feminist methodology informs many of my stylistic choices. While I take up a number of concepts and theories, I try to limit my use of jargon, explain key terms clearly, and illustrate abstract ideas with examples. I believe, along with many feminist researchers, that this does not downgrade the quality of the academic work; rather, it allows the work to be both read and critiqued by a variety of audiences both inside and outside of the academy.19 I consciously use active voice often throughout this paper when discussing oppression. This choice ensures that those who perpetrate injustice are centered as agents in the sentence, rather than rendered invisible through the use of passive voice.20 Finally, I make no attempt to hide myself as the author. My use of first-person pronouns is intended to present my findings not as metaphysical fact, but as an interpretation of Beauvoir's work that opens the conversation about her development of space as a concept in The Second Sex.
My approach, or method, for analysis is comparative and analytic. The second chapter of this thesis contextualizes Beauvoir within what scholars refer to as "the spatial turn" and its
17 Guba and Lincoln, "Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research," 109.
18 Cresswell, Research Design, 9.
19 Sprague, Feminist Methodology, 21, 24.
20 Sprague, Feminist Methodology, 24. Some style guides advise authors to embrace passive voice in academic writing in order to focus the reader's attention an idea, rather than an actor. However, some feminist theorists argue that this serves to camouflage those who wield power and use it to oppress marginalized groups.
literature. I offer a qualitative study of Beauvoir's idea of place and its link to women's oppression in The Second Sex. The idea that Beauvoir thought spatially about women's oppression and conceived of an alternative spatial interaction is one that unfolded from an intensive study of The Second Sex. Grounded theory and textual analysis allowed me to develop and investigate these themes as they emerged.21 Beauvoir authored many philosophical, fictional, and autobiographical texts throughout her life. Rather than an overview of spatial themes throughout her work, I examine these concepts only in The Second Sex. The case study approach allows me to dive deeply into specific passages that elucidate Beauvoir's spatial thinking.22
Chapter III extends Beauvoir's spatial thinking to a contemporary context through an examination of home advertisements and a popular self-help movement. Using Beauvoir's philosophy as an analytical framework and methods from Gillian Rose's Visual Methodologies, I first consider several home advertisements that feature images of women. I analyze both the site of the image itself and the site of the audiencing through the perceived intention and impact of the advertisement.23 This chapter then turns to Marie Kondo's decluttering movement and her analysis of home in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering. A comparative textual analysis illuminates the ways in which Kondo and Beauvoir evaluate home in their respective texts. These cases are intended to be illustrative of the theory, rather than provide a statistically significant analysis.
21 Joseph Maxwell, Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996), 42-43.
22 Defined in Cresswell, Research Design, 14.
23 Gillian Rose, Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials, 2nd ed. (London: Sage Publications, 2003), 11.
This thesis sits at the crux of feminist political philosophy and geography. In order to ask questions about the ways in which a masculine spatial and social world shape how women perceive themselves in space and place, I explore texts by feminist political philosophers. I approach the work from the perspective that reality is situational and limited by the human perspective. My study uses methods such as textual analysis and concept distinction. Such elements are generally associated with the discipline of philosophy.24 In addition, at its core, this work is also geographical. Geography's perspective is that spatial location and concepts of place play a key role in human life. Since its earliest written accounts, geography questioned the relationship between people and their perception of the physical world. In recent decades, the geographic discipline has shifted methodologically and theoretically. New subfields such as human geography, post-structuralist geography, and feminist geography engaged critical theory to question the hierarchical structures embedded in our ideas of space and place.25 Geography's philosophical engagement began a rich academic conversation around spatial theory.
Key Terms and Concepts
Space and Place
Though they are colloquially used as synonyms, spatial theorists use the terms "space" and "place" differently. Space is a physical reality that exists all around us. Humans live immersed in space and pass through it, yet, may not consider it. Rather than a site of meaning,
24 Allen Repko, Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2012), 125.
25 Tim Cresswell, Place: A Short Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 11.
space simply is. It is both a condition of the material world and what allows the material world
to come into being.26 Today, scholars sometimes use the term "space" to refer to the absolute space of the universe. More often, however, "space" denotes a material physical reality or a location with which a person has little relationship.
When a person regularly interacts with a particular space, it becomes significant. The subject may go to a location to do a particular task or find that they feel a particular emotion there. In other words, these spaces become particular places. Place is a site to which a person assigns meaning, creates memories, and forms identity.27 Place is more than simply a relationship with a location, however. It is part of how a person defines themselves and relates to the larger world.28 Being in place and creating meaning in the world is part of one's ability to understand the self.29 By definition, "place" is relative and personal because spaces and be experienced in a multitude of ways.30 However, a person's ability to create place is never entirely their own. People act and create meaning in spaces that are governed by social norms
26 Philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, and Kant worked to distinguish space as a site of simultaneous emptiness and materiality. Moreover, recent scholars have criticized this idea of space, arguing that space cannot exist without the material world existing in it. For a summary of early discussions of space, see Tim Cresswell, Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction (West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 19-20, 35-8 and Elizabeth Grosz, "Woman, Chora, Dwelling," in Gender Space Architecture, eds. Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, and lain Borden (New York: Routledge, 2000) 213-4. For a critique of space as a precondition to the world, see David Livingstone, The Geographical Condition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise (Oxford: Blackwell,
1993); Neil Smith, American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Preclude to Globalization (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2003); Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (New York: Verso, 1989).
27 Edward Casey, The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 51-2.
28 Cresswell, Place, 11.
29 Christopher Tilley, "Space, Place, Landscape and Perception: Phenomenological Perspectives," in A Phenomenology of Landscape, ed. Christopher Tilley (Oxford: Berg, 1994), 12.
30 Cresswell, Place, 11-16.
that influence how space is used and experienced.31 As a result, some groups or individuals
may face more obstacles in an attempt to "make place" than others.
Immanence and Transcendence
In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir uses the concepts of immanence and transcendence to characterize women's oppression and to theorize freedom.32 Beauvoir defines immanence as existing in the present and only for existence itself. Immanent tasks are those necessary for survival. They repeat, day after day; yet, these tasks produce nothing new. Cooking and cleaning, chores that often fall to women, are examples of immanent tasks. Transcendence, on the other hand, is the effort to move beyond the self, the pursuit of projects that create, and the construction of the world through action. For Beauvoir, the human effort to transcend is part becoming a subject and acquiring a presence of self. Beauvoir saw immanence and transcendence as lived simultaneously. Immanence is necessary for one to live and integral to moments of peace and happiness. However, to experience autonomous freedom, every individual must concurrently pursue the future. These terms will be further discussed in Chapter 2.
In The Second Sex, Beauvoir provides many examples of individuals acting in "bad faith." According to Beauvoir, people act in bad faith in three ways. First, a person acts in bad faith if
31 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1991), 68.
32 Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 16-7. Beauvoir uses these terms throughout the text but summarizes their relationship in the introduction.
they consent to a life of immanence. While it is wrong to oppress another person, Beauvoir
considered it a moral fault to embrace one's own oppression.33 Second, a person acts in bad faith if they imagine their life as one of strict transcendence and deny their own embodiment. This is a false representation of the reality of the self, which Beauvoir sees as ambiguous, requiring both immanence and transcendence.34 Lastly, it is an act of bad faith to inflict immanence on another person. Beauvoir understands individual freedom as linked with the freedom of others. In her view, is impossible for one group to aspire toward transcendence on the backs of another group. This is what men have done at women's expense.35
Woman and Women
In the translators' note to the 2009 edition of The Second Sex, Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier observed that translating "la femme" from French to English was complex and important.36 The term can mean "the woman," "woman," or "women," depending on the context of the sentence.37 Beauvoir often used the term "woman" alone, without an article. In these instances, she referred to woman as an institution or concept, rather than an individual woman or group of women. In this paper, I stay true to the 2009 translation and often discuss the quote using Beauvoir's choice of term. I also use "woman" to
33 Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 16, 648.
34 Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 755.
35 Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 757.
36 Toril Moi, "While We Wait: The English Translation of The Second Sex," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 27, no. 4 (2002): 1005-1035, doi 10.1086/339635. Zoologist H.M. Parshley first translated Beauvoir's work in 1953, but he shortened sections and simplified some passages. Because he lacked a philosophical background, Parshley also changed some terms key to understanding Beauvoir's philosophical theories. This is the first complete English translation of The Second Sex.
37 Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, Translators' Note to The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir (New York: Vintage Books, 2010), xviii.
discuss the institution of woman as defined by dominant history and culture and "women" to
refer to gendered beings.38
Situating the Literature
Geography is concerned with the study of space. Since emerging in ancient Greece, geographers recorded topographical descriptions of the world and searched for links between the physical landscape and human life. Like many disciplines, geography was influenced by the Enlightenment. Thus, the field tended toward empirics.39 Geography's positivist history lives on in the discipline's continued focus on quantitative and technological methods. However, in the 1970s, a group of geographers pointed out the limits of such an approach. These "human geographers" contended that empirical geography erased the human from the world. They argued the discipline ought to acknowledge that socially located humans created knowledge and shaped the world. Therefore, it was imperative to center the human, human consciousness, and the relationship between humans and the world in their work.40 These geographers engaged deeply with philosophy and political theory. David Harvey, for example, spatialized Marxism in order to locate production and labor within ideas of time and space.
38 This paper focuses on Beauvoir's theorization of space and women's oppression and modern woman's struggle to make place. While I am discussing cis-gender females in this paper and though I often use the term "women" to talk about this group, I do not wish to homogenize their experiences making place. Furthermore, it is not my intention to erase those who do not identify as cis-gender. An area for future research might be examining how place-making manifests for those who identify outside of the normative gender binary.
39 For a detailed discussion of the evolution of the geographic discipline, see Cresswell, Geographic Thought.
40 For example, see Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977).
This led to the development of an entirely new subfield, Marxist geography, where scholars examined the way in which space was a reflection of the relations of production.
At the same time, scholars in the humanities and social science asserted that space was an important dimension in human life. It was key to understanding societal function and power relations. For example, in 1972, Michel Foucault's text Discipline and Punish suggested that spatial organization influenced behavior, often operating in service of the capitalist state. In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre argued that space could be understood as ideological and subjective in addition to material.41 This was the beginning of what became known as "The Spatial Turn" in the humanities and social sciences.
The spatial turn and critical human geography emerged rather simultaneously, each changing the analysis in and across the social sciences, humanities, and geography. Though they approached the topic from different disciplinary perspectives, many scholars during this time advanced similar arguments. Spaces shape human behavior and the social world.42 Space is not neutral; it can operate as a mechanism of power.43 Because some people have more control over the creation of and access to space than do others, some groups can control the behavior of others through the structuring of space.44 Moreover, a person's relationship to
41 Summarized in Barney Warf and Santa Arias, "Introduction: The Reinsertion of Space in the Humanities and Social Sciences," in The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, eds. Barney Warf and Santa Arias, (New York: Routledge, 2009), 3.
42 Warf and Arias, "Introduction," 4.
43 Cresswell, Geographic Thought, 261. This is also a part of geography's history. With the emergence of capitalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, knowledge of space became a tool of power and wealth. Traders and entrepreneurs sought maps to navigate and move amongst new places. Trading empires, backed by state and military power, flourished.
44 See Foucault, Discipline and Punish; Lefebvre, The Production of Space; Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven F. Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); and Edward Soja, Thirdspace: Expanding the Geographical Imagination (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1996).
space plays a key role in their ability to create meaning in the world and to form an autonomous identity.45
This literature review will discuss the theoretical spatial concepts that emerged during this time period. Further, what follows critically engages the voices that rose to challenge the assumptions embedded in the spatial theory dialogue. Feminist scholars working in in geography and political theory contended that while these theories re-center the human and seek to uncover mechanisms of power, they remain driven by a white, wealthy, male interpretation of the relationships between space and people throughout time.46 For example, feminist geographer Gillian Rose builds on Foucault's assertion that knowledge is constructed through discourse to argue that geographic knowledge is erected on a masculine knowledge-power apparatus.47 Women's events, ways of seeing, views, and interactions with space were not studied; thus, their perspectives are absent from the dominant discourse. This literature review will establish an ongoing discussion between feminist scholars about spaces women occupy and the mutually reinforcing relationship between gender and spatial codes. Finally, this literature review will examine the contentious and nuanced debate within feminist theory about the space of the home, the role it plays in women's identity formation, and what it does and should mean for women.
45 See Tilly, "Space, Place, Landscape, and Perception;" Denis Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998); Martin Heidegger, "Building, Dwelling, Thinking," in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Colophon Books, 1971).
46 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 2-7.
47 Michel Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 6; Rose, Feminism & Geography, 4.
The Production of (Disciplinary) Space
In 1974, Henri Lefebvre argued that social spaces mediated people's actions.48 Simultaneously, people's actions shaped, or produced, social space.49 Lefebvre illustrates his argument using a "spatial triad," made up of conceived space (representations of space), perceived space (spatial practice), and lived space (spaces of representation). Architects, planners, and officials "conceive" of space through design. These actors design built space by determining intended use, or how people ought to use or act in a location. Intended use is influenced by social norms and values. Perceived space is how one experiences the space.
Lived space is the way one reacts to and interacts with the codes of a space in order to become part of it.50 For example, consider the space of a church. The church is designed (conceived) to inspire awe and reverence for a higher power. Intricate carvings, an elevated and decorated alter, and colorful stained glass codify esteem in a built location. As a result, most individuals practice (perceive) this space with a degree of respect, speaking in hushed tones and dressing in nice clothes to enter this building. Individuals may experience a sense of peace or comfort in this space, a lived experience derived from the codes of the building and the spatial practice of their fellow worshipers. The pieces of this triad are therefore mutually reinforcing. As Lefebvre puts it, "social space is a social product."51 It is created through signs and symbols that represent how a space should be experienced and molded by human behavior, which may be
48 Cresswell, Place, 12. Lefebvre calls "social space" what others call "place." These concepts will be treated similarly in this paper.
49 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 26.
50 Lefebvre, The Production of Space. 68. Interpreted by Edward Soja in Soja, Discovering Thirdspace, 67-70.
51 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 26.
influenced by the codes inscribed in the built space. As humans live in a space, it takes on a
function, and, in turn, a space's function determines the way humans live in a space.
In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault examines the ways in which some people and institutions "conceived" of spaces in order to consolidate power and wealth. Foucault argues that space can mold behavior. Therefore, those who shape space possess some degree of control over human actions. Space could be used in a "disciplinary" fashion to norm how individuals behave in different locations and to surveille individual bodies to ensure that they adhered to these norms. Foucault uses the spaces of the hospital, school, military barrack, and factory to demonstrate that many spaces throughout society became increasingly divided, cellular, and cubical. This spatial arrangement simplified the designation of each location for a particular purpose, as well as heightening the visibility of each individual.52 For example, the partitioned factory space assigned a task to each location along the line, while allowing the supervisor to see that all workers were adequately performing. The physical space watched and manipulated the individual.53 This informs not only human action, but the relationships humans form with these places.
Michel de Certeau built on the concept of disciplinary spatial production with what he calls a spatial strategy. De Certeau argues that the disciplinary techniques that Foucault discusses are used as part of a spatial strategy wherein people in power circumscribe proper spatial use of a given place. Strategy uses tools like maps, plans, and drawings to determine
52 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 143. Foucault expands on this in "Space, Knowledge, and Power." Fie remarked, "Space is fundamental in any exercise of power." Michel Foucault, "Space, Knowledge, and Power," in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (London: Penguin Books, 1991), 252.
53 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, ITT.
how a place will be shaped, used, and experienced. Like Foucault, de Certeau sees the control
of space as rather sinister and purposeful. He considers spatial strategy to be a "force relationship" that serves to isolate a subject from their environment.54 Spatial strategy comes to govern a person's ability to make place because it so tightly regulates spatial norms of locations. It can therefore alienate a person from their environment and the meaning they create through making place.55
Foucault and De Certeau argue that a disciplinary spatial strategy has the power to shape not only human behavior, but spatial perception and the creation of place, or meaning in a given location. Foucault explicates this theory throughout his lecture series Psychiatric Power. He argues that the field of psychiatry and the doctor materialized power through the architectural space of the asylum.56 The design of the asylum allowed the doctor to know every event that took place; it was a space where patients felt constant surveillance. According to Foucault, this was a targeted inscription of power. He states, "Asylum architecture...was always calculated so that the psychiatrist could be present virtually everywhere...The entire asylum space is covered with his eyes, ears, and actions."57 This space was an ultimate manifestation of disciplinary power. More than that, though, the asylum space allowed the doctor to invade the minds of the patients. For Foucault, the asylum and the psychiatrist were one and the same. He remarks, "The asylum is the psychiatrist's body, stretched and distended to the dimensions of the establishment.... We can say that the psychiatrist's body is the asylum
54 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, xix.
55 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, xix-xx. De Certeau also argues that a person can tactically resist the spatial strategy by challenging the proscribed use of an environment through spontaneous action.
56 Michel Foucault, Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the College de France 1973-1974, ed. Arnold I. Davidson, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Picador, 2008), 177.
57 Foucault, Psychiatric Power, 182
itself"58 Foucault is being quite literal here. The patients felt the doctor's omnipotence through
the asylum space, both of which governed how they perceived the asylum and reality. In other words, the asylum was not simply a material entity, but a carefully crafted representation of space. It was conceived with the objective of controlling the patients' perception of space and their lived space. Through this space, the doctor forces the patient to perceive the space as he has conceived it and denies them the ability to perceive or interact with the space on their own terms. He has circumscribed the patient's ability to make place. With this lecture, Foucault extends the argument he made in Discipline and Punish, establishing that spaces can manipulate human behavior, and also human perceptions of the world.
Feminist Responses to Spatial Theory
Feminist scholars responded to Lefebvre, de Certeau, Foucault, and other male intellectuals to merge the conversation of spatial control with that of gender and women's oppression. They argued that spatial theory thus far was masculine. Critical theorists and human geographers had universalized a masculine subject;59 they had idealized their own spatial relationships and notions of place;60 they ignored women's perspectives and made little
58 Foucault, Psychiatric Power, 181,183.
59 For example, see Rose, Feminism & Geography, 50 and McLeod, "Everyday and Other Spaces," 189. Rose argues that male thinkers critiqued systems of power while failing to locate their own role in these systems. She charges that some human geographers used reflexivity in order to universalize their claims as truth. McLeod argues that Foucault and De Certeau never consider their theories from the point of view of the marginalized and remain "strangely silent on the issue of women."
60 See Mona Domosh, 'Toward a Feminist Historiography of Geography," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 16, no. 1 (1991): 95-104, doi:10.2307/622908; Gill Valentine, "The Geography of Women's Fear,"
Area 21, no. 4 (1989): 385-90, http://www.jstor.org.aurarialibrary.idm.oclc.org/stable/20000063; Linda McDowell, "Doing Gender: Feminism, Feminists, and Research Methods in Human Geography," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 17, no. 4 (1992): 399-416. doi:10.2307/622707.
attempt to analyze women's spaces.61 Feminist critics built on existing spatial theory to argue
that all space is gendered.62 They used Lefebvre and Foucault's foundation to argue that space is indeed constructed. It is constructed by men who codify their own values and idealized gender roles into built space. As a result, a gendered built environment reinforces gender hierarchies in society.63
Space as Masculine Space
Feminist theorists charge that all space is gendered because it can be used to determine and reinforce gender norms and roles. One further argument is that men control these norms and code them in space. As Rachel Pain argues, people who create spaces, or "conceive" of space, are typically government officials, architects, planners, designers, and those funding the creation of cities, complexes, or buildings. Historically, these individuals are male.64 This may lead to a prioritization of men's needs in building design and city landscape.65 At times, this can
61 For texts that called for a critical examination of gender in geography and increased attention to women's lives and spaces, see Women and Geography Study Group of the IBG, Geography and Gender: An Introduction to Feminist Geography (London: Hutchinson, 1986); Janice Monk and Susan Hanson, "On Not Excluding Half of the Human in Human Geography," The Professional Geographer 34, no. 1 (1982): 11-23, doi 10.1111/j.0033-0124.1982.00011.x. For studies of women's spaces and women's experience in space, see Mona Domosh and Joni Seager, Putting Women in Place: Feminist Geographers Make Sense of the World (New York: The Guilford Press, 2001); Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City,: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991); Kathryne Beebe and Angela Davis, Space, Place and Gendered Identities: Feminist Flistory and the Spatial Turn (London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015).
62 Linda McDowell, Gender, Identity and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 65
63 McDowell, Gender, Identity, and Place, 30 and Andrea Nightingale, "Nature-Society," in The Sage Flandbook of Fluman Geography, eds. Roger Lee, et al (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2014), 127. This idea is central for McDowell, who argues that both space and people are gendered simultaneously. As a result, our gender identities are inscribed in physical place. These physical locations, in turn, inform how we perceive ourselves as gendered individuals. Nightingale echoes this, arguing the social meaning of gender is produced in relation to the way we act in space. At the same time, gender performance shapes and transforms environments.
64 Pain, "Space, Sexual Violence and Social Control, 422.
65 Jos Boys, "Is There a Feminist Analysis of Architecture?" Built Environment (1978-) 10, no. 1 (1984): 25-34. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23286005, 28.
be rather innocuous. For example, structures with steps to the front door may unintendedly
exclude a woman with a stroller who needs a ramped entrance to access to building.66 However, Gill Valentine argues that in other instances, men use spatial codes to heighten women's fear and limit their mobility. For example, the combination of dark urban spaces and the normalization of harassment of women in public reinforces the city as a masculine space that women have little right to occupy. When used in this way, public space acts as, "a spatial expression of the patriarchy."67 Gill's connection between urban space and a patriarchal system illustrates that the concept of "masculine space" is bigger than individual male actors who design space. It is indicative of a perspective that encapsulates dominant societal values determined by men.68 These values manifest spatially in the way the built environment is organized. In other words, space is not masculine simply because it is designed and constructed by men. It is masculine because the socio-cultural norms and attitudes of the modern world were determined by men and then inscribed in space.
Many feminist scholars believe that male values are also inscribed in the state and the identity of the Western nation.69 Because the state often has a measure of control over the built environment, this further imprints male values in space. In Society Must Be Defended, Foucault outlines the relationship between the state, individuals, values, and nationhood. He
66 Pain, "Space, Sexual Violence, and Social Control," 422.
67 Valentine, "Geography of Women's Fear," 315.
68 Beauvoir also makes this point. She writes, "The representation of the world itself is the work of men; they describe it from a point of view that is their own and that they confound with the absolute truth." The Second Sex, 162.
69 Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014); Anne McClintock, "Family Feuds: Gender, Nationalism and the Family," Feminist Review 44, no. 1 (July 1993): 61-80. doi:10.1057/fr,1993.21. Cynthia Enloe wrote that nationalisms have, 'Typically sprung from masculinized memory" (44). Anne McClintock argued that nationalism is, "Constituted from the very beginnings as a gendered discourse and cannot be understood without a theory of gender power" (61).
says, the nation is, "a vertical relationship between a body of individuals who are capable of
constituting the State, and the actual existence of the State itself."70 In Foucault's example, the individuals who constituted the state were the bourgeoisie. These individuals gathered in coffee houses, debated ideas, and came to share an experience of community and identity previously unknown under the monarchy. As Jurgen Habermas explains, the bourgeois branded themselves as a "public," and used linguistic slogans such as "we the people" to encourage an image of inclusivity .71 However, as noted by Nancy Fraser, the public space of the modern Western state was reserved predominantly for white, property owning men.72 It was these men who constituted the state and whose values were inscribed in the idealized relationship of citizens to the state.73 Foucault, Habermas and Fraser all highlight that the newly empowered male, property owning citizenry, "the public," infused governmental state and its space with their values.74 According to Foucault, architecture functioned as a technique of government during this time. He writes that built space was used to model, "What the order of a society should be, what a city should be, given the requirements and the maintenance of order."75 Urban historian Christine Boyer echoes this point. She notes that during the 18th and 19th century, the built environment became a place to showcase the dignity and values of a state.76
70 Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France 1975-1976, ed. Arnold I. Davidson, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 223.
71 Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a
Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), 51.
72 Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy," Social text 25/26 (1990): 56-80, doi 10.2307/466240, 61-2. In a nod to Foucault's idea of counter-conduct, Fraser points out that women formed "counter publics" that also influenced the modern state.
73 McClintock, "Family Feuds," 65. According to Anne McClintock, women's relationship with the state was indirect and mediated through the social relationship of marriage.
74 Beauvoir also critiques this, describing bourgeois values as "faithfulness to the past, patience, economy, caution, love of family, of native soil." The Second Sex, 469.
75 Foucault, "Space, Knowledge, and Power," 239.
76 Christine Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City: The Myth of American City Planning (Boston: MIT Press, 1986), 9.
One value driving the bourgeois state was the separation of private and public spaces.
As Habermas explains, the term "Public" referred to the emerging state and the capitalist economy on which it depended, while "'Private' designated the exclusion from the sphere of the state apparatus."77 As a result, private society and the space of the home were ideologically and spatially partitioned away from the state and "private and public spheres became separate in a specifically modern sense."78 This meant three things in particular. First, urban spaces were separated into residential areas and spaces of public business, such as mercantilism and government.79 In this separation, the town was privileged as the center of civil society and the home, its complement.80 Second, work spaces and living space became separate. Tasks that once took place in what Habermas called "the household economy" emerged in the public market space.81 In Putting Women in Place, Mona Domosh and Joni Seager argue that this had a particular impact on gender roles. Many jobs once performed by women in a more blended home-public environment, such as the brewing of beer, were removed from the home and taken over by men in public space. Men earned wages for the tasks they performed in public space; women's work in the newly sequestered private home was unpaid.82
77 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 11.
78 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 11.
79 Domosh and Seager, Putting Women in Place, 5.
80 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 30.
81 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 19-20. Habermas remarked, "Activities and dependencies hitherto relegated to the framework of the household economy emerged from this confinement into the public sphere... the economic conditions under which this activity took place lay outside of the confines of a single household: for the first time, they were of general interest...the market had replaced the household."
82 Domosh and Seager, Putting Women in Place, 3-4. Domosh and Seager note that many women did work outside the home for wages during this time. However, this did not stop the spread of dominant ideology of separation of male and female work and space.
A third implication was that the private home became a symbolic complement to the
values of the public. Maria Kaika points out the dichotomous values assigned to each space.
The public was rational, the home moral. The public was political, the home neutral. She argues, "It was only from Enlightenment onwards that the construction of the private space of the modern (bourgeois) house as isolated, apolitical, and separate from the public sphere was understood as a particularly positive development."83 More than a positive development, though, the antithetical space of the home was necessary for the bourgeois idea of freedom. The home symbolized a place for the rational, public man to retreat, "a place liberated from fear and anxiety, a place supposedly untouched by the social, political, and natural process."84
The Male Home
Male thinkers from the late 19th century through the present idealized home space. For example, in the 1890s, social thinker John Ruskin remarked, "[Home] is the place of peace: the shelter not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division."85 Some even argued that the home was a vital part of human identity. In particular, Martin Heidegger characterized the act of dwelling as, "the basic characteristic of Being."86 Heidegger argues that part of a sense of place in the world comes through building, which he defines as constructing, but also cherishing, protecting, and preserving a located place. According to Iris Marion Young, for
83 Maria Kaika, City of Flows: Modernity, Nature, and the City (New York: Routledge, 2004), 51-2.
84 Kaika, City of Flows, 52.
85 Quoted in Kaika, City of Flows, 51.
86 Heidegger, "Building, Dwelling, Thinking," I.
Heidegger, "Building is basic to the emergence of subjectivity."87 Human geographers also suggest that home is a universally significant place. Yi-Fu Tuan saw identification with familiar place as a biological need; Edward Relph called home "an irreplaceable center of significance;" while David Seamon argued that the dwelling was necessary to center oneself at home.88 As Gillian Rose notes, her male colleagues never questioned the idea of home as a significant, nor the idealization of domestic space. Rather, they perpetuated an uncritical characterization of home.89 Their romanticized home space more or less aligned with the centuries old bourgeois narrative. Tuan exemplifies this throughout his work. For example, in Space and Place: Perspectives of the Experience, he writes, "Hearth, shelter, home or home base are intimate places to human beings everywhere."90 In "Geography, Phenomenology, and the Study of Human Nature," he calls home, "That special place to which one withdrawals and from which one ventures forth; a field of care."91
Feminist Critique of the Male Home
Feminist and postcolonial scholars critique the idyllic home as a masculinist notion of place. As Gillian Rose puts it, "Only masculinist work could use the image of place as home so unproblematically."92 Further, they argue that the romanticized home simply does not align
87 Iris Marion Young, On Female Body Experience: "Throwing like a Girl" and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 126.
88 Quoted in Rose, Feminism & Geography, 47.
89 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 47-52.
90 Tuan, Space and Place, 147.
91 Yi-Fu Tuan, "Geography, Phenomenology, And The Study Of Human Nature," Canadian Geographer, 15:181-192, doi: 10.1111/j. 1541-0064.197 l.tb00156.x, 189.
92 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 56; Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat, "Introduction" in Dangerous Liaisons, by Anne McClintock, eds. Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 2. Mufti and Shohat urge scholars to examine the complexities of home and complicate dominant and naive masculinist and colonial understandings of this space.
with women's experiences. For example, the home is not a site of relaxation and care for many
women; it is a site of work.93 Man's place of refuge often represented exile, confinement, drudgery, work, or deprivation for women.94 Additionally, as Domosh and Seager point out, the home was and continues to be a site of violence for women. For many women, rape and battery perpetrated by a male in private space created home as "a battleground, not a sanctuary."95 In women's experience, the home did not exclude politics, power relations, and violence, it merely reproduced the social hierarchy in private space.96
Feminist Politics of Home
Feminist scholars tend to agree on this critique of white, bourgeois home space. Yet, when it comes to how women ought to regard the home, the subject remains fraught. In her essay, "Identity: Skin Blood Heart," Minnie Bruce Pratt, a white queer feminist, writes about home as a site of exclusion. She argues that the coherence, safety, and connection she felt at home as a child was an illusion. The narrative of home as a safe space, "was based on places that had been secured for me by omission, exclusion, or violence."97 Pratt argues that the walls of the home drew a boundary around her privilege, thus masking the histories of oppression of others her sense of place was based on.
93 Mufti and Shohat, "Introduction," 2.
94 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 54, 83. The idea of home as a domestic prison is a well explored notion in feminist theory. For example, see Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Norton, 1963).
95 Mona and Domosh, Putting Women in Place, 34. In "Space, Violence, and Social Control," Rachel Pain confirms that statistically, the main threat of violence against women occurs in private space (420).
96 Kaika, City of Flows, 63. This point is also made by Foucault in "Space, Knowledge, and Power" when he discusses the ways in which architectural structures, such as the home, can reproduce and maintain social hierarchies (255). Similarly, Anne McClintock argues that the "western invention of domesticity" is a reproduction of and serves to reproduce the state (17).
97 Minnie Bruce Pratt. Rebellion: Essays, 1980-1991 (Ann Arbor, Ml: Firebrand Books, 1991), 43.
Pratt's essay provoked a response from the feminist community. Some scholars
suggested that women abandon not just the literal space of home, but the idea of it. In a direct reply to Pratt, Biddy Martin and Chandra Mohanty argued that women ought not seek a metaphorical "home" in the feminist community because the entire concept was based on division.98 Similarly, Bernice Johnson Reagon argued that a homelike feminist politics was misrepresentational and stunting. By pretending all women shared common experiences, the home metaphor homogenized the women's movement and prohibited dialogue and difference. Feminist politics should instead be coalitional, "a place of crisis that should be celebrated, not mourned."99 For Reagon, rejecting the false security and familiarity of the politically neutral home could spur productive conflict within feminism. Bonnie Honig agreed in her essay, "Difference, Dilemmas, and the Politics of Home." She remarked that by resisting the seductions of home, one occupies a position of resistance and agency and creates a new space for political involvement.100 When reflecting on this conversation, Teresa De Lauretis remarked that Reagon, Martin, and Mohanty were arguing for a shift in the way women regard and disregard the representational space of the home.101 By rejecting the home, leaving its "safety," embracing the unknown, and risking homelessness, women may find a new and tentative way forward.
98 Biddy Martin and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Feminist Politics: What's Home Got to Do with It?" in Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis (Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press, 1986), 192.
99 Bernice Johnson Reagon, "Coalition Politics: Turning the Century," in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, ed. Barbara Smith (New York: Kitchen Table Press, 1983), 360-368.
100 Bonnie Honig, "Difference, Dilemmas, and the Politics of Home," Social Research 16, no. 3 (1994): 563-597, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40971048, 571-3.
101 Teresa de Lauretis, "Eccentric Subjects: Feminist Theory and Historical Consciousness," Feminist Studies 16, no. 1 (1990): 115-150, doi 10.2307/3177959, 41.
While Pratt, Mohanty, Martin, De Lauretis, Reagon, and Honig argue that "home" allows
women to withdraw from politics and privilege, others argue that the metaphorical and material home remain important and cannot be discarded. In "House and Home: Feminist Variations on a Theme," Iris Marion Young considers it misguided for women to abdicate "home." Young agrees with the former critique on home but argues that it is more of a critique of the conditions of the modern home than the idea of home itself. Instead of abandoning home, Young argues that home's promises- safety, individualization, privacy, and preservation of the past- ought to be extended to all rather than eradicated.102 Bell hooks also defends the home as a site of resistance for black women, a space where they could counter the material realities of a racist society. She writes,
Homeplace was the one site where one could freely confront the issue of humanization, where one could resist. Black women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty, hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world.103
For hooks, homeplace was not the space of drudgery and violence that white feminists had painted it to be. Rather, it was a place to recover and an agental and conscious resistance led by black women.
In feminist scholarship, this conversation remains unsettled.104 On one hand, dismantling home seems unrealistic. After all, as Young points out, "house and home occupy
102 Young, On Female Body Experience, 148-152.
103 bell hooks, Yearnings: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1990), 43.
104 In fact, scholarly debate continues much along the same lines through localized and topical studies. For this reason, I have chosen to focus on the original voices in this conversation. For analysis of home in contemporary contexts, see Shani Orgad and Sara De Benedictis, 'The Stay at Home Mother, Postfeminism, and Neoliberalism," (2015); Coleen Warner Colander and Christine Rittenour, "Feminism Begins at Home," (2015); Chinyere Okafor, "Black Feminism Embodiment: A Theoretical Geography of Home, Healing, and Activism," (2018); Jessica Bain,
central places in human consciousness."105 Young agrees with Heidegger that home enacts
subjectivity through the materialization of one's sense of self. She argues, "Autonomy and control over one's personal space is essential for creation and maintenance of one's own identity."106 Though we may wish it was not so, if the making of place in home is essential for identity formation, we cannot simply abandon it. However, feminists must also take caution not to idealize home in an attempt to celebrate what it might offer. Hooks' notion of homeplace as refuge and resistance offers a theoretical and practical examination of a redefinition or reclamation of home. Yet, hooks dismisses the role of sexism in the black home, arguing that gender roles were superseded "by our struggle to uplift ourselves as a people."107 She contends that feminist attempt to change homeplace into a site of patriarchal domination negatively impacts black female identity.108 However, hooks' celebration of black women in homeplace lacks nuance. While she astutely points out that feminist denigration of the home erases black female identity, avoiding any mention of violence, conflict, or discomfort in the black home may unintentionally homogenize and romanticize this space.
Feminist scholarship led to attempted solutions. For example, in the 1980s, feminist architect Dolores Hayden suggested that individual men and women could reorganize dwellings and neighborhoods so that home would no longer constrain women. She sketched diagrams of
"Darn Right I'm a Feminist...Sew What?" (2016); and Xuanqui Liu and Suzette Dyer, "Revisiting Radical Feminism: Partnered Dual-Earner Mothers Place Still in the Home?" (2014).
105 Young, On Female Bodily Experience, 131.
106 Young, On Female Bodily Experience, 163.
107 hooks, Yearning, 46.
108 hooks, Yearning, 46.
"feminist cities," featuring private and communal spaces and access to transportation.109 Yet, this reimagined dwelling has not taken hold in mainstream Western culture. The ideal, male, bourgeois home continues to discipline women's meaning of home and their spatial practice there. Instead of seeking to alter home's conception, mainstream feminist activism focused on increased access to space. This includes the right to occupy public space, as well as the economic ability to purchase property independently.110 Yet, it remains unlikely that women's ability to purchase property has transformed into place making when home's ideal is predefined. Moreover, the ability to pursue placemaking in this way is uneven, excluding those who cannot afford to purchase it. Instead of continuing these attempts in vain, I propose that we return to Simone de Beauvoir. Rather than dismiss her as antiquated or out of touch, we can mine her theory for spatial insight and use her philosophy of freedom to reframe the way we approach space and place in modern feminism.
In Chapter Two of this thesis, I offer an in depth reading of Simone de Beauvoir's spatial philosophy in The Second Sex. Using passages from the text, I contend that Beauvoir perceived the male home as a disciplinary space through which man confined woman in a state of immanence, disrupted her ability to make place, and barred her from establishing a sense of self. Contrarily, Beauvoir cast nature as space where a woman could make place and identity
109 Dolores Hayden, "What Would a Feminist City Look Like?" in Gender, Space, Architecture, eds. Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, and Ian Borden (New York: Routledge, 2000), 272.
110 Virginia Woolf first popularized this notion in her 1929 essay, A Room of One's Own. It has been a concern of the feminist movement since. For an analysis of women becoming single urban residents and consumers from the 1920s-1950s, see Rose, Damaris, Lisa Dillon, and Marianne Caron, "Lives of their Own, a Place of Their Own? The Living Arrangements of 'Business Girls' in Early Twentieth-Century Canadian Cities," British Journal of Canadian Studies 29, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 225-248. doi 10.3828/bjcs.2016.11. Recently, the New Hampshire Business Review published a study that found that a majority of women aspire to own a home. See "Survey Studies Home-Ownership and Women: 64% Says Owning a Home is Essential in Defining the American Dream," New Hampshire Business Review 34, no. 20 (2012): 48, Gale Document Number A307669906.
free from masculine spatial strategy. The decision to isolate Beauvoir's philosophy without immediate application to a modern context is intentional. Because the spatial nature of her ideas is so rarely explored, a chapter that illuminates them is warranted.111
In Chapter Three, I use Beauvoir's philosophical ideas to examine two contemporary phenomena. This chapter investigates advertisements for luxury homes that feature images of women and a popular self-help book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Using Beauvoir's notions of immanence, transcendence, and bad faith, I question whether either of these circumstances offer women the ability to craft an authentic identity through the making of place.
Finally, a conclusion critically engages scholarship and activism around the right to make place, particularly in the city. In this final section, I suggest that Beauvoir may assist in reframing this conversation in order to move humanity closer to true freedom in good faith.
One final note to the reader. In the remainder of this thesis, page numbers for Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex will be referenced parenthetically within the text.
111 Exceptions include Amanda Crawley Jackson, who explores space in Beauvoir's travel writings, as well as Allison Fell and Simone Fullagar, who explore spatial themes in Beauvoir's fiction.
A SPATIAL SECOND SEX: SPACE AND PLACE IN BEAUVOIR'S FEMINISM
After establishing the nature of women's oppression in The Second Sex, Beauvoir turns to how men represent and construct women and the world. She remarks, "The representation of the world itself is the work of men; they describe it from a point of view that is their own and that they confound with the absolute truth" (162). Readers often interpret this statement to be about the social world. Indeed, Beauvoir demonstrates that men set up codes that created woman as the Other.112 These codes were largely ontological.113 Man described woman as his perceived opposite so that he might define himself; "He attains himself only through the reality that he is not" (161). By writing woman's history and identity from his own point of view, Beauvoir writes that men, "did invent [woman]" (203). Yet, seen from the perspective of critical feminist geography, I suggest this and other passages are open to alternative meaning. Reading selections from The Second Sex through a spatial lens allows the reader to consider how Beauvoir located women's oppression in place. Moreover, this analysis reveals the role that space plays in her conception of struggle, feminism, and freedom.
In this chapter, I offer a spatial reading of The Second Sex, focusing specifically on the space of the home. I first explain Beauvoir's use of immanence and transcendence in The Second Sex. Using passages from the text, I demonstrate that Beauvoir viewed women's lack of
112 For Beauvoir, man defines woman as Other by framing her as his negative. Beauvoir summarizes this point in the introduction. "Humanity is male, and man defines woman, not in herself, but in relation to himself; she is not considered an autonomous being...She is determined and differentiated in relation to man, while he is not in relation to her; she is the inessential in front of the essential. He is the Subject; he is the Absolute. She is the Other." The Second Sex, 5-6.
113 Though they were accompanied by practical mechanisms, such as a legal and economic situation that disadvantaged women. See page 9 and 104-106.
space and place as an integral part of their oppression. Next, this chapter turns to the home,
which Beauvoir characterizes as an embodiment of male, bourgeois values and a spatial mechanism that perpetuated woman's immanence. I examine the four lenses through which Beauvoir critiques the home in The Second Sex: enclosure, identification with material objects in the home, cleaning as task repetition, and a blocked horizon. Taking each point in turn, I offer an interpretation of the literal spaces in Beauvoir's work and the spatial metaphors she wields to link the home to women's oppression. Finally, this chapter offers an in depth reading of the girl and woman in nature in The Second Sex. These passages demonstrate Beauvoir's ideal "in place" relationship that embraces human ambiguity and offers a way for women to construct place and self authentically.
Immanence and Transcendence Immanence and Transcendence in The Second Sex
The concepts of immanence and transcendence are important to Beauvoir's existentialism. For Beauvoir, immanence is a state of being focused on corporeal materiality.
In moments of immanence, the individual may prioritize their own biological needs, such as obtaining food and shelter, or pursue physical comfort and happiness. Beauvoir understands immanence as an intrinsic part of human existence because all individuals are embodied.114 However, because immanence can only reproduce itself and cannot construct the world, transcendence is its necessary complement. Transcendence is the pursuit of the world through
114 Zeynep Direk, "Immanence and Abjection in Simone de Beauvoir," The Southern Journal of Philosophy 49, no. 1 (March 2011): 49-72, doi 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2010.00044.x, 49-50.
projects that create and the perpetual surpassing of the self toward a sense of freedom. Beauvoir recognizes this constant expansion of one's existence as necessary for establishing the individual as a subject (16-17).
Definitional^ these are antonyms; however, Beauvoir does not consider immanence and transcendence to be binary existences. Rather, she takes them as ambiguous aspects of the human condition, both lived simultaneously. Imminent care for the body and living space are necessary for one to live and integral to moments of peace and happiness. However, to experience autonomous freedom, every individual must seek themselves through transcendent action (17). Beauvoir writes,
In truth, all human existence is transcendence and immanence at the same time; to go beyond itself, it must maintain itself; to thrust itself toward the future, it must integrate the past into itself; and while relating to others, it must confirm in itself. (443)
Beauvoir's issue is not that women experience moments of immanence per say, but that men
and the world they construct doom her to this state of being and obstruct opportunities for her
to transcend. Structurally, man devises a patriarchal world that helps him achieve a perfect
synthesis of immanence and transcendence. His political life and work allow him to change and
progress, while his home and family offer him rest and a material anchor. Concurrently, man
limits opportunities for woman to pursue her projects. For example, by assigning woman the
primary roles of wife and mother, he ensures that she, "has no other task save the one of
maintaining and caring for life...she perpetuates the immutable species, she ensures the even
rhythm of the days" (443). Additionally, by constructing woman as Other, man disables
woman's pursuit of transcendence. By forcing her to affirm herself as a subject under this
inessential and immanent identity, man attempts to "freeze her as an object and doom her to
immanence, since her transcendence will be forever transcended by another essential and sovereign consciousness" (17). Put plainly, man's social structures and his construction of woman as Other trap her actions in immanent repetition and construct her as inferior, not transcendent. Beauvoir identifies this as the "fundamental" question. She remarks, "How, in the feminine condition, can a human being accomplish herself?" (17).115
Beauvoir links gendered spatial relationships to woman's immanence and man's ambiguity. Man's relationships with space facilitate his pursuit of transcendence. His actions in the world "expand his grasp of the world." Whether fishing, hunting, constructing a skyscraper, or creating an atomic reactor, Beauvoir remarks that man's activities allow him to realize himself. Unlike woman, man creates.116 "He has not only worked to preserve the given world: he has burst its borders; he has laid the ground for a new future" (73). Man does not simply invent as an individual located in the world but shapes the world itself. This ultimately influences the way man perceives his identity. According to Beauvoir scholar Gail Weiss, Beauvoir implies that self-perception and subject formation are mediated and reflected by an individual's relationship with and hold on the world.117 Because man views the universe as his own, he can forge his place in it and solidify his located subjectivity (Beauvoir, 749).
115 Beauvoir makes this point in several places in the text. For example, on page 750, she says, "As long as she still has to fight to become a human being, she cannot be a creator."
116 The examples of man's creations are Beauvoir's.
117 Gail Weiss, "Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty: Philosophers of Ambiguity," in Beauvoir and Western Thought from Plato to Butler, eds. Shannon M. Mussett and William S. Wilkerson (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012), 174.
Contrarily, women's ability to create or access space is limited. Proscribed social roles
restrict the number of spaces with which women can interact. As a group, women "even lack their own space" (Beauvoir, 8). Beauvoir argues that this lack of space includes the home.
While the home is often cast as a feminine space because it is occupied by the female body, men conceived this space. Beauvoir writes, "The feminine world is sometimes contrasted with the masculine universe, but it must be reiterated that women have never formed an autonomous and closed society" (638). In fact, women cannot create what she calls a "counter universe" because that universe is always framed within the larger masculine world. Rather than a space for women, the home becomes an Other space that man defines as antithetical to his own transcendental public world.118
Beauvoir argued that conceived masculine home space was a mechanism through which men trapped women in a state of immanence.119 According to Beauvoir, men glorified the home as a space that "encapsulates all the bourgeois values: faithfulness to the past, patience, economy, caution, love of family, of native soil, and so forth" (469).120 Man used home and marriage to balance his transcendental pursuits, to rest, and to anchor him in the material world. Beauvoir writes,
118 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 2. Habermas argues that this separation was intentional and necessary in order to differentiate the public. He writes, "the public sphere itself appears as a specific domain - the public domain versus the private." It should be reiterated, that it was the male public that both established this division and defined the spaces of each realm.
119 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 68. I use the term "conceived" here and elsewhere intentionally as Lefebvre uses it in The Production of Space. Conceived space is that which is imagined and planned with a specific use in mind, usually by those with some degree of power. As discussed in Chapter 1, the point that the home was conceived as masculine is also made by feminist geographers. See Rose, Feminism & Geography, 118.
120Beauvoir casts the entire Bourgeois Revolution as a masculine event that did little to change woman's situation. She writes, 'The Revolution might have been expected to change the fate of woman. It did nothing of the kind. The bourgeois revolution respected bourgeois institutions and values; and it was waged almost exclusively by men" 125.
Today man marries to anchor himself in immanence but not to confine himself in it; he wants a home but also to remain free to escape from it; he settles down, but he often remains a vagabond in his heart; he does not scorn happiness, but he does not make it an end in itself; repetition bores him; he seeks novelty, risk, resistance to overcome, camaraderie, friendships that wrest him from the solitude of the couple. (484)
However, while man simply lived in this place, he assigned woman's entire life to it (Beauvoir,
443). Leaning on his ideals of family, man fabricates the space of the home as woman's
destiny. He connects this spatial fate with the roles of wife and mother he has created for her.
According to Beauvoir, these myths further the idea that, "Woman is destined to maintain the
species and care for the home, which is the say, to immanence" (443). While motherhood and
housework keep woman busy in the home, these tasks do not involve a project or give woman
a higher meaning for existence. Rather, the space of the home and woman's role in it keep her
locked in repetition of tasks that produce nothing new and return her to her body and material
reality (Beauvoir, 73).121 In this space she maintains the status quo. She exists for existence
itself. The place man made for her in the home teaches her immanence.
Woman spends much of her life in the space of the home, but she cannot make place in
it. Man conceived of this space and what it would represent. Man determined woman's spatial
practice, or how woman would perceive of this space. Woman cannot determine the lived
space of the home without positioning it within this masculine discourse.122 Since making
place is a way of making meaning, grounding oneself in the world, and constructing an identity,
woman's only option here is to make a meaning of a masculine world. Beauvoir casts this as a
121 Heidegger, "Building, Dwelling, Thinking," 2. Heidegger remarked, we only dwell alongside many other activities. "We do not merely dwell, that would be virtual inactivity." Beauvoir charges, though, that women do "merely dwell," and that this assigns them a life of inactivity and immanence.
122 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 68. For Lefebvre, lived space is the meaning one makes based on their embodied experience in that may have been conceived by another. For a discussion on Lefebvre's spatial triad, see Chapter 1.
paradox that keeps women from establishing subjectivity. When women, "belong both to the
male world and to a sphere in which this world is challenged; enclosed in this sphere, involved in the male world, they cannot peacefully establish themselves anywhere" (638). Woman's ontological placelessness, her inability to find her authentic self and to wrestle with transcendence, is connected to her lack of place. "Home" is not a place woman has created; it is man's place, created through woman and her homelessness.123
Beauvoir on Home Space: 4 Themes
For many feminists in Beauvoir's time, locating space for women to make their own place was important. For example, as Virginia Woolf famously argued in "A Room of One's Own," lack of space was a material barrier to women's intellectual pursuits.124 Beauvoir also viewed a space of one's own as essential to women's freedom. She praised Woolf publicly, noting that Woolf had inspired her to make a similar argument in The Second Sex. Like Woolf, Beauvoir argued that no matter the talent of an individual, inadequate physical conditions could stifle her ability to create.125 Beauvoir also expressed delight upon acquiring her own private rooms in Paris. In her autobiography, she writes joyfully about watching the city from her balcony, eating at a cafe instead of preparing food herself, doing as she pleased, and the sense of liberation she felt in her own space in the city.126 Beauvoir's association between
123 Young, On Female Bodily Experience, 129.
124 Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One's Own (1929)," in The People, Place, and Space Reader, eds. Jen Jack Gieseking, William Mangold, Cindi Katz, Setha Low, Susan Saegert (New York: Routledge, 2014).
125 Discussed in Alison Fell, "The Perils of a Rooms of One's Own: Space in Simone de Beauvoir's L'lnvitee, Le Sang des autres and Les Bouches inutiles," Forum for Modern Language Studies, 39 no. 3 (July 2003): 267-277, doi 10.1093/fmls/39.3.267, 268-9.
126 Quoted in Wilson, Sphinx and the City, 63.
space and liberation for many women is also present in The Second Sex. Beauvoir remarks that
many women fantasize about the freedom they would find in their own home; "A home of her own was the earliest form of her dream of independence" (725).
Beauvoir also recognized contradictions between the dream of the home and the way home was actualized. While it served as a symbol of independence, it often manifested as a spatial tool through which man could imprison woman in immanence. Beauvoir's critique of the duplicitous nature of the home in The Second Sex can be analyzed through four lenses.127 She argues that the home encloses woman in its walls and keeps her separate from public life; woman makes herself into an object in an attempt to express herself with decor; the home condemns women to task repetition, and thus, to immanence; and the home blocks both woman's literal view and the view of her future. The following section will examine Beauvoir's treatment of each of these themes.
Many male scholars assert that the home is a private sanctuary from the outside world. However, feminist philosophers and geographers argue that reverence for home is masculine. The home represented different things for men and women. For women, home space could be more of a prison than a refuge.128 This sentiment is present in Beauvoir's writing. She writes that the home "encloses" woman and "isolates" her both from other women and the larger
127 This paper focuses on Beauvoir's critique of the home specifically in The Second Sex. For an analysis of her representation of the home in her works of fiction, see Alison Fell, "The Perils of a Rooms of One's Own."
128 This was discussed in Chapter 1. See also Rose, Feminism & Geography, 83 and Domosh and Seager, Putting Women in Place, 1-34.
world (655). Though they are the same spatial form, the walls of the home operated in a gendered fashion. For man, walls of the home functioned to keep out unwanted elements.129 They did not, however, keep man in. For the male occupants of the home walls were a pliable and porous boundary that allowed him to move easily between the "entire universe" and the home (469-70). For woman, though, the walls were restrictive and rigid. They surrounded woman and impeded her movement. Rather than keep out the undesirable, the walls kept her in.130 Beauvoir mourns the woman entering the home. She writes, "As a young girl, the whole world was her kingdom; the forests belonged to her. Now she is confined to a restricted space...She regrets closing the doors of her home behind herself" (470).
In addition to the incarcerating sensation created by the material home, gendered codes embedded in public space reinforce its cloistering effect. Male social and spatial codes regarding gender behavior deemed it improper for women to explore public space unaccompanied. Though there were no laws barricading women in their homes, these norms were just as constraining as a physical barrier or legal prohibition.131 Gendered notions of propriety, as well as representations of public spaces as dangerous for women, kept many women indoors. Beauvoir writes, "The girl today can certainly go out alone, stroll in the Tuileries; but I have already said how hostile the street is: eyes everywhere, hands waiting, if she wanders absentmindedly...an unpleasant incident can quickly occur" (749). Constant
129 Kaika, City of Flows, 52.
130 Edward Casey, "Boundary, Place, and Event in Spatiality of History," Rethinking Flistory 11,
no. 4. (2007): 507-512, doi 10.1080/13642520701645552, 508.Casey writes about the ambiguous and dual function of borders and boundaries.
131 Young, On Female Body Experience, 33. Young makes a similar point in her essay 'Throwing Like a Girl." She argues that many women imagine space around their bodies as constricted, even if technically and legally, they have access to more space.
auditory and physical invasions keep women corporally aware. Threats remind women that public space does not "belong" to them and that they cannot occupy or participate in it without fear. If both access and participation are denied them, women cannot begin to create place in this space.132 These embodied experiences reinforce gendered spatial divisions, as well as the hierarchies of spatial belonging. Moreover, expectations of their relative spatial seclusion, and lack of education and access to political space denied women the opportunity to challenge this public and private spatial division.133
Different gendered experiences in public space affect men and women and the way they regard the space of the home. Beauvoir writes that a man in public explores; he creates himself as an individual and, "in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief" (748). Meanwhile, a woman's experience "rivets her to the ground," clips her wings, and "limits her grasp on the universe" (748, 749). This is devastating for a young woman's development because she never learns the feel for transcendent abandon of the material.134 Beauvoir argues that the constant return to her body and surroundings keeps woman from surging forward toward creation.
The universe man creates leaves women the option of being "pariahs" and "parasites" in their father's homes or chained in the home of their husband (443). After her defeat in the
132 Henri Lefebvre, 'The Right to the City" in Writings on Cities, ed. Henri Lefebvre, trans. Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas, 147-159. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. Lefebvre argues that in order to make place in the city, everyday people must have two things: access to the city space and the ability to participate in the production of that space. In this case, women lack even the ability to access the space without threat of violence.
133 Pain, "Space, Sexual Violence, and Social Control," 422. It should be reiterated that the bourgeois class created the spatial division in order to emancipate themselves. The bourgeois emancipation occurred largely at the cost of women's free mobility and identity. See Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 126-7 and Frazer, "Rethinking the Public Sphere," 61.
134 Beauvoir writes, "What woman primarily lacks is learning from the practice of abandonment and transcendence" (748).
public world, the young woman may feel that she has little choice but to seek safety in the patriarchal home. This is not the space of independence she once dreamed of, but a space that "annexes her to her husband's universe," where his needs are the priority. Woman merely cares for his furniture and his children (442). Though she "ensures the rhythm of the days," it must be emphasized that it is her husband that has determined her pattern in order to further his own sense of home and transcendent existence.135 According to Beauvoir, woman never emerges as a subject in this space. Instead, "enclosed in flesh in her home, she grasps herself as passive opposite to these human faced gods who set goals and standards" (639).
The consequences of the immanence of home space are dire. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's novella of 1892, The Yellow Wallpaper, foreshadows and perhaps inspired Beauvoir. The story tells the tale of a nameless female narrator who, according to her husband and doctor, suffers from vague symptoms of mental illness. The husband confines her to the upstairs nursery of a colonial mansion. He is adamant that she remains in that singular room, immobile in both body and mind, in order to be cured. The narrator becomes obsessed with the wallpaper in the room. Convinced that it is a cage and that a woman is trapped within it, the narrator comments, "The woman behind shakes [the bars]. Sometimes, I think there are a great many women behind."136 At night, when her husband is asleep, she rushes to the enclosed woman's aid. She recalls, "I pulled and she shook and she pulled and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper."137 The spatial symbolism in this story is stark. This
135 Lefebvre, Henri, Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life, trans. Stuart Elden and Gerald Moore (New York: Continuum, 2004). Lefebvre argues that rhythm and pattern bind time and space. Each is integral to the perception of the other. Thus, by determining her time pattern, man controls woman's sense of space by also controlling her sense of time. The spatial structure itself further allows him to manipulate her time.
136 Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (New York: The Feminist Press, 1973), 30.
137 Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, 32.
house imprisons the narrator, and she extends this experience to other women metaphorically
caged in the striped wallpaper. Yet, she cannot quite shake the proscribed norm of female enclosure. Though she pulls the wallpaper strip by strip until the walls stand bare, effectively tearing down the bars, she locks the door to her room and acquires a rope. She remarks, "If that woman does get out and try to get away, I can tie her!"138 The narrator desperately wants out of this home; yet, space, husband, and social norms bind her. This drives her to insanity. The only way for the subject to escape was through her own mind.
In both The Second Sex and in Beauvoir's fiction, the utter lack of self and place in the home also leads woman to seek escape through madness. For example, in the chapter "The Girl," Beauvoir quotes stories and women's diaries where the subject daydreams in order to escape her material home and the proscribed life that accompanies it. Several of the women give in to hysterics out of desperation to imagine themselves as different and freer persons.139 In an analysis of space in Beauvoir's fictional stories, Alison Fell notes a similar pattern in her female characters. While a room of their own sometimes leads to creativity for the characters, there are also, "numerous evocations of rooms as places of claustrophobic sequestration in which women suffer crises of existential anguish or insanity."140 Beauvoir's representation of home in her stories is complex, often representing the contradictory nature of the need to make place in a room of one's own and the reality of imprisonment that space represents.
138 Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, 35.
139 In The Second Sex, see Beauvoir's discussion in The Girl (pg. 350-354). Beauvoir notes, "She sinks so often into such nonsense because she has no grasp on the world; if she had to act, she would be forced to see clearly," 352.
140 Fell, 'The Perils of a Room of One's Own," 269.
Locked in the home, woman, "has to change this prison into a kingdom" (470). Beauvoir notes that women attempt this transformation through home furnishings and decor. Since the home was seen as an environment capable of shaping behavior and morals, women also sought to exert influence and power by selecting the perfect items to adorn the family space. However, decor only "allowed women the illusion that she set the tone of the home by establishing its mood and character."141 In reality, the items she selected simply reflected the latest design trends, ironically determined by male "experts" who decided what was in good taste.142 Thus, the objects likely did not influence the morals of the home, but materially displayed masculine aesthetics and man's cultural values. Woman played a role in making the house a man's home, but the place she made was not her own. Decoration merely operates on the surface but does not change the underlying spatial or social structure of man's home.
Beauvoir argues that decorating the home sinks woman further into immanence because, unable to create true place or herself in her husband's home, she begins to seek herself through her possessions. According to Beauvoir, "Man has only a middling interest in his domestic interior because he has access to the entire universe and because he can affirm himself in his projects" (470). Woman, on the other hand, turns the whole of her attention to home. She attempts to purchase objects that she thinks are an expression of her personality. Beauvoir remarks, "It is she who has chosen, made, 'hunted down' furniture and knick knacks, who has aesthetically arranged them in a way where symmetry is important; they reflect her
141 Domosh and Seager, Putting Women in Place, 11.
142 Domosh and Seager, Putting Women in Place, 14-9. The authors do note than women rebelled against modern design aesthetic through the choice of outrageous, colorful, and gaudy wallpaper.
individuality" (471). Woman sees herself in these objects. According to Beauvoir, "because she
does nothing, she avidly seeks herself in what she has" (471).143 She searches for herself amongst her things, and eventually becomes a thing herself.
According to Beauvoir, young boys and girls undergo distinct processes that form their identities. Leaning on Lacan, Beauvoir describes the formation of the self in the young boy. Around six months, the infant boy recognizes himself as distinct from objects around him and recognizes his reflection in the mirror, the period Lacan calls "the mirror stage."144 The boy recognizes the image in the mirror as himself and simultaneously merges and alienates himself from the image. This process continues through his activities, relationships with others, and his body as he matures. The boy's penis plays a key role because it allows him to alienate himself and begin, through this part of his body, to seek himself as an autonomous subject (Beauvoir, 284). For the little girl, though, the identity process occurs differently. While the girl also recognizes herself in the mirror and begins to alienate herself, subsequent events encourage the girl alienate from her image in order to identify with a passive object. This begins when the girl is given a doll. The female child identifies with the doll and the doll quickly comes to represent not just a play thing, but the girl herself. While the boy learns autonomy through his penis, the girl learns to "think of herself as a marvelous doll" and to model herself as one-passive, pretty, and inert (293).145 For Beauvoir, the gendered mirror stage continues into adulthood. She describes,
143 Emphasis in the original.
144 Jacques Lacan, 'The Mirror-Phase as Formative of the Function of the I," New Left Review (1968): 71-77. https://newleftreview-org.aurarialibrary.idm.oclc.org/issues/l51/articles/jacques-lacan-the-mirror-phase-as-formative-of-the-function-of-the-i.pdf.
145 For further discussion of Beauvoir and girlhood identification with the doll, see Suzanne Laba Cataldi, "The Body as Basis for Being: Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau Ponty," in The Existential Phenomenology of Simone
Man who feels and wants himself to be activity and subjectivity does not recognize himself in his immobile image; it does not appeal to him...while the woman, knowing she is and making herself object, really believes she is seeing herself in the mirror, passive and given, the reflection is a thing like herself. (669)
This lack of space between woman's self and her image operates similarly to her lack of alienation between herself and objects in her home. These identities are grounded in reflection; they are not autonomous and they obstruct transcendental subjectivity. Phenomenology understands a person's subjectivity as a relationship between being and being-in-the-world. An individual separates themselves from the things that surround them and activities they perform to construct their identity in opposition to these objects or tasks. In fact, Christopher Tilley argues that this interval between the self and the world is a fundamental part of humanity. He argues, "To be human is both to create this distance between the self and that which is beyond and to attempt to bridge this distance through a variety of means."146 Rather than create a distance between herself and objects in her home and form herself in opposition to them, woman defines herself in them. As such, she lacks the ontological space to develop a true sense of self. Rather than find her subjectivity through the pursuit of projects and interaction with outside space, woman "grasps herself as a passive object" in relationship to men who define the world and the space she may occupy (Beauvoir, 639).
de Beauvoir, eds. Wendy O'Brien and Lester Embree (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001); Karen Vintges, 'The Second Sex and Philosophy," trans. Anne Lavelle, in Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons, 45-58 (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995); Kristina Arp, "Beauvoir's Concept of Bodily Alienation," in Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons, 161-178 (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995).
146 Tilley, "Space, Place, Landscape and Perception." 12.
Repeating Time in Space
For Beauvoir, the act of realizing oneself occurs through works and acts. However, she perceives a difference between men's work and projects and the tasks he assigns to women. Man's acts allow him to transcend his species, test his own power, and realize himself.
Primarily, this is because he creates something that belongs to him and helps to build a better world. For example, Beauvoir remarks that, "The human male shapes the face of the earth, creates new instruments, invents and forges the future" (73). Spatially, most of man's tasks occur outside of the home and expand his sense of space in all directions. He ventures forth to fish and hunt, he adventures in order to conquer new lands; his skyscrapers push space upward. Man takes pride in all of his successes and "recognizes his humanity in them" (73). For Beauvoir, man's acts are acts of transcendence.
Rather than a mechanism through which woman can realize herself, woman's tasks, motherhood and housework, keep her immanent. Birth keeps woman tethered to her body and caring for small children renders her spatially stagnant.147 The housework she is assigned is a chore, not an act of creation. It preserves man's resting place rather than expanding space.
In an analysis of woman's work in The Second Sex, Elaine Miller calls woman's labor an act of estrangement. Using a Marxist framework, she argues that like the proletariat worker, the woman performs meaningless labor that has neither a beginning or an end.148 Beauvoir herself is harsher. She characterizes the tasks man assigns to woman as an everlasting prison
147 Beauvoir did not see childbirth or child rearing as creative acts. She argues, 'To give birth and to breastfeed are not activities but natural functions; they do not involve a project, which is why the woman finds no motive there to claim a higher meaning for her existence, she passively submits to her biological destiny" (73).
148 Elaine Miller, "Saving Time: Temporality, Recurrence, and Transcendence in Beauvoir's Nietzsche Cycles," in Beauvoir and Western Thought from Plato to Butler, eds. Shannon M. Mussett and William S. Wilkerson (New York: SUNY Press, 2012), 106.
sentence, replicated for all women throughout time. Woman's tasks have "condemned [her] to
domestic labor, which locks her into repetition and immanence; day after day it repeats itself in identical form from century to century; it produces nothing new" (73). Because she does not create anything nor define her own tasks, she cannot reflect herself in her work. This keeps her from having herself known as a complete person (73-4). Woman's acts are those of immanence.
Nevertheless, women try to use the housework available to them to create a sense of place and an existence in the home. For example, woman likens purchases at the markets to discoveries and inventions; she cooks to transform substances; she imagines her cleaning skills render her irreplaceable. However, Beauvoir argues overseeing household activities, critiquing the servants, or participating in the rhythmic chores herself only lets woman "realize herself as an activity" (472). For Beauvoir, these activities are not projects through which woman can realize her humanity because they are completed only when they are destroyed. Cooking an elegant meal may give the housewife a moment of pride in her culinary skills, but the evidence of her ability is consumed along with the meal. She may temporarily conquer dirt, but effort to keep a spotless home only further encloses her in that space. Beauvoir writes, "She closes the windows because the sun would bring in insects, germs, and dust; besides, the sun eats away at the silk wall coverings" (476). No matter her efforts to preserve her work, woman's chores must forever be repeated again the next day. Rather than feeling like she can progress, the wife in the home is trapped in the present, "searching for originality or her original perfection" in the endless production of household space (482).
Beauvoir does not eschew household tasks. While sees such tasks as immanent in
nature, she recognizes them as necessary for life. She remarks, "If the individual who executes [chores] is himself a producer or creator, they are integrated into his existence as naturally as body functions" (481). Instead, Beauvoir is critical that the tasks comprise the whole of woman's existence. Housework does not allow woman to realize her humanity. It traps her in a constant state of immanence because it provides the woman "an indefinite escape from herself" (478). By throwing herself into a monotonous rhythm of cleaning and cooking in the enclosed home, woman need not examine nor challenge her own situation. Woman occupies this position of facticity so that her husband might work toward transcendence. She is estranged from herself so that man can realize himself. Woman's life is devoted to work that, "does not grant her autonomy...it does not open the future, it does not produce anything" (484). Meanwhile, as she toiled and because she toiled, her husband and children moved beyond both the home's physical limits and the drudgery of the tasks at hand.
A Blocked Horizon
According to Beauvoir, woman's story is already written for her. Like other women before her, "she will take care of her house exactly as her mother does, she will take care of her children as she was taken care of" (312). Woman is unable to see any other future in part because the spaces that keep her block her literal and metaphorical view. Beauvoir writes,
"The sphere she belongs to is closed everywhere, limited, dominated by the male universe: as high as she climbs, as far as she dares go, there will always be a ceiling over her head, walls that block her path" (311). Woman is first denied the opportunity to view the horizon as a young
girl. In The Second Sex, Beauvoir writes sorrowfully about the young girl who never experiences
height. The little girl is forbidden to explore and climb; "She sits under a tree or by a cliff and sees the triumphant boys above her, feels herself, body and soul, inferior" (301). The girl notes the boy superior because he is spatially elevated above her, able to see the whole of the horizon. Lacking this experience also keeps the girl from knowing the transcendent experience of contemplation of space. In "Space, Place, and Power," human geographer W.J.T. Mitchell notes that an individual elevated above a landscape exists in a creative position of power.
Being able to see the landscape allows one to begin to cultivate a sense of ownership over both the physical space and the view. By imagining oneself as the possessor of all that one can see, a person begins to conceive of their self as powerful and creative.149 This is a frequent experience of the adolescent boy, who peers out on the landscape and determines that "he will see the world." He daydreams of being a sailor, owning and working in the fields, or leaving for the city as he "leaps toward an open future" where opportunity awaits him (Beauvoir, 312). Meanwhile, from her grounded position, the young girl can see little of the landscape or a future beyond the home.
This hierarchical gendered relationship, coded in space, continues in woman's adulthood in the space of the home. The walls of the home, "block out the horizon," contributing to the sense of immediacy of women's existence and her immanence (Beauvoir, 470, 643). Woman sees only the home and cannot experience the sense of adventure that
149 W.J.T. Mitchell, "Space, Place, and Power," in Landscape and Power, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 9-10. Feminist geographers note that the desired landscape is often feminized and sexualized, while the person that occupies the elevated position is masculine. The desire to gaze upon, conquer, dominate, and control land that represents woman conveys that space and women are vulnerable to the desires of men. See Rose, Feminism & Geography, 96-105.
often lends the boy his first sense of himself. Beauvoir writes, "Because she is a woman, the
girl knows that the sea and the poles, a thousand adventures, a thousand joys, are forbidden to her: she is born on the wrong side" (311). The ability to see the world beyond the home, particularly from a position of spatial elevation, became important to Beauvoir in her personal life. When she began to travel, Beauvoir sought to dissolve spatial boundaries by seeking places with uninterrupted views. She climbed mountains and traveled vast distances in search of her transcendental sense of self.150 By actively moving beyond walls that would block her horizon, Beauvoir felt a sense of freedom she could not feel when both bounded and grounded.
This was an opportunity denied to many women. Many young women traveled only briefly in the small temporal space between girlhood and marriage. However, the young woman's experience traveling in the world often served to remind them that the home, and the blocked horizon that accompanied it, was the only place they were safe. In The Second Sex, Beauvoir demonstrates with two examples. The first is of two adolescent girls who travel alone to a city, excited to see and experience the world. They meet two men during their trip who lure them to a hotel and sexually assault them. From this point forward, they equate travel with rape. This leaves them timid, robs them of their spirit of adventure, and frightens them back into their enclosure (402-3). Beauvoir also writes about the honeymoon. She argues that its purpose is not to give a new bride a taste of the world beyond. Instead, it is meant to dislocate a young woman from time, space and reality. The husband used the disorienting
150 Amanda Jackson, "'ll Faut Cultiver son Jardin:' Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 38 no. 4 (2005): 35-50, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44030085,42. Jackson quotes Beauvoir's memoir, Prime of Life, where she remarks, "A landscape was virgin of all mortal gaze till I had set eyes upon it."
experience of the honeymoon to break the woman from her childhood home. His goal was to
distract her from the shock of realizing that she had climbed to the tallest, figurative tree that she will climb. Beauvoir writes, "Now that she is married, there is no other future in front of her. The doors of home are closed around her: of all the earth, this will be her portion" (485-6). Rather than allow her to see the world from new heights, the honeymoon served only to help the young woman accept that she would no longer dream of a future in which she could see the world.
Spatial Imagination in The Second Sex Rejection of Male Spatial Relationships
Beauvoir links women's spatial relationships to immanence and oppression. In particular, Beauvoir's spatial analysis in The Second Sex focuses on male home place and woman's inability to move beyond this space or create her own place there. She critiques the cloistering effect of home space and rejects the objects and tasks to which women attach their identities in this space. She expresses frustration with woman's blocked view and lack of discovery of the world, and therefore, the self. In some instances, it seems Beauvoir wants for women to acquire man's spatial relationships. In The Second Sex, she often celebrates man's antithetical experiences with the same spaces that limit women. For example, the home encloses woman but offers rest for man, while public space disciplines woman but offers adventure for man (748-9). Additionally, in her personal life and writing, Beauvoir expresses a hunger to see the totality of the world as the men in The Second Sex were able to do. She traveled fiercely; she sexualized landscapes and sought the "virgin" sights; she rented an
apartment where she could see Paris from on high; she refused to decorate her rooms and took
all of her meals in a cafe.
Some scholars criticize Beauvoir's feminism for being complicit with the masculine ways of the world. Gillian Rose argues that Beauvoir leaves women two choices: to become man's ideal woman, which would leave her trapped in immanence, or to imitate man.151 Rose and other feminist geographers contend that imitating man's spatial relationships would make women complicit with the patriarchal structure of society. They argue that man sees the entire world as a space he can possess through divine right and make according to his own will.152 He seeks to conquer space.153 He feminizes and sexualizes a landscape as he would a woman, making it into a place he could own or dominate.154 Feminist scholars argue that this sort of relationship with the world denies the reality of positionality and environment. In other words, since we live in and make meaning in places, place is not something that can simply be observed, owned, or taken. It is part of an individual and of their reality. Masculine spatial relationships deny the in-place relationship and the presence of the body in the landscape. Therefore, Rose argues, to assume masculine consciousness is to participate in self-erasure and to reduce the landscape to a mirror of the narcissistic self.155
In Feminism & Geography, Rose summarizes her take on Beauvoir's notion of freedom. She writes, "Beauvoir's woman is free by becoming the masculine side of the dichotomy."156 However, a number of passages in The Second Sex and Beauvoir's memoirs suggest that
151 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 82.
152 Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 35.
153 Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape, xvii.
154 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 39 and 107.
155 Rose, Feminism & Geography 107.
156 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 82.
Beauvoir is not asking for woman's admission into man's physical world, nor is she advocating
for a male spatial relationship. In fact, if we read Beauvoir's travel writing closely, we find that Beauvoir rejects the romanticized, disembodied, displaced masculine spatial relationship. She is critical of the idea that one can stand above and apart from the world in order to know it. For example, when she and Sartre traveled to Spain and France, she criticized Sartre for his relationship with the landscape. She writes, "I reproached Sartre for his indifference to it. He talked about the forest and the river far more eloquently than I did, yet they did not make him feel anything."157 According to Jackson, Beauvoir hoped that female subject would not imagine herself as untethered to the world because this would prevent her from acting in it. Nor did she wish for woman to assume that space inherently belonged to her. She characterized this assumption as empty narcissism that attempts only to consume the world.158 For Beauvoir, man may have the ability to make place, but the place he makes is inauthentic. Man falsely imagines himself disembodied and denies the immanent part of his ambiguous existence. Beauvoir does not want for woman to acquire man's situation for it, too, is a false existence.
Embodied Place as a Spatial Tactic
Embodiment is central to Beauvoir's philosophy. Her conception of human ambiguity indicates all humanity exists simultaneously as subject and object, mind and body.159 This ongoing tension between flesh and passivity, desire and activity, is how Beauvoir conceives of
157 Recounted in Simone Fullagar, "Desire, Death, and Wonder: Reading Simone de Beauvoir's Narratives of Travel," Cultural Values 5 no. 3 (July 2001): 289-305, doi 10.1080/14797580109367233, 292.
158 Beauvoir quoted and summarized in Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 48.
159 Lori Marso, "Thinking Politically with Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex," Theory & Event 15, no. 2 (2012). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/478359, 5-6.
the human condition itself.160 Man created a social and spatial situation that keeps woman so
tied to her body that she is tied to immanence. However, rather than suggest that women deny their embodiment in a quest for freedom, Beauvoir argues they should embrace it. She exemplifies this in her travel writing. Beauvoir writes that as she traveled, she wanted not just to see the world, but to experience it as an embodied subject. Beauvoir hiked, swam, camped, and fully immersed her body in the space. Travel allowed Beauvoir to dissolve, not erect, boundaries between her body and the world, thus allowing her to determine her own sense of space and self.
According to Jackson, Beauvoir's travel journals demonstrate that she begins to recognize that space must be interacted and engaged with for it to become one's own. Jackson argues that Beauvoir first observed this as a tourist experiencing a space differently from local women. She came to realize that each individual can experience a space differently depending on their situation.161 In other words, each woman, through her lived experience in the space, experienced it is a different place. Beauvoir's writings about space begin to change from aesthetic descriptions to details of encounters with people in place. Instead of seeking new views, she focuses on meeting and talking with women in different locations. Places she visits become richer and she visits them more deeply as she gets a sense of what that place is for others and for her when she encounters it with different companions.162 According to Jackson, this is Beauvoir's ethical idea of transcendental spatial relationships. She experiences
160 Lorraine Mortimer, "Adventures of the Mind and Living Warmth: A New Encounter with Simone de Beauvoir," Hecate 26 no. 1 (2000): 185-196,
161 Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 42.
162 Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 44.
transcendence in place not because she can stand apart from it and take in an endless horizon,
but because she can imagine space as limitless through embodied experience and connection with others. A single space can be dozens of places because she can infinitely experience it differently depending on when she encounters it and with whom.163 Embodiment here is not coincidental, but fundamental. As Fullagar notes, it allows the world to become a living place, not simply a background for human life.164 This embodied relationship of the world allows for the autonomous development of both the self and the space one occupies.
Beauvoir expresses similar ideas through her discussions of girls and women in natural space in The Second Sex. She celebrates the young girl who entangles herself, mind and body, in nature. According to Beauvoir, communication with landscape can bring a girl "intense joys" and "comfort," but most importantly, she is able to glimpse herself as she interacts with the outdoors. Beauvoir quotes a passage from author Colette, who describes herself immersed in the woods at dawn as a girl. She writes, "It was on that road and at that hour that I first became aware of my own self."165 In the small hours of the mornings, Colette ventured from her home and created meaning from her embodied interactions in the woods. She created place through these visits, an experience which allowed her to create herself. For Beauvoir, the girl is able to create place and discover herself precisely because she lacks a male spatial relationship. Because she has not conquered any space, more of the world remains open for her. Beauvoir comments, "The adolescent girl has not yet annexed any part of the universe:
163 Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 47.
164 Fullagar, "Desire, Death, and Wonder," 299.
165 Colette quoted in Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 375.
thanks to this impoverishment, the whole universe is her kingdom; when she takes possession
of it, she takes possession of herself" (375).
The girl in the woods is "a human being, a subject, a freedom" (375).166 In these moments, she is free because she grasps and lives the harmony of the ambiguity of human existence. She embraces her body and material reality while exploring the transcendental freedom of her future and mind. Beauvoir's description of this moment celebrates embodied placemaking. She writes,
She finds an image of the solitude of her soul in the secrecy of the forests and the tangible figure of transcendence in the vast horizons on the plains; she is herself in this limitless land, this summit jutting toward the sky; she can follow, she will follow, these roads that leave for an unknown future; sitting on the hilltop, she dominates the riches of the world spread out at her feet, given to her; through the water's palpitations, the shimmering of the light, she anticipates the joys, tears, and ecstasies that she does not yet now; the adventures of her own heart are confusedly promised to her by ripples in the pond and patches of sun. Smells and colors speak a mysterious language, but only one word stands out with triumphant clarity: "life." (376).
With this passage, Beauvoir offers a new possibility for placemaking. She does not suggest that
the girl stand on high and apart and seek to conquer the world. Rather, she suggests that the
girl enmesh herself in space in order to make both it and herself. The authentic spatial
relationship must encompass both immanent and transcendent aspects of our existence. It is
this embrace of ambiguity that Beauvoir honors in the girl, who becomes, "An individual rooted
in the soil and infinite consciousness, she is both spirit and life; her presence is imperious and
triumphant like that of the earth itself" (376-7).
166 The full quote reads, "In the midst of plants and animals, she is a human being, a subject, a freedom, she is freed both from her family and males" (375).
The ability to make place is an important part of Beauvoir's notion of freedom. She
most clearly demonstrates this when she contrasts the grown woman in nature and the grown
woman in home space. Because the place of home is conceived by man, so woman's identity
here is conceived by him and in relation to him. She is his wife, the mother of his children, and
the caretaker of his home. In nature, woman's place and identity are unimpeded by male
conceptions of place and social norms that constrict identity. Therefore, she can remember
herself as conscious and transcendent in this space. Beauvoir writes,
Slave to her husband, children, and home, she finds it intoxicating to be sovereign on the hillside; she is no longer spouse, mother, housewife, but a human being; she contemplates the passive world: and she recalls that she is a whole consciousness, an irreducible freedom. (657)
It is in nature, where she is unlimited in her spatial experience, where Beauvoir says that woman realizes, "Life is not only immanence and repetition: it is also a dazzling face of light" (657). In nature, the woman feels her soul not enclosed, but in a constant "rush forward on endlessly unwinding roads toward limitless horizons" (657). Yet, making place in nature reminds the woman that existence is ambiguous. The experience of discovering her irreducible freedom and consciousness relies on the tactile encounter with the space. Beauvoir weaves freedom and touch together in this passage, stating, "In front of the mystery of water and the mountain summit's thrust, male supremacy is abolished; walking through the heather, dipping her hand in the river, she lives not for others but for herself" (657). Here, woman's physical connection with nature can free her from male oppression and allow her to craft a transcendent life of her own. This is not because Beauvoir believes that woman has some inherent relationship with nature, but because In nature, unlike in the built environment,
woman can interact with space according to her own desires. There are no prescriptions here.
She is unimpeded by male conceived space. She can finally make place.
According to Simone de Beauvoir, women did not create the home as a space or place; man imagined and constructed home. To put this in Lefebvrian terms, home space was "produced" by the bourgeois man. When he conceived of the space, man represented it as his own place of rest, a private Other to the public where he worked and created himself transcendent. Man perceived and lived in the space as if it were his sanctuary, and so it came to represent a shrine of male bourgeois values. The conceived, perceived, and lived experiences of home produced it as a social space and reinforced its identity as male place. As families of a particular class lived in the home and acted according to man's ideals in this space, the social norms of the home solidified and further reinforced family behavior in the home.167
Man also used the features of the home to condemn woman to a life of immanence. In this sense, man created what Foucault termed a disciplinary space.168 He determined woman's tasks in the home; he regulated her life with cycles of cleaning and cooking; he wielded social norms to ensure she decorated his home place in accordance with styles that reflected his values. Should she wander away from home, threatening male behavior in public space further disciplined women to return to the perceived safety of her domestic enclosure. Therefore, the bourgeois division of the private and public operated as a De Certeauian spatial strategy
167 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 26, 68.
168 Foucault, Discipline and Punish.
through which man designated an immanent realm for woman. According to De Certeau, a
spatial strategy determines the proper use of a space and it conceals that space's connection with the power that determined it.169 By strategically determining home, man was able to control woman's perception of domestic space without her discerning that it was he who manipulated her sense of place.
For Beauvoir, however, home represented more than simply a disciplinary space. She saw the literal and symbolic space of the home as a threat to woman's self. Woman could not make her own place in the male home. Man formed domestic space as his place and tightly controlled representations of this space so women were forced to define it as he did. Home was man's creation, but for woman, it also functioned as a mirror of the self. By encouraging her to identify with objects and tasks in the home, by enclosing her and blocking her view of any other space, woman saw herself as a reflection of male home space. Like the home, she was man's object. Different than creating place, she was the place man created. Beauvoir draws this parallel when she writes of the girl discovering herself as she discovers man's world. The girl, encountering herself in the male universe, grasps her essence as inferior (311).
At times, the spatial strategy seems all encompassing. Woman appears disciplined from all sides- her spaces, her actions, and even her identity are shaped by a male conceived world. According to De Certeau, however, spatial subjects can subvert the power of the strategy by inhabiting and navigating the environment. De Certeau uses the term "tactic" to describe fleeting behaviors that challenge spatial structure by seizing an opportunity to encounter the
169 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, xx.
space on one's own terms.170 Much like Beauvoir's embodied young woman in nature, De Certeau's tactical actor asserts his identity by walking in space. This allows the individual the opportunity to encounter, respond, make sense of, and co-construct a place and a relationship to it, rather than passively absorbing it.171 Beauvoir's vivid descriptions of her own evolution in place creation and the girl in nature in The Second Sex align with De Certeau's idea of tactical spatial interaction. However, Beauvoir situates these tactical actions away from the patriarchal social structure and the built space of the home. Only in nature does she describe the girl interacting and imagining her environment, seeing the world as something she can create, and embracing the ambiguity of her human condition (377). Beauvoir's girl and woman in nature may act tactically, but Beauvoir does not describe this same subversive, tactical embrace of embodied freedom and place making in the home.
Where, then, does Beauvoir leave her readers? Ironically, despite all of her misgivings about the male constructed home, Beauvoir returns to home's necessity near the end of her text. Beauvoir thought it vital that woman establish economic independence, predominantly so that she possessed the financial means to make unrestricted decisions about her life. This included the establishment of home.172 She writes, "Not feeling secure in the male universe, she still needs a retreat, a symbol of that interior refuge she has been used to finding in herself" (725). Since women did not conceive of the social and physical world, it is imperative that they forge their own private place. Through Beauvoir never describes what a feminist home place
170 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, xx.
171 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 108.
172 This topic is pertinent throughout the text. For example, see pages 114, 654, and 760.
would look like in The Second Sex, she leaves her audience a roadmap for authentic placemaking in her passages of women and girls in nature.
At the time of this writing, seventy years have passed since the publication of The Second Sex. Yet, it seems the space of the home remains similar to that conceived by the male bourgeois that Beauvoir critiqued so forcefully.173 It continues to perpetuate uneven gendered experiences. For example, recent studies suggest that in most households, women today still carry out a majority of domestic tasks.174 Additionally, domestic space is the most likely place women will experience interpersonal violence.175 For the time being, the experience of consistent peace and respite in the home continues to elude women. Perhaps more importantly for Beauvoir, however, home is yet a space woman has been able to redefine for herself so that she might better establish an in-place identity. Woman, even if she lives alone or peacefully with others continues to relate to the home as the place man created.
173 As established in Chapter 1, the space of the home remains a prominent topic in contemporary feminist scholarship. Some reject the symbolic space of the home altogether, arguing that it remains a space of oppression to which only some women have access. See Honig, "Difference, Dilemmas, and the Politics of Home;" Pratt, Rebellion; Martin and Mohanty, "What's Home Got to Do with It?". Others argue that women play an empowering role in the home through motherhood, establishment of community, and preservation of items. See Young, On Female Body Experience and hooks, Yearnings.
174 Horne, Rebecca, Matthew Johnson, Nancy Galambos, and Harvey Krahn, 'Time, Money, or Gender? Predictors of the Division of Household Labour Across Life Stages," Sex Roles 78, no. 11 (2018): 731-743, doi 10.1007/slll99-017-0832-1.
175 Pain, "Space, Sexual Violence, and Social Control," 417.
PURCHASING VS. PRODUCING PLACE: THE CONTEMPORARY HOME AND FEMINIST FREEDOM
Contemporary feminists persistently dismiss Beauvoir. Some claim The Second Sex is historically specific and Beauvoir's analysis limited to French women in the mid twentieth century.176 Young feminists find her concerns antiquated. Often, they believe women today no longer face the economic and reproductive constraints that limited Beauvoir's woman in The Second Sex.177 Therefore, they perceive Beauvoir's critique of the enclosed male home inapplicable in the contemporary context. Any woman today with the economic means can rent or own her own space without a spouse. Therefore, we can celebrate these women as symbols of success and move on to other concerns. These sentiments are troubling. They represent a grave misunderstanding of woman's present situation and confuse Beauvoir's complex notion of freedom with happiness. Above all, this premature declaration of women's spatial success demonstrates that rather than abandon Beauvoir, feminist thought needs her more than ever. In order to work toward authentic freedom, it is imperative to apply Beauvoir's philosophy in the modern context.
In this chapter, I argue that a return to Beauvoir offers a productive analysis for two modern trends concerning the home: the marketing of luxury, urban homes that target the female consumer and a popular tidying movement attributed to organizing consultant Marie Kondo and her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I first explain how Beauvoir uses the concept of bad faith to differentiate between happiness and freedom in The Second Sex.
176 Critique summarized in Marso, Politics with Beauvoir, 31.
177 Beauvoir details women's economic and reproductive challenges on pages 114, 654, and 760.
Next, this chapter turns to modern home advertisements aimed at urban women. The homes
these ads market are expensive. Women's ability to occupy such costly space is often interpreted as an act of empowerment, an indication of increased spatial access, and a sign of economic progress for women. Moreover, marketing strategies seem to offer women a different relationship with the home. Promising easy access to the city, fully furnished apartments, laundry services, and a stellar view, the modern home appears to assuage all of Beauvoir's concerns. Engaging Beauvoir's concept of bad faith, however, allows one to question whether the advertisements encourage happiness or freedom. Finally, this chapter provides a textual analysis of Kondo's how-to book and an examination of themes that align to Beauvoir's critique of the home.178 Studied through Beauvoir's lens, Kondo may offer women a tactical, embodied way to engage the home and embrace an ambiguous and free place making.
As discussed in Chapter 2, Beauvoir believed that each individual exists in a state of ambiguity. All subjects are both an immanent body, tied to facticity and the material world, and transcendent mind, constantly becoming and actively growing. Closely tied to her understanding of immanence and transcendence is the concept of bad faith. Individuals act in bad faith when they make one of three choices. To embrace a state of immanence is an act of
178 Throughout this chapter, capitalism, patriarchy, and space as a structure of inequality are implicitly linked. Beauvoir unpacks this relationship through a critique of the masculine Bourgeois revolution in The Second Sex, pages 126-131. Marx calls attention to the modern family as an instrument of capitalism in 'The Manifesto of the Communist Party." In 'The Origin of Family, Private Property, and The State," Friedrich Engels argued that the patriarchal family emerged alongside an increase in wealth and capital. In The Marx-Engels Reader Second Edition, ed. Robert Tucker (New York: W. W. Norton Company, 1978), pages 487-8 and 736-44 respectively. Though not the primary focus of this chapter, a critical feminist critique of the female focused advertisements and Marie Kondo's lifestyle movement within a broader political economy of capitalism warrants future study.
bad faith. It is in bad faith to pretend one's entire being exists in a state of transcendence. Moreover, it is in bad faith to trap others in immanence in order to pursue one's own transcendence. Put plainly, Beauvoirian bad faith is inauthentic existence and the denial of human ambiguity.
Beauvoir contends that an individual may act in bad faith if she consents to a life of immanence. In other words, the subject chooses happiness, physical comfort, and contentedness over freedom.179 While men use social, economic, and, as I have argued, spatial structures to trap woman in immanence, Beauvoir claims that some women embrace this position. For example, the bourgeois woman chooses the comfort of her middle-class lifestyle over her liberation as a woman. In doing so, she "clings to her chains because she clings to her class privileges" (130). Some young women recognize that patriarchy rewards her abdication of transcendence. She may consent to her position as Other and embrace the advantages man bestows upon her for doing so. The woman as Other need only engage in simple tasks that bring a degree of immanent satisfaction. She finds solace in never needing to make a decision or take responsibility for herself (16-17).180 When a woman becomes complicit in her own oppression, tricks herself into thinking this is her only option in life or declares happiness in the face of a deprivation of freedom, this woman acts in bad faith. Beauvoir sympathizes with her. She laments that this woman sees no other way out than to lose herself so, "She chooses to want her enslavement so ardently that it will seem to her to be the expression of freedom"
179 According to Beauvoir, humans too often position happiness as humanity's goal, rather than authentic freedom.
180 See also Marso, Politics with Beauvoir, 31.
(684). However, empathy aside, she still perceives this prioritization of immanence to be a degradation of existence and, "a moral fault if the subject consents to it" (16).
Though Beauvoir wishes for women to aspire to transcendence, she is adamant that it is not desirable for women to acquire man's situation.181 Men, too, act in bad faith. Man's inauthenticity is twofold. First, he imagines himself as strictly a transcendent being and denies the ambiguity of his existence. He ignores his embodiment and positionality in the world.
While this may grant him increased power and privilege in society, it is a false representation of the reality of the self (Beauvoir, 755).182 The story man tells himself about his own freedom and lack of facticity is an act of bad faith. However, man's greatest transgression lies in denying woman the pursuit of transcendence. Furthermore, man claims that women want to exist in immanence, which is a claim made in bad faith (Beauvoir, 757). Beauvoir casts man's infliction of immanence on women, his attempt to form her as an object, and his use of her position to further transcend himself as "an absolute evil" (16). This point is crucial to Beauvoir's conception of freedom. Beauvoir understands the freedom of the individual linked with the freedom of others. It is impossible, therefore, for one group to aspire toward transcendence in good faith while oppressing another group. To assume a position of power without seeking to simultaneously dismantle and change the world is not moving toward freedom, but merely advancing one's own interests. This is what men have done at women's expense. Beauvoir argues that women ought not seek what she calls "individual salvation." To do so is merely a
181 Susan Brison, "Beauvoir and Feminism: Interview and Reflections," in The Cambridge
Companion to Simone De Beauvoir, ed. Claudia Card (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 189.
182 See also the discussion in Marso, 'Thinking Politically," 8.
"pathetic" attempt to "achieve transcendence through immanence" (664).183 Instead, Beauvoir
advises that liberation must be collective; this cannot happen without freedom for all.
Advertising the Inauthentic: Bad Faith and Modern Home Space Visual Methodology
In her analysis of the modern home, Iris Marion Young notes that although feminists highlight women's troubled relationship with home, home remains an important part of human consciousness. People identify through the home, their possessions, and leisure activities performed in that space. The home, therefore, is the result of and a site of consumption.184 This fact is often exaggerated in the visual materials used to market homes. Young argues that photographs of home space are displayed as "sets," decorated and staged but devoid of other people. This allows each individual to imagine their own lives in that space and to create a fantasy place there.185 In contemporary Denver, Colorado, many newly constructed and renovated condo and apartment buildings advertise with photographs of empty spaces.186
183 Brison, "Beauvoir and Feminism," 189; Marso, Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter. Beauvoir affirmed this point in an interview with Brison years after The Second Sex was published. Lori Marso also writes extensively on Beauvoir's idea of freedom in Politics with Beauvoir.
184 Young, On Female Body Experience, 131. Young is one of many feminist scholars to explore a link between that capitalism, consumerism, and patriarchal structures in the western world. See also Mona Domosh, "The 'Women of New York': A Fashionable Moral Geography," Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19 no. 5 (2001): 573-592. doi: 10.1068/d255; Griselda Pollock, "Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity," in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art Flistory, ed. Norma Broude, 244-267 (New York: Routledge, 1992).
185 Young, On Female Body Experience, 132-3.
186 At the time of this writing, Denver, Colorado is undergoing rapid change. Over the last decade, explosive population growth and real estate development have characterized the city, resulting in major shifts in both the landscape and demographics. Gentrification is rife. Gentrification is often defined as the revitalization of an area driven by an influx of wealthier residents and, as a result, an increase in property values that may displace previous residents. However, I want to note that this definition shifts responsibility to invisible market forces while ignoring groups and individuals that spatially occupy, claim, and remake place while assisting in the displacement and destruction of communities of color.
However, when walking downtown, one will undoubtedly observe some advertisements that
feature women in home space. In this section, I examine these advertisements, seemingly aimed at economically independent white women, alongside of Beauvoir's analysis of home and her conception of bad faith.
This chapter analyzes these advertisements as one representation of contemporary social life. According to Gillian Rose, images are sites of meaning that reflect the larger culture in which they are produced and also possess a power to influence behavior. Therefore, it is imperative that we take images seriously, to critically examine their meanings, and to investigate their effects on audiences.187 Rose argues that each image can be analyzed along three, interrelated lines. First, one can examine the forces behind the production of the image. Second, scholars can analyze the components of the image itself. The third site for analysis is the audiencing of the image, or the effect of the image on the viewer.188 This critique focuses largely on the site of the images themselves. Using an analysis of the composition of each image and the social framework surrounding its production, this analysis also suggests a possible effect on the intended audience.189
187 Rose, Visual Methodologies, 11.
188 Rose, Visual Methodologies, 17-23.
189 This has not been empirically studied; however, using Rose's Visual Methodology in conjunction with her feminist analysis of images, one can speculate on the intended and actual effect of the images.
Beauvoir's Four Themes in Advertisements
A City at Your Fingertips (vs. Beauvoir's Enclosing Space)
Figure 1: Ad for Union Denver190 Figure 2: Ad for The Henry191
Beauvoir argued that the bourgeois home cloistered women, trapped them indoors, and stifled their sense of adventure. Contrarily, advertisements for modern homes appeal to woman's adventurous spirit by promising her access to a world. Figure 1, found on Union Denver's website, shows a young, smiling, white women in Denver's downtown. The woman in stands next to Denver's light rail transportation system, indicating the ease with which she might access the city space. The text that accompanies the image reinforces the close proximity of music, food, and culture. A portion of it reads, "The food is delectable, the architecture inspiring and the ambience is part classic sophistication, part creative community...Your life will be filled with art, music and performance and intellectual pursuits." Together, the image and the text package a cosmopolitan sense of place, identity, and lifestyle. 190 191
190 Holland Partner Group, "Exceptional Area," 2018, accessed December 6, 2018, https://www.hollandresidential.com/union-denver/denver-luxury-penthouse-apartments.
191 Greystar Real Estate Partners, 'The Location," 2018, accessed December 10, 2018, https://www.thehenrydenver.com.
While The Henry also touts its central location, the approach of the advertisement
differs. The woman in this image is active and mobile. The jogging woman confronts Beauvoir's passive woman. The female in The Second Sex, hindered by her bothersome clothes and forbidden by social norms to pursue athletics, never learns the power of her own body.
The home that encloses her also weakens her physically and enlarges her feeling of inferiority. Beauvoir laments,
If it were possible to assert herself in her body and be part of the world in some other way...If she could swim, scale rocks...take risks, and venture out, she would not feel the timidity toward the world that I spoke about. (345)
The Henry's image implies this woman ventures out and accesses any space. The text
accompanying the image reads, "The Henry puts you within easy strolling distance of your daily
endeavors." Underneath the ad, the website proclaims, "Live here, get anywhere." An
interactive map linked to the image allows the user to visualize retail, parks, food, and activities
nearby. In this case, the apartment complex markets an accessible city and an active, untimid
femininity along with the home space.
The selected advertisements serve two purposes. First, they encourage the viewer to see herself in the advertisement. The woman in the image seems to represent a mirror, reflecting the viewer's ideal self. The modern female audience sees in the photographed woman the goal to which she strives. The woman in the image may not reflect her own experience in the world, yet she embraces the fictional image and her imaginary identification with it because it encompasses an identity she wishes she possessed.192 This tendency bears striking resemblance to Beauvoir's immanent woman. According to Beauvoir, the woman who
192 Lacan, 'The Mirror Phase," 75-77.
does not know herself is tempted to identify as another. Women may "systematically create a
figure whose role they consistently play: it has already been said that women have trouble differentiating this game from the truth" (672). Woman would rather embrace the happiness she finds in identifying with her imagined doubled than endeavor to change her situation.
Second, these advertisements promise the female renter a male relationship with home space. Unlike Beauvoir's woman, enclosed and immanent, the promise of a world right outside home's door suggests that modern woman can, like the bourgeois man, anchor herself in her home without confining herself there. The home will be her place of rest, but she remains free to seek adventure and novelty in the city space (Beauvoir, 484). This appeal, however, sells women an unrealistic relationship with public space. Women in public today face similar experiences as Beauvoir's young woman in the Tuileries, able to go out but constantly threatened by male spatial practice.193 Globally, over 80% of women experience street harassment, including unwanted staring, touching, and comments or actions of a sexual nature. This constant sexual threat occurs in front of many people; yet, it often goes unchecked by bystanders.194 It is accepted as a normal, even inevitable, part of woman's interaction with public space. The intimation of verbal and physical violence reinforces male dominance over women and spatial norms. Women learn that if they wish to remain safe, they must protect themselves through choices of dress and behavior, rather than challenge the source of the violence itself.195
193 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 26. Recall that Lefebvrian spatial practice is how one engages in the space.
194 Holly Kearl, Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010).
195 Pain, "Space, Sexual Violence, and Social Control," 423.
Male verbal sexualization of women is an audible experience that accompanies the built
environment. Catcalls incessantly interrupt women's thoughts, bringing them back to the material reality of their bodies. Moreover, women must dedicate an awareness to their surroundings. In city space women "have a heightened consciousness of the micro design features of their environment and adjust their pace and path accordingly."196 This means that they often cross the street to avoid a dark alleyway or take a longer route to avoid shadowy and unlit areas. The inability to escape the physical body or to allow the minds to wander in the city is an example of modern woman's continued immanence. As Marie Bashkirtseff writes in her diary, it is not simply the freedom to venture out that a woman needs, but the freedom to do so uninterrupted. Without it, "One cannot seriously become something. Thinking is imprisoned by this stupid and incessant constraint' (in Beauvoir, 748).197 Beauvoir goes even further. This immanent experience creates woman as a thing, making it impossible for her to produce. "As long as she still has to fight to become a human being, she cannot be a creator" (750).
The woman who procures a home space in order to become the woman in the advertisements and explore the city freely attempts to deny her reality and embodiment. Beauvoir would deem this act inauthentic because of its false representation of the world and self. A woman may see her ideal self in the photographed woman, but that woman is fictional and does not represent the actual female audience. A woman may tell herself stories of her own freedom. For example, she may declare herself unafraid and forge into the city alone; she may acknowledge and set aside her fear, refusing to be daunted by a patriarchal social
196 Valentine, "The Geography of Women's Fear," 386-387.
197 Italics in the original.
structure devised to restrict her movement. However, while these misrepresentations of reality may bring fleeting happiness, they are not representations of authentic freedom. Women's freedom requires that their embodied experiences are free from intimations of violence. To pretend that this is the case is an act of bad faith similar to man's denial of his own positionality in the world.
Fully Furnished (vs. Beauvoir's Decorating Space)
Figure 7: The Henry200
While Beauvoir's woman sought to change her home prison into a kingdom, marketing for contemporary apartments announce that modern woman need not care about home decor or design. In fact, the home spaces are promoted as design masterpieces of their own, thus not 198 199 200
198 The Connor Group, "Interior Design: Amelia's Studio," 2018, accessed November 30, 2018, https://connorgroup.com/apartments-denver-co/gardens-cherry-creek.
199 Iret, "Rock a Flat in Rino," 2018, accessed May 16, 2018, https://www.iretapartments.com/Colorado/Denver/Dylan-RiNo-Apartments.
200 Greystar Real Estate Partners, "An Artistic History," 2018, accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.thehenrydenver.com.
requiring aesthetic attention from their tenants. The Gardens (see figure 5) promises lighting
from oversized windows, a modern layout, and updated living areas. The website for the Union Denver calls the building "a majestic architectural statement." Close up photographs capture high end fixtures and finishes, while accompanying text celebrates the well-lit rooms and designer kitchens.201 Meanwhile, The Dylan (see Figure 6) features "cutting edge interiors with clean lines, top end appliances, and design accents that harken back to the neighborhoods industrial roots." At the Henry (see Figure 7), the apartments are, "Artful living by design...revered for artistic spirit and eclectic heart." The complex markets their 403 units as unique, inspired works of art that create "a living experience unlike anything else" and allow the renter to create the life they have always envisioned.
The text of these ads conveys a clear message to the female viewer. In these homes, they can be free to live their lives without worrying about the decor of their home. Unlike Beauvoir's woman, trapped in immanence through her obsession with home decor, the modern woman can choose indifference. For example, the ad for The Gardens quotes Amelia, an artist and a resident, alongside of the photographed woman (see Figure 5). The text reads, "I'm not really concerned with the interior design of my home because my art and supplies offer a spectrum of colors that help me feel right at home." The viewer is encouraged to believe Amelia cares more for the transcendental pursuit of her projects than the frivolity of home decor.
201 Holland Partner Group, "Furnished Living: Refined Elegance," 2018, accessed December 6, 2018, https://www.hollandresidential.com/the-holland-collection-at-union-denver.
Advertisements of this nature share another intriguing trait. While the text markets
eloquently designed living space, the accompanying images feature not the space, but a woman. In each of the images, the woman strikes a similar pose. She nonchalantly crosses her arms or stands with her hands in her pockets. She gazes away from the camera. The woman in contemporary home photographs bears striking resemblance to the representation of women in 19th century bourgeois art. According to Gillian Rose, the female subject in these paintings was nearly always passive and still, like the women in Figures five and six. Additionally, "Rarely do the women in landscape images look out from the canvas at the viewer as an equal. Their gaze is often elsewhere: oblivious to their exposure, they offer no resistance to the regard of the spectator."202 Women in the apartment ads, like the women in landscape art some two hundred years ago, look passively away from the camera.
As Rose argues, the image of the woman in the 19th century art is not an expression of the woman herself. Rather, she captures the desires of the male artist. While he claims to represent the woman, the artist commodifies her and creates her as a sexualized being for man's consumption.203 The women in the photographs, like the women in the paintings, represent not woman herself, but man's ideal woman. Thus, by encouraging the female audience to identify with this woman, the site of the image encourages her to embrace man's ideal. Beauvoir is critical of women who imagine themselves in this vein because their identities remain tied to man. As Beauvoir notes, this woman dreams of "her own smiling face on a movie marquee;" however, she fails to see that it is still men who idealized the face and
202 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 96-7.
203 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 97.
form of woman on the billboard, and it is he who must confirm her in this likeness. Thus, for
Beauvoir, this woman is "very different from the creator who, transcending himself in a work, goes beyond the given and appeals to freedom in others to whom he opens up the future" (612). On the contrary, this woman is exploitable. She seeks to possess herself in this portrait because she seeks approval from male admirers. "She does not disavow this passive femininity that dooms her to man: she endows it with a magic power that allows her to take males into the trap of her presence...she engulfs them with herself in immanence" (612).
At first glance, the idea of a fully furnished space seems to align with Beauvoir's ideal. Even when acknowledging a woman's need for her own space, Beauvoir remained critical of the time and energy a woman spent to "set up house" (725). A pre-decorated apartment would allow a woman to spend less time in facticity. However, these advertisements continue to tie women's expression of self to the image of their home and man's ideal woman. The design of the building, decor in itself, purports to allow the renting woman to embrace an original identity. However, this identity is not unique. It is one she selects from a series of options that represent modern man's ideal woman- elegant, artistic, romantic, or edgy. In renting the space and attempting to assume this pre-packaged identity, this woman acts much like the women Beauvoir describes in The Second Sex. Beauvoir's woman, seeking her own uniqueness through items in her home attempts to affirm her originality. However, by pouring herself into an expression of perceived uniqueness, the woman only alienates herself. She is "like a painting, a statue, like an actor on stage...an absent subject who is her character but not she" (575). Contemporary women may choose a home design package all at once, thereby freeing themselves from the drudgery of selecting individual pieces, but they continue to represent a
contrived identity through their decor. Like the women in The Second Sex, these women define
themselves by their immediate surroundings in an attempt to embody the ideal woman man configured. Women who buy into the message of these ads pursue an immanence derived from falsity rather than seek transcendent freedom.
Serving Women (vs. Beauvoir's Repeating Time in Space)
Figure 8: Ad for Union Denver204 Figure 9: Ad for Point 21 Urban Flats205
Beauvoir is critical of woman's tasks in the home. These chores, repetitive and never complete, blur time into a cyclical, immanent rhythm of cooking and cleaning. Contrarily, concierge services, a major feature of modern home marketing, assist residents with tiresome household tasks. At the Union Denver, the "extraordinary service" lets residents live life "worry free" (See Figure 8). According to the building's website, the service will book mountain retreats, walk dogs, provide childcare, order groceries, and deliver laundry. At Point 21 Urban Flats, residents use an app called "Hello Alfred" to request help with household tasks. A video 204 205
204 Holland Partner Group, "Extraordinary Service," 2018, accessed December 8, 2018, https://www.hollandresidential.com/union-denver/denver-luxury-penthouse-apartments.
205 Greystar Real Estate Group, 'The Alfred Experience," 2018, accessed December 12, 2018, https://livepoint21.com.
on the website profiles three Hello Alfred users who are happier now that they "have time to
focus on what matters most." One woman remarks, "It's a great feeling to come home to a made bed, a completely stocked fridge, I have my favorite bottle of wine, the garbage taken out, fresh flowers. It really makes a difference."
These services assure modern women that once their work day is done, their tasks are as well. Moreover, they offer women what the wife traditionally offered her husband. Service professionals take on the "ungratifying" labor of the "wife-servant" that doomed Beauvoir's woman to the realm of the inessential (481). One of the concierge services, Hello Alfred, warrants sustained attention. The objective of the woman owned company is to combine personalized human help that can be accessed through a technology platform in order to, "create the home of the future and re-define modern city living."206 Hello Alfred won the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition and TechCrunch Disrupt SF in 2014 and successfully launched in several cities in 2017. In the same year, the New York Times heralded the business for paying employees fair wages and offering benefits and healthcare.207
Despite these accolades, several elements of the firm raise concerns of bad faith. One unsettling practice is that the company labels their employees "Alfreds."208 This group designation removes the individuality of the workers and lumps them into a named category bearing resemblance to the category of "wife." By designating the woman "wife," man strips woman of her autonomous identity and creates her as his Other. As Beauvoir notes, man "will
206 Hello Alfred, "Hello Alfred," 2019, accessed February 10, 2019, https://www.helloalfred.com.
207 The Editorial Board, "The Gig Economy's False Promise," New York Times, April 10, 2017, accessed February 10, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/opinion/the-gig-economys-false-promise.html. Employees make $16 per hour.
208 Hello Alfred, "Come Home Happy," 2018, accessed December 10, 2018, https://www.helloalfred.com.
not hesitate to inflict a debilitating regime on his wife, to keep her uncultured, to stultify her" in
order to satisfy himself (454). Troublingly, Hello Alfred bills the "Alfreds" similarly. The company proclaims this group to be not their own person, but "Your trusted sidekick."209 Hello Alfred proclaims their employees learn "the art of anticipation," so they can fulfill customers' every need before they even dream it. Their mission is to devote themselves to menial tasks so that their clients can "become the greatest possible versions of themselves."210 Like the wife who occupies immanence so her husband might transcend, the "Alfred" relinquishes the world so their client might grasp it.
Despite the immanent tasks with which they are charged, Hello Alfred claims the "Alfreds" love their work. A blog on the Hello Alfred website profiles employees who express the joy of housework and errands. The blog entries are contrived interviews between Hello Alfred staffers and Alfred employees. One Alfred, Vickey, says she feels like a superhero because she makes a difference in her clients' lives. She recalls going the extra mile to find a client's favorite chip when the first store ran out.211 Another, Dyanne, says that her favorite part of her job is, "The shopping. I love to shop. I like figuring out what people are going to make for dinner based on their grocery list requests."212 Sophia says she is happiest "when I'm helping other people live happier and more fulfilled lives."213 Like the housewife, the Alfreds
209 Hello Alfred, "Hello Alfred."
210 Hello Alfred, "Meet the Alfred," 2019, accessed February 10, 2019, https://www.helloalfred.com.
211 Hello Alfred, "An Alfred Who Goes the Extra Mile (On Skates!)," Know Your Alfred Blog, October 8, 2018, accessed March 2, 2019, https://blog.helloalfred.com/an-alfred-who-goes-the-extra-mile-on-skates-a213bl6d3d6c.
212 Hello Alfred, "Meet Your Alfred- Dyanne," Know Your Alfred Blog, October 8, 2016, accessed March 2, 2019, https://blog.helloalfred.com/meet-your-alfred-dyanne-649325529aed.
213 Hello Alfred, "Meet Your Alfred: Sophia," Know Your Alfred Blog, August 31, 2016, accessed March 2, 2019, https://blog.helloalfred.com/meet-your-alfred-sophia-8efce4cb411a.
find a sense of worth and pleasure in their tasks. According to Beauvoir, women "talk about
things that affirm their 'homemaking worth/ from which each one draws the sense of her own importance" (479). She "finds special satisfaction" in certain tasks, such as procuring a particular item from the market or baking the perfect cake. However, "repetition soon dispels these pleasures" (479). No matter the small, immanent joys housework may bring, it cannot sustain a person because it is not an autonomous project. Man acts in bad faith when he proclaims woman satisfied with her immanent lot. Man dangles the delights of passivity before woman's eyes and often, against the harsh reality of transcendent existence, woman yields (Beauvoir, 312). She may cheerfully comply with her tasks, trading satisfactory freedom for privilege and ease. The oppressor uses her complicity in bad faith; "they use it as a pretext to declare that woman wanted the destiny they imposed on her" (Beauvoir, 757). Similarly, Hello Alfred acts in bad faith by claiming their employees desire the immanence their work imposes on them.
The Hello Alfred blog also raises questions about the representation of the identities of the "Alfreds."214 The blog profiles considerably more women than men. Statistically, it is likely that most people providing these services are women. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that women comprise over 90% of workers in the in-home service industry. Additionally, the study found that in home workers are disproportionately women of color and immigrant women. White women account for just 36% of in-home cleaning service employees working legally in the United States, while 62% of these workers identify as African American,
214 Employment data for Hello Alfred is not readily available. Therefore, this study relies on the representation of employees in advertisements and on the Hello Alfred website.
Hispanic, or Asian American.215 It is likely, then, that the Hello Alfred promotional video, which
features a sequence of smiling, white, blonde, female "Alfreds" folding laundry, making beds, and picking up strewn toys, is inaccurate. Instead, this woman represents, for man, the ideal bourgeois wife who continues to care for his contemporary home. For the woman subscribing to this service, the female "Alfred" allows her to imitate man, relinquish household chores, and imagine that the woman who carries them out does so in utter joy.
According to feminist geographer Gillian Rose, women attempting to improve their situation in a man-made world have two options: to imitate man or become man's ideal woman.216 The ideal woman of the past provided household services, leaving man free to pursue his projects. These in-home amenities allow women to imitate men. Women can pass these tasks to others, allowing them time to explore themselves and their projects. However, as Rose noted, both of these options are complicit with "hegemonic masculinism."217 Rather than question and dismantle a society that requires some to work in an endless cycle of repetition, women who buy in to these advertisements pursue their own well-being at the expense of other women's freedom. Moreover, they abdicate their responsibility to change this inequality. Women who embrace man's position condemn other women to repetition and immanence in order to escape it themselves. We might see this as an advertisement for a modern bad faith because women are encouraged to seek happiness over authentic freedom.
215 Heidi Shierholz, "Low Wages and Scant Benefits Leave Many In-Home Workers Unable to Make Ends Meet," Economic Policy Institute, November 25, 2013, accessed 10 December 2018, https://www.epi.org/files/2013/bp369-in-home-workers-shierholz.pdf, 2 -5.
216 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 83.
217 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 83.
"Welcome to the Top" (vs. Beauvoir's Blocked Horizon)
Figure 3: Ad for the Holland Penthouse at Union Denver218 Figure 4: Ad for The Pinnacle219
In The Second Sex, Beauvoir contended that the walls of the home, "block out the horizon," literally, blocking woman's view of the world and metaphorically obstructing her view of her future (470). One strategy used to lure the contemporary female renter is the promise of elevated space. Several apartment and condo advertisements feature women gazing uninterrupted at the natural and built landscape. According to The Pinnacle, the views distinguish it from other luxury apartment options in Denver (see Figure 4). Union Denver is more specific. The "exceptional vantage point" of their $5,470 per month penthouse allows the occupant to enjoy iconic landmarks, including "to the west, the Rocky Mountain Front Range, to the north, Coors Field, and directly beneath, the Union Station playground, the crown jewel of Colorado's nightlife." The apartment grants the viewer ownership over a 360-degree view.
A position of spatial elevation is often conceived as a position of power.218 219 220 Therefore, it is tempting for women to want this relationship with the world. Height grants woman the
218 Holland Partner Group, "Penthouse: Welcome to the Top," 2018, accessed December 6, 2018, https://www.hollandresidential.com/union-denver/denver-luxury-penthouse-apartments.
219 Pinnacle Partners Real Estate, "Denver Luxury Living at its Best," 2018, accessed November 30, 2018, http://www.pinnaclecps.com.
220 See W.J.T. Mitchell, "Space, Place, and Power;" Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life; and Gillian Rose, Feminism & Geography. This was also discussed in Chapter 2.
opportunity to be the viewer rather than the viewed.221 However, there are two issues with
images that advance such a position. The first is that the women in these images, like the women in the "Fully Furnished" section, avert their gaze away from the camera. Rather than escape the rather constant surveillance of their bodies, the audience is able to view these women as they view the landscape. Thus, the images continue to promote what Rose calls "aesthetic masculinity."222 The second problem with the site of the image is that it attempts to sell its female audience the position of superiority she was likely denied as a young girl. The gaze from spatial elevation is not gender neutral. As Rose argues, it is phallocentric and encourages voyeurism and control through the field of vision. The gaze upon the landscape operates much like the gaze upon the woman's body, it creates the land and the woman as objects man can sexualize, own, and hold power over through his view.223 Moreover, as Cosgrove contends, this position encourages man to embrace disembodiment. The dream of the bird's eye view allows him to disconnect landscape from social relations and to imagine himself through his gaze as materially invisible and transcendent.224
Beauvoir remarks on the pursuit of elevated space. She writes that it is featured, "In numerous heroic myths; to attain a peak or a summit is to emerge beyond the given world as sovereign subject" (301). However, as Beauvoir came to realize in her own pursuit of the heightened vantagepoint, this position cannot grant one an authentic grip on the world. When observing from on high, Beauvoir realized she had not created or made anything from this
221 Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 40. Recall from Chapter 2 that Beauvoir, too, went through a period of "visual gluttony;" she traveled with a "spectator's appetite;" she wanted to see untouched virgin landscapes that "surrendered to her gaze."
222 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 99.
223 Rose, Feminism & Geography, 103-105.
224 Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape, xviii.
position, she had only looked from afar at the work of others. Therefore, the act of looking was
passive and immanent, rather than transcendent. For space to be truly her own, Beauvoir remarked that it must be interacted and engaged with, worked upon and worked within from a relational and embodied perspective.225 To develop a transcendental spatial relationship, the body must be fully part of the landscape, not apart from it. While the woman renting the penthouse suite seeks a pretext of power from her position, she did not conceive of the city space that she now gazes upon. The city, moreover, is not a space with which women can freely interact. As discussed in the previous section, women are constantly returned to their bodies in city space, rather than their bodies becoming a seamless part of the landscape that would allow them an escape from materiality. Women imagine that this view of city space releases her from the immanence. However, by occupy a site of pretended power, the woman ^authentically chooses her own comfort in immanence over a challenge to the system that locks her in it.
Purchasing Place in Bad Faith
With only a cursory glance, a viewer may believe that advertisements in contemporary Denver, Colorado offer women a new relationship with home space. However, closer examination reveals that they do little but repackage male ideals and attempt to sell them to modern women. Marketing materials feature man's ideal woman. Images encourage female audiences to see themselves in the photographed woman, as if they were identifying with the unattainable goal of themselves in the mirror. Moreover, the images exemplify the advantages
225 Jackson, "Beauvoir and the Limits of Space," 42, 48.
home historically offered man and encourage women to quite literally buy her way into them.
However, Beauvoir would likely contend that these advertisements do little to shift women's
situation. They simply encourage women to adopt a traditionally male relationship with the
home and city, rather than critically examine and redefine what this relationship ought to be.
When women embrace these advertisements and the male spatial relationships as a
form of empowerment, they act in all forms of bad faith. The marketing materials encourage
women to embrace values that are not their own and prioritize material happiness and
immanence over authentic freedom. Moreover, when women embrace this relationship, they
deny their own embodiment and positionality in a gendered world in an attempt to pretend
they are free of material demands. However, most importantly, these women aspire toward
their own misguided idea of progress while oppressing other women. Many new condo
buildings advertise home space in gentrifying neighborhoods. The wealthy white women who
rent or buy these spaces often participate uncritically in problematic redevelopment, seizing
space from other marginalized communities and subordinating others through spatial
displacement and division. Whether conscious or not, Beauvoir faults the bourgeois woman
who remains chained so as to remain comfortable. She accuses,
In the upper classes, women are willing accomplices to their masters because they stand to profit from the benefits they are guaranteed. We have seen that women of the high bourgeoisie and aristocracy have always defended their class interests more stubbornly... they do not hesitate to radically sacrifice their autonomy as human beings... they parrot conventional wisdom, they identify with the ideal imposed on them by the male code; in their hearts and even on their faces, all sincerity is dead. (663)
This woman, then, is not a symbol of economic empowerment, and she is certainly not a
symbol of Beauvoir's notion of freedom. Rather, she is simply someone who consumed the
space she was offered but did not make. She imagined she made place because her economic
purchasing power allowed her to buy space. This is not freedom, but a "false gain that keeps
[women] from making the choice to stand with women different from ourselves."226 In Marso's words, they are acts of "unfreedom" that perpetuate the status quo.227
The social reality remains that spatial norms continue to regulate women's ability to interact with space, both at home and in public. Money has, thus far, been unable to buy woman the authentic and unhindered ability to make her own place. Therefore, woman has yet to form the ambiguous and embodied in place identity that Beauvoir defines as human freedom. Instead of purchasing pre-packaged male place, women may be able to reclaim home space through a more ethical approach to space. To do so, they must begin to move beyond a masculine approach to space. It is imperative that women consider the reality of the human embodied subject and incorporate and respect the creation of the places of others. Only by reconfiguring the spatial ideal can women begin to shape place so that they can pursue themselves in good faith, rather than become man or his ideal woman.
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: Feminist Freedom in an Unforeseen Fad Introduction to Marie Kondo
If women cannot purchase the ability to make place, they must learn to create it. This can be difficult because every representation of home that we imagine is limited by the male universe that surrounds us (Beauvoir, 311). Home today continues to mirror the place man
226 Pratt, Rebellion, 72.
227 Marso, Politics with Beauvoir, 31.
created in the male bourgeois home.228 However, a popular tidying movement spearheaded by
consultant and author Marie Kondo may offer home dwellers ways in which to tactically reclaim lived space.229 Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and the subject of a television series on the streaming service, Netflix, helps clients transform their space into one they envision. Her method teaches an embodied process of selecting items that "spark joy."230
Since the premiere of her Netflix show in January of 2019, Kondo elicited strong reactions. Some dislike her. For example, style guru Tim Gunn told a magazine he disagreed with her tidying methods and that he could "only take so much of her."231 An opinion piece by book critic Ron Charles appeared in The Washington Post, warning Kondo to keep her hands off of his books.232 Others love her. Architectural Digest reports that actors Jennifer Garner and
228 Hayden, "What Would a Feminist City Look Like?" Some alternatives exist. For example, feminist architectural projects like Hayden's purport to reimagine the home by removing the particular rooms that traditionally oppress women, such as the kitchen and laundry room. However, these ideas are less "reimaginations" than buildings that remove pieces of the male home.
229 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, xix. De Certeau argues that individuals can participate in place making within a spatial structure by acting tactically in order to shape the space.
230 Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, trans. Cathy Hirano (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2014). In 2017, Kondo published a fictional story entitled The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story that chronicles a young woman who transforms her life when she gets her home in order. She recently published Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, an accompaniment to her original title. Additionally, Kondo has several publications in Japanese and television shows in Japan. She has a lifestyle website and blog that can be found at https://konmari.com/. Despite this vast array of material, this paper will focus on her original best seller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
231 Jennifer Klein, 'Tim Gunn Isn't a Fan of Marie Kondo," MSN Entertainment, April 22, 2019, accessed April 29, 2019, https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/tim-gunn-isnt-a-fan-of-marie-kondo-i-can-only-take-so-much-of-her/ ar-BBWbsSV.
232 Ron Charles, "Keep your Tidy, Spark-Joy Hands Off My Book Piles, Marie Kondo, The Washington Post, January 10, 2019, accessed January 11, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/keep-your-tidy-spark-joy-hands-off-my-book-piles-marie-kondo/2019/01/10/28dd7a8c-14ee-lle9-b6ad-9cfd62dbbOa8_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.77e3857c2871. Interestingly, men author nearly all the biting criticisms of Kondo. This would be an interesting area for further study.
Hasan Minhaj user her methods.233 The Washington Post lifestyle writer Keri Wiginton says
Kondo helped with her anxiety.234 The topics of the articles range. Some ask if America's tidying obsession is a fad. Others wonder if the millennial generation is embracing Kondo and rejecting capitalism and consumer culture. Still other articles consider the health benefits of the KonMari method. The list is endless; a google search for "Mari Kondo" elicits over 32 million hits.
Kondo's popularity is one reason to find her intriguing. However, upon further examination of her text, it appears Kondo's critique of the modern house mirrors Beauvoir's evaluation of the bourgeois home. Where Beauvoir offers a scathing and useful assessment, though, Kondo suggests an answer. While working within the physical structure of the built home space, Kondo helps her clients envision, or conceive, of their environment and teaches them to exercise tactical control over their belongings in order to make place. Simultaneously, Kondo's teachings disentangle identity from possessions and the endless cleaning cycle that Beauvoir called a living death. In an unexpected way, this "cleaning craze" may be poised to end home's disciplinary oppression of women through offering a way to engage with the home in an authentic way. For the remainder of this chapter, I address three themes in Kondo's book that I believe align with Beauvoir's analysis of home oppression: identification with objects, task and repetition, and a blocked horizon. Finally, I connect Beauvoir's woman in nature with
233 Joyce Chen, "Marie Kondo Helps Celebs Like Jennifer Garner, Hasan Minhaj Get a Head Start on Spring Cleaning" Architectural Digest, February 27, 2019, accessed March 8, 2019, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/marie-kondo-helps-celebrities-like-jennifer-garner.
234 Keri Wiginton, "Is KonMari a Fad? I Can Say This: It Tamed My Anxiety as Much as My Stuff, The Washington Post, February 14, 2019, accessed March 8, 2019, "https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/02/14/is-konmari-fad-i-can-say-this-her-method-tamed-my-anxiety-much-my-stuff/?utm_term=.72d4278b8ccf.
Kondo's overall message to argue that The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up offers a good faith
alternative from which to begin making place.
Free from Objects
One of Kondo's stated objectives is to help her clients find a sense of peace through discarding objects. She claims the first step is to "confront your own stuff."235 Kondo's method for this process is simple. She instructs her clients to hold each item and to ask themselves, "Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it."236 Initially Kondo's approach to items and clothing in people's homes appears a lesson in strict immanence. She aims to make people content, not free. Kondo declares, "The whole point in both discarding and keeping things is to be happy."237 In her introduction, Beauvoir cautions readers not to conflate happiness and transcendence. True freedom is Beauvoir's ultimate goal, while, "We cannot really know what the word happiness means, and still less what authentic values it covers" (Beauvoir, 16). Beauvoir does not disparage moments of satisfaction found in immanent pleasures, but she would likely disagree with such a factitious objective.
For Beauvoir, man's insistence that woman prioritize happiness leads woman to identify with material things. She alienates herself through her things and because she has no other identity for herself, a stained dress or a ruined vase are "catastrophes" (579). As a result, home becomes not a place for her to rest and be self. Rather, it is a site where woman attempts to displaying identity through "her treasures: silver, table linen, crystal: she dresses the house with
235 KonMari Media Inc, "KonMari," 2019, accessed March 11, 2019, https://konmari.com.
236 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 41.
237 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 38.
flowers: ephemeral and useless" (582). In other words, Beauvoir cautions against seeking happiness in items because one might end up reflecting their own identity in them. Interestingly, a deeper reading into Kondo's text reveals a message not unlike Beauvoir's.
Kondo argues that readers should appreciate their belongings and care for their possessions because each item serves a purpose.238 She is clear, though, that her clients are not their objects and should not identify through them. Kondo emphasizes that each possession is merely an object. She remarks, "When you tidy, you are dealing with objects. Objects are easy to discard."239 Once clients adopt this attitude, they can see that clothes are simply products and "books are essentially paper- sheets of paper with printed letters bound together."240
Kondo further establishes distance between the self and object by encouraging the individual to interact with the object. Doing so helps to separate the person's identity from the things they own and teaches them to re-discover themselves. For example, Kondo argues that for her, "The work of carefully considering each object I own to see whether it sparks joy inside me is like conversing with myself through the medium of my possessions."241 Kondo questions her life through the things she had purchased and the purpose they hold. Some objects may feel important; however, they merely play a role in one's life; they are not one's life. Because of this, it is possible to part with many things because they have fulfilled their purpose for an individual.242 This act allows a person to relinquish the power objects hold over their identity. Ultimately, Kondo reveals that her message moves beyond contentment. Near the end of her
238 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 168,170-1.
239 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 30.
240 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 89.
241 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 58.
242 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 60.
book, she writes, "In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people,
their possessions, and the house they live in."243 A goal of balance differs from one of happiness and aligns with Beauvoir's quest for ambiguity. Freedom, after all, is not about abolishing the contingencies of the human condition, but about both embracing and moving beyond them (Beauvoir, 762).
Free from Task Repetition
Marie Kondo built a lifestyle empire based on the one task Beauvoir deplores most: the tidying and keeping of a house. In fact, Kondo unabashedly embraces the immanent pleasures in some household tasks, such as folding clothes. She assures readers that once they master her folding technique, "you will actually enjoy doing it every day."244 Beauvoir is unlikely to agree. Happiness in housework is only a wife grasping at "dignity only [by] accepting her vassalage" (485). Worse, these tasks neither finish nor produce. Instead, they distort woman's sense of time and use up all of her energy, keeping her from transcendence. Beauvoir describes it, "Eat, sleep, clean...the years no longer reach toward the sky, they spread out identical and gray as a horizontal tablecloth; everyday looks like the previous one; the present is eternal, useless, and hopeless" (475).
Passages from Kondo's text suggest she would agree with Beauvoir. She recalls her frustrated attempts at cleaning as a girl, writing, "I had spent years tidying and discarding things, yet my room still felt cluttered."245 Kondo felt defeated, much like Beauvoir's housewife
243 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 190.
244 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 75.
245 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 40.
who "wears herself out running on the spot" while accomplishing nothing (Beauvoir, 474). Therefore, a key tenet of her philosophy is that the process of tidying should occur all at one time. It is a project with a marked time of completion, and it should not recur endlessly. Kondo emphasizes this throughout The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. "Make tidying a special event, not a daily chore. Don't do it every day," she advises. She urges clients to remember, "Tidying should be done just once...the work of tidying should be completed once and for all within a single period of time."246 Unlike Beauvoir's endless cycle of repetition, tidying is a project that can be finished. It has a beginning and an end. The finish line is crossed once everything is in its place.247
Though Kondo's entire brand is based on tidying, one of her objectives is to help clients spend less time occupied with immanent tasks. For Kondo, part of what keeps individuals trapped in a repetitive cleaning cycle is that they have failed to thoroughly put things in order. She says, "Until you have completed the once in a lifetime event, any attempt to tidy on a daily basis is doomed to failure."248 This is akin to Beauvoir's woman, who can "do no more than rout out indefinitely the foul that creeps in" (Beauvoir, 476).249 However, Kondo is adamant that, once you put your house in order, "tidying will be reduced to the very simple task of putting things back where they belong."250 Tidying the house makes it easier to keep the home clean because there is no clutter in the way. This is important because when space is clean and organized, people can focus on what is important. Therefore, Kondo urges, "It is best to tidy up
246 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 28.
247 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 31,
248 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 29.
2491 believe Kondo would agree. She argues, "Repetition and wasted effort can kill motivation and therefore it must be avoided" (43).
250 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 29.
quickly and get it over with...tidying is not the purpose of life."251 Put plainly, Kondo contends
that an ordered and tidied house is a product. Once finished, an individual can embrace the joy of immanent tasks because they can be quickly moved on from. This is similar to how Beauvoir described housework for those with transcendent pursuits. Everyday chores are less dismal because "they represent only a negative and a contingent moment they hurry to escape" (481).
Free from a Blocked Horizon
Beauvoir alleges that the home blocks woman's view of the future. Because of this, woman tries desperately to hang on to the past (643). In part, this is why she attaches herself to things. Woman falsely believes that things will secure her through the past and grant her a sense of permanence in the world (483). In "House and Home: Feminist Variations on a Theme," Iris Marion Young challenges Beauvoir. She argues that Beauvoir's notion of freedom hinges too much on futurity and woman's inability to new bring things into being. Because Beauvoir is so focused on conceptualizing this as a lack, she ignores the value of preserving meaning and protecting the past.252 Young argues that we can reconstruct value in women's work, specifically in the act of cherishing family history and heirlooms. She states, "Preserving meaningful identity of family by means of loving care of its mementos is different from cleaning a bathroom."253 For Young, preservation is an act of creation. Women who preserve are not
251 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 204.
252 Young, On Female Body Experience, 141.
253 Young, On Female Body Experience, 143.
reduced to immanent housework but are tasked with constructing and protecting family identity and narrative.254
Young contends that items in the home give material support to identity by helping to
anchor the self in the past and present. Without anchoring ourselves, "we are literally lost."255
Kondo, however, aligns more with Beauvoir. She argues that people invest meaning into items
for only two reasons: "An attachment to the past or a fear of the future."256 Both are
detrimental to the development of a full, transcendent life. Kondo argues that rather than
enshrine the past, one should confront it in order to understand its meaning. Throwing away
items that preserve the past helps an individual to process history. According to Kondo,
It's not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure... the space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not the person we were in the past.257
Failure to confront one's past can result in an immanent existence. Like Beauvoir, who warns
that woman's transcendence is blocked because she must "watch over and enliven the dwelling
where the past is kept," so Kondo argues that the individual who seeks to stow and preserve
the past will find that "the past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from
For Kondo, putting your things in order helps to put the past in order, to loosen its hold on identity, and to allow one to move toward the future. Once the past has been dealt with, an individual can focus on their transcendent projects. Whether launching a business, seeking a
254 Young, On Female Body Experience, 138.
255 Young, On Female Body Experience, 140.
256 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 181.
257 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 118.
258 Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 194; Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up 117.
new job, writing a book, or becoming more meaningfully involved with people in their lives, Kondo recounts numerous stories of individuals who no longer see themselves as trapped in their current situation.259 Often, people are so entrenched in the past that they may not even know what to pursue once they are free of it. Kondo assures readers that possibilities will open. She writes,
As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.260
Embodying Good Faith
I have argued that Kondo offers a way of keeping the home that releases woman from immanence. By disassociating from her belongings, freeing herself from cyclical cleaning, and liberating herself from her past, woman can begin to move toward a transcendent future.
What makes Kondo's movement exceptionally aligned with Beauvoir, though, are the ways in which she encourages making place in good faith. Specifically, Kondo's methods advocate that clients take responsibility for their lives rather than embrace immanence. She also supports an embodied home relationship. These qualities allow authentic placemaking.
Taking Responsibility for One's Life
Beauvoir argues that one of the privileges of immanence is irresponsibility. By remaining in a child-like state, woman need never take responsibility for her own life or actions. Abdicating this human duty and choosing a life of ease is an act of bad faith (757). Kondo
259 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. See testimonials on pages 3-5 and 176-177.
260 Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, 204.