A few years ago, I had a professor explain the history of women’s inhabitations of space. We weren’t talking about outer space; stars, galaxies, and whatnot. We were talking about physical and intellectual space.
Historically, women’s outfits were designed to physically inhabit large spaces (think Victorian era ballgowns) and to draw attention to a woman’s appearance. These outfits took hours to put on and prepare and while they physically took up space (drawing attention to women), women were still restricted by them. These outfits physically restricted women and limited them to inhabiting physical space as opposed to intellectual space.
Sound confusing? It kind of is.. Instead think of it as that saying people used to (and sometimes still) say about kids; “children are meant to be seen and not heard’ and simply replace the word ‘children’ with the word ‘women’. Better?
I struggle with this idea because I find that these ideologies are still far too common in every day society. Women are expected to dress up, look pretty, look cute, wear this, wear that, talk, but don’t talk too much, speak up, but not too loud. We’re supposed to blend in, become a part of society, compliment those around us and not stand out too much; unless of course we stand out for being so beautiful, but even that can only occur in small doses.
I think it’s time for all people to feel comfortable inhabiting more space; we should all be comfortable and content in voicing our opinions and encouraging others to do the same, there should be no societal restrictions on my voice (or trust me, it will just get louder), and I should be able to define and inhabit whatever space I choose.
I will be seen AND heard.