You Are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 3 STUFF

Click here to read You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 1 BODY

And

Click here to read You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 2 MIND

The pressure to keep a beautiful home is a responsibility thrust upon women for decades, but perhaps most recently with the rise of social media and the additional pressures to not only have a tidy house but have one that is insta-worthy as well. It might be clean, but how will it look in those blog photos?

Having a perma-staged house requires more than a dutiful commitment to regular cleaning, but also the ownership of the prettiest stuff and in *just* the right quantities. As a lover of maximalist decor I am acutely aware of the ideals of minimalism, complete with an absence of cords. (Seriously, ever notice how there are NEVER cords in pictures of staged rooms? Where do they go?)

kaboompics_Blue sofa with pillows in a designer living room interior
Minimalist Ideal

I recently read a piece about Big Decluttering that really spoke to me. In Dame Magazine, Kate Washington writes

The classism and privilege baked into minimalism are multilayered. Big Decluttering, by positing the streamlined home as a purely personal matter of choice and shifting women’s attention to the domestic sphere, can distract from larger systems of oppression—including the direct oppression of less-privileged women and, often, children, who are severely underpaid for the labor of making all the cheap stuff that more privileged women are taught to toss out of our homes.

This truth has become painfully apparent to me since living in the USA. I’m entirely susceptible to the charms of decor available at a certain chain store that recently also experienced a short-lived residence in Canada.  *cough cough* And I’m not talking about Zellers.

This store sells its overstock and out-of-season items to the nearby Goodwill locations in my region that, in turn, sell the items at deep discounts. I can say with non-mathematical certainty that the marble cheeseboards, gold-dipped end tables, and copper-lettered wall art declaring “Seize the Day” and “It’s Wine O’ Clock Somewhere” lose 75% of their charm once strewn about the shelves of a thrift store, laying next to previously viewed DVDs, planners dated 2017, and sparkly cases for iPhones 5 and 6. (But if you think I didn’t still buy that gold-dipped end table, you are mistaken.)

The clincher is that we all already know that the producers of these goods, including fast fashion, are undoubtedly women, who are undoubtedly located outside of North America, and who are undoubtedly underpaid. This is not new information. Still, an artisan created end table of higher quality, produced locally, would most likely sport a price tag well above my budget.

Desire can only carry you so far. Perhaps if that end table was priced at 80% the regular cost for female patrons? Just a thought.

eclectic-gallery-wall-with-tv-eclectic-gallery-wall-fe17eb87fb0b76b5.jpg
My Ideal

All this being said, I’m not here to criticize my friends who are striving to find balance between all the STUFF to create the home she wants, not just the one we are told we should aspire to. In fact, follow my gal Ruth at Everything Unscripted who is strategically (and bravely) working to declutter her home and share her progress. I’m tuning into her FB Lives to help figure out how to deal with my piles of papers all over my office (or what I affectionately call my “blogger hovel”).

Ultimately, as I mentioned in the previous 2 parts to this series, you have to take up the space that you want. Occupy your home. It’s where you can feel safe to express yourself. If you want to fill it up with baskets of yarn (woven wall tapestries are making a comeback, after all) or souvenirs from your travels, go for it. And, by the same token, if you’re looking to clear space, do it because it’s what you want, and not because of an aspirational room reveal you saw on Pinterest. I promise you: a staged home is not a comfortable home.

This space belongs to all of us. Fill it up. Fill it up with your body and your thoughts and ideas, and the things you hold dear.

Design

You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 2 MIND

Click here to read You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 1 BODY

2 Truths and 1 Lie

Your thoughts are valid and your opinions matter. 

Your voice is worthy of respect. 

All voices will be heard and considered. 

Unfortunately, it is so easy to spot the lie above. If you’re a women, you likely guessed it before you even read it. You probably already know the truth behind that lie as well: that it is shockingly, embarrassingly easy to ignore the voices of minorities.

When it comes to electronic content, there are several scenarios outside of listening to and valuing women’s voices.

If a dissenting woman is lucky, she will only be silenced by being ignored. Those uninterested in her opinion can just change the channel, close the tab, or turn the page to find significantly more male-written and male-centric content.

If that woman is less lucky, her opinions might get her trolled, threatened, doxxed, etc. The list is terrifying and endless. Just this past fall, Amnesty International published this piece, which outlines how easy it is for online abuse towards women to snowball.

As an opinionated woman, when I see this type of silencing happening, it scares me into my own retreat and silence. I don’t like to admit it but I generally feel ill equipped for aggressive debate. I know what I believe and I’m open to discussion, but too often women’s opinions become subjects of attack rather than rational discussion — a luxury most men don’t have to consider.

mad men board table
Fictional period piece or modern tableau?

Have you ever been a lone woman in a male dominated workplace?

I feel beyond fortunate to have worked in some wonderful, women-led organizations. At the same time, I’ve also experienced being one of maybe 2 or 3 women sitting around a boardroom table with a dozen older men. It’s not a great dynamic.

In these occasions I’ve observed a couple of outcomes:

  1. Women fall into the role of submissive contemplation, head nodding, and note-taking.
    • Side note: as an introvert, I actually commend and have deep respect for this valuable role when it is CHOSEN by the woman enacting it. What I’m talking about here is when it is assumed that the women will fall into this role because it’s where we are socialized to place her.
  2. A seasoned woman might raise her voice, interject, and interrupt to make herself heard by her male counterparts. 
    • What I’ve noticed in these cases is that the attitude doesn’t translate well into the realm of all-women conversations. Sometimes it’s obvious which women are used to competing with men for their voices to be heard because they will then use the same technique to trample other women.

So, it can be a problematic dynamic. For women, there’s the added responsibility of using their voices while also helping to amplify the voices of our sisters.

We Need to Raise Our Voices Together

0204_Empowered-Women_Grey-Unisex-Tee_grande
T-Shirt Goals. 

How to Be Heard

The unfortunate truth is that until women are respected as equals, their voices will continue to be ignored — But that doesn’t work for me. You have something worth saying, so here’s some techniques for being heard:

  1. Make eye contact.
    • It’s much more difficult to ignore someone when you’re looking at one another. It’s humanizing and it emphasizes connection.
  2. Speak deliberately. 
    • As a self-admitted mumbler, I’ve noticed that when I take my time and choose my words carefully, I’m taken more seriously. Jumping into a conversation with a knee-jerk exclamation is easy to bulldoze over. Thoughtful comments command attention.
  3. Take up space with your body. 
    • If you didn’t read Part 1, I encourage you to do so. Basically, if you use your body with confidence, it will help people to focus on what you’re saying. Taking up space is complex but you’re just as entitled to it as your male counterparts.

 

How do you make yourself heard?

Stay tuned for Part 3: You are Allowed to Take Up Space – STUFF

Design

You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 1 BODY

If you recall my post on self-love reminder mantras, you’ll know that one of my favourites that always bears repeating is: You are Allowed to Take Up Space.

What might not be obvious is how all-encompassing this concept needs to be. You (ALL OF YOU) are allowed to take up space. That is, body, mind, and stuff.

Body

I’m sure you’re already familiar with the messages directed towards women’s bodies: be smaller, thinner, skinnier, etc. I mean, enter any clothing store and try to find clothing in larger sizes. Or, just take a look at the mannequins and models on store walls and you’ll know that the target sizes are always those that conform with our accepted standards of western beauty.

None of this is new information. We already know that women’s bodies are expected to be small and submissive. 

There have been plenty of fun examples of how, in everyday life, women are forced to minimize their bodies to make room for others.

Manspreading and Manslamming are two concepts that highlight this phenomenon.

The problem with combating the physical aspect of taking up space is how it also makes us more vulnerable. As with any act of subversion, it draws attention, and it can create a target  emphasize a target.

When I think about taking up physical space in protest to Manspreading, for example, it means allowing for unwanted physical touch. Imagine the scenario: you’re seated on the subway, a man sits next to you and “spreads.” What are your space-taking options? First, you can submit and shrink into your seat in favour of leaving some room for the holy spirit in between the two of you. Or, you can hold your ground and maybe resist slightly; however, this most likely means your bodies will be touching (legs, arms, shoulders, and maybe more).

Is it worth it? I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to touch a stranger. And, socially, that’s what a manspreader is counting on. 

As a former resident of Toronto, I have also encountered a number of Manslamming opportunities by virtue of it being a busy city with crowded sidewalks. In my own informal experimenting wherein I kept to the right down any bustling sidewalk, I noted that I “lost out” in this ridiculous game of chicken around 60-70% of the time.

Of course most men aren’t actively clomping down streets trying to run down women…but keep your eyes open to this trend. I expect you’ll observe, as I did, that the more important looking a man (think suit, briefcase, cellphone), the less likely he is to relinquish the right of way.

power stance girl

Try a power stance. 

This concept was introduced to me a few years ago as a way to feel confident when struggling to be assertive. While I have deliberately implemented it into many work presentations (especially when answering questions), I have also found it to be particularly helpful when just standing amongst people.

Personally, I HATE when people get in my personal space in line ups. Dude, standing on top of me is not going to change your place in line. What I like to do is adopt a power stance, plant my feet firmly, hands on hips, and slowly turn…Sometimes I’ll be pretending to look for something in the distance and sometimes I won’t bother with the pretense. I have found that it works well to emphasize a “sphere of personal space.” For me, if I can stand with my hands on my hips and rotate 180 degrees with out hitting a stranger, I’m happy.

As with all things feminism, this is a work in progress for me. In the meantime, I’ll keep repeating this mantra and hope for a time when I feel confident to take up the space for which we are all entitled (as long as it isn’t at the expense of another woman – but that is another blog post for another day).

How do you remember that you are deserving of space?

Stay tuned for Part 2: You are Allowed to Take Up Space – MIND

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