Gender, Place and Space location:University of Notre Dame date:25-27 March 2010
The home is usually seen as a space that belongs more to women than to men. There are nevertheless quite some masculine inscriptions in the home. Spaces such as offices, dens, playrooms, basements or garages tend to be claimed by the men of the house. Especially the garage is an interesting room to analyze in this respect. The gendering of this space can be understood in parallel with the gendering of the car, which started out as a vehicle driven and owned by men, but gradually became a tool used by the whole family. By the same token, the garage evolved from a male room towards a multifunctional, family-centered space that was used for a whole range of different activities. Nevertheless it did not loose its dominantly masculine connotation as the place for storing and possibly maintaining the car, the place for workbenches and garden equipment. These are the tokens of men’s version of domesticity and in that sense the garage might be one of the places where men’s involvement with the home is most expressively represented. The garage occupies however an ambivalent position. It acts as a kind of Derridean supplement to the house: it is not completely part and parcel of the home, but harbors a whole series of things and activities that cannot be separated from nor incorporated within the home. The garage is therefore an in-between space, where all kinds of boundaries are being negotiated: the boundary between private and public, between feminine and masculine control, between efficiency and nostalgia, between order and chaos.