Home is Not Where the Heart is:
A Woman’s Place (or Lack Thereof)
The large majority of UC Irvine students think very little, if at all, about the buildings that they walk through during the time they spend on campus. They are much too busy studying busily for their exams or beginning to work on assignments they had left unfinished until just days before their due date. Unknown to the large number of students that walk through the halls and pathways of UCI, there is an ideological war being waged over the understanding of place between an outdated patriarchal school of thought and its unprecedented opposing counterpart with the entire campus being one of the conflict’s many staging grounds. Out of these warring ideologies, Yi-Fu Tuan’s book, Space and Place, represents the former side while the latter is represented in the progressive works of Gillian Rose’s, No Place for Women, and Doreen Massey’s, A Global Sense of Place. Upon analyzing the different perspectives through which the concept of place can be understood, it becomes obvious that UCI, forming a physical mirror for Tuan’s ideologies, has largely ignored its job to provide a nurturing environment for its female students through hidden misogynistic undertones scattered throughout the campus. Space and Places’ shows a highly masculine understanding of place in characterizing the ideal place with the security of home and the UC Irvine campus matches Tuan’s viewpoint in its role as a place. Massey has a very different understanding of place as a much more fluid concept, rejecting Tuan’s viewpoint, which works perfectly into the extremely diverse population of UC Irvine and is gradually working its way into the newer additions to the campus. Rose focuses upon the lack of exposure women get with Tuan’s definition of place and her criticism for Tuan’s repression of the feminine voice in its totality can be transferred to UC Irvine in terms of its function as a place which largely ignores an authentic feminine voice.
In the very first paragraph of Space and Place, Tuan describes place as something that should provide people with a feeling of security and uses the phrase “there is no place like home.” (Tuan 3) This sentence by itself shows perfectly how he understands place and this understanding is what many college campuses including UC Irvine try very hard to achieve. In order to provide for its students as a place, campuses try and become the ideal place which Tuan would point out makes students feel at home. Colleges are in fact ‘new homes’ for the majority of students who will be living apart from their families for the first time in their lives. The many programs that freshman as well as transfers are required to go through demonstrate how colleges conform to Tuan’s understanding of place as a location that provides a sense of safety to the people inside. At UC Irvine, they try to make the change from living at home with parents to coming to live in the dormitories as smooth as possible by requiring all of the freshmen attend SPOP. They do this by trying to change the way students look at UC Irvine from a public space to a place they will know intimately or closely by giving it value. Tuan describes place as a center of “felt value” (4) and universities are constantly working to have students feel the value of the school that they attend through many ways including the mandatory orientations. In thinking about place Tuan also includes the “sense of an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’, of intimacy and exposure.” (107) By introducing these concepts when thinking about place he creates a division where the people feel safety inside of the place and vulnerable outside of the place. This feeling can be seen throughout so many parts about campus life that they are almost countless. The most obvious part is the blue light system where there are many blue lights placed around the school campus so that students are able to call for help if they ever feel in danger or uncomfortable at campus. Even though these lights are not intentionally placed to create borders, they nevertheless do. It creates a sense of inside and outside where the campus is home for the student while outside of it there is not the safety of the blue light. While at UC Irvine this might not be too great of a difference as Irvine is ranked to be one of the safest cities in the country, students at the University of Southern California or Columbia might feel this sense much more as their campuses are next to some dangerous areas with a lot of crime. Place creates a very distinct idea of security inside and danger outside in Tuan’s viewpoint. A much less serious sense of inside and outside is also seen with the way that architecture is put into the empty space of the campus. The campus is divided up into different schools and the inside vs outside concept exists here as well with math and science classes mostly offered near Middle Earth while Humanities classes are by Mesa Court. UC Irvine tries to tie place with an intimacy by not scattering classes everywhere but organizing by major so that students feel familiar and safe within the place of their major. According to Tuan, as I stopped taking GE’s and took more and more classes associated with my major, the “undifferentiated space becomes place” as I got to know “it better and endow it with value.” (6) Place is significant to Tuan in terms of what campuses should provide because it works with the objective of the campus to educate its students and try to make sure that they earn their diplomas. Universities want their students to feel ‘at home’ as soon as possible so that they can focus their energy on studying instead of dealing with adjusting to being outside of a secure setting. While Tuan’s understanding of place, which lines up with the university’s objectives and viewpoints, do provide some positive benefits it also has huge negative consequences due to its narrowness.
In A Global Sense of Place, Doreen Massey’s understanding of place is extremely different from Tuan’s understanding as it completely discards the inside versus outside attitude. Instead, Massey sees place as something that can have multiple identities depending upon social factors as she creates a sense of place that is “progressive; not self-closing and defensive.” (Massey 147) This viewpoint could be perfectly incorporated into university campuses, especially when considering the fact that the student bodies are becoming more and more diverse. Considering her belief that Tuan’s very dividing and defensive understanding of place has given rise to “certain forms of nationalism…and outright antagonism to newcomers and ‘outsiders’” (147), the need for campuses to move away from the old understanding of place is very important. UC Irvine has actually started to move in the direction of adopting Massey’s viewpoint of place in its newer additions such as with the remodeling of a study lounge to the Student Center Global Viewpoint Lounge. By trying to reflect as many countries and societies from all over the globe, the campus directly reflected the concept of a place that can have multiple identities rather than sticking to a unchanging single one while rejecting the rest as ‘outside.’ The lounge is a perfect representation of Massey’s understanding of place as a process that is constantly changing and one that should not be made to oppose something outside of it self. Instead of understanding space in a reactionary and defensive manner, the lounge was remodeled to reflect UC Irvine as a meeting point for students from all different cultures. This lounge fights against both the belief that place is a bordered space and the encouragement of an us versus them mentality. Even the clocks right outside of the study lounge make the same point with six large clocks showing the times of cities across globe from Tokyo to South Africa. The lounge and these six clocks create a specific place by forming a “constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus.” (154) These clocks also demonstrate what Massey calls “the annihilation of space by time” or “time-space compression” (146) where the world is becoming smaller and smaller because of globalization. The clocks show a need for some people to know the time in different time zones where their families or friends may be. All of these different time zones are displayed simultaneously in a single room and provide for the needs of a student body that not only has connections all over the world but also may even come from different countries like myself. Massey is quick to characterize the fear of time-space compression and the reactionary view of place in a inside versus outside light as a “western, colonizer’s view.” (147) She dismisses this challenge to her idea of place and points out that places will not lose their specificity as each place will remain a distinct mix of social relations. The UC Irvine campus has already begun embracing this concept of place in its newer additions and should continue to do so as campus should seek to provide a sense of acceptance to all of its students.
While the UC Irvine campus has started to embrace change in its perception of place when it comes to nationality, the move towards inclusion stops when it comes to women as a whole. In No Place for Women, Rose makes it very clear that the notion of place has not been created with women in mind and that for women the masculine conceptualization of place is very oppressive. She believes that place as defined by humanist geographers such as Tuan are “masculinist because the essence of place is theorized in…an implicit masculine norm.” (Rose 44) In other words, the definition of place by man only considers a man’s viewpoint while completely ignoring the experiences of women. Remembering that Tuan’s understanding of place has home as the ideal place that provides security to individuals, it becomes clear that women are not taken into account at all. Rose points out that home and the family were seen “by socialist feminists as the major site of women’s oppression.” (54) Considering the point that place for Rose and Humanist Geographers should be a location which has been given meaning by people through their feelings, it is very clear that women have been ignored when defining place. Rose points out that Humanist Geographers have, instead of correctly showing the thoughts of women, created a false Woman figure to incorporate into their theories. This action actually erases the women entirely from the picture. They go even further as Rose says that “place is feminized as an Other at the expense of women.” (45) The woman figure is demonstrated as fitting into the notion of home and belonging there while the figure of the Career Woman is shown as disruptive or hurtful to the community around her. This is very clear in UC Irvine’s campus architecture. While the female population for 2014–2015 is 54%, only the Claire Trevor School of Arts is named after a woman and it is in an area of study that people see as mostly feminine. On the other hand, there are countless buildings and schools named after men including Francisco Ayala, Donald Bren, Paul Merage, Forest Grunigen, Daniel Aldrich, Jack Peltason, Jack Langson, and Henry Samueli. UCI is a direct reflection of how place tends to ignore the experiences of women. As a mathematics major I feel that Rose’s view of place is very true as math and science are the most closely associated with the career woman. There are very few female students in my classes and I hear my friends tell many jokes about how there are never any girls in the physical science majors.Rose even points out that there has been a “tradition of equating loss of place with an acquisition of identity.” (56) Looking at UCI’s UCEAP Travel Abroad demographic from 2009–2014, it again becomes clear that place has a very different meaning than what has been established with 68% of students being female. While males may view home as a place of stability and warmth, for women the idea of place is so oppressive that there is a strong desire to leave it in order to find oneself.
I believe that change is happening in the conflict of ideas regarding place for the UC Irvine campus. However, I think that not enough is happening to make females feel welcome and provided for throughout the campus especially when it comes to majors in the sciences. I hope that in the future, more buildings are dedicated to women who are successful in the math and sciences and that ideas of community, place, and home can include a feminine perspective to make women in general feel more welcome.