Place: Post #3
In her essay entitled Place, Lynn A. Staeheli discusses how the word “place” can have so many different definitions — it’s not just a pinned point on a map. For example, a “place” could be defined as a social or cultural location, or an area where certain types of people “fit in” and others just stick out like a sore thumb. A “place” could also be defined as a process, as the people who pass through it always change it in some way, no matter how minute; conversely, the place also changes its visitors in some way, shape, or form.
In writing about place as a social or cultural concept, Staeheli uses women and gender roles as an example. She describes how historically, a woman’s “place” has typically been in the home, as a housewife and homemaker, whose duty is to make and take care of children, cook, and clean. Men, however, have generally been expected to be out in the world being strong and successful and providing for their families.
A modern and local example of that would be the Wade King Student Rec Center on Western Washington University’s campus. I go there a lot, and I rarely see an even ratio of women to men in the weight room portion of the facility. Sure, there are usually a few women in there, but the room is largely populated by muscly college guys. I’m not trying to say that we women don’t “belong” in that area. I would love to go in there sometime when it’s not so crowded. However, the few women that I do see in there as I walk into the facility definitely stand out. They’re probably just as strong as the guys. Heck, I’m sure that plenty of them could lift considerably more than some of their male counterparts. Since there aren’t so many of them, though, and since we generally tend to perceive weight rooms as more “masculine” environments, it’s easier to note when the women stand out in that kind of place.
Staeheli also discusses place as a process. Whenever any given person passes through any given place, both are changed somehow. In the rec center, the way that the facility changes people is probably pretty obvious — as people use the equipment and resources there, they usually become stronger and in better shape. The student athletes that use it as a place to practice obtain more skills and get a little better at their sport each time they’re in the building. However, the building and all of its inanimate objects change along with its visitors that pass through. The exercise equipment gets a little worn out. The small towels supplied for wiping up sweat get a little dingier every time someone uses them. The paper towels and toilet paper in the locker rooms get used up. No matter how small it is, every person who visits any place at all will somehow change it and be changed to some degree, and I think that’s pretty cool.