Nice Shoes, Wanna Fuck?: Gender Construction and Performance in Formally-defined Heterosexual Space

Women's Studies 1 Final Project
Erin, Michaela, Amber, Katie, Jenna and Anya


The Walkway

The "Rape Stage"

The Alternative Room

When one enters a space, whether a home, office, church, or club, one agrees to abide by the social rules that are acceptable in that space. Not only do you agree to follow the social practices that are acceptable, but you also turn part of your voice over to the space. If we lacked a spoken language, the space we occupy would speak for us. Not only do people define the space, but the space helps to define the people in it. Gender, class, and age all play a role in defining who can occupy a certain space. Like gender, space can be an ordering principle. This proved to be extremely true at Club Egypt. The space one occupied spoke for the person. It spoke in terms of what type of actions were acceptable to be taken towards the person.

There were three main dance floors. Two in the big room and then the alternative room. In the big room, the stage was the most performative area. Dance was the most sexual and promiscuous. When asked about the different dance areas one bouncer told me that the stage is the place where you are most likely to be raped. By entering this space one accepts and agrees to the social roles that accompany the space. When we went up onto the stage to dance, we were immediately confronted with several males freaking us from behind, grabbing our buttocks and pulling us close into them as they thrust their pelvisıs in our direction. We did not vocally invite these men into our space, but the space spoke for us and extended an initiation. This magnet effect of woman on stage drawing men towards her was not unique to us. We discovered a two second rule. When a woman moves toward the bar on the stage to dance and places her hands on the bar while she is dancing, she has men 'dancing' with her in less than 2.5 seconds. Placing hands on the bar was a silent invitation to invade personal space. An invitation that had been defined by the space itself. Of the women dancing in front of the bar, 94% had their hands on the bar while only 27% of men at the bar put their hands on the bar. 59% of the men were behind women while 0% of the women were behind men. 81% of the men with their hands on the bar had their arms around a woman at the same time.

As I just mentioned, there are three dance areas, the stage, then the big dance floor, which are both in the same large room and then the alternative room. The alternative room was an alternate to just about everything in the larger room . The music was dance music but did not have the heart pounding bass found in the larger room. The alternative room was much less crowded. There was plenty of space between all people dancing, where as in the big room it was nearly impossible to dance without touching someone. In the alternative room people danced face to face or side by side, not back to front. The style of dance was also very different from that found in the big room. Dancers in the alternative room moved their feet and their entire bodies when dancing, where in the larger room most dancing was moving solely the upperbody with little foot movement. The increased foot movement when dancing may have stemmed from the fact that women in the alterna room wore sneakers or relatively comfortable shoes and clothing, while the women in the larger room had on platform shoes and constricting clothing. There was no sexual dancing or movements in the Alternative room, yet sexual dancing was the theme of the larger room. Looking at these polarities, it is very interesting that the alternative room is to your left when enter the club. Robert Hertz in, "The pre-eminence of the Right Hand" written in 1909 theorized that "society and the whole universe has a side which is sacred, noble and precious, and another which is profane and common, a male side, strong and active, and another, female, weak and passive, or in two words, a right and left hand side." (Ardener, p5) The right is equated with rectitude, dexterity, juridical norm, life. It is sacred, good and beautiful. The left is equated with profane, ugly, bad, death and perpetual menace of evil. Relating this to club Egypt says volumes about the society we live in. The room farthest left, the alternative room was characterized by womenıs mobility, lots of personal space, nonsexual dancing, and very little costume. The dancing in the alterna room was fun, spaced dancing. There was no sexual contact. All of these seemingly positive attributes, yet it is situated on the left.

As you move to the right, in the next room, the lower dance floor, women had on more extensive costuming, and were immobilized to a much greater extent. "There have been a number of social practices which have probably contributed, whether advisedly or indirectly, to the greater restriction of movement in space of some groups of women. Foot-binding tight corsetting, hobble skirts, high heels ,all effectively impede womenıs freedom of movements and make them dependent on mechanical and other forms of transport." (Ardener, p21) Their feet were bound with high, platform shoes, their bodies were pushed into wonderbras, tight jeans and uncomfortable clothing. Women didnıt rely on mechanical transport, but the males gyrating body behind them to move them while dancing. Mobility was also denied to women in the big room by the type of dance that was acceptable in that space. Behavior and Space are mutually dependent.

It was also observed that different places in the club were predominately gendered male or female spaces. The seating around the bars was a male space. It was from the edges of the dance floor that the men were able to watch all of the performances that were occurring. Doane comments on cinematic representation that "the male gaze is centered, in control- although it is exercised from the periphery." (Doane, p189) Though the male takes an outside seat to watch, his gaze remains subverting and controlling. The periphery is a place for men to gaze, but also a place for women to take refuge and to be safe. The far side of the bar was a place for mixed company. There were many groups of women alone but also some groups of men and women, however, there were very few groups of solely men. The flight to the outskirts of the bar is an intentional one for a woman who is uncomfortable with the scene or who needs a rest. Ardener says that "Intrusions (into personal space) may be controlled by confinement of the periphery." (Ardener, p11) By staying on the outskirts of the club, the woman is able to eliminate many of the intrusions into personal space.

Invitations into personal space were very accessible. Invitations came from as mentioned earlier, simply entering a space, or from eye contact. A female making eye contact with a man was inviting him into her space. I personally tested this hypothesis and while walking past the bar, quickly made eye contact with Sol. Sol stood up grabbed my waist and told me I was dancing with him. (Heıs the one in the picture) he later invited me and my friends out with him and his friends to hook up afterwards. Ardener also states that "The adoption of the veil and the practice of eye-avoidance are among the other methods for giving greater freedom, throughout Œfictive invisibility'" (Ardener, p13). By not looking someone directly in the eye you are attempting to make yourself invisible to the other. By not making eye contact, you donıt allow others to intrude your space.


Ardener, Shirley. ³Ground Rules and Social Maps for Women: An Introduction.² Women and Space. 1993.

Butler, Judith. ³Performative Acts and Gender Construction: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.² Writing on the Body. Ed. Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. New York, Columbia University Press, 1997. 401.

Doane, Mary Ann. ³Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator.² Writing on the Body. Ed. Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. New York, Columbia University Press, 1997. 155.

Link to the Women's Studies Department at Swarthmore College

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