Womyn's separatist spaces: rethinking spaces of difference and exclusion
Browne, K. (2009) Womyn's separatist spaces: rethinking spaces of difference and exclusion Transactions of the Institute Of British Geographers, 34 (4). pp. 541-556. ISSN 0020-2754
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This paper rethinks geographical explorations of social difference by interrogating ameliorative and pleasurable aspects of marginal spaces. Re-introducing womyn’s separatist spaces contests feminist geographical writing in this area, requiring an examination of both the alternative ways of living that are created, and the pain of producing ‘womyn-only’ spaces in order for such spaces to exist. The paper draws on qualitative research with 238 attendees at the 31st Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Womyn spoke of the pleasures of the festival and positive affinities with other womyn, as well as the festival’s herstory of conflict, negotiation and compromise. Although accounts relay ‘growing pains’ that constitute the festival’s current form, the current temporal and spatial segregations of ‘womyn’, through the womyn-born womyn policy, has resulted in something of an impasse. Rather than reductively posing ‘the latest problem’ of feminist separatism as the exclusion of trans women because of this policy, or unequivocally celebrating the festival’s role in womyn’s lives and herstory, these polarised conceptualisations are held in tension. This enables a consideration of the paradoxes and juxtaposition of womyn’s space and Camp Trans (a protest camp that opposes the womyn-born womyn policy) as productive. In this way, the paper argues for an engagement with marginalised and alternative spaces of difference that allow for positive affectivities and productive tensions that do not neglect relations of power.
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