Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City
Wilson’s book discusses how women are freed in the city, she then writes chapters on London, a dirty city. She writes on Paris, a sexually liberated city and finally American cities with their idealistic constructions.
She has some amazing insights, using the role of the female Flaneur such as ‘the city, a place of growing threat and paranoia to men, might be a place of liberation for women. The city offers women freedom.’(7) however she also states that women ‘are not full citizens in the sense that they have never been granted full and free access to the streets.’(8)
She draws upon how cities are physically ‘The city is masculine, in its triumphal scale, its towers and its vistas….it is feminine in its enclosing embrace, in it interdeterminancy and labyrinthine uncenteredness.’(7) the phallic nature of the monumentous city is also discussed by Steven Pile. When running the monuments give landmarks but the labyrinth provides routes where I feel less exposed. The monuments tend to be designed by star-chitects who tend to be male, the public realm and spaces ‘in-between’ tend to be tended to by female architects, landscape designers and community groups. Looking further into running she exposes how ‘One effect of the new anonymity of the great city was that women became more vulnerable to the ‘male gaze’.(27) Wilson discusses women in the workplace and the struggles faced working in the city as ‘The contemporary urban woman is both consumer and consumed.’, ‘yet she remains an object of consumption at the same time as she becomes an actor.’
This book is key to understand the city and its limitations and opportunities from the female perspective.
Steven Pile, The Body and the City
Pile discusses how a body produces space and hold space. He draws interesting reflections on how monuments in cities are repressive. I often use monuments to map my runs. Pile states that ‘monuments represent ‘the phallus’: they both make visible and ‘mirror’ back to the walker in the street, their place in the worth, geographically, historically and socially; they reproduce repressive spaces which while ostensibly acting as celebrations of events and people, have both feet in terror and violence; and they repeat not just peoples experiences of their bodies and their relations to other but also modalities of power.’ (213) He discusses how our bodies are scripted- ‘the body a symbol of society, and to see the powers and dangers credited to social structure’ (185)
In his text he also reflects upon the role of the Flaneur which links into Wilsons work in the Sphinx in the City and DE Certeaus work as he states that Flaneurs are walkers and that ‘passers- by are going from one place to another, the can be mapped; whereas walking is another kind of activity, which cannot be represented with a line on a map.’ He describes the distinct activity of Flaneurism ‘Certeau see walking as a practice of the masses, whereas flaneurie was definitely elite activity’ 228
Pile draws across Foucault and Lefebvres work to discuss how space is scripted within the city and upon our bodies. He writes about the process of the flaneur and Lynch’s method of expressing the experience of the city, which is vital for how I am exploring how to map running.
Gender Space Architecture, Jane Rendell
Big Jugs, Jennifer Bloomer
Her essay Big Jugs looked at gift giving, and how women have often been represented in this or the ‘design of cultural artefacts’ (378). How the French gave America the statue of liberty, in the project they sliced her up, which was pornographic act in itself, creating sections, or objects. It exposed the interiority of the body. The eye was a key object a it allows the ‘return of the gaze’ (379) and ‘to re-turn the, the deflect the power of the male gaze through a re-turn of the repressed, through the exorbitance of the female gaze.’ (379) Bloomer discusses how the ‘body masks the body politic’ in the case of the Trojan horse ‘this monument, this gift to the state, holds within it the potential of undermining the state’ (379) it Is ‘viral architecture’ (379)
‘Corporate architecture is a certain return of the repressed’ (377)
This links to the work of Wilson who discusses how monuments are phallic, and also to the process of running as one navigates the city using monuments and statues. They are political in their own embodiment.
Bad Press (I have also read a different version and likely better version in The Architect Reconstructing her Practice)
Dillers work of ironing shirts is also featured in The Architect Reconstructing her Practice and discusses how by mocking the labour in ironing a shirt we expose the ridiculous societal structures imposed on the labour of women.
She discusses the optimisation of the housewife in the 1960s through new technology. ‘scientific management to housework did not liberate the housewife, daily working the home became increasingly rationalised by the women condemned to stay there.’ (387)
She also discusses how ‘bodies, as we know, are constructed by subtler mechanism of control- like the fashionable body produced by popular media. The body is continually being reinscribed by a complex weave of discourses including health, beauty, economy and geography.’ (386)
Home and body have a deep connection, and with movement and how women should not be expending it, or if they are it should be expended in a way that they are instructed to as ‘household chores can be incorporated into a daily aerobic regimen and performed to the beat of a television fitness trainer. No longer socially isolated, the maintainer of the home can perform household tasks with countless other viewers.’ (388)
Diller’s work is helpful to look at how she uses humour to produce beautiful work which questions women’s roles in society and helps me to consider the creative practice element to my work.
Mary Beard, Women & Power
Beard uses the book to draw upon her background in classics. She creates an argument that from Greek classical history to present day women have been treated as second class citizens. She claims that ‘Occasionally women could legitimately rise up to speak - to defend their homes, their children, their husbands or the interest of other women.’ (16) and that ‘Women in other words, may in extreme circumstances publicly defend their own sectional interests, but not speak for men or the community as a whole.’ (16) She gives a wider perspective across history but also outside of the architectural profession.
This segment explains her ability to unite women across the working world; ‘you’re at a meeting, you make a point, then a short silence follows, and after a few seconds some man picks up where he had just left off: ‘What I was saying was…’ You might as well never have opened your mouth, and you end up blaming both yourself and the men whose exclusive club the discussion appears to be.’(39) She discusses why we have problems accessing promotions, better conditions and more equality as she says that ‘Women in power are seen as breaking down barriers, or alternatively as taking something to which they are not entitled.’ (57)
The discussion she forms will support my work with campaign work and the work of Part W to understand how power forms a large part of the politics.
Jog On, Bella Mackie
Mackie’s book is part of the popular culture of running. She describes how running helped her after she ‘spectacularly tanked a marriage before she was 30’, although it has moments of pure reflection she supports her work by referencing how running has been proven to help mental health (drawing upon her own experience) and references many useful sources. She uses running as a transformation act as she states that by running ‘I can be more than just a woman with crippling anxiety. It has given me a new identity, one which no longer sees danger and fear first. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I ran myself out of misery. It has transformed my life.’(27) She discusses the poetics of running and has provided me many references for this and the use of pain to disassociate. The book is useful to support my experiences as a female runner as she states that ‘Often we think that men have ‘hobbies’ which are positive, whereas women merely take ‘me time’, which is often dismissed as selfish or indulgent.’ (128)
Mackie’s book is useful to support my accounts about running as a female.
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Another very popular book with runners currently, Murakami writes a rambling memoir of his experiences of running (and writing) as he describes that ‘No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.’ (vi)
I found the text to be quite general but reflective on the manner in which running can be transformative as he states that ‘I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.’ (17) He also describes how pain can draw you away from your problems and your identity similarly to Mackie. ‘Its weird but at the end I hardly knew who I was or what I was doing. This should have been a very alarming feeling, but it didn’t feel that way.’(113)
Murakami’s text supports the poetic element of running and is also used by Syng Tan in her work.