Hey, readers! I’m joining the staff at Gender Across Borders. I’ve started my time off there with a post about some of the gendered borders within my own city: A City of Villages. An excerpt:
I live in Sydney, Australia, a sprawling city arranged around one of the most beautiful harbours you’ve ever seen. It’s called a city of villages, which is an odd description, but, in its way, an apt one. Sydney is divided into little enclaves through its geographical layout, but it’s also a city very much divided along ethnic and class lines. You learn that this is the Italian district, and there is where working class white people live, and that area has a large Muslim population. (Once, on the radio, a working class caller from Sydney’s south mentioned that he was marrying a woman from the wealthy eastern suburbs. ‘A mixed marriage, then,’ joked the host.) That’s true of many a major city, of course, but Australia’s claim to cultural diversity and integration makes all the more stark the entrenched separations running through its most iconic city.
I’ve thought about how the village structure plays out in terms of class, race, and religion, but I’m only starting to think about how gender fits into it. That’s probably because it’s far more feasible to sustain large and separate communities based on things like shared background and faith than it is to maintain gendered separation in a large city! But gender, of course, is hardly separable from those other factors. When looking to move to another part of town a couple of years back, I was told not to move to one with an increasing Pacific Islander population, because (supposedly!) my non-white but also non-PI lady self would be unsafe around men (supposedly!) predisposed to being large, scary, drunk and violent. Frightening violent behaviour, drunken or otherwise, is something I’ve largely experienced from white people, but I’ve never been told to stay away from areas with lots of them. Funny, that. Default identities get to be invisible and non-threatening – as far as people with those identities are concerned, anyway. Many Sydneysiders of colour don’t feel safe in beachside areas in particular, especially in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla race riots. A friend of mine points out that the riots themselves had a substantial gendered element, with one of the main accusations in advance of them being that Muslim men were disrespecting white women.