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Tania Kilin
Immortal since Dec 21, 2008
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I'm not evil, I'm inconsistent
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    Private and Public in a Capitalist Society
    My first thought was to write an entry about fashion. However, thoughts seem to be in a continuous flow, and I somehow ended up pondering over toilets as the "backstage" of the social world, the place that is governed by informal behavior and a space where the private body is released from all the pressure of performing for an audience. So I'll start from here and see if maybe I can shift the whole thing to fashion, capitalism, and my favorite - the social structure that infuses everyday life.

    Bathrooms I believe are coded spaces and through interpretation we can see them as reflecting ways of life and different cultural patterns (Slavoj Zizek is quite good at explaining the differences between the french toilet and the german one). The bathroom may as well be the best place for studying the everyday life and fathoming its inner meanings. Here is where our private body is separated by the public one and there is no way the two can interact. We even have the whole hand washing ritual so that we make sure the moment of transition from private to public is made clear. I know I'm in the realm of symbolic interactionism here but I'll definitely get to structuralism soon.

    The interesting thing about toilets is that their design and even size is closely related to the image the female body has in different societies. For example, the Talmud writings mention that the bathroom is a place that should be hidden, a dark and mysterious spot in the household. In the same Talmud we find that a "woman's glory is on the inside". Let's take a look at our capitalist society: the female body is most certainly not hidden, it actually plays an important part in marketing campaigns, it is a symbol of consumption. The bathroom, as a backstage of the social world, is the place where women construct their bodies and their image. The way women build self-perception is through images promoted by marketers. The bathroom has become bigger, full of light, maybe a few plants were added, candles, big mirrors, it now has all the elements to assure women can adjust their bodies to images our society promotes.

    The argument I'm trying to make here is that discipline is no longer something attached to the public sphere, but rather something internalized, since society has come to control even the way we build self-perception.

    We think of women from Islamic societies as having a cruel faith. Well that may be true, but to them, public and private are something completely different, and while the public sphere is a place dominated by rules of conduct, strict morals, and a seemingly absurd dress-code, the private sphere is by contrast a place where they let their imagination run loose by wearing colorful dresses and beautiful jewelry. It is said that ladies here never wear the same dress twice. In a capitalist society, are we ever truly alone? Our perception of what's right and wrong has been altered in such matter, that wearing eccentric outfits seems an outrage, even if such behavior is limited to the private sphere.

    The administration of the city I live in right now, seems to be obsessed with open spaces. Architects plan to open up all interior gardens (and there's hundreds of them), claiming it would make getting from one place to another much easier. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this, was the name Le Corbusier. Large boulevards, open spaces, and streets that intersect in right angles, all these were not designed by Le Corbusier to make Paris prettier, the idea was to make its population easier to control. I participated in a debate with some architects and few representatives of the city council, and when I brought up this problem, their answer was: "Miss, this is not a communist country, we don't fear public places here". Let's be serious, large boulevards, opening up all closed yards, straightening curved streets, it's all about marketing, making stores more visible and making profit, so it's in the end another form of control. Eventually, some city council representatives admitted that few of the gardens that will be opened to the public, will host coffee shops and small stores.

    I'm not trying to say that capitalism is wrong, or that making profit is in essence a bad thing, because I really don't believe that. What I'm trying to do is question the world I live in, and not simply assume everything is right just because somebody tells me so. I believe that if we all start asking ourselves questions and stop doing things because of pressure or perceived demands from others, we could make this world a better one.

    Wed, Dec 2, 2009  Permanent link

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