Space and Gender at Bryn Mawr

Gieseking’s article made me think about the ways space, gender, and queerness operate here. When I first arrived at Bryn Mawr I was shocked by all the nakedness, wether it was on Lantern Night, skinny dipping, or during hell week. I had always thought of colleges as kind of serious intellectual spaces, but here space is intertwined with how we utilize our bodies to express sexuality, have fun, and participate in community. The fountains in particular are important for these rituals, which I don’t know if are unique to Bryn Mawr. These places also create bodily and physical changes in identity and experience. Gieseking writes, “In the interviews, the institution was defined and delimited by the students’ everyday spaces, acts, traditions and rules of the social and physical campus. The scale of the institution also absorbed traditional notions of home as most participants referred to the campus or a dormitory on campus as ‘home’.” (282) I think these “scales” also relate to our experiences at Bryn Mawr, where place informs class and gender as well. The skinny dipping is one example of how the space of the women’s college can create a sexually liberatory environment, but it also relates to creating and imposing white middle class identity on students.

The early Bryn Mawr literally segregated students by class, with students paying different amounts for different size dorms. Here space illustrated and informed class relations. Furthermore, maids lived in smaller corridor rooms, segregating them from campus and the community and imposing an “othered” status on them. Sometimes I think living off campus can function sort of similarly, because many students do it for financial reasons. I know students who live at home, or even work off campus, which separates them from the rest of campus. The experience of work itself creates a different relationship with the institution for students, as they are part of not just the student community but a more hidden community of staff and workers. An upper middle class student might never really interact with these people, or even be polite to other students while they are at work in places like the dining hall.

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