Lesbians in Space feministing.com Interview with Maria Rodó-de-Zárate and Jen Gieseking, Full Transcripts

Below is the full interview between Gwendolyn Beetham with Maria Rodó-de-Zárate and Jen Gieseking for the blog feministing.com. You can read the feministing.com version here.

Chat History with
Created on 2012-07-31 14:14:25.

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:19:28
Anyway, so, thank you both so much for your answers to the interview questions. I just read through them both a couple of times, and feel like they really speak to each other well. What did you think of seeing them together?

Jen Gieseking: 13:19:57
I really like them too. They really pair well. What did you think, Maria?

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:20:15
I also like them!

Jen Gieseking: 13:21:14
I think there is a lot of personal experience that fuels our work. …maybe one good conversation question is…: what we have learned from each other, either in these written statements or when we got to work together at CUNY?

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:24:08
That would be great.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:24:14
Good question!

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:24:28
We could transfer question 2 into that question…on the geographical similarities/differences…

Jen Gieseking: 13:30:08
Hmmm. I find it really hard to compare because I have not been to Spain. Yet. However, I know the most significant difference between my work in New York City and Berlin was the different feminisms infusing those places as well as the socioeconomic support for women in those cities. The German government awards financial support to support women’s groups, organizations, and spaces, and that support has been around for some time. Walking into a women’s space that is also a lesbian space called Rat und Tat in Berlin, I was overwhelmed to see an entire wall of old paperbacks and materials that had accumulated over the decades. There are many spaces like this throughout Berlin where space is abundant and rent was–until recently–cheap, but those spaces are rare in NYC which is surely one of the most expensive cities in the world. That ability to accumulate in space is a question of both cultural and economic support, and that mindset infuses the aims and expectations of feminisms in both locations.

Jen Gieseking: 13:31:01
In regards to similarities, those were much more obvious. When I read Maria’s work I was struck by how homophobia works almost identically for youth in both locations.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:31:31
Yes, for me it was also surprising.

Jen Gieseking: 13:32:12
The search for a place of their own, the surveillance, the sexualization of lesbians and queer women–all of those factors were identical. A distinction I knew in advance was that there is a greater expectation that women are to be sexualized walking on the street in Barcelona. You thought so too, Maria? Did you think it would be “better” here in some way?

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:32:46
The feminist movement in Barcelona and the evolution of its theories is really different from the one in the US, but the homophobia, or at least the lesbophobia, seems to be almost the same

Jen Gieseking: 13:32:53

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:33:10
May be our way of showing affect is different.

Jen Gieseking: 13:33:23
You would talk about the kinds of spaces your youth would make or use, like making out at a grandmother’s house was common in my research and I wouldn’t be surprised if you said the same.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:33:32
Here it is normal to kiss your partner in the street.

Jen Gieseking: 13:33:39
Mm, good point. You are much better as a country at showing affection in public!

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:34:11
Hahaha! But not if you are lesbian!

Jen Gieseking: 13:34:20
Ha! I wonder if the kiss ins of ACT-UP, Lesbian Avengers, and Queer Nation worked so well because the US isn’t as good at showing affection in public?

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:34:52
I think the repression is bigger when you know you you could be kissing your boyfriend but not your girlfriend. I mean, the difference is huge between heterosexuals and lesbians.

Jen Gieseking: 13:35:43
Umhm. Speaking of publics, another thing your research made me think of is lesbians and public space. I know that’s the focus but–and I’m not kidding–I had not spent much time thinking about it in that frame. Public space always relates to the notion of the public in some grander sense to me as an US geographer. And women and public space are usually two things that do not mix in the US or, when they do, often get boiled down to a rhetoric of fear of attack and assault. But there is a different way public space works in Spain that affords the lesbian youth participants in your work to lay claim to it as citizens of the State of Spain.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:37:54
Here, public space is a very important aspect for any political movement and social group. All (or almost all) demands are struggled in public space.

Jen Gieseking: 13:38:20
It is for us too. And, in a way, it’s been claimed all over again as a result of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:39:06
I felt that in NY the “community” was an important concept for political struggles. In Barcelona we work through other kind of social groups based on their relation to space such as “barris.”

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:40:08
I think that this is really interesting. And it also relates to the last question on online spaces… I mean, a lot of people say that for queer kids in the US (and other parts of the world), online spaces are great in that they’re used as “safe spaces.” But the idea of claiming space in public seems to speak to a different need that is still there, despite the greater availability of “safe” online spaces in today’s world. …

Jen Gieseking: 13:40:12
Mmm good point. And in my answers to the questions, I discussed how that “community”–both in idea and experience–has shifted a great deal in the last few decades. I’m glad you brought up online spaces, GB. I rarely get to talk about them! Do you, Maria?

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:40:56
Me neither!

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:41:08
Oh good, then!

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:44:14
I have been working on how young feminist women create new places online, out of the hegemonic discourses. And I have seen how important it is to have, for example, alternative media–the importance of sharing information and different points of view.

Jen Gieseking: 13:45:35
I agree.

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:45:39
And are these the same women who are in the public spaces?

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:45:45
There are now in Barcelona some TV channel created by feminists. Yes. They are organized women…but these online spaces are really used by many other women.

Jen Gieseking: 13:48:34
There are two problems with saying the internet is the [de facto and total] “safe space” for lgbtq youth. First, as my research participants often reminded me, we are all physical bodies and we deserve and need our own physical space. If the internet is safe and lgbtq youth are encouraged to go there to find community, then, contrariwise, the physical world is not safe for them. Yet instead
of making change for that lack of safety, we assume the internet is enough. Even while its wonderful and its saved so many lgbtq lives, it is neither a total safe space for lgbtq youth (take, for example, cyberbullying) nor is it enough. Second, this is an issue of gender and sexuality which are performative and embodied qualities of human lives. My participants shared that the internet is especially helpful for finding information when coming out (one woman remembers typing if she could be both gay and Christian as she assumed it was impossible), and the NYC dating scene is often connected to meeting folks online through sites like okcupid. However, my participants also longed to have a space to _do_ and _be_ in, and that meant leaving their homes and their computers to be present with others.

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:48:36
Okay, cool. So do you think they’re looking at “the public” as both online & offline? And, Jen, what would a US geographer have to say about the use of the public” in this way?

Jen Gieseking: 13:48:47
Most definitely! The public is both! The public is something ee produce and share.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:49:34
I agree with Jen.

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:49:40
(I like that definition.)

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:49:41
For example, this website: http://mambo.pimienta.org/ — MAMBO was a feminist squatted house in Barcelona that was evicted. This website was a way to mantain some of was created there, what it meant. But the physical space is still needed.

Jen Gieseking: 13:51:24
I want to add that it is worrisome that so much of the internet is becoming proprietary like Facebook. Many youth (and adults!) assume that Facebook is a public space when it is really proprietary. So the intimacy they seek and often create is being commodified and analyzed for marketing data. It’s important to be conscious of that. And Maria–that’s really amazing.

Gwendolyn Beetham: 13:56:17
Well, we should actually start to wrap up. … But was there something else that you wanted to cover?

Jen Gieseking: 13:57:05
No, that was great.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 13:57:32
Yes, thanks! If you come to Barcelona at some point, let me know! 😉

Jen Gieseking: 14:03:06

Gwendolyn Beetham: 14:03:08
That would be great.

Jen Gieseking: 14:03:47
Thank you both!

Gwendolyn Beetham: 14:03:51
Indeed. Thank YOU both.

Maria Rodo de Zarate: 14:04:18
Ask me if you need something else! Adéu! 🙂