Spacing Out: the Privilege of Personal Space

Over the last few months, I have fallen in love with HGTV. I love their renovation shows. I love Property Brothers. I love Buttetification. I love pretty much anything they offer except one particular show – Tiny House Hunters.

The craze and appeal of tiny houses are completely lost on me. I strongly believe that choosing to give rid of most of one’s belongings and move into a mobile storage unit with a dog is a place of such incredible privilege.

When I contributed my opinion on miniature houses and their predominately white, rich owners, in one of my Gender & Women’s studies classes, my professor was quick to mention that having a lot of space is just as big a privilege as choosing to deny one’s self a home with adequate (at least in my opinion) space for every member of the family. She then went on to discuss her experiences as an immigrant from Jamaica growing up in a Canadian neighborhood with many other Afro-Caribbean immigrants and how space was viewed in much different way than my own personal interpretation of Tiny House Hunters. She talked about how her home and many of her neighbor’s homes did not have room for everyone to have their own room and that it was not uncommon for many generations to be living under one roof. She explained how the lack of personal space strengthened her community and that everyone treated everyone who was in their home like family. Growing up in her neighborhood shaped her view of personal space. Her story opened my eyes to how an individual can have more or less space privilege within many different situations.

Unsurprisingly, the discussion on the privilege of space continued to roll around in my head as I had never really considered how deeply it went until this conversation. When people talk about privilege, they are quick to mention race, gender, and class. These attributes are much easier to see at work within our everyday lives and their intersections are much more obvious to most people. It is also important to think about other parts of our lives that cause some of us to have it a little bit easier or harder than others.

Before that class, I had never really thought about how much space privilege I have been given in my life. As the only daughter and eldest child, I have never really had to share a room with my brother. In college, I only had to share a room with a roommate during my first two years. I quickly yearned for a room of my own because I was not used to sharing what I considered to be a very personal space with someone else. Because I have pretty much always been able to have my own room, I have been able to experience a type of privacy many have not, and I have had space for more possessions than even some of my friends.

Ever since this discussion, I have become much more mindful of how space is and has been a part of my life. I now place a higher value on my ability to shut my bedroom door and be alone without my roommates are bothering me. I have even become a little more patient when the cat walks in for some attention. I have had similar conversations with my friends about their own space privilege and how they view the space they have. These discussions have helped me to better understand the work of space within one’s life and to consider other parts of my life that might be considered a privilege that I would never have considered before.

Hannah Nobbe : Self-proclaimed Riot Grrl with an affinity for lipstick, spaghetti, and all things velvet