The Process of ‘Othering’

How is the representation of public space implicated in the process of ‘othering’? Use an example from the set readings, or your own research to explain.

Heteronormativity causes public spaces to undergo the process of ‘othering’. Society tends to forget to take in account other sexualities besides heterosexuality, and in public spaces it leaves individuals to feel uncomfortable some environments. The lack of unisex bathrooms in public places is an example of how a person could be affected by the process of othering. Some people go through their day worrying about when they will find the next unisex bathroom, or travel far from their location to use a unisex bathroom because they are uncomfortable by using a single gendered bathroom. On the other hand, the fear of not being able to find a bathroom does not even cross some people’s minds. This video demonstrates the struggle of the lack of unisex bathrooms some people face…


Another form of ‘othering’ is through sex and gender norms. Society has classified some public spaces as masculine or feminine spaces, leaving those who do not conform to gender norms feeling like an outsider. In Asia, migrant Chinese women are a part of an anti-marriage movement, because they do not want to conform to gender norms and seek to take on a more masculine role in society (Ehrkamp, 2013, p.584). The workplace is considered a masculine environment, leaving women feeling out of place. These migrant Chinese women want to embrace women in the workplace and fight for women’s rights by participating in the anti-marriage movement. The uncomfortable feeling women face in the workplace is same feeling non-gender conforming people may feel in a room without a unisex bathroom: a sense of that they do not belong.  This process of othering excludes whoever does not fit into a certain stereo-type that matches an atmosphere of a public space.

Oftentimes when individuals do not conform to social norms, they face oppression through society and their personal life. When a gender non-conforming individual comes out about their identity, they risk facing oppression. People who are gender non-conforming can be oppressed by not being accepted by their family, losing their job, and losing safety in public spaces. This oppression affects non-conforming women because they are viewed as different from the norm. For example, “those who do not conform to such ideals of what makes a ‘good’ migrant women citizen, in turn, are too often deemed unworthy of membership and acceptance” (Yeoh, Brenda S.A. and Huang, 1998, p.20). Migrant women who do not conform to their role as women in society could lose their family and their entire life. Awareness of the process of ‘othering’ in public spaces would help these spaces to become more inclusive, and would greatly reduce the oppression of non-conforming people. (2018). Chicago Tribune – We are currently unavailable in your region. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018].

Coyote, I. (2018). Why we need gender-neutral bathrooms | Ivan Coyote. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018].

Ehrkamp, Patricia (2013) ‘“I’ve had it with them!” Younger migrant women’s spatial practices of conformity and resistance’, Gender, Place & Culture, 20(1), pp.19-36.

Yeoh, Brenda S. A. and Huang, Shirlena (1998) ‘Negotiating public space: Strategies and styles of migrant female domestic workers in Singapore’, Urban studies, 35(3), pp.583-602.

woman in gray formal coat sitting near black full glass panel window
Photo by Christina Morillo on

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