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FEMINIST CITY by Leslie Kern


Claiming Space in a Man-Made World

by Leslie Kern

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-78873-981-8
Publisher: Verso

A Canadian professor of geography explores the gendered nature of urban environments and how those environments inform social relationships.

Whether it is through skyscrapers that glorify patriarchal “corporate economic power” or guidelines for wind effects that use bodily dimensions corresponding to “an adult male,” cities are made to the measure of men. Drawing on feminist, geographical, and sociological studies along with her own experiences as an urban woman, Kern explores how cities impact female bodies. Her own awareness of how gender impacted urban spaces came into clear focus during pregnancy. “People read my protruding belly as if it said, ‘rub here please!’ ” Even after her baby was born, the author found that many urban spaces made her feel unable to juggle the demands of child care, paid employment, and school. In considering women’s relationships with each other, she discusses how cities disrupt networking possibilities for low-income and other marginalized women through the destruction of social housing projects. Kern does point out that being alone in an urban environment can also offer many pleasures, but those pleasures are harder to come by for women because they must always contend with the fact that they are always “fair game for harassment and even violence.” Activism and protest can connect women to cities in significant ways, but protests that claim to be women-only spaces need to take into account the way they “reproduce systems of privilege and oppression,” especially where trans or disabled women are concerned. In the process of creating safe cities, the author further observes that urban revitalization programs that help women tend to make cities less safe for other marginalized groups. Visionary, intelligent, and humane, this book offers intersectional insights into the gendered nature of the modern city to promote “living more justly in an urban world.”

A timely, thought-provoking study.