Cities of ladies
July 9, 2018 3:20 AM   Subscribe

In 1999, officials in Vienna, Austria, asked residents of the city's ninth district how often and why they used public transportation. "Most of the men filled out the questionnaire in less than five minutes," says Ursula Bauer, one of the city administrators tasked with carrying out the survey. "But the women couldn't stop writing." - How to Design a City for Women

“Women are key drivers of economic growth and that wealth in the hands of women leads to much more equitable outcomes in terms of the quality of life of families and communities,” the study, entitled State of Women in Cities Report 2012/13, said. “Addressing the barriers to women’s participation in cities creates a situation where women’s potential is more fully realised and households, communities and governments also reap rewards. “It is imperative that women and men should enjoy equal rights and opportunities in cities on moral/ethical, economic and political grounds. This will not only engender women’s well-being but it will increase their individual and collective prosperity as well as the prosperity of the cities in which they reside.”
- Empowerment of urban women and youth vital for future prosperity of cities, UN says

The first thing to observe when discussing how cities would differ if women built them (or at least had more of a say in how they are built or rebuilt) is that – surprise! – at the moment and across and the world, and even in countries where women hold powerful positions, the biggest decisions about urban development are mainly made by men. There are and have been inspirational women architects, planners and city politicians, and Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) is perhaps the most famous single piece of writing about urban design. But all over the world, the built-environment professions – and particular their uppermost echelons - remain heavily male-dominated, more so than other spheres such as education or health.
- If women built cities, what would our urban landscape look like?

Matchett tries to walk or bike with her two children in her home city of San Diego, California, as much as possible. The pedestrian advocate likes to call herself an ‘indicator species’ for good urban design and good transportation design. Poor design puts pedestrians in danger of being hit by cars, discourages walking and makes it harder to travel with children and get errands done, she says. “Often I’ve got a big double-wide stroller and I’m trying to walk along a footpath and perhaps it’s not wide enough to accommodate me,” Matchett says. “Or maybe the crossing isn’t safe enough for my kids. When we design our transportation system in that way that doesn’t favour women’s travel along footpaths I really see that as a feminist issue.”
- Footpaths are a feminist issue

Jane Jacobs was one of the most enduring voices in urbanism, railing against the plans of men like Robert Moses who sought to impress themselves and their ideas on the urban environment by razing history to the ground. There has been no shortage since of women with something to say about the urban environment. But somehow, their voices are marginalized.
- Why Women Matter In Urbanism And City Planning

Take a moment to look around you. Really look. See the city — the streets, the buildings, the spaces between them — and realize for a moment that virtually everything you see has been designed and shaped by men. Now imagine what it would be like if it were women-led.
- Urban Planning Has a Sexism Problem

Instead of wasting urban land, or denuding it of its resources, these urbanistas focus on drawing out its potential through new cyclical processes of soft planning – dealing with climate and ecological issues, mixed and seasonal uses – rather than only the hardware of infrastructure. While urban design’s stock-in-trade has traditionally revolved around hard morphologies and monuments of city identity these exhibitors carry out place-making in ways that re-humanise even the most degraded post-industrial sites, helping to foster meaningful legacies.
- How are women changing our cities?

By bringing this into the mainstream, I hope to raise awareness of how we are impacted by our environment — and how we know what works well in many areas of our city building. But before we can advocate for humanist cities for people, I also want to raise awareness of another key point in our urban history: the fact that since we began making them, our cities have apparently always been designed and managed by men. That means everything you see out your window, in whatever city you’re in, was imagined and made real by one half of our species.
- Why We Need Women-Led Cities (and The Future of Women in Cities for other related articles from 11 women)

Gender remains a neglected focus for theory and practice in shaping cities. Given women’s continuing economic and social marginalization and the prevalence of violence against women, how can this be the case? Despite several decades of feminist scholarship, dominant perspectives within the “the right to the city” literature pay little attention to how “rights” are gendered. In contrast, feminist and queer scholarship concerned with everyday life and the multiple spatial tactics of marginalized city dwellers reveal a more complex urban arena in which rights are negotiated or practiced.
- Gender, urban space, and the right to everyday life

Cities are meant to be our greatest invention, where people can thrive, prosper and be happier because of close proximity to other people – the closer to your neighbours you live, the more tolerant, innovative and connected you’re supposed to be. But “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody,” Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
- Why “Designing Cities for Women” should be a thing

Teenage girls don’t get much respect. We mock their favorite music and their books; when have you heard anyone say anything nice about One Direction or Twilight? We don’t take their opinions seriously. And, say many architects, we push them out of public spaces by intentionally or accidentally designing spaces that don’t welcome them.
- Architects Ask: Where Are the Spaces for Teen Girls?

If you’re a woman, like myself, we are the minority in making an impact on our own habitat. In other words, our right to the city has been suppressed. For a person of color, in some places the situation is even worse. Despite their presence on the same streets, historically, women haven’t always shared the same privilege of anonymity or drift in the urban setting; whether because of domestic responsibilities or simply issues of safety, they have often been less free to roam the streets without purpose, to go where they choose or where inspiration leads them.
- The Case for the Flâneuse

Toxic mold. Asbestos. Collapsed walls. Darkness. These are just some of the hazards encountered by photographers and explorers who are drawn to deserted, neglected and derelict places. From abandoned asylums to overgrown ruins, photographing in these perilous places is not for the faint of heart. But is it for the “fairer sex”? I recently had the chance to interview a group of female explorer/photographers who are just as tough, just as talented and just as dedicated as any black-clad, army boot wearing, particle respiratored male explorer. I asked what drew them to this work and whether they felt women faced challenges their male counterparts did not face. I was also interested to learn if they thought women brought a distinct, or more feminized sensibility to this type of photography. The women were candid in their responses, graciously sharing their stories.
- Abandonistas: Meet the Unexpected Women of Urbex

The New Urban Agenda agreed at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (also called Habitat III) in Quito, October 2016, guides nation states, city and regional authorities and others in their thinking about cities, urbanisation and sustainable development. It commits to making real the concept of ‘cities for all’ (ofen referred to as the ‘right to the city’), bringing together a set of already internationally recognised rights to ensure that inhabitants enjoy a just and sustainable city, which is essential for a high quality of life. Women’s participation is essential for building cities that are enjoyed fairly and equally by all who live in and access them. It is fundamental that their voices are heard and their experiences considered when shaping the city.
- Whose City? An evaluation of urban safety for women in 10 countries

Gender mainstreaming is a term used in urban design when access to city spaces must benefit all genders equally. By listening to women and asking questions about their needs, gender mainstreaming has recognised the impact design has on women’s sense of safety.
- To design safer parks for women, city planners must listen to their stories (cw: some descriptions of dudes being gross creeps to women in public spaces)

"The cafe has become a natural meeting place for some Husby residents, mostly men. Today however women don't have a natural meeting place in the centre. There is an imbalance. Our ambition is to create harmony, where both men and women dwell in and move around the centre," Gültekin explained.
- Stockholm suburb to get 'feminist urban planning' redesign

And finally: There are currently only two statues of named women in Edinburgh: the famous monument to Queen Victoria at the foot of Leith Walk and another paying homage to community campaigner Helen Crummy in Craigmillar. The modest tally means statues of women are outnumbered by those of animals in the Scottish capital. The most famous is that of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye terrier that refused to leave his master’s graveside.
- Campaign seeks to change fact that Edinburgh has more statues of animals than women

Further information:
Women In Cities on Wikigender
Feminist urbanism on Wikipedia
Gender and Prosperity of Cities , State of Women in Cities 2012/2013
posted by supercrayon (27 comments total) 218 users marked this as a favorite
I read the first link and thought I'd come in and say how I was happy to read it, because I'm going to Vienna next week. Then I saw the full post and was blown away! Great job!
posted by lilies.lilies at 3:38 AM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Wow. That is one hell of a post. Thanks!
posted by gusottertrout at 4:02 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nice work. I read the first link, was inspired. Then I clicked to comment and saw all this. Week’s reading sorted. Thank you.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 4:34 AM on July 9, 2018

This is a superb sequence of links SC, wow.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:36 AM on July 9, 2018

YAY! new reading material, thanks so much for an awesome post supercrayon. Makes me think of that Cher quote I stumbled on a few weeks ago: "Women are the real architects of society."
posted by yoga at 4:46 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's going to take me a while to get through the links so I can leave a comment of actual substance, but thank you so much for this post. I find always find urban planning interesting, especially in the context of established cities - I live in Edinburgh, and a real problem is that the streets are hemmed in by buildings and often narrow, so adding bike lines/ bus lanes/ wider pavements is difficult. I would love to see more statues of women!

At the moment the big thing in Leith is a campaign against knocking down an old sandstone-fronted two story building to build a large student accommodation block. The current locals don't want to lose the old building front, or have a new dedicated and over-priced student building instead of regular flats that everyone could live in. I've noticed that the people on the street handing out leaflets/ getting signatures all seem to be women, as were the majority of those stopping. Maybe that's just confirmation bias on my part. but it seemed noticeable to me.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:46 AM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

The planning board of my city is all male and largely unaccountable to the public. I'll leave it to the readers to divine how well pleased city residents were with a recent major redesign of streets and crosswalks (to accommodate new apartment bldgs, natch).

Hmm. City committees meet tonight...
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:56 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is amazing, thank you
posted by schadenfrau at 4:57 AM on July 9, 2018

Excellent, thank you for pulling all this together!
posted by carter at 4:59 AM on July 9, 2018

What a great topic. I'm excited to read these, thanks!
posted by aka burlap at 6:09 AM on July 9, 2018

A subject near and dear to me. Thanks.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:12 AM on July 9, 2018

Fabulous post, thank you!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:28 AM on July 9, 2018

I won't have time to read all this and make a real comment any time soon, but I've bookmarked it to come back. Thanks!

I remember the frustration of being a teenaged girl and not knowing where to hang out with my friends... I know teenaged boys had the same frustration, because teenagers in general aren't wanted in public spaces, but for us there was the additional issue of harassment.

Thinking about it, I wonder how many men plan take harassment into consideration when they're planning what route to take, what park to hang out in, which bus stop to use, etc...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:46 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can tell the average width sidewalk was determined by a guy because it is not wide enough for 2 people side-by-side.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

I've also always found it interesting how much control we give to highway and road building construction companies in our cities - I mean of course they are going to advocate for the most work they can get - that's to be expected. Instead imagine if we gave their power to literally any other group how ridiculous it would be - to watch makers- "yes there should be a clock every 6 feet. People might forget what time it is and we don't want to inconvenience them. "

On the other hand, I'd also put the rise of the auto and the single family home equally on women - I personally don't know a single woman past age 30 comfortable doing any walking in their current built environment (suburban southern California) and every mom I know pushed for larger cars (for their kids).
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:56 AM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

You'd almost think that men didn't have children for how often (women = children) in news and politics. Why are parks, childcare, playgrounds, safe streets, and convenient transit only things that women care about?
In short, why don't men give a shit about kids?
posted by domo at 8:27 AM on July 9, 2018 [26 favorites]

And here is some work from Vancouver, Canada.
We need to be adding children's needs to these dialogues.
posted by what's her name at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

A phenomenal post. I like how Vienna is realizing it's just "make cities accessible to everyone" ultimately.

I spent 5 years working a job who's sole duty was to help women walk safely to, from, and on campus. Some nights we had over a hundred clients even though our catchment region was only 2-3 kilometers. There was money for that, but not making the city accessible apparently.
posted by LegallyBread at 9:09 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

We need to be adding children's needs to these dialogues.

Yes. I want to live in a city that is friendly to children and women and everyone else. For example, all children should be able to walk or bike to and from school by the age of eight or ten. Enable the kids and free their parents (typically mothers).

That requires some combination of wide sidewalks, safe bike paths, safe and simple public transport, good crosswalks and tunnels and bridges, effective traffic control, crossing guards, pedestrian and bicycle beat cops, etc. What a good city should have.
posted by pracowity at 9:27 AM on July 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

In short, why don't men give a shit about kids?

Because the number of men who even do the bare minimum for children is shockingly low. I was at a little kids' birthday party at their own house where the dad left to drive his recently purchased classic car aimlessly around the neighborhood by himself - like he couldn't do that the next day or whatever.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:53 AM on July 9, 2018 [9 favorites]

Oh my gosh, I really appreciate the ammount of work that went in to compiling this excellent post! Thank you! I'll be checking out all the links as I have time, but the first one at least, was a really interesting read, and Im looking forward to the others!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:38 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

about wide sidewalks -
they seem like a great idea. but, with current social mores, they don't really create better walking situations. people spread out, walk in lock-step, blocking those behind them who may be walking faster. i have witnessed groups as small as three people do this. though they will step aside for someone coming the opposite direction, that still does not leave room for people going in the same direction to get through. women with baby carriages walk side-by-side; i am often forced to step to the curb or into the street because an impenetrable phalanx of nannies are walking past. people also use the extra space to congregate, smoke, wait for reservations, and mill about aimlessly, blocking the path. and lately, homeless folks set up camp along the wider space. also? people get weirdly nasty and entitled if you say, "excuse me" and try to pass. (well, if you are female, that is - particularly a single female. they don't seem to mind at all if my male friends do the same. they step aside respectfully. it's creepy. and telling.) i have found that, when the walkways are narrower, people are actually more considerate and polite to one another

i have wondered if creating "traffic lanes" on wide sidewalks might be a remedy. and when making wider "pathways" to include socialization areas that are separate from the transit lanes. much like the mini-parklets that have become part of the urban landscape in the past couple decades. in any case, there needs to be a complete re-socialization of how people walk. part of this is to simply get people to WALK, in the first place. i'd really be happier seeing effort put into this sort of city shaping, rather than another giant gleaming phallic eyesore getting built.

i sometimes contemplate going back to school to study urban planning. am looking forward to delving into all these links - thank you, supercrayon!
posted by lapolla at 5:57 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

After I saw this, I actually checked MetaTalk to see if there was a Best Post Contest going on (no, but I still flagged this as fantastic). What a superb post, and such depth and breadth in the collection of resources! Thank you.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 12:44 AM on July 10, 2018

with current social mores, they don't really create better walking situations. people spread out, walk in lock-step, blocking those behind them who may be walking faster.

But haven't groups of walkers always spread to fill the space available? Haven't kids always been these days?

We need wider sidewalks for walkers, runners, skippers, hoppers, kids on bikes, adults on bikes, dogs on leads, strollers and carriages (maybe for twins!) going both ways, wheelchairs, people walking alongside wheelchairs, and all the other sorts of human-powered ways to move. Give them room and people will walk (or roll). They will also stop and talk, which is also a very good thing, but you need to have room for others to get around people who meet each other going opposite directions and want to catch up on things.

We have fairly wide walks outside our place -- two meters? two and a half? no idea -- on both sides of the street. They get lots of use, including old widows on canes and crutches taking the air and leaning on the fences and chatting, loud kids on loud skateboards having loud clean fun, mothers and fathers and toddlers and dogs, joggerjoggergoggerjoggers, kids going to and from school (there is a preschool, three elementary schools, and a high school within walking distance), and lots of little trips to the various little places (two groceries, a bakery, a doughnut shop, a cafe, two restaurants, a gym, a newsagent's, a butcher, a liquor store, and more within a couple minutes' walk). Adults tend to ride their bikes on the street, but kids usually stick to the sidewalks (because drivers have the worst social mores, including a habit of killing people who don't get out of their way).

You may think I'm on the payroll of Big Sidewalk, but wide sidewalks (and narrow streets) are where it's at. If people with problems (the homeless, for example) collect on them, those are problems we need to get out in the open and fix.
posted by pracowity at 1:48 AM on July 10, 2018 [11 favorites]

If you want any further reading on Vienna specifically, here an interview with Eva Kail (2013)
And here an update from 2017
posted by 15L06 at 7:59 AM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

But haven't groups of walkers always spread to fill the space available?

Pretty much. I live in between sidewalks and no sidewalks, bus service, and commuter timed only buses. My kid's bus stop is in the direction of no sidewalks, so I carefully walk to meet her on the edge of the street, facing traffic, the way I was taught as a teen. I pass a number of groups of kids walking and biking home from school and they meander across the entire road, stopping to pet a dog in a yard here, trying out a jump with the bike off a ramp on the other side there.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:12 AM on July 13, 2018

The kids' way sounds safer Margalo, they are forcing any cars not eh road to slow down and be cautious, you walking at the edge , not taking ups your space gives permission to the drivers to speed. However, the factor of "many people" vs "one person" also plays into that. It is hard to take up space when alone. I live in an area without sidewalks and cars race past single walkers, but generally slow down if the walker also has a dog. I guess dogs and children remind drivers they are in charge of two tonnes around sentient beings that are unpredictable. Maybe single walkers need to start being unpredictable and taking up their space for car drivers to take them seriously.
posted by saucysault at 6:38 AM on July 16, 2018

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