Feminist Urbanism for policymakers is not a simple undertaking

Glasgow Councillors met this week to talk about incorporating the lived-experience of women and girls into their planning and decision making processes, and ‘embed gender equality into the City Development Plan.’

This is not a simple undertaking for Scottish cities or any urban spaces globally. It is imperative that decisions in the built environment be informed by the lived experiences of all women.

Veronica and Gala have been exploring this internally, with thoughts and inspiration from Nourhan Bassam. Our Data Science Lead Gala asked: What could we measure - directly from the built environment, which would provide insight into whether an area makes women feel safe and comfortable in the space? Could we test, with urban environment data, some of the considerations and challenges being explored by policymakers who want to embed gender equality in ways that ensure truly inclusive and equitable cities?

The real work of feminist urbanism will have, in part, to start in evaluating how what we have already built, supports or hinders women to thrive in the city.

Many will jump on board to do this, but we should be mindful that sometimes the biggest and best change comes from making space for new voices and new players.

Analysis and ideas that come with fresh eyes and are less loaded with baggage. It will be important that in the path to “listen to women” cities take an intersectional approach and go above and beyond to include all different kinds of women, and mirror the approach within the women population. This means listening to those who are most marginalised. A lot of times the “voice of women” is actually the voice of affluent and/or white women.

We hope this group and others looking to bring women and girls’ experience into city planning and decision making take inspiration from Audre Lorde:

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Our cities are not feminist cities if they don’t work for the most marginalised.

The feminist urbanism agenda must break beyond binaries.

Our Planning Lead Veronica added that decision makers should be wary.

‘To really be inclusive means recognising different needs irrespective of gender, and understanding the links between societal issues and the built environment.

It is going to be very difficult to plan for women if we don’t interrogate and challenge gender stereotypes around public spaces e.g. all there is in this park is a skatepark and a basketball court and that doesn’t cater for girls: maybe it doesn’t, but maybe it does or could.

From personal experience this is not necessarily true - I loved hanging out in skateparks and played basketball - while lots of boys didn’t. What I didn’t like about skateparks was the wolf whistling from older boys and staring. The systemic social issue reflective of a highly patriarchal society was the problem, not the space itself.’

Get in touch to talk more about Feminist Urbanism, explore how data can support the creation of equitable urban environments or to learn about how principles of inclusion and equity are embedded in our tools and approach to geospatial data visualisation.


March 2024