The “City of Moms” chapter discusses the city through the lens of mothering, highlighting how cities are not designed to holistically accommodate parents with children. Beginning with the pregnant body, Kern describes ways pregnancy produces a different spatial experience. One is made more aware of their bulging and expanding body, a body that is read as different and oftentimes not welcomed. Once the child is born, an entire new set of challenges emerges through the ways in which cities are built and the negotiations these spaces require with, for example, a stroller or a wandering toddler. At least in cities with accessible public transportation, a mother has more supported mobility for daily life needs like groceries and parks. The suburbs, created with “very specific social and economic agendas,” pose a different set of challenges for mothers. Isolated and most often not near public transit, the suburban mom frequently becomes the stay-at-home caretaker and home manager—reinforcing the traditional heterosexual nuclear family.
“City of Protest” examines cities as spaces of protest for the improvement of life and work conditions. As Kern writes, “[a]ny attempt to sketch out a vision of the feminist city must consider the role of activism” (118). For example, Women Plant Toronto’s municipal activism brought gender concerns into Toronto’s urban agenda. Other ongoing protest movements such as Take Back The Night marches, begun in the 1970s, continue to raise public awareness about domestic violence to the more recent Slutwalks protests. Begun in 2011, Slutwalks was in direct response to a Toronto police officer’s comment that women should not dress like sluts if they want to be safe, which has become a global movement calling out pervasive rape culture endemic across the world. As Kern notes, most improvements in cities that benefit women are associated with activist work; “…a feminist city is one you have to be willing to fight for” (141).
“City of Fear” discusses how cities are spaces that produce and reproduce fear, restricting women’s ability to move and work, thus limiting a woman’s bodily, emotional, and financial autonomy. Feminists acknowledge “that women’s lack of safety exists within an interlocking network of domination that facilitates the social control of women and other less powerful groups in the city” (158) and therefore, cannot be just “designed out” of cities. However, Korn provides examples of cities becoming safer and more user-friendly. In Barcelona, a feminist cooperative of architects, sociologists, and planners are proposing ways to alter the built environment to increase visibility and more open public space. By banning sexist advertisements, Stockholm and Geneva have created harassment-free transit systems. Apps are being designed to enable easier and faster reporting of harassment such as SaftiPin developed by Kalpana Viswanath in Delhi. Kern features a range of examples of those who are creating more inclusive, diverse, and egalitarian places like the research by black feminist theorist Zenzele Isoke revealing how Black women in Newark, New Jersey use practices of “homemaking” for collective transformation in their city, or in Kigali, Rwanda where women’s safety and economic conditions improved after more secure market space was built that included breastfeeding spaces for their female vendors.
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