Feminist Leslie Kern asks us to rethink the city.
In Feminist City, author Leslie Kern asks us to imagine what urban spaces might look like if they were designed by women, not men. All forms of urban planning, we learn, are based around assumptions of the typical citizen. “Shockingly,” Kern writes, “this citizen is a man.” Using a mixture of personal anecdote, pop culture references and the latest in feminist research, the reader learns the multitude of ways women use and relate to the city. The first chapter addresses motherhood in the city. As a young mother, Kern felt keenly how cities could be unwelcoming – sometimes downright hostile – to the needs of women caring for children. Other chapters examine female friendships in the city, negotiating the city on your own, the city as a site for protest and women's safety fears in public places.
Feminist City doesn't look in any detail at planning issues and how to make cities more female friendly, but rather works as a series of thought provoking riffs on politics, issues of equity and the place of minorities in the urban landscape. While the book doesn't answer the question of how to create a city for women, it helps us imagine how such a place might come into being.
Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World, by Leslie Kern. Published by Verso. $29.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books