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DAY, K. (1). THE ETHIC OF CARE AND WOMEN'S EXPERIENCES OF PUBLIC SPACE. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 20(2), 103–124.

Ethic Of Care , Ethic Of Justice , Public Space , Women's Perceptions Of Public Space

Women's use of public space has been the subject of much recent research. Existing theory in environment-behavior studies is inadequate to explain these findings. This paper proposes the adoption of the feminist theory of the 'ethic of care' to synthesize and explain much existing research on women's experience of public space. The ethic of care is a model of moral development in which the highest moral imperative requires taking care of needs and sustaining relationships. This paper examines how the ethic of care creates constraints for women's use of public space, by encouraging women to put others first and by reinforcing women's primary responsibility for care-giving. The ethic of care constrains women's use of public space through the association of women with low status `caring' occupations, and through actions that extend restrictive caring to women. At the same time, through women's use of public space, the ethic of care generates possibilities for women to give and receive care from others and themselves, and creates possibilities for extending care to encompass public spaces. The ethic of care is explored in detail in light of two areas of environment-behavior research on women and public spaces: preference and fear of crime. In conclusion, the paper advocates the ethic of care as a framework for future activism, design, and scholarship concerning public spaces.

Main finding
This study applies the concept of the "ethic of care" to the study of public spaces; particularly to learn about how women use public space. As a dominant perspective, "ethic of care" (wherein "taking care" receives priority as opposed to an “ethic of justice” which emphasizes autonomy) can constrain how women use public spaces because they are pressured to focus on care-giving responsibilities. The ethic of care can, however, be applied to public space design in helpful ways such as creating spaces that support caring interaction.

Description of method used in the article
Semi-structured interviews with 43 mostly middle-class women in Orange County, California. Questions related to public spaces in terms of (a) use and perceptions, (b) fear and comfort, and (c) ways women’s relationships impacted their use of it. Interviews lasted approximately one hour, and were content-analyzed using coding and memoing. The author also synthesized/analyzed existing research, particularly as related to ethic of care theory.

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