Gender and Urban Space

Daphne Spain

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Spain, D. (1). Gender and Urban Space. Annual Review of Sociology, 40(1), 581–598.

cities , feminine , masculine , patriarchy , suburbs , transgender

Applying a gender perspective to cities reveals how spatial structure and social structure are mutually constitutive. This article reviews the ways cities have reflected and reinforced gender relations in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. First, I discuss ways in which women in industrial cities challenged the ideology of separate spheres. Next, I suggest that the post–World War II city was shaped by an era of high patriarchy similar to the architectural high modernism of the same era, and in the third section, I explore how that urban structure limited women's opportunities outside the home. In the fourth part, I examine changes in the concept of gender as it expanded beyond masculine and feminine categories to include lesbians, gays, and transgender individuals. The article ends with a review of how women's and gay rights movements, gentrification, and planning practices have shaped a more gender-neutral contemporary metropolis.

Main finding
From the turn of the twentieth century to now, the American city has been influenced by gender norms in different ways to produce gendered urban space. At the turn of the twentieth century, Ernest Burgess’s Concentric Zone theory of the city, characterized by a central business district at the center and residential areas at the periphery, became the prototypical design for a city. Burgess's design model led to the concentration of women in the outer zones and the concentration of men’s labor in the center. Women challenged the model’s spatial norms by riding streetcars downtown to work, shop, and dine. The prototypical city after World War II, in contrast, had economic activity interspersed across multiple nodes, but still developed a masculine sphere of commerce in the city and a feminine sphere of the home in the suburbs. Women’s mobility in public space is hampered by a fear of violence, especially sexual assault. LGBT individuals have a different relationship to public space than heterosexuals, experiencing “queerscapes” and a “tyranny of gendered spaces.” Women and LGBT people have actively reshaped the contemporary metropolis, rejecting the suburban model in favor of neighborhoods with higher density and mixed-use zoning. Gay men, in particular, pioneered the gentrificatio

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted an interdisciplinary review of literature on gender and urban space.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

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Theoretical (Delete me)
Urban Planning
Physical types
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