A geography of men’s fear

Alec Brownlow

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Brownlow, A. (1). A geography of men’s fear. Geoforum, 36(5), 581–592. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2004.11.005

Fear , Gender , Masculinity , Public space , Violence

Men are at significantly greater risk than women to violent crime victimization in the US, especially in the public sphere. Despite this, their fears and vulnerabilities have received considerably less attention in recent social discourse than have women. Men's risk in, and fear of, public space is overshadowed by their apparent fearlessness in public space. This paper begins to address this apparent paradox using the conceptual lenses of masculinity and control. I explore fear and fearlessness among men as objects and subjects of masculinity. Stated fearlessness among men is counterbalanced by a chronic fear of violent crime victimization. Conditioned fearlessness combines with actual risk and chronic fear to shape men's experiences in the public sphere. I study the dynamics of men's fear using data gathered from a group of young men and women in Philadelphia. Gendered differences in fear and how environments are perceived and judged as to their relative safety are demonstrated and explored. Compared to women's fears and perceived geographical vulnerabilities, the men of this study demonstrate a persistent and chronic wariness of their environmental context that precedes any judgment of perceived safety. Violence and fear among both men and women in this study is further explained as a function of racism and economic marginalization.

Main finding
Focus groups indicated seclusion and isolation to be significant to female’s perceptions of fear. The study found female participants to be more fearful and insecure (especially when alone) in all the situations compared to their male counterparts. In fact, females were twice as likely to consider a situation ‘Not Safe’ even when accompanied whereas males were three times as likely to rate a situation as ‘Relatively Safe’ when alone. Males and females both considered involuntary and violent encounters with male strangers to be a source of fear and being ‘Not Alone’ significantly raised perceptions of safety. Among the attributes considered for judging the safety of a situation, females considered them all equally when judging whereas the attributes of concern for the males remained stable and relatively high (ie. Concerning) while moving from ‘Not Safe’ to ‘Safe’ with the ‘Escape’ attribute seen as more important.

Description of method used in the article
Data were collected with, focus groups and photo elicitation with two Likert scale responses. Participants ranged in age from 15-18 with 28 black males and black 36 females recruited from a summer environmental education program at Cobbs Creek Park. Focus groups were single-sex, had five to eight people and lasted 45 and 90 minutes discussing fear and safety in the park. Participants were shown 13 images of the park taken at different locations depicting different landscapes and socio-spatial situations. The images were ranked for overall Safety (1= Safe, 5= Not Safe) and relative safety if they were Alone or Not Alone. Additionally, participants were asked to rank three different physical attributes (vision, seclusion, and escape) in the landscape to indicate their Concern (1= Not Concerning, 5= Very Concerning). These concern values were averaged to indicate the significance of those attributes if the situation in considered Safe or Not Safe.

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Organising categories

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Field Observations
Physical types
Geographic locations