Start Geo Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
geology dictionary - geography encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   



feminist geographies

  Perspectives that draw on feminist politics and theories to explore how gender relations and geographies are mutually structured and transformed. The tradition dates from the mid 1970s, drawing inspiration from women\'s movements of the 1960s. It now has a considerable institutional presence: the journal Gender Place and Culture has been published since 1994; there are more than eleven titles in the Routledge International Studies of Women and Place series, regular progress reports of feminist geography appear in Progress in Human Geography and Urban Geography, and three new textbooks appeared in 1997 (Jones, Nast and Roberts, 1997; McDowell and Sharpe, 1997; Women and Geography Study Group, 1997). Although there are distinguishable strands, some common concerns cut across all feminist geographies.

First, they have developed as critical discourses, critical not only of women\'s oppression in society but also of the various ways that this is reproduced in geographical theory. Reflecting their different theoretical and substantive starting points, each refutes a different aspect of geographical theory. This has built towards a comprehensive critique of geographical traditions, for example: political geography (Kofman and Peake, 1990); historical geography (Domosh, 1991); humanistic geography (Rose, 1993); social area analysis and factorial ecology (Pratt and Hanson, 1988); gentrification studies inspired by Weberian and Marxist theory (Rose, 1984); and geographies of modernity and postmodernity (Deutsche, 1991; Massey, 1991). Rose (1993) extends this critique to the discipline as a whole, cataloguing its various and complementary forms of masculinism. What the relationship between feminist geographies and the discipline now is and should be remain matters of debate: some note the lack of impact that more than a decade of vibrant feminist scholarship has had on the discipline, while others emphasize the increased exchange of ideas between feminist and other strands of critical geography (Women and Geography Study Group, 1997). Feminist geographers\' relations with the discipline have been framed through the metaphors of paradoxical and in-between space.

Second, sexism within geographical institutions (in the teaching of geography, the staffing of academic departments, and through the publication process) has been a persistent concern (Monk and Hanson, 1982; Rose, 1993).

Third, most feminist geographers share a commitment to situating knowledge, to the view that interpretations are context-bound and partial, rather than detached and universal (see participatory action research; qualitative methods; situationists). This has produced a large literature on feminist methodologies, including four journal symposia (Moss, 1993; Nast, 1994; Farrow, Moss and Shaw, 1995; Hodge, 1995) and a book (Jones, Nast and Roberts, 1997). It has also led to experimental writing, including various attempts at self-reflexivity (see Rose, 1997 for a critical evaluation of these experiments) and efforts to disrupt the individualist author (for example, the fused subject of Julie Graham and Kathy Gibson as J.K. Gibson-Graham, the Women in Geography Study Group writing collective, and collaborations between academics and community groups).

Fourth, feminist geographies trace the interconnections between all aspects of daily life, across the subdisciplinary boundaries of economic, social, political and more recently cultural geography.

Despite these common themes, there is a great deal of variation among feminist geographers. Bowlby, Lewis, McDowell and Foord (1989) sketch an influential history of feminist geographies, in which they identify two breaks, one in the late 1970s and the other towards the end of the 1980s. The first break that they identified was less decisive in the USA, where the influence of the geography of women approach has been stronger than in the UK. (See Monk, 1994, for a more complete map of national variations in feminist geography.) It should be noted, then, that traditions exist simultaneously and there is a great deal of heterogeneity (national and otherwise) within and outside these generalizations.

An important task for feminist geographers has been to make women visible, by developing a geography of women. Two points have been made: women\'s experiences and perceptions often differ from those of men; and women have restricted access to a range of opportunities, from paid employment to services. This is largely an empirical tradition, loosely influenced by liberal feminism and welfare geography. It has tended to focus on individuals, documenting how women\'s roles as caregivers and \'housewives\', in conjunction with the existing spatial structures, housing design and policy, and patterns of accessibility to transport and other services such as childcare, conspire to constrain women\'s access to paid employment and other resources. In historical geography, it has taken the form of recovering both the everyday lives of women and the work of women travel writers (Domosh, 1991).

|||An early criticism of the geography of women approach was that gender inequality is typically explained in terms of the concept of gender roles, especially women\'s roles as housewives and mothers, in conjunction with some notion of spatial constraint. Foord and Gregson (1986) argued that the concept of gender roles narrows the focus to women (as opposed to male power and the relations between women and men), emerges out of a static social theory, and presents women as victims (as passive recipients of roles). Further, although the geography of women shows how spatial constraint and separation enter into the construction of women\'s position, it provides a fairly narrow reading of space, conceived almost exclusively as distance (e.g. the journey to work and the separation of suburb from paid employment: England, 1993). Little consideration has been given to variations in gender relations across places (although see Momsen and Kinnaird, 1993). There has been, however, a very useful planning component to this literature that outlines, for example, efforts to restructure the city so as to reduce gender inequalities and enhance quality of life (Eichler, 1995; Wekerle and Whitzman, 1995). Both successes and frustrations in attempts to implement some of these reforms have led to critical reconsiderations of the limits of liberal feminism and towards a fuller institutional analysis, confirming Eisenstein\'s (1981) point that the practical and theoretical limits of liberalism are frequently discovered — in practice — by liberal feminists themselves.

Socialist feminist geographers have reworked Marxian categories and theory to explain the interdependence of geography, gender relations and economic development under capitalism (see Marxist geography). One of the key theoretical debates within socialist feminist geography revolved around the question of how best to articulate gender and class analyses. At its most abstract, the question was addressed in terms of patriarchy and capitalism, and the relative autonomy of the two systems.

Socialist feminist geographers first worked primarily at the urban and regional scales; arguably, it is now the strand of feminist geography that is most insistent about the material effects of the globalizing forces of capitalism (Katz, 1998). At the urban scale, an early focus of Anglo-American feminist geographers was the social and spatial separation of suburban homes from paid employment; this was seen as crucial to the day-to-day and generational reproduction of workers and the development and continuation of \'traditional\' gender relations in capitalist societies (MacKenzie and Rose, 1983). Efforts were made to read these processes in non-functionalist terms and as strategies to manage the effects of a capitalist economy (see functionalism); for example, MacKenzie and Rose argued that the isolation of women as housewives in suburban locations emerged from the combined influence of working-class household strategies, governmental policy and male power within families and trade unions.

Socialist feminist geographers became increasingly attentive to the ways that gender relations differ from place to place and not only reflect but also partially determine local economic changes. At the urban scale, Nelson (1986) argued that employers of clerical workers in the USA began moving to suburban locations in the 1970s to gain access to middle-class, suburban \'house-wives\' willing to work for relatively low wages on a part-time basis. Broadly similar arguments, about the importance of local gender relations and the attractions of cheaper, female labour for industrial and geographical restructuring, have been made at the regional (Massey, 1984) and international (Pearson, 1986; Chant and McIlwaine, 1995) scales.

Since the late 1980s, many feminist geographers have moved away from an exclusive focus on gender and class systems. This new phase can be identified as feminist geographies of difference (see identity politics). It has three characteristics.

First, the category of gender is contested and expanded beyond the duality: man, woman. Feminist geographers are increasingly attentive to the differences in the construction of gender relations across races, ethnicities, ages, religions, sexualities, and nationalities, and to exploitative relations among women who are positioned in varying ways along these multiple axes of difference.

Second, feminist geographers are drawing on a broader range of social, and particularly cultural, theory, including psychoanalysis and poststructuralism, in order to develop a fuller understanding of how gender relations and identities are shaped and assumed (see subject formation, geographies of). This has led to fundamental rethinking of the category gender (see gender and geography), and the contradictions and possibilities presented by the seeming instability and insistent repetitions of gender norms in practice. The focus on multiple identifications and the influence of poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theories have brought feminist geographers into dialogue with other strands of critical geography (see post-colonialism). But another consequence is that theoretical differences among feminist geographers are more obvious than in the past (and although Monk, 1994, observes that national differences between American and British geographers may be diminishing as both pursue these new directions, divisions between feminist geographers located in \'the north\' and \'the south\' may be increasing, an institutional schism that repeats geopolitical ones in troubling ways: Katz, 1998).

Third, there has been a more explicit shift away from objectivist epistemologies through the espousal of situated knowledge claims (see epistemology). A key area of discussion concerns the distinction between relativism and situated knowledge, and ways to reconcile partial perspectives with commitments to political action and social change. There are now concrete examples of the challenges of creating feminist alliances across differences (e.g. Gibson-Graham, 1994; Jacobs, 1994).

New areas are receiving attention, some of which entail different conceptions of geography and space. A considerable amount of writing has developed around gendered cultural representation, which extends the focus to imaginative and symbolic spaces (see film, geography of; imaginative geographies; vision and visuality). A small but growing number of studies of masculinities (e.g. Sparke, 1994; Phillips, 1997) begin to deliver on the promise of a gender relational approach, by directing the focus away from women to a larger network of heteropatriarchal relations. The influence of identity politics and poststructural theories has refocused attention on sexuality and geography, and the scale of the body (geography and). A theory of per-formativity developed within queer theory, which posits that gender is performed through repetitions and approximations of a normative ideal (rather than existing as a stable identity), suggests the importance of context and contingency; the geographical implications of this are just beginning to be explored. Metaphors of mobility and fluidity, of hybridity and paradoxical, inbetween spaces have been immensely popular in feminist geography in the 1990s, including Gibson-Graham\'s (1996) influential retheorizing of capitalism and class processes; it will be interesting to see whether cautionary reactions (e.g. Hanson and Pratt, 1995; Seager, 1997; Katz, 1998) also reinvigorate links with a renewed socialist feminism. (GP)

References Bowlby, S., Lewis, J., McDowell, L. and Foord, J. 1989: The geography of gender. In R. Peet and N. Thrift, eds, New models in geography, volume 1. Boston and London: Unwin and Hyman, 157-75. Chant, S. and McIlwaine, C. 1995: Gender and export manufacturing in the Philippines: continuity and change in female employment? The case of the Mactan Export Processing Zone. Gender Place and Culture 2: 147-76. Deutsche, R. 1991: Boy\'s town. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 9: 5-30. Domosh, M. 1991: Towards a feminist historiography of geography. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 16: 95-104. Eichler, M. 1995: Change of plans: Towards a non-sexist sustainable city. Toronto: Garamond; Eisenstein, Z. 1981: The radical future of liberal feminism. London and New York: Longman; England, K. 1993: Suburban pink collar ghettos: the spatial entrapment of women. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 83: 225-42. Farrow, H., Moss, P. and Shaw, B. 1995: Symposium on feminist participatory research. Antipode 27: 71-101. Foord, J. and Gregson, N. 1986: Patriarchy: towards a reconceptualisation. Antipode 18:2: 186-211. Gibson-Graham, J.-K. 1994: \'Stuffed if I know!\' Reflections on post-modern feminist social research. Gender Place and Culture 1: 205-24. Gibson-Graham, J.K. 1996: Capitalism (as we knew it): a feminist critique of political economy. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Hanson, S. and Pratt, G. 1995: Women, work and space. London: Routledge. Hodge, D., ed., 1995: Should women count? the role of quantitative methodology in feminist geographic research. The Professional Geographer 47: 426-66. Jacobs, J. 1994: Earth honoring: western desires and indigenous knowledges. In A. Blunt and G. Rose, eds, Writing women and space. New York: Guilford, 169-96. Jones III, J.-P., Nast, H. and Roberts, S. 1997: Thresholds in feminist geography. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Katz, C. 1998: Lost and found in the posts: addressing critical human geography. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16: 257-78. Kofman, E. and Peake, L. 1990: Into the 1990s: a gendered agenda for political geography. Political Geography Quarterly 9: 313-36. MacKenzie, S. and Rose, D. 1983: Industrial change, the domestic economy and home life. In J. Anderson et al., eds, Redundant spaces in cities and regions. New York: Academic Press. McDowell, L. and Sharpe, J. 1997: Space, gender, knowledge: feminist readings. London: Arnold; Massey, D. 1984: Spatial divisions of labour. London and New York: Methuen; Massey, D. 1991: Flexible sexism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 9: 31-57. Momsen, J. and Kinnaird, V., eds, 1993: Different places, different voices: gender and development in Africa, Asia and Latin America. London: Routledge. Monk, J. 1994: Place matters: comparative international perspectives on feminist geography. The Professional Geographer 46: 277-88. Monk, J. and Hanson, S. 1982: On not excluding the other half from human geography. The Professional Geographer 32: 11-23. Moss, P. 1993: Feminism as method. The Canadian Geographer 37: 48-61; Nast, H., ed., 1994: Women in the field: critical feminist methodologies and theoretical perspectives. The Professional Geographer 46: 54-102. Nelson, K. 1986: Female labour supply characteristics and the suburbanization of low-wage office work. In A. Scott and M. Storper, eds, Production, work, territory: the geographical anatomy of industrial capitalism. Boston and London: Allen and Unwin. Pearson, R. 1986: Latin American women and the new international division of labour: a reassessment. Bulletin of Latin American Research 5: 67-79. Phillips, R. 1997: Mapping men and empire. London: Routledge. Pratt, G. and Hanson, S. 1988: Gender, class and space. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 6: 15-35. Rose, D. 1984: Rethinking gentrification: beyond the uneven development of marxist urban theory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1: 47-74. Rose, G. 1993: Feminism and Geography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Rose, G. 1997: Situating knowledges: positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography 21: 305-20. Seager, J. 1997: Reading the morning paper, and on throwing out the body with the bathwater. Environment and Planning A 29: 1521-3. Sparke, M. 1994: Writing on patriarchal missiles: the chauvinism of the \'Gulf war\' and the limits of critique. Environment and Planning A26: 1061-89. Wekerle, G. and Whitzman, C. 1995: Safe cities : guidelines for planning, design, and management. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Women and Geography Study Group 1997: Feminist geographies: explorations in diversity and difference. Harlow: Addison-Wesley Longman.
topical focus:|theoretical influences:|geographical focus:|
description of the effects of gender inequality|welfare geography, liberal feminism|constraints of distance and spatial separation|
topical focus:|theoretical influences:|geographical focus:|
explanation of inequality, and relations between capitalism and patriarchy|marxism, socialist feminism|spatial separation, gender place, localities|
topical focus:|theoretical influences:|geographical focus:|
the construction of gendered, heter(sexed) identities; differences among women; gender and constructions of nature; heteropatriarchy and geopolitics|cultural, poststructural, postcolonial, psychoanalytic theories; writings of women of colour, lesbian women, gay men, women from \'developing\' countries|micro-geographies of the body; mobile identities; distance, separation and place; imaginative geographies; colonialisms and postcolonialisms; environment/nature|



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>


Other Terms : rural planning | positivism | footloose industry
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us