Feminist urbanism is a theory and social movement concerning the impact of the built environment on women. Proponents of feminist urbanism advance a perspective that is critical of partriachal political and social structures that they believe have negatively impacted women's lives and have limited female engagement in urban planning. Some feminist urbanism theorists view the urban built environment as fundamentally inhospitable to women. Consequently, the feminist urbanism movement supports strategies for empowering women to plan and develop the future urban environment according to the specific needs of women.
As a reflection of the diversity of the field of urbanism, theories of feminist urbanism variously studies the impact of female exclusion from urban scholarship, in civic decision making processes, and in the design of urban spaces. Theorists have researched and identified the historical exclusion of women from the fields of architecture, urban planning, and civil engineering. In relation, historians have identified the lack of power and participatory inclusion of women in traditional western societies as being the root cause of these same inhospitable conditions.
Theorists have long studies intersections of behavior and environment and many notable theorists including Michel Foucault and Henre Lefebvre have argued that architecture both reflects and reinforces social norms and patterns of behavior. Lefebvre has gone so far as to argue that "everything is ontological" spatial and that physical spaces and their design play a role in constructing identity and ideas of self-hood.
The theory of feminist urbanism is focused on the ideals of feminism, a diverse field with multiple viewpoints. Feminist urban scholars have suggests that other related movements around improving conditions after racial segregation and more liberal radical planning do not necessarily account for all of the needs of women. Conversely, some feminist scholars have criticized feminist urbanism as reinforcing gender stereotypes with respect to the urban environment particularly when planning for reconstructing urban spaces. These controversies are supported by the layout of communities due to the growth of urbanism. With the increase in individual homes, women's tasks were moved from communal villages, to personal home life. Researchers discovered that the structure of suburbs continued to benefit the role of men as dominant providers and further encumber women from branching out from their traditional roles. Because housing was spaced further apart, women suffered from isolation of their community and therefore had no further way to participate within the family than their roles as caretaker. Along with this, there was a development of the domestic economy. When this concept was emerged, it placed importance on the "professional home management" and its efficiency, ultimately pressuring women to continue their traditional gender roles.
- Dolores Hayden is an academic and urban historian who has examined the way urban space is impacted by gender, and has posited that concepts of the domestic and domesticity must be considered when studying architecture and urbanism.
- Jeanne Van Heeswijk, developed theory that artists can influence the built environment, as well as social justice for housing.;
- Elizabeth Wilson suggested a need for social policy framework that appreciate the feminine aspects of cities and the positive role women play in urban experience.
Aotearoa New Zealand has their own Women in Urbanism advocacy group. The group is made up of engineers, planners, architects and politicians to nurses and teachers who all care about the built environment, and the historic inequities in the way cities have been built. Their mission is to transform towns and cities into more beautiful, inspiring and inclusive places for everyone. They do this by amplifying the voices and actions of all self-identifying wāhine (women), girls and non-binary people, both within the built environment, and the urban-related professions.
Vancouver has the Women Transforming Cities advocacy group. Their mission is to transform cities to work for all women and girls, through community engagement, inclusive policies and equitable representation.
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