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Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  837 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Feminist City is an ongoing experiment in living differently, living better, and living more justly in an urban world

We live in the city of men. Our public spaces are not designed for female bodies. There is little consideration for women as mothers, workers or carers. The urban streets often are a place of threats rather than community. Gentrification has made the everyda
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 1st 2020 by Verso (first published November 12th 2019)
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Victor Malumian Hi there, how are you? Thanks for your question. We don't publish the grade on our covers, also the original edition doesn't too. Finally, the author …moreHi there, how are you? Thanks for your question. We don't publish the grade on our covers, also the original edition doesn't too. Finally, the author saw the cover before we publish it and didn't mention that she wants to use the grade. Best :) (less)

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Indra Nooyi
In her insightful book, Feminist City, Leslie Kern explores the gendered landscapes of urban life, asking the reader to consider what our cities would look like if they were designed with the needs of working women and dual-working couples in mind. I hope this book can galvanize a debate on this opportunity to re-think our cities. As Kern reminds us, the potential for improvement is vast.
My very first realisation about how gendered inequities are built into urban landscapes came with a strong urge to pee–and no public restrooms for women in sight. Granted, sanitation isn't India's strong suit by a long shot, but that only 8% of all public toilets in New Delhi–the national capital–cater to women is a glaring statistic if there ever was one. Thanks to growing gentrification (sike), we can still access the loo at hotels and restaurants–though only if we're prepared to buy something ...more
I usually travel by myself. I am not married, and my vacation times don't usually match with the people who I wouldn't mind traveling with. So for the past 19 years, I usually travel myself. It's nice to know that another woman checks out eating places the same way I do when traveling alone.

Kern's book is a look at how cities are not designed for women in mind. She acknowledges that she is writing it from a cis and white pov, but she does address minorities in the city as well, even going into h
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
A swift survey of the many ways cities are designed without women in mind. Kern summarizes the work of many interesting thinkers and activists, and recounts her personal experiences as a young woman and, later, mother struggling to navigate urban spaces. The work adds little new to the conversation, and the writer’s frustratingly without solutions on how more feminist cities might be made, but the prose reads easily and recites succinctly the ideas and research of others.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise, scholarly, and personal survey of feminist geography of the city, looking at how cities are designed to perpetuate comfort and power for certain members of society (mass transit systems more often than not are set up for funneling white collar workers to and from urban cores and not for making it easy to do inter- or inner-city trips to school, errands, work, and back again) and how cities can be used as hotbeds of activism and social change. Has a very nice focus on intersectionality. ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Geography is about the human relationship to our environment, both human-built and natural. A geographic perspective on gender offers a way of understanding how sexism functions on the ground. Women's second-class status is enforced not just through an actual, material geography of exclusion.

Feminist City was my first read for Verso Books new monthly subscription book club (back in July). I wouldn't have necessarily picked this one up so soon had it not been for that and I actually f
Ash Rao
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kern has a really clear view on any approach having to be intersectional and how a feminist city needs to be liberating for all. A lot of other works on gender and urbanism don't acknowledge other identities past cis-women so this was refreshing. The arguments made in this book are based in feminist geography and personal observations. There aren't many clear design/planning solutions or case studies mentioned, but I think this book provides a good place to start thinking about new possibilities ...more
Leslie Kern is a feminist geographer, which I didn't realize is now a discipline - good stuff! I guess I unknowingly passed the torch after my own rousing presentation in high school about the discriminatory planning that leads to long lineups for women's washrooms at events. In any event, I enjoy reading work by academics who try to reach outside the academy with their writing. I appreciated how ably and interestingly Kern surveyed and summarized lots of work around gender and city planning. In ...more
Celine Nguyen
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Leslie Kern's Feminist City is a tremendously readable and fascinating introduction to feminist geography, and how cities are frequently designed and built to be hostile to women. Kern clearly loves cities, and believes in their potential: "The city is the place where women had choices open up for them that were unheard of in small towns and rural communities. Opportunities for work. Breaking free of parochial gender norms. Avoiding heterosexual marriage and motherhood…Developing new kinship net ...more
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***

Have you ever wondered about who cities are designed for? Probably not. In fact, you may have noted that cities could be designed better but probably never considered who would benefit from the design change. In the book, Feminist City: A Field Guide by Leslie Kern examines how cities can not only be designed better for women but also the positive and negative impact cities have on women’s lives. Kern maintains that cities are g
Gautam Bhatia
Feb 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not enjoy this as much as I'd hoped to, because of US/Canada-centric nature of the analysis (understandable, given the author's own location, and a reflection not on the book, but on my subjective preferences as a reader). Despite that, some fascinating insights about urban political geography, and the potentialities - as well as limits - of urban design in realising substantive equality. ...more
Feb 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

Did not know that there is a whole area of study that looks directly at the way women exist inside a physical space, but so happy to learn it's called feminist geography and it's incredibly important and relevant to the day-to-day activities of all people. Much of the information was not necessarily new to me when taken separatedly, but it was very enlightening to see all issues linked and brought together under one single mode of looking at urban spaces, when inhabited by women.

This book i
This is a book about what it would be like if we can imagine a feminist city and how the current geographies of cities impact women. Geography here means our relationships with the environment and how we interact with it and how it interacts with us in a way. It predominantly focuses on the geographic perspective of gender and how sexism functions on the ground.

There's a lot about this book that is fascinating and seeing the dots being connected just continues to show how strongly patriarchal va
Rhiannon Johnson
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In all of my gender studies I don't believe I have ever heard the term "feminist geography" before reading this book. I loved the analysis and thought-provoking concepts I had previously not considered such as how (and by who) a city is set up and sustained, city layout as social control, gentrification vs "revitalization", as well as new thoughts about street harassment, affordability, sustainability, and accessib
Ian Kirkpatrick
Dec 31, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Psychologists who need a character study on paranoia.
“No amount of lighting is going to abolish the patriarchy.”

Leslie Kern starts out with the thesis of the book being how cities were made for and by straight white men, then chooses five different areas of focus to prove her point. Those areas are: Motherhood, Friendship, Solitary, Protest, Fear, and Possibility.

The first chapter speaks on what she believes are the difficulties of motherhood in the city, the second is the benefits of female friendship, the third is how awkward she feels being a
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Leslie Kern's Feminist City is a fine book that doesn't need my 2 cents on it, but here it is anyway.

From autobiographical anecdoctes and qualitative cultural studies sources, Kern assembles a multifaced view of urban spaces in predominantly Canada / North America that focus on specific feminist issues: eg. friendship, protest, personal space, parenthood, security. The overall effect is to assemble a morality of feminist approaches to thinking about cities, whether in cultural discussions or el
Zuzana Kubáň
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In terms of content, this book is great!
Perhaps what let it down a bit for me were certain assertions that went unexplained and the weak structure, but this does not mean that all that the author said was any less relevant.
It was also different from what I expected (I thought that the author would speak about what would a more gender inclusive city look like) as it simply just described the many issues face by women in the city, which I am as a women well aware. Though she also spoke about the m
Danielle Thorpe
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the exploration of the city through feminist geography and really enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed how the book reflects and highlights the joys of womens’ friendships and just how common some aspects of women experiences are in city spaces.
Talked about in my latest video on my YouTube channel: Thank you so much to Netgalley and Verso Books for providing me with a free early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

My Netgalley review:
3.5 stars. This upcoming non-fiction book, set to release in the U.S. on July 7 by Verso, provides a detailed exploration of the ways in which the key concepts of intersectional feminism interact and are exacerbated by urban spaces and urbanism more broadly. If
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
I appreciate storytelling as a pedagogical and political device for its emotional and imaginative potential, convinced that it is a useful way to open up issues and possibilities, to encourage reflection and make learning something that is possessed by the learner. It is however challenging for precisely those reasons, even though it helps us make sense of and engage empathetically while remaining open. Leslie Kern makes great use of story-telling in this engaging and refreshingly open explorati ...more
Marija Assereckova
The whole argument of this book is based on personal experiences. Unfortunately, there is very little data to support the author's claims (unlike in Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado Perez). I don't mind a personal perspective in this kind of writing, but you'll need more than assertions like "every woman feels the same!!" to convince other people.

But lack of evidence is not the worst. The book is filled with an enormous sense of entitlement and self-righteousness – the author projects her exp
Isabel Khine
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully accessible book that everyone from high school upwards—especially those living in large, urban spaces—should consider picking up. With great acuity, Kern analyses the ways in which cities deny the existence and lived experiences of the women that move through them every single day. I wish this book had been available to me before I moved to Glasgow for university. I loved the city, but I really do feel that my experiences would have been different if my emotions and reactions to un ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Our cities are patriarchy written in stone, brick, glass, and concrete.”

“We kept each other safe, and even more, helped each other learn to take up space, to fight back, to be ourselves despite the constant reminders about how we were supposed to look or behave. My friends were my safety net, my city survival toolkit. Schaefer exclaims that her friends “are like a life raft I didn’t know i was looking for before I got on it.” Being with my friends helped me to challenge the deeply-ingrained, un
Review by Allison Smith:

Ask a woman about her daily experiences navigating the city, as a worker, a mother, a partner, a public service user, and she will recount the barriers, physical and interpersonal, she faces in a city which is designed and operating without her in mind. Feminist geographer Leslie Kern remarks that "the primary decision-makers in cities, who are still mostly men, are making choices about everything from urban economic policy to housing design, school placement to bus seati
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good intersectional look at how cities are built and maintained against women. Kern's mostly Canadian lense on the feminist city was refreshing. However, while intersectional I wished there were more examples of Indigenous women, stories and quotes from POC / Black women and their experiences navigating spaces and neighbourhoods that lead to a decreased quality of life. Kern does a lot of self reflection of her own lived experiences in mainly Toronto and London, and while she addresses systemi ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be thought-provoking in some many ways.

As an enthusiast for urban studies and cities, I had not encountered the multi-faceted ways in which geography shapes and promotes contemporary exclusions and forms of oppression. Being a cis-gendered white male, I experience a lot of privilege. Cities are destinations of possibility for me; not environs fraught with both potential for enjoyment and harassment.

I believe that Kern's work goes a great way towards opening up that lens for
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the book very insightful and inspirational. Even though it is hard to find straight forward solutions to the problems raised by Leslie Kern, it provides food for thought on the role of friendship for advancing feminist causes and ideas on how can we address or re-thing some of the existing challenges by taking an intersectional approach.
Reading it during the partial lockdown, it made me look at the restrictive measures in a different way - as they seem to mostly be tailored to create les
Jan 03, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you know that the world just sucks so much for femmes? Shocking I know. A plethora of information, statistics, pop culture references, sprinkled with upper middle class commentary about graduate school experiences and happy hours with gal pals. The text is written well and is a fast read, I just didn’t “learn” anything really new or fascinating. This would be a good “let me help radicalize you” text to suggest to someone who needs to get on the level.
Mara Bragagnolo
Feb 06, 2021 rated it liked it
I expected from this book something different, which might be my fault being a designer, but I wanted to read this book expecting more about architecture, urban planning and design. The book was instead about feminist geography, which was still very interesting. I also expected more tangible solutions to the problems the writer writes about really well.

Still, a really good and interesting book.
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book had too many anecdotes and media references, if it had been shorter and better edited I would have liked it more . Kern's writing was strongest in the end chapter about fear in the city and that gave me something new to think about. ...more
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Leslie Kern is an associate professor of geography and environment/women's and gender studies and director of women’s and gender studies at Mount Allison University. She holds a PhD in women’s studies from York University. As an academic, Leslie writes about gender, gentrification, and feminism and teaches urban, social, and feminist geography. Her research has received a National Housing Studies ...more

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