The politics of places fascinate me. Deep down, I believe the concept fascinates everybody. Politics are like the two-hundred-year-old tree in the downtown center, its root systems sprawled out in layers beneath the soil. Its bark, an aged face that has seen the histories some try to forget.
I argue that the politics of place can transform. Take on a new identity. Adopt modern-day ideologies in favor of those steeped in the past. Of course, place politics are never so abandoned.
Amid the recent kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher in Memphis and the disintegration of female autonomy, safety, and well-being in current political affairs, I believe it is necessary to highlight America’s malnourished welfare element in place politics.
Worldwide, women are cat-called. Followed. Stalked. Harassed. Kidnapped. Raped. Murdered. These are not incidents isolated to the United States. In recognizing this, I acknowledge that global place politics need reform. With financial stability, infrastructural pioneering spirit, and democratic representation, the United States should proffer socio-political solutions to protect half its population.
Years into the American political plunge for women’s rights, I am tired. My family is tired. My friends are tired. What are we to do in this legislative maze? In a country that prides itself on answers, it seems we keep asking the same questions. As a female, is it safe to run after dark? Is it safe to walk alone? Drive alone? Should I carry pepper spray? Lace my keys between my fingers? Share my location with a trusted friend before each date?
I am confident that I can speak on behalf of most females when I say women have answered these questions a million times over. We answer them in dark parking lots. On streets with poor lights. On trails with few people. Are we free? Or prisoners in our minds?
Politics revolving around safety in public places morph into an issue of mobility. Where can we feel protected if women are unsafe in transportation hubs, schools, streets, public restrooms, workplaces, parks, and online?
Over my career in urban planning, I have learned to approach infrastructure and architecture with gender equality at the forefront. To improve the mobilization of women in urban and rural regions, changes to laws and policies are necessary.
Leslie Kern’s The Feminist City investigates how laws, place policies, and urban infrastructures cater to the male mind and form, losing functionality to female bodies and desires. Of course, we can interpret the linguistics of the word desire differently according to sex. For men, desire is a bonus to safety, security, and general well-being. Desire for women is the basic need to feel comfortable navigating public spaces.
The fight for women to live safer requires the dismantling of the male city and increased recognition of gender in politics. Global changes are on the horizon thanks to initiatives like the UN Women Flagship Program for Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces. By targeting local and global governments, the initiative promotes funding opportunities for safer public spaces and educates lawmakers.
While infrastructure and architecture aid in reducing crimes such as harassment or femicide, changing attitudes and behaviors towards females in all realms of existence is critical. Regardless of design, streets cannot be catwalks for the male gaze. Society cannot view women as mere objects of public spaces, but as inhabitants. Shifting sociological perception requires more time and effort.
It is critical now to push legislation in favor of female mobility, safety, and quality of life. In doing so, we can shift the politics of place to better the female experience.