Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Category: Gender (Page 1 of 5)

Towards a feminist city

Historically, men and women have experienced the city in a drastically different way. Cities were built not for women, but for and by men. This male dominance in urban planning brought about hetero-patriarchal norms, which are based either on women remaining quiet in the private spaces or – if they access urban spaces – relying on the urban structure created by men. The persistence of those urban spaces creates barriers for women accessing transport, land and constrains their social activity and agency needed to exercise their political voice. This is the characterisation of an oppressive and non-egalitarian city in terms of the division of power and resources.

Empirically, numbers show that women, especially non-white women, experience the city via physical, socioeconomic, racial, colonial, and symbolic barriers. This is evident, for instance, in the lack of proper lighting in the streets and parks or in the absence of public spaces with safe recreational areas and children’s facilities, as reported by the Urban 20 White Paper. As a result, women spend more time at home, and sometimes risk their well-being when they go out. According to the inequality map of São Paulo, from 2012 to 2019, the violence against women in the city increased 63%, and the feminicide 33%. In Mexico City, 65% of women who used public transport in 2019 have suffered sexual harassment during their travelling journey. Other than that, male urban planning tends to overlook the challenge of women’s mobility in the city. In London, having a child in the house increased by  23% the number of trips women make; and in Buenos Aires it increased by 13%.

It is plausible to say that this is, per se, unjust; as it creates a scenario in which women are oppressed and are not treated equally. At first glance, these hetero-patriarchal norms shape women’s life: they cannot access urban spaces freely without feeling unsafe; they spend more time on public transport than do men; their political agency is excluded or denied in the urban planning.

Some feminists, such as Leslie Kern, argue that such an unjust scenario in cities creates a big problem which must be addressed, as cities were not built to accommodate women’s bodies. Kern points out that if male urban planning disadvantages women, a feminist city should be the solution. According to her, a feminist city is one without oppression “where barriers—physical and social—are dismantled, where all bodies are welcome and accommodated”. For her, this is an aspirational project and must focus on caring-centres, safe streets, and creative spaces for children, as well as on having an inclusive urban planning. Kern acknowledges that those changes will rebuild the city in an intersectional feminist approach, regarding gender oppression as interconnected with class, race and ethnicity.

Other feminists have supported an egalitarian resourcist-based approach as a practical way to guide the city to equality, by enhancing women’s economic ability and independence. This can be done by cash transfer programmes, or even reforms in the architecture of houses. Anna Puigjaner claims that it is crucial to be critical about the structure of buildings in cities, where walls and bricks are historically designed to support the hetero-patriarchal norms. Drawing on Silvia Federici’s work, when she acknowledges that the expropriation of women with no remuneration for domestic work represents the manipulation and the violence of capitalism against the working class, Puigjaner advocates that together with the remuneration of domestic and sexual work, as Federici suggests, houses should not have private kitchens, but a collective one. Crucially, she believes that, for many years, the kitchen was associated with domestic and sexual work and lost its economic value, becoming, in Federici’s terms, a “labour of love”, which makes women economically dependent on others for their well-being and political voice. Puigjaner proposes, therefore, to abolish kitchens at home and replace them by public and collective kitchens in the city for the economic and political liberation of women. In practical terms, there are already urban collective kitchens in few cities around the world, such as in Lima, Mexico City, Tokyo and Montreal. They are a collaborative project, and act to complement private kitchens. According to Puigjaner, these urban kitchens are used not only for cooking and eating but also for developing the local communities’ political voice.

Of course these proposals are insufficient, and it would be impracticable to demolish all the old structures of the city. However, they are alternatives that could help to transform some of hereto-patriarchal barriers. First of all, both proposals try to target the disadvantaged/advantaged groups, by creating more space in public areas for interaction and for the construction of social bonds between city-dwellers, which may increase the political voice and impact of women and other disadvantaged groups on decisions that affect their lives, thereby challenging the advantaged groups’ perceptions of otherness. Kerns suggests that safer and care-giving public spaces are needed, and Puigjaner considers that kitchens should go beyond private walls and become communal spaces for collective political agencies. Second, they are also sensitive to intersectional injustices, which affect women. This means that without criticising patriarchal, racial, colonial and socioeconomic systems, we cannot increase women’s political voice. Finally, both proposals explore the extent to which governments should not only focus on the consequences of gender oppression and socioeconomic inequalities, but also on how such oppression and inequality are formed and reproduced.

As I see it, Kerns and Puigijaner bring crucial contributions to the reflections of what a feminist city is, which, between the lines, should involve its habitants and local voices interacting with each other in public spaces. This is the first step for creating social bonds and exchanges capable of ensuring a sense of belonging and inclusion of those who were historically not welcomed in urban spaces.

What is the wrong of misgendering?

More precisely: how to make sense of the wrong of attributing to someone, and treating them according to, a gender that’s different to the one they say they have?

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Why We Can’t Have It All When It Comes to the Future of Work

This is a guest post by Deryn Thomas, PhD Student in Philosophy, Benjamin Sachs, Senior Lecturer, and Alexander Douglas, Senior Lecturer, at University of St. Andrews. It discusses their recent research on a future with fair work for all and some of the trade-offs it involves. 

Two years into a world turned upside down by lockdowns, travel restrictions, and viral mutations, the way people work and make a living has changed dramatically. New challenges are being presented by rising childcare costs, increases in automation, the digitisation of the workplace, and the gig economy. So we need to ask: how do we make the future of work better for everyone?

At the Future of Work and Income Research Network, we’ve been thinking hard about this problem. As part of these efforts, we recently participated in a consultation for the Scottish Government on its Fair Work Goals, set to be implemented by 2025. The consultation document and stated goals offer an optimistic vision for the future of work in Scotland. But it risks being too idealistic: many of the stated goals conflict with each other.

We noticed at least four sets of incompatible goals. As it stands, the documents say nothing about how these compromises will be decided. But we think this leaves out an important step in the process. Therefore, we offer some reflections from philosophy about how to weigh up the values at stake.  In the end, we think that decisions like these need to be made in the context of a national conversation about the trade-offs surrounding work.

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Child Soldiers: Victims or Perpetrators of Crime?

The existence of children enlisted in armed groups poses difficult questions to moral and political philosophers regarding our assumptions about what childhood is, or the relationship between victimhood and criminality, or autonomy, dependence and vulnerability. This post aims to briefly introduce how discourses on child soldiers can be morally problematic. The post is based on a forthcoming chapter (co-authored by Alexandra Echeverry) on child soldiers in Colombia.

In the movie Monos, a group of teenage guerrilla soldiers guard a kidnapped prisoner, and tend their cow. Through this simple plot, the film portrays the inner tensions, the plurality of roles, and the complex relationships between children in their condition as children, and their status as soldiers. 

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How to better care for each other

The Covid-19 pandemic has tragically reminded us of our shared vulnerability and our need of care, and as a result, calls for care have been widespread since the pandemic began. Some of these calls to care, as well as celebrations of essential care workers, have appeared disingenuous when coming from governments and parties with a long history of carelessness. It is precisely this carelessness, which ranges from cuts to public health services to a general lack of concern for the fate of the most vulnerable in society, that has been deemed responsible for many of the difficulties and the failures in facing Covid-19. Many calls to care have been motivated precisely by this critique as well as the idea that care should be central in our societies. How, then, should we conceive of a caring society? In what follows, I address this issue by reflecting on the ambivalence of care and the idea of communities of care.

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From the Vault: Good Reads on Children and Upbringing

While Justice Everywhere takes a short break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2020-21 season. 


Here are three good reads on issues relating to children and upbringing that you may have missed or be interested to re-read:

  • Anca Gheaus’s post, Having Slaves and Raising Children, which discusses just how far one may push the analogy between holding slaves and raising children in a world like ours, which has not yet fully outgrown the long tradition of denying rights to children.
  • Daniela Cutas and Sabine Hohl’s post, which explores the question: What Do Co-Parents Owe Each Other? (This post is part of our ongoing collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy.)
  • Helen McCabe’s guest contribution, Ending Child Marriage in the UKwhich examines the philosophical dimensions of a recent bill proposing to raise the minimum age of marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to 18 – namely, questions about what decisions people should be permitted to make at 16, and about the balance between maximising people’s options and protecting a small number from significant harm.

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From the Vault: Collaboration with Journal of Applied Philosophy

While Justice Everywhere takes a break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2020-21 season. This post focuses on our ongoing collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy.

In 2019, Justice Everywhere began a collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy. The journal is a unique forum that publishes philosophical analysis of problems of practical concern, and several of its authors post accessible summaries of their work on Justice Everywhere. These posts draw on diverse theoretical viewpoints and bring them to bear on a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from the environment and immigration to economics, parenting, and punishment.

For a full list of these posts, visit the JAP page on Justice Everywhere. For a flavour of the range, you might read:

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Combining public policies and transformative action in fighting against gender violence

In this contribution, Katarina Pitasse Fragoso and Nathália Sanglard reflect on gender violence and public policies. 

 Gender violence is a form of physical, verbal, psychological or symbolic damage, caused directly or indirectly to the person due to her gender identity. It is an injustice, because, according to Elizabeth Anderson, it has been generated by arbitrary systems, such as patriarchal ones, which use gender as a justification to harm others and prevent access to resources, rights, the job market and other services. In this article, we will explore how these types of violence disproportionately affect women and feminized subjects, and we will propose some ways to enhance mainstream public policies, through a combination of actions and participatory devices.

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Ending Child Marriage in the UK

On 16 June 2021, Sajid Javid MP introduced a Private Members’ Bill into the UK Parliament to raise the minimum age of marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to 18. This follows earlier attempts by Pauline Latham MP to criminalise child marriage. Currently, teenagers aged 16-18 may marry with their parent’s consent (in Scotland, they can already marry without parental consent). From an international law perspective, this Bill would end child marriage in the UK (which the international community has pledged to stop by 2030). Philosophically, it raises interesting questions about what decisions people should be permitted to make at 16; and the balance between maximising people’s options, and protecting a small number from significant harm.

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Is the criminal law the best tool to fight discrimination and hate-based violence?

In the past few months, a central topic of discussion in Italian public debate has been the Ddl Zan, a proposed bill to combat discrimination and violence on the grounds of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. The bill does not create any new crimes but extends to these categories existing criminal legislation that currently covers discrimination and violence on the grounds of racial, ethnic and religious reasons as well as incitement to commit such acts. Such acts of discrimination and violence and their incitement can either be punished with a fine or a prison sentence to up to 4 years or, in case these actions already constitute a more serious crime, the penalty can be increased to up to double. The Ddl Zan also includes measures to support victims as well as broader initiatives to fight discrimination and inequalities, including the creation of a National Day against homophobia. Unsurprisingly, the bill has been the object of a heated debate. The LGBTQ+ movement and the majority of the feminist movement as well as other progressive forces are fighting for its approval, while conservatives argue that the bill endangers freedom of speech and imposes a supposedly divisive worldview. Setting this aside, I want to address another issue in connection to this bill, namely that of whether the criminal law should be regarded as the right instrument to fight discrimination and this kind of violence.

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