Book Review: Feminist City: A Field Guide by Leslie Kern – Intersectional Feminism and living in a city not built for you

It’s weird to think of buildings and places making equality harder. In Feminist City, Leslie Kern talks about the difficulties that we have using the environment that has been made around us. Most of the challenges we face in navigating both urban and rural domestic settings is because it is literally man-made. A cis white straight average height, able-bodied male and the average nuclear family is typically the template used when building cities in the western world. When you go in to a bookshop and can’t reach the top shelf, if you use a wheelchair and find a tube station doesn’t have a way for you to get down to the platform or if you are transgender and struggling to use the public toilets it is unfortunately, because you are not average enough.

Photo by T. Chick McClure on Unsplash

Throughout the book, Kern, talk about her own personal struggles and pleasures she found in an urban environment not built for someone like her. She highlights the way the city left her feeling exhausted as a mother and liberated as a young woman. In sections of the book she explains how her experience can often be one of heightened alert. The city can make women feel unsafe. Kern gets the reader to think about how women often have to walk home late at night with something from their handbags contorted in to some sort of make shift weapon because ineffective street lighting or the distance of a transport link to a residential area makes the short journey dangerous.

She talks about the relationships people form to create solutions to the challenges their local geography presents them with. For example, how women create groups to ensure that they are safe travelling around the city at night or the systems used to check that a lone female reaches their destinations safely.

When Kern goes through the way that different man-made environments neglect the needs of herself and her family because of her gender she offers solutions. However, Kern does point out that no solution is a one-size fits all remedy. She takes in to account her own privilege. What may make life easier for her as a cis white straight able-bodied female who is also a mother may make life harder for people with a different gender expression, skin colour, sexuality or physical ability.

Photo by Khachik Simonian on Unsplash

The topics and subjects in this book are fascinating and after reading I had a completely different understanding of the world around me. It also brought to my attention a new awareness of my own body and the needs it has on a daily basis. I’ve always been annoyed when out with friends at the difficulty of finding public toilets that I feel comfortable in. As a woman who menstruates and has pretty angry crohn’s disease finding facilities that I don’t worry about using is a nightmare. I don’t want to queue. I don’t really want a cubicle. I want a room where I can do my business without someone impatiently banging on the door because they have been waiting in a queue for ages. I don’t want to feel embarrassed as I think about someone hearing me change my sanitary towel. This book enlightened me on how my gender and disability needs have been neglected and although this didn’t make me any less angry about the problem, it did give me some answers.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I had a great time reading it. I would recommend this book to those with an interest in intersectionality and feminist subjects. It is also great for future city planners!

Feminist City: A Field Guide by Leslie Kern is published by Between The Line and
you can buy it by clicking here.

This review was made possible by Netgalley with an advanced reader copy

Thumbnail image: Photo by Yiran Ding on Unsplash

fem city


3 thoughts on “Book Review: Feminist City: A Field Guide by Leslie Kern – Intersectional Feminism and living in a city not built for you

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