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Fainstein, S. S., & Servon, L. J. (2005). Gender and planning: A reader. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.

Gender and planning: A reader (2005)


Full citation: Fainstein, S. S., & Servon, L. J. (2005). Gender and planning: A reader. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.


“We look forward to the day when our book will be obsolete”, write Susan Fainstein and Lisa Servon in their introduction to Gender and Planning. While this 2005 publication celebrates the progress that has been made incorporating discussions of gender in public policy domains and planning schools, it also acknowledges that there is a long way to go before a gender consciousness is embedded into policy dialogues. The authors hope that until such a volume isn’t needed, it will be a useful resource for students and others wanting to gain an understanding of theoretical issues of gender in the field. To do so, it brings together some of the most important female scholars in planning including Dolores Hayden, Lorie Sandercock, Daphne Spain, Doreen Massey, and Ann Markusen, as well as philosophers Martha Nussbaum and Iris Marion Young. These previously published chapters span the period 1978-2002 (with the exception of Susan Fainstein’s contribution, which was written specifically for the book). The book is organized into five parts: Public and Private Space, Planning Theory, Housing, Economic Development, and Transportation – the latter three representing the traditional ‘silos’ of planning practice.


In their introduction, the editors give a helpful overview of the evolution of gender within the planning profession, from a Modernist tradition that imposed a universalizing approach on city planning and thus failed to take account of the varying needs of city dwellers; to second wave feminism, which acknowledged differences between various groups in society especially as differences related to inequality. As Sandercock and Forsyth point out in their chapter, Feminism also strove to acknowledge the differences within genders – for example, affiliations based on race, class or ethnicity. The meaning of the term “gender” is also clarified. Importantly, rather than being a synonym for “women”, “gender” includes men, women, and people who identify as LGBTQ. Gender is socially constructed and its meaning therefore changes over time.


The editors go on to explain how a gender lens has the potential to change urban environments and the laws that govern our cities in order to be more responsive to the different needs of users, be they male, female or LGBTQ. Rather than viewing the traditional specialisms in planning, such as housing, transportation and economic development in a binary way, a gender lens encourages planners to think about how and where these spheres intersect. For example, as workforce participation among middle-class women has increased, the purpose of mass transit is called into question: should transportation focus on decreasing journey times, or increasing mobility (as women are more likely to trip-chain)? The increase in freelance and contract work further blurs the lines between the home and the office.


Similarly, public and private domains have traditionally been viewed in opposition by the planning profession. For example, emphasis on CBD development in planning has led to an apparent opposition between downtown and residential neighborhoods, which tend to be viewed as stereotypically ‘male’ and ‘female’ respectively. However, as the editors argue, these spheres are constructed (much like gender itself) and are therefore subject to questioning and change when viewed through a gender lens. For example, Sandercock and Forsyth discuss the feminist strategy to play with notions of private and public realms by making issues we generally consider private (such as abortion or sexuality) public, in order to challenge repressive policies or programs. By the same token, they argue that concerns that are generally considered to be public, such as the kinds of families allowed by zoning laws in residential areas, should be returned to the private sphere (p. 75).


The book does not shy away from tackling the tricky relationship between gender and Feminism.




How can we reconcile a normative striving for equality with feminism’s focus on differences between the sexes (which are implied to disadvantage women)? Fainstein cautions that gender lens in planning should not necessarily mean a postmodern feminist lens. She agues that “an overemphasis on difference can undermine the progressive egalitarian aims that originally inspired feminist thinkers” (p. 120). She criticizes the feminist emphasis on process, rather than outcome, which is a hallmark of communicative planning, pointing out that even if consensus is achieved it may easily lead to unjust outcomes. For example, a democratically elected planning board can vote to (effectively) exclude residents or types of land uses. Instead, she argues for an approach to gender conscious planning that goes beyond the postmodern focus on differences, to a broader conception of justice.



Fainstein, S. S., & Servon, L. J. (2005). Introduction: The Intersection of Gender and Planning. In Fainstein, S. S., & Servon, L. J. (Eds.). (2005). Gender and planning: A reader (pp. 1-12) New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.


Sandercock, L., & Forsyth, A. (1992). A Gender Agenda: New Directions for Planning Theory. In Fainstein, S. S., & Servon, L. J. (Eds.). (2005). Gender and planning: A reader (pp. 67-85) New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.


Fainstein, S. (2005). Feminism and Planning: Theoretical Issues. In Fainstein, S. S., & Servon, L. J. (Eds.). (2005). Gender and planning: A reader (pp. 120-138) New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.