Feminist Geography

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Feminist Geography

Since its conception, geography has been involved in the development of races and genders, mapping the boundaries that separate and exclude the world of privilege from the other. The imposing eyes that facilitated this domination have recently been challenged to quash their perpetuation of racial difference, and although existing more obscurely, to challenge the sexist legacy remaining in geography.

“As part of geography, feminist approaches within our discipline take the same set of central concepts as their focus as other sub-areas of geography. Thus over the decade feminist geographers have addressed three of the central concepts of the discipline – space, place and nature – and the ways in which these are implicated in the structure of gender divisions in different societies” (McDowell, 1993).

The above quotation illustrates the fundamental point of feminist geography; it is no different from geography as a whole in terms of concepts, only in viewpoint.

Women have remained invisible throughout most of the history of the discipline, and where they have been represented, it has been in subordinate roles, highlighting the world of work as a world for men. Thus geography has supported the notion of separate public and domestic spheres, based on the ideological divide that has limited the access of women to the public field, and obscured our understanding of gender relations as complex relations of power. The following definition is also important since it highlights the importance placed upon gender by feminist geography, instead of women, thus

strengthening their arguments that feminism can also be argued from a masculine point of view.

“There is also a distinct definition of what feminist geography is, or rather should be: ‘a geography which explicitly takes into account the socially created gender structure of society” (Ford & Gregson, 1986)

Feminist geographies have tended to address gender in relation to class relations, which whilst productive, ignored the question of racism entirely, serving to indicate how inherited paradigms obscure new insights into the methodologies of geographical thought.

In order to adequately argue whether feminist geography is more about feminism or geography, it is important to delve a little deeper into the tenets of feminist geography. On a basic scale, feminist geography can be divided into three types, the geography of women, socialist feminist geography and feminist geographies of difference (Johnston et al, 2000). The geography of women focuses upon description of the effects of gender inequality; socialist feminist geography gives explanations of inequality and relations between capitalism and patriarchy, whilst feminist geographies of difference concentrate upon the construction of gendered identities, differences among women, gender and constructions of nature. It is clear that there are a variety of subgroups of feminist geography, but the real question we must address is to what extent each is concerned whether with feminism or geography.

In order to answer this question one must return to the source of feminism. “Any analysis of the structures which produce the inequality between men and women would inevitably suggest no more than that certain structures and practices work to men’s advantage and women’s disadvantage. Gender inequality would be unable to answer the feminist question: why are women always disadvantaged” (Ford & Gregson, 1986)? If one adopts the stance that feminist geography is simply concerned with the apparent issue of whether women are disadvantaged, and then it means that the question is answered already, feminist geography is more about the pursuit of feminism than geography. However, if one

adds a theory for analysis, then the feminist idea becomes part of the discussion once again.

Numerous arguments concerning feminist geography result from...
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