Women, Communities, Neighbourhoods: Approaching Gender and Feminism within UK Urban Policy



In recent years some commentators have looked at successive waves of UK urban policy from the perspective of gender, although these commentaries have been somewhat marginal within wider discussions of urban policy and politics. This article seeks to make the case for a renewed emphasis on gender, which moves beyond tracing the role of men and women in relation to urban policy programmes, in two particular ways. First it is argued that a more sophisticated analysis of the gendered nature of urban governance is needed, in other words how forms of gendered labour, subjectivity and power work through and within policy projects; and second that there should be a wider consideration of what feminist visions of cities and politics, both past and present, might contribute to the project of a critical, and hopeful, analysis of urban policy and politics.

The paper seeks to make a practical as well as theoretical intervention in relation to gender and feminist perspectives on UK urban policy. It is argued that there has been a silence around such issues in recent years, both in analysis and in policy discourses, and that this silence has masked how gendered labour and power has often been woven into urban governance. For example, forms of women-centred organising have been relied on in a range of government projects seeking to build community and participation within poor neighbourhoods. Such reliance may be increasing in a context of austerity. As well as this critical analysis of current policy, the paper argues for the reinvigoration of feminist visions of cities that suggest different framings of aspects of urban life. For example, rethinking the lines between public and private spheres might result in different forms of housing or sites of civic participation. Through engaging anew with such perspectives cities might become more just, caring, and equal for all.