Gendered Public Spaces: Examining Cities Within the Nature-Culture Dichotomy
Examining the evolution of essentialist claims about women and anti-essentialist responses reveals how feminist theory can off er scholars new perspectives. In this paper I extend Sherry Ortner’s universalist analysis of women’s subordination by applying her nature-culture dichotomy to urban planning and taking a fresh look at public space. First, I off er a brief review of her argument in Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?, and her conceptualization of nature versus culture. Second, I use examples from public space to illustrate applications of the nature-culture dichotomy, demonstrating both the physical dominance of culture over nature in public space, and the eff ect on women’s subordination in cities. Next, I discuss Ortner’s concept of intermediacy, and walk through a series of examples demonstrating middle, mediating, and ambiguous intermediacy. Finally, I call for using feminist theory to take urban planning, as a field and a practice, beyond the nature-culture dichotomy.