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What would a ‘feminist city’ look like?

July 10, 2020, 12:47 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Chelsea Clinton may soon launch her own venture capital firm, Simone Biles covers Vogue, and we ponder the feminist city of the future. Have a wonderful weekend.

– Care-ful cities. Handwringing over the possible demise of urban life has become an established trope of the pandemic. (Serious question: How many stories can the New York Times possibly run about NYC dwellers fleeing to the ‘burbs?) But while reports of the death of cities may suffer from Mark Twain-style exaggeration, there’s little doubt that COVID-19 will lead to major changes to the world’s metropolises.

As city officials and urban planners look ahead, I hope they’ll consider this Bloomberg excerpt from Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World, by Leslie Kern, an associate professor of geography and environment, and director of women’s and gender studies at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Though written before the pandemic (and the recent protests calling for racial justice), Kern’s ideas are perfectly relevant for the moment—and have the potential to create post-COVID American cities where we could live more safely and equitably than ever before.

Kern explores the idea of designing cities to make life easier for caretakers. For too long, she notes, many urban planners have created cityscapes with “the white, cis, able-bodied, middle class, heterosexual man” in mind. That paradigm is starting to change in some parts of the world, where “gender mainstreaming” is increasingly being adopted. As an example, Kern cites Stockholm’s snowplowing strategy (stay with me!):

“In most cases, cities plow major roads leading to the central city first, leaving residential streets, sidewalks, and school zones until last. In contrast, cities like Stockholm have adopted a ‘gender equal plowing strategy’ that instead prioritizes sidewalks, bike paths, bus lanes, and daycare zones in recognition of the fact that women, children, and seniors are more likely to walk, bike, or use mass transit.”

Of course, some of these “gender mainstreaming” efforts have played into gender stereotypes (think women’s parking garage floors with bigger spaces—presumable to accommodate our subpar parking skills). And even those that are less insulting are often built for a certain kind of woman—specifically, writes Kern, “a married, able-bodied mother with a pink- or white-collar job.” Creating a true feminist city would mean thinking of all women, and particularly low-income women, who often feel the toughest parts of urban life—long commutes, gentrification, cramped living quarters—most acutely.

So how do we do it? The Kern excerpt doesn’t have all the answers—but it’s asking all the right questions.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- A new venture. Chelsea Clinton is in the early stages of creating her own venture capital firm, Axios reports. The working name for the firm is Metrodora Ventures, for the author of the first medical text known to have been written by a woman. Axios

- Simone's the star. Record-setting gymnast Simone Biles is on the August cover of Vogue. In the cover story, Biles—who can't quite remember exactly how many medals she's won—discusses beauty standards in sports, her waylaid 2020 Olympics plans, and how USA Gymnastics has failed her and other gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar. "We’ve always represented the U.S. to the best of our ability, and all the time, most of the time, every time I’ve represented, come back with gold medals. It’s like: We’ve done our part. Come on," she says to the organization. Vogue

- Prime time. Journalist Joy Reid will take over the 7 p.m. hour on MSNBC, making her one of very few Black women to anchor an American evening news program. She succeeds Chris Matthews, who resigned after being accused of sexist behavior. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Advantia Health hired MedExpress's Kathy B. Kaluhiokalani as COO. 


- Army first. An anonymous soldier is the first woman to earn the title of Green Beret after she graduated from Army Special Forces this week; the Green Berets were one of the last remaining Army assignments without any women. The Army has withheld the soldier's identity as she enters the Special Operations community. New York Times

- Feeding GDP. Here's an idea: What if breastfeeding was measured as work in the GDP? Formula, for its part, is included in GDP calculations, since it's manufactured by companies. A pair of economists found that in Australia, breastfeeding, if measured, would contribute $4 billion to the country's GDP. The Lily

- Working together. The boards of public companies are closely watched, and startup boards face scrutiny from the tech press as they grow. But joint-venture boards—like Google-Uber in autonomous vehicles, Starbucks-PepsiCo in ready-to-drink coffee, and the Amazon-JPMorgan Chase-Berkshire Hathaway health care initiative—are much more opaque. A group of authors found that women only hold 10% of these board roles—which can be stepping stones to future leadership positions—compared to 26% across the S&P 500. Harvard Business Review


South Korean triathlete’s suicide exposes team’s culture of abuse New York Times

Women of color speak out against the whitewashing of reproductive justice Elle

Ziwe Fumudoh asks: ‘How many Black people do you know?’ New York Times


"I did not know that I was going to get the opportunity, the way Hollywood likes to work."

-Gina Prince-Bythewood, the director of Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights, on directing her first action movie. The Old Guard premieres on Netflix today.