Feminist City

Feminist City

A Field Guide

By Leslie Kern



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Leslie Kern wants your city to be feminist. An intrepid feminist geographer, Kern combines memoir, theory, pop culture, and geography in this collection of essays that invites the reader to think differently about city spaces and city life.

From the geography of rape culture to the politics of snow removal, the city is an ongoing site of gendered struggle. Yet the city is perhaps also our best hope for shaping new social relations based around care and justice.

Taking on fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, and the joys and perils of being alone, Kern maps the city from new vantage points, laying out a feminist intersectional approach to urban histories and pathways towards different urban futures.

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“I wish I could have read this book years ago. The experiences Kern reflects upon are ubiquitous, if not universal. Kern blends the best of academic literature with popular culture references to explore the ways in which urban space is gendered. Reading the book is a pleasure, like a deep conversation with a wise friend.”

– Winifred Curran, professor of geography, DePaul University

“How do we begin to reckon with and ultimately reimagine our public realm in the #MeToo era? We can start by lifting up a greater diversity of experiences and voices that influence our thinking about what makes a place equitable, fun, accessible, safe, and dynamic for all. Kern’s exploration is honest, timely, and intentional in acknowledging the work of women – fellow urbanists and others – in advancing the feminist city.”

– Lynn M. Ross, AICP, urban planner and feminist

“Leslie Kern provides a refreshingly clear analysis of contemporary urban life. Feminist City seamlessly weaves together theory and lived experience, revealing again and again just how essential feminist geographic thought is to understanding urban space. Feminist City is a book to be shared and discussed by anyone who loves cities.”

– Lauren Hudson, SolidarityNYC

“This volume definitively establishes Kern as a leading and impassioned voice in the second generation of North American feminist urban geography. Kern deftly and refreshingly interweaves her personal biographical narrative and a synthesis of feminist urban scholarship to capture the tensions between city-as-barrier and city-as-possibility that continue to infuse so many women’s daily urban experiences.”

– Damaris Rose, honorary professor of social geography and urban studies, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Montreal, Quebec

Feminist City is the next-generation urbanism book I’ve been waiting for! Leslie lays out a comprehensive guide to feminist world-building that our cities so desperately need. A must-read for all city officials and budding urbanists alike as we move into the female future of our urban environments.”

– Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, MUS, urban anthropologist and adjunct professor, Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, Drexel University; co-founder of The Women Led Cities Initiative

Feminist City is a damning stab at the subtle and overt manipulation of women in urban spaces. Kern’s interwoven references to her personal experience through childhood, adulthood, and motherhood make her deeply researched and whip-smart work infinitely readable. Kern shows that the ability of all women to exploit the city fully is a valuable, necessary gauge for city worth.”

– Lezlie Lowe, author of No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs


About the Author
Introduction City of Men
Disorderly Women
Who Writes the City?
Freedom and Fear
Feminist Geography
Chapter 1 City of Moms
The Flâneuse
A Public Body
A Woman’s Place
The City Fix
Gentrifying Motherhood
The Non-Sexist City
Chapter 2 City of Friends
Friendship as a Way of Life
Girls Town
Friendships and Freedom
Queer Women’s Spaces
Friends ‘til the End
Chapter 3 City of One
Personal Space
Table for One
The Right to Be Alone
Women in Public
Toilet Talk
Women Taking Up Space
Chapter 4 City of Protest
Right to the City
DIY Safety
Gendered Activist Labour
Protest Lessons
Chapter 5 City of Fear
The Female Fear
Mapping Danger
The Cost of Fear
Pushing Back
Bold Women
Intersectionality and Violence
City of Possibility


Feminist City Audiobook Endnotes