Post 5 of #GPC@25: Maser’s ‘Repeal the 8th’ mural: street art, abortion access and the battle over public space in Ireland by Lorna O’Hara

GPC@25The fifth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is by Lorna O’Hara, a feminist activist and final year PhD student at the Department of Geography, Maynooth University (Ireland). Here Lorna explores abortion rights activism and the power of public art in Dublin, Ireland, which forms the focus of her current research.

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPC@25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at

On the 8th of July 2016 the Repeal the 8th mural by well-known Irish graffiti artist Maser was unveiled on the exterior wall of the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland (image 1). Just over two weeks later the mural, which called for the repeal of the 8th Amendment, a law that equates a grown woman’s life to that of a foetus, had been taken down. The removal was ordered by Dublin City Council Planning, on the grounds that the mural violated planning law. This was also prompted by a number of complaints from “pro-life” supporters that the centre had received regarding the piece  (O’Sullivan, 2016).


Image 1: The mural created by Maser on the exterior wall of the Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin. (Source: author, 2016)

To me, the mural’s removal was a further slap in the face to the women of Ireland who not only lack full bodily autonomy already, but have also had to endure a number of other hurtful and stigmatising anti-choice messages, including false images of “aborted” foetuses, that have been plastered in a range of public spaces, from bus stops to billboards.  In recent years women have had their senses assaulted by the likes of the Youth Defence’s infamous ‘Abortion Tears Her Life Apart’ outdoor billboard campaign back in 2012, as well as their insensitively placed anti-abortion ad truck in 2013 (see Image 2), which at one point occupied a space just outside the Rape Crisis Centre (Hosford, 2013). Ironically, Cora Sherlock, spokesperson for the anti-choice group Precious Life, in her critique of the mural lamented that there wasn’t “the slightest chance that it [The Project Arts Centre] would have allowed, for example, a mural being placed on its building giving voice to women’s feelings of abortion regret” (quoted in Brophy, 2016). Such a statement is particularly incongruous considering the fact that Youth Defence’s campaign, which has already occupied enough public space in its attempt to conquer hearts and minds was exactly that; an image of a young woman’s “abortion regret”.  


Image 2: Youth Defence’s anti-abortion billboard parked outside the National Rape Crisis Centre, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin (source: Broadsheet, 2013)

Of course the removal of the mural did little to silence the Repeal the 8th Campaign. Within a few hours of its removal the hashtag #repealthe8th was trending on Twitter and newsfeeds were filled with tweets expressing indignation at what has been deemed “anti-choice censorship”. For Andrea Horan of The HunReal Issues, the group that originally commissioned the mural, the removal was perhaps more for generating debate and discussion about the campaign. Ultimately the controversy created by the mural not only succeeded in being, what Sarah Pierce, Chair of the Board of the Project Arts Centre described “a reminder that art matters” (quoted in O’Sullivan, 2016) but also a reminder that, as geographer Doreen Massey (2005) argued a long time ago, that space matters too.

Social power and social resistance are always spatial (Cresswell, 1996). The built environment is the materialisation of meaning, meanings that are created by dominant groups in society (ibid). Street art acts as a challenge to the authority of public urban space and serves as “an evocative form of place making, ranging from pure resistance and contestation to public place beautification” (Visconti, 2010: 513). Street art can be a particularly powerful and transgressive tool for challenging the hegemonic male meanings that are typically built into public urban space (see McDowell and Sharp, 1997). Despite the fact that the piece itself was created by a male artist, in a country where women’s bodies have been particularly controlled and regulated by the state — from Magdalene Laundries and symphysiotomies to its current restrictive abortions laws – the mural is a powerful public challenge to the dominant power structures shaping our public urban landscapes at multiple scales. Furthermore, it’s placement outside, rather than inside the gallery, in such a prominent public space in the heart of Dublin is an important part of its power. Indeed, this was exactly the point of the mural according to Horan “I wanted to make feminism accessible, where you didn’t have to be academic to engage […] we wanted to open the issues up to people who aren’t necessarily engaged in politics and currents affairs and to make something they wanted to engage in” (quoted in Fegan, 2016).


Image 3:  The mural the day before removal (source: Author, 2016)

The fact that this was the first time that Project Arts had ever received a planning order to remove a piece (O’Sullivan, 2016) speaks volumes about who owns and has control over public space and hence over discourse in Ireland; indeed it would appear that only those who can afford to run big public advertisement campaigns can presume to speak so openly about abortion. While the original mural has been painted over, it has since become one of the most recognisable symbols of the Repeal movement nationally and internationally, appearing online, on T-shirts/bodies, posters and flyers, and projected onto buildings both inside and outside of Dublin. Technology, which has become so embedded in the material space of the city, merging on and offline spaces, has given street art –  which has traditionally been an extremely transient urban art form –a certain degree of permanence. It’s now clearer than ever that painting over this mural was purely a symbolic act, which only ended up adding more fuel to the rapidly growing pro-choice movement in Ireland.


“Repeal 8th” appears in the windows of the building facing the Project Arts Centre just hours after the mural’s removal (Source: Panti Bliss, 2016)
Works Cited:

Brophy, D (2016) ‘Repeal the 8th’ mural in Temple Bar removed due to planning rules. The Journal [Online] 25 July 2016. Available at: (last accessed: 26 July 2016)

Cresswell, T. (1996). In place-out of place: geography, ideology, and transgression. U of Minnesota Press.O’Hara, L (2016)

Fegan, J (2016) Complaints over ‘Repeal the 8th’ art in Temple Bar. Irish Examiner [Online] 19 July 2016. Available at: (last accessed: 26 July 2016).

Freeman, M (2012) Anti-abortion billboards ‘do not speak for majority of women’. The Journal [Online] 17 June 2012. Available at: (last accessed: 26 July 2016).

Hosford, P (2013) Billboard company discontinues Youth Defence campaign after Rape Crisis Centre incident. The Journal [Online] 25 July 2016. Available at: (last accessed: 26 July 2016)

Lord, S (2012) Column: This campaign is offensive – and flies in the face of the facts. The Journal [Online] 22 June 2012. Available at: (last accessed: 26 July)

Massey, D (2005) For Space. London: Sage Publications.

McDowell, L., & Sharpe, J. P. (1997). Space, gender, knowledge: Feminist readings. London: Arnold.

O’Hara, L (2016) Street Harassment: Creative Place-based interventions. Unpublished paper presented at: Conference of Irish Geographers. Dublin, 5-7 May 2016.

O’Sullivan, K (2016) Maser Artwork Subject to Planning Permission to Be Taken Down. The Project Arts Centre [Online]. 25 July 2016. Available at: (last accessed: 26 July 2016)

Visconti, L. M., Sherry, J. F., Borghini, S., & Anderson, L. (2010). Street art, sweet art? Reclaiming the “public” in public place. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(3), 511-529.



GPC 2018 Award for New and Emerging Scholar

The Editors of Gender, Place and Culture are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2018 Award for New and Emerging Scholar – Lydia Delicado-Moratalla. Lydia will be presenting “Theorizing the Prostitution System from Feminist Geopolitics” at the International Geography Union (IGU) Commission on Gender and Geography Conference with the Canadian Women and Geography Study Group (CWAG) to be held in Montréal, Québec, Canada, August 4 to 6, 2018.

Post 4 of #GPC@25: “I love the UK but it broke my heart and I will leave”: Speculating about Brexodus by Eva Duda-Mikulin

GPC@25Post four in our series celebrating the 25th volume of Gender, Place and Culture, and of the field of feminist geography, is by Dr Eva Duda-Mikulin, a Lecturer in Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Bradford, UK. Eva is a Polish national with British citizenship[1] living in Salford, Greater Manchester, UK, Europe. Here she presents findings from her doctoral research, offering insights into the ways in which the increasing precarity and uncertainty of the post-Brexit environment, is impacting on EU migrant women.

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPC@25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at

In this blog I look at the available evidence on EU migrant women and post-Brexit-vote precarity. l focus on the ageing of the British population and the contributions of migrant women as a way to relieve the effects of this process, for instance through higher birth and fertility rates and paid employment in the NHS.

The UK is a country of immigration. Not everyone likes to hear that though. Polish migration to the UK is far from new and I won’t repeat well-rehearsed debates on its scale or migrants’ work ethic. This is a well-trod territory (e.g. see here in relation to gender, habitus or post-Brexit-vote strategies). Instead, I consider migration motivations and migrants’ contributions. By comparing findings from my doctoral research with recently collected interview data from interviews with Polish women migrants I also speculate about the possibility of a ‘Brexodus’ – the potential mass exodus of EU migrants from the UK as a result of Brexit.

In my PhD (available here), I researched Polish women migrants to the UK and their migration motivations and motivations to return to their home country. Economic reasons featured firmly as strong motivators to move to the UK but there were also other reasons. My respondents migrated to undertake a degree at a British university; some followed their partners who had arrived earlier; and some were motivated by curiosity and the chance of an adventure before settling down. Among those who returned to Poland having first migrated to the UK (see full paper here), economic reasons were cited most frequently. However, other motivations also played part: joining family in Poland; accomplishing their initial goal (e.g. sufficient savings; graduation with a degree); missing family and friends; wishing to settle down in their home country; or simply finding the UK undesirable for a longer stay.

The majority of Polish migrants to the UK are labour migrants who come to take on paid work. This has been said often enough. Economic migration applies to men and women migrants and through their engagement in the paid labour market, migrants make valuable contributions towards the British economy. They contribute through taxes and taking up jobs unpopular with the native labour force thereby filling any skills shortages. They are often employed in the service sector, hospitality and in healthcare. Research shows that a high percentage of staff working in the NHS, health and social care, construction, manufacture, hospitality, agriculture and customer services are from other EU countries. Some of these sectors rely heavily on the EU labour force. Indeed, there has already been a decrease in job uptake by workers from the EU. Despite a shortage of nursing staff, some sources report that there has been an increase of EU healthcare staff resigning. Academic staff no longer feel welcome either. It is also crucial to recognise migrant women’s roles in ‘topping up’ birth and fertility rates through which they contribute to the prevention of the ageing process.

When Article 50 was triggered on the 29th March 2017, more than 4.2 million people were turned into bargaining chips (approximately 3 million EU nationals in the UK and approximately 1.2 million UK nationals in the EU), or sacrificial lambs, as some have suggested. This figure will be higher if we include the children of these individuals. I previously speculated on the potential impact of Brexit (see here) and I put forward my feelings on the day of the start of the official withdrawal from the EU (see here). Whilst evidence shows that migrants contribute through taxes, filling of skills shortages and slowing down the ageing process, Brexit brought in new uncertainty which is likely to drive them away.

The post-Brexit UK of the future appears bleak and for some, namely EU nationals, precarious, with overwhelming feelings of uncertainty. Often, migration and precarity go hand in hand. Precarity is characteristic of migrants’ lives, which can be disrupted by a lack of knowledge and awareness about their rights and obligations, a lack of job security and support networks (e.g. family). Consequently, this is linked to limited material and psychological well-being. For women migrants, this can be further compounded by their attachment to the private sphere, which often constitutes a barrier to their engagement in the paid labour market on the same footing as men (see recent blog here).

Due to the above, Polish women migrants and other EU migrants to the UK (together with UK migrants in the EU) are feeling under pressure to regulate their stay as they fear for their future following Brexit. While the process of obtaining permanent residence (PR) and British citizenship (naturalisation) is largely not fit for purpose (see my previous blog here), many migrants seek to obtain it which suggests they consider staying for good while many others are planning to leave. The UK authorities should recognise that the process of obtaining PR is not fit for purpose. It will likely exclude a number of people, namely, women who are homemakers or carers or those who are in unregulated work or do cash-in-hand jobs as well as disabled migrants.

One of the women I spoke to declared: “I love the UK but it broke my heart and I will leave”. This was said by Oliwia, a Polish woman in her early 40s who has been living and working in the UK for well over a decade (since 2004). Oliwia works in sales and customer service is the thing she loves to do. Oliwia has a busy social life and is a regular theatre, opera and concert goer and has many British friends and colleagues. She feels well and truly settled in the UK. That said, when I spoke to her, Oliwia stated that she is very disappointed with the UK and the government’s treatment of EU workers and that she will not be going through the lengthy and costly process of gaining PR. She’d rather leave. Oliwia unashamedly said that she is angry and upset with the way she is treated like a “second-class citizen” despite her best intentions and contributing through work whilst never even considering being reliant on welfare.

From the conversations I’ve had with other Polish women migrants, it is clear that while some are prepared to follow the very strict regulations and obtain PR/citizenship, others feel they’ve been compliant throughout their lives in the UK and are not prepared to “bend over backwards” and apply for PR or the new settled status or whatever other new name it may be given. Many migrants feel betrayed and messed about with at this time of uncertainty for all but most of all EU migrants who are starting to feel the pull of (what certainly used to be) ‘home’.

The ageing British society means that the need for foreign-born labour to take on jobs unpopular with native workers is greater than before. The EU labour force is comparatively younger and fitter. Therefore, after Brexit the UK is likely to experience labour shortages. Indeed, some argue that ‘Brexodus’ has already begun, with EU migrants leaving their jobs and the UK. Unsurprisingly, this is said to be linked to overwhelming uncertainty (and racial abuse) of EU nationals following the Brexit vote.

This is important for the feminist geography field as the post-Brexit-vote uncertainty is likely to disrupt migrants’ livelihoods. This will relate to many women migrants as they may have a weaker attachment to the paid labour market and thus will affect the demographic makeup of the UK and ‘home’ societies. Also, as stipulated above, the current process of obtaining PR for EU migrants resident in the UK discriminates against women migrants who withdrew from paid employment due to caring duties, for instance.

Twitter: @DrEvaDuMik


Research Gate:

Google Scholar:



[1] Eva’s British passport cost just over £1,500 (this is due to increase in April this year), including: PR application £65 + £10 for checking service + postage; photographs £5; Life in the UK textbook £20; Life in the UK test £50; biometric evidence (essential fingerprinting) £19.20; nationality checking service £50; naturalisation application £1282; passport fee £72.50.


Advert for the GPC sponsored “Gender and Space” Summer School in Switzerland (published in German)

For German speakers, please follow the attached link to view the final programme for about the GPC sponsored “Gender and Space” Summer School taking place in Switzerland in September 2018:

18-02-26 Sommerschule Programm


Post 3 of #GPC@25: Feminist political geography: Open the borders! by Leslie Gross-Wyrtzen


The third post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is by Leslie Gross-Wyrtzen, a PhD Candidate in the Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, USA. Her Phd research examines bordering and racialization in Morocco, and draws from feminist, post-colonial, and black geographies to understand geopolitical processes that structure Mediterranean social relations and mobilities. In today’s blog Leslie discusses key contributions and groundwork laid by feminist political geographers and suggests how the sub-discipline might be pushed forward by drawing from black and indigenous scholars often located outside, or on the margins, of geography.

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPC@25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at

Feminist political geography has made substantial contributions to how we think about geopolitics. It has challenged scalar divisions that separate nations from households (Marston 2000), shifted emphasis from security of states to security of people and their environments (Hyndman 2001; Pulido 2000), and demonstrated how the experiences of people considered “marginal” to the workings of the state are actually central to its operations (Mountz 2004).

In addition, feminist commitments to ethical and reflexive research have led to methodologies countering mainstream topographies (Katz 2001that neatly divide the world into East-West, developed-developing, and masculine-feminine.  Feminist researchers have pioneered participatory methods (Cahill 2007), published with research participants (Nagar 2013; Pratt 2009), and engaged in activist work (Gilmore 2007; Wright 2008; Sundberg 2013). Much of this research has appeared within the pages of GPC over the last 25 years.

The emphasis on the intimate scale of geopolitics (Pratt and Rosner 2006), on telling stories of people outside the corridors of power, and a commitment to justice have pushed researchers to map political geographies of not only gender, sexuality and class, but also race, indigeneity and other axes of difference. But there is still more to be done.

Women of color geographers in particular have criticized the way that race is analyzed. Their work has problematized, on the one hand, relativizing race in a way that obscures the histories and lives of indigenous people and people of color (Mahtani 2014), and on the other, re-biologizing race through an attention to black, brown or indigenous bodies absent their full individual, social and creative worlds (McKittrick 2017).

As a corrective, feminists can push political geography’s theoretical and disciplinary boundaries in order to explore the mobility and meanings of blackness and indigeneity, and how these inform the production of space (and place) at intimate and global scales. This work is already being done in social and cultural geography (often by geographers of color) (McKittrick 2006; McKittrick and Woods 2007; Shabazz 2015), but much more is taking place outside the discipline that we must not ignore. This is especially important because geography has been very slow to welcome scholars of color (especially women or queer people of color, e.g. Kobayashi 2006).

In particular, there is significant geopolitical work taking place within the humanities and outside the academy altogether. Feminist, black and indigenous thinkers in English, anthropology, African-American Studies (to name a few) have written extensively about bodies and cultures as sites of colonial violence (Byrd 2011), survival as a form of resistance (Weheliye 2014), and refusal as an expression of non-state sovereignty (Simpson 2014). Outside the academy, artists and activists deploy a poetics of otherness that is at once strong critique and creative response to white supremacy and settler colonialism (Boal 1979). Opening up disciplinary borders allows more expansive space from which multiple knowledges of the world can be expressed, and where an affirmative (geo)politics has room to grow.

In my dissertation research, I work with sub-Saharan migrants in transit through Morocco, encountering the Mediterranean border that relies at least in part on the visual field and colonial-era meanings of otherness to exclude them from entering Europe. As a white woman from the U.S. I am challenged by the mandate from feminist political geographers to work towards justice through partnership, not some sort of guardianship (and many of people I work with are not shy to remind me of this, too).

Further, I rely on black feminist thought on memory, survival and home places (hooks 2008), and Southern and indigenous critiques of coloniality (Dussel 1995) to illuminate an alternative cartography of the border as something other, and more insidious, than a natural feature of that nation-state. More powerfully to me, the poetry and songs migrants bring with them offer their own critique of geopolitics that directly confronts long histories of colonial, racial and gendered oppression, and give voice to demands that cannot be ignored.

Consider this one:

Open the borders, open the borders!
Open the borders, open the borders!

You come each year
Summer and winter alike
And we, we receive you
Always with open arms.

Our place is your place.
After all, it doesn’t matter,
We want to leave so
Open the door for us.

From the Cape to Gibraltar
There are thousands of us
Wanting, like you,
To come without an appointment.
We want adventure.

And also, to work.
We don’t
Refuse your visa.

We want the opportunity to study, too
The chance to see our dreams come true
To have a good job, to be able to see the world
To experience that thing you call “freedom.”

We want our families to lack nothing,
We want a life where we eat
‘Til we’re full
We want to leave this daily misery
for something better, something good.
We want to leave before we
Go crazy!

Open the borders, open the borders!
Let us pass!
Open the borders, open the borders!

There’s not even a drop of water
To fill our buckets
Nor a drop of rain
At the bottom of the well.

With an empty stomach
On the way to school
One day he decided to
Take flight!

Open the door! We are suffocating here.
We are full of desire and dreams of the West.
Open the door! The young can’t breathe here,
Don’t you see that it’s vital?

You’ve taken our beaches
And our golden sand.

Put the animals in cages
And battered our forests.
That’s why we can’t stay here
When our hands are empty.
We prepare ourselves to go
We launch ourselves into the void.

Open the borders, open the borders!
Let us pass!

— Tiken Jah Fakoly
Watch the video:
(Song translated from French by author)

— Leslie Gross-Wyrtzen
PhD Candidate
Graduate School of Geography
Clark University


Post 2 of #GPC@25: Mothers’ blogs: researcher’s analysis as valid use or abuse? by Nadia von Benzon

GPC@25The second post of our GPC@25 blog series is written by Dr Nadia von Benzon from the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University. In this post, Nadia considers the rise in popularity of ‘Mummy blogs’, the increase in the use of blogs as research data, and the implications of both for doing feminist research.

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPC@25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at
Blogs written by mothers, also referred to as Mommy blogs, take a considerable share of the blogging market. According to there are 4.2 million mothers blogging worldwide, making up 15.9% of the total blogs available online. These blogs vary widely in purpose and content, with a growing popularity in ‘honest’ blogs in the UK such as Slummy Single Mummy and the Selfish Mother. For social scientists, the blogosphere presents a smorgasbord of data, ripe for the picking. It goes almost without saying that the development and by now extensive use of qualitative research methods with social media and online technology means that we can without a doubt effectively use these blogs as data as we interrogate the experience of motherhood. However, the question remains over whether we should.

The arguments against this practice relate to well-rehearsed discussion over the imbalance of power inherent in a researcher taking the words and ideas of someone without their explicit informed consent. In the case of blogging, the author will be aware that the content they publish is public, and in blogging there is no protection from the law against the use of their words and ideas by other parties (although images remain the property of the artist and may not be used for profit without the express permission of the creator). However, academics, and particularly those identifying as feminists, will typically not deem acting legally as sufficient to assure themselves they are doing the right thing. In utilising blog content as data, we are potentially using an author’s content for a purpose they did not foresee, and sometimes this may include exposing their ideas and perhaps critiquing them in front of a new, potentially wider, often international, audience. Moreover, the public accessibility and searchability of the internet, means that it may be nearly impossible for the researcher to protect the identity of the blogger whose content they are analysing.

On the other hand, the internet offers huge, and growing potential for researchers to access unheard or hard-to-reach voices. Cyberspace allows easy access to minority and disparate participants – in the case of my recent research, mothers whose children are ‘unschooled’ – who might otherwise be hard to find. It allows for research across time zones and international borders from the comfort of the researchers’ desk chair. Further, using blogs as research data allows the participants to communicate in their own voice. In using blogs the research has been produced for a purpose that suited the participant, in a manner that was not influenced by a researcher’s agenda or the authors’ perceptions of the researcher’s agenda. Whilst there are a host of reasons why blogs may not represent a truly authentic voice, whatever that might be, they at least do not include the researcher’s influence until they are sampled and analysed.

However, there is another, and perhaps more controversial, argument in support of the use of blogs in research which relates to the author’s rights to be recognised as a cogent agent in the research process. As scholars, we do not hesitate to cite the work of other authors who have run the peer-reviewing gauntlet to publish in academic journals or books. Similarly, we cite without questioning the ethics, the work of professional authors and journalists who themselves may have written for the Times or the Huffington Post, without the expectation of being analysed by an early career geography lecturer. Therefore, is declining to use blogs on the ground of author vulnerability, not in fact a paternalistic and highly hierarchical approach that deems these mothers’ published contributions to public knowledge less purposeful or less thought-through than other authors? Tentatively, I suggest that to avoid the free use of mothers’ blogs as valuable data sources is to deny these woman, often already marginalised as primary care givers, and as non-males, their agency as writers who have wittingly chosen to publish their ideas in a public forum.

Additional publications:

von Benzon, N. (2017), Unruly Children in Unbounded Spaces: School-based nature experiences for urban learning disabled young people in Greater Manchester, UK, Journal of Rural Studies, 51, 240-250:
von Benzon, N. (2016), Confessions of an inadequate researcher: space and supervision in research with learning disabled children, Social and Cultural Geography, 1-20:



Post 1 of #GPC@25: Cities as catalysts of gendered social change? by Dr Alice Evans


Welcome to the first post in our new blog series called GPC@25; a special series of blogs that will be posted throughout 2018 to mark Gender, Place and Culture turning 25 and to celebrate the development and scholarship of feminist geography. We are delighted to open the series with a contribution by Dr Alice Evans from Kings College London. In this post, she offers insights into her ethnographic research in rural and urban Cambodia and Zambia and explores the way in which cities can catalyse gender equality and social change.

To find out more about how the journal is marking the occasion, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPC@25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at

Support for gender equality is rising, globally. People increasingly champion girls’ education, women’s employment, and leadership. Scholars have suggested several explanations for this trend: (a) the growing availability of contraceptives; (b) domestic appliances; (c) cuts in men’s wages and the rising opportunity costs of women staying at home; and (d) seeing women in socially valued roles. These theories are plausible. But can they account for rural-urban differences?

Across Asia and Africa, urban residents are more likely to support gender equality in education, employment and leadership than their rural compatriots. This holds even when controlling for age, education, employment, income, and access to infrastructure. Likewise, in the 2016 US elections, city-dwellers were more likely to support Hillary Clinton (controlling for geographic region, education, income, age, race, and religious affiliation). Why is this?


To explore these possibilities, I undertook ethnographic research in rural and urban Cambodia and Zambia: interviewing migrant workers; farmers; fishermen; traders; students; teachers; office-workers; politicians; and government officials. My data suggests that cities can catalyse gender equality because they: (1) raise opportunity costs; enable (2) exposure to alternatives; (3) association; and (4) proximity to services.

First, cities often raise the opportunity costs of gender divisions of labour: higher living costs; more economic opportunities for women (in services and manufacturing); and the contemporary precarity of male employment. This shift in perceived interests has triggered rising support for female employment – in both Cambodia and Zambia.

Second, cities enable exposure to alternatives. People living in interconnected, heterogeneous, densely populated areas are more likely to see women in socially valued, masculine domains. Seeing women mechanics, breadwinners and leaders increases people’s confidence in the possibility of social change: inspiring others; catalysing further experimentation; generating a positive feedback loop.

Third, cities enable association with diversity. People may shift their norm perceptions (beliefs about what others think and do) by chatting and sharing ideas in cafes, markets, and offices: seeing others condemn inequalities, demonstrate zero tolerance of abuse, and champion women leaders.

Nsenga (41, circular migrant, fish wholesaler): In the village, there are no educated women for girls to look up to, so they don’t aspire for employment.

Annie (45, widow, circular migrant, fish wholesaler): But here in town, there are nurses, teachers, doctors. Girls think, ‘if I am educated then I can be a doctor’. Here in town children see everyone going to school but in the village, they just see two people…


Nsenga: Here in town a woman may stop school to give birth, then she will be desperate to return to school and finish. But in the village, they just give birth and it’s all over. It’s because of early marriage. There’s nothing else they see and aspire for [translated from Bemba].


Alice: What do you think of Phnom Penh? [speaking to trainee flight attendants]

Son: I meet new people, we share our experiences. But in rural areas, we just stuck with the old ideas. The idea is stuck because we don’t go out. [Here in the city] I feel wonderful. Seeing women dress up beautiful, earn their own living.

Bopha: I saw a woman driving a tuk tuk.

Son: Now it’s common.

First author: How did you feel, seeing her?

Bopha: I feel strange. Why don’t she find other job, like seller or company? I’ve never seen that before.

Son: It really impressed me, because what a man can do a woman can do…

Chanda: It shows men I can do it.

This process is much slower in rural Cambodia and Zambia. Rural remoteness and homogeneity curb exposure to alternatives, dampening confidence in the possibility of social change, deterring deviation.

Fourth, urban women are closer to health and police services – so potentially more able to control their fertility and secure external support against gender-based violence. But if these service-providers are unhelpful, then proximity is clearly no safeguard.

Urban experiences are also mediated by macro-economic context, the sectoral composition of job growth, and occupational status. While Zambian market traders learn from a bustling diversity of assertive women, home-based workers are more socially isolated. There are also limits to Cambodian factory work: long hours, berated, harassed, and closely controlled. Breaks are brief: gulp a sugary drink, guzzle a plate of rice and fatty meat, compare bundles completed, then hasten back for the bell.

While cities are no panacea, they are accelerating progress towards gender equality.


Read more!

Evans, A. (forthcoming) ‘Cities as catalysts of gendered social change: reflections from Zambia’, the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Evans, A. and Swiss, L. (2017) ‘Cities, gender equality, and social change in Africa and Asia’. Working paper.

Dr. Alice Evans, Lecturer in the Social Science of International Development, King’s College, London

Twitter: @_alice_evans

This blog post was first published on ‘From Poverty to Power


Celebrating 25 years of Gender, Place and Culture: a note on our celebrations and the ’25 blogs’ series, by Editor Pamela Moss

GPC@25It is wonderful that Gender, Place and Culture is celebrating 25 years of publication. As part of this celebration, throughout the year, Gender, Place and Culture will be a sponsor for lectures and sessions at multiple conferences. There will be a series of reviews of some of the influential books within the discipline that give some insight into how feminist geographies came to be. We will also publish a number of journal articles that show how they have transformed the wider discipline of geography, what issues are important to feminist geographies now, and what the future may hold. If this is something that appeals to you, you can find out more about it here.

The introduction of this website for Gender, Place and Culture has also opened up a new venue for publishing. In addition to announcements and calls associated with the journal, the blog has been an opportunity to write about the things feminist geographers immerse themselves in every day – what is done well and what can be done better!

In celebration of turning 25 and in honouring our commitment to showcasing the contributions of feminist geographers in the field, Anna Tarrant and Lisa Dam have commissioned a new set of blogs to be published throughout the year that speak to the interests of feminist geographers – whether it be a reflection on the ethics of research practice, on a moment in the history of the discipline, or on how to survive the challenging times we live in. We invite you to keep up with us as we post a new blog (hopefully more!) roughly every month.

We know that the field is flourishing. And it has been mostly about you – your research, your scholarship, your reviews, your commitment, your feminism, and your interest in feminist geographies! If you have an idea that you want to blog about this year in order to contribute to our celebrations – let Anna and Lisa know at

This blog is yours!


We invite you to submit your doctoral dissertations!

Committed to advancing original scholarship in the critical arenas of feminist geography and feminist interdisciplinary work, Gender, Place and Culture is seeking to add doctoral dissertation précis to its collection of research. As part of the feminist geography community, we recognize the importance of celebrating academic work written by hard-working doctoral students. By honoring these accomplishments, the journal can show how students engaging with feminist geography are building the future of the discipline.

Submission Details

Publication of doctoral dissertation précis will take place in each issue of Gender, Place and Culture. Submissions will be considered on a competitive basis, and each précis will undergo a vetting process by an Editor. Successful submissions will join the queue for publication.

We invite you to submit original pieces of writing of about 1500 words (including references) that summarize your recently-defended dissertation. Rather than publishing the original abstracts submitted with the dissertation, please compose a different piece summarizing the paper in a way that highlights the contributions of feminist geography and submit the accompanying abstract alongside the newy-written précis, including a set of five to seven key words. Please refer to our guidance notesfor further information on dissertation précis. For details of other paper types published in the journal please see the Instructions for Authors.

The Editors invite authors to submit précis of their dissertations through ScholarOne, and are now accepting dissertations defended in 2016 and 2017.

On behalf of the Editors of Gender, Place and Culture
Pamela Moss, Managing Editor


Have you seen our latest issues in volume 24? Links to articles and book reviews in issues 8 and 9 are available now

Issue 8

Louise Wattis
Jennifer Greenburg
Janet Lee
Angela Meah
Eser Selen & Mary Lou O’Neil