Post 10 of #GPC@25: (In)Accessibility of reproductive health care in rural Sweden, by Gubb Marit Stigson, Ninni Wallström and Bonnie Dahlström


The tenth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is authored by, Ninni Wallström, Bonnie Dahlström and Gubb Marit Stigson.The authorial team are all human geographers and activists, who participated in an occupation of a local birthing clinic in Sollefteå, Sweden for three nights in August 2017 in protest against its closure. This post reflects on how access to healthcare for women is constantly at threat in Swedish society where women are still considered to be Others, and need to fight hard to have their rights taken seriously. 

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 our home country, Sweden, we often complement ourselves for being progressive, gender equal and safe. We have a government that proudly call themselves feminist, claiming to let feminist values characterise all decisions and campaigns run by national politicians. However, in recent decades there has been a gradual dismantling or privatization of public welfare services, especially in rural parts of Sweden. Every fifth emergency health care unit has closed since the beginning of year 2000[1], leaving rural citizens around Sweden with increased travel time, reduced safety and increased insecurity regarding their accessibility to healthcare. This inability to maintain basic health care services in rural areas has happened simultaneously with a general shutdown of service facilities, and urbanization as rural dwellers choose to, or are forced to move to bigger cities in order to find a job or secure better access to public services. Almost exclusively, this dismantling is explained by a strained economy, as the political administrative units that are responsible for public healthcare in Sweden always seem to struggle financially. In order to deal with a struggling economy, decision makers are increasingly turning towards reasoning aligned with masculine rationality[2] in order to “take responsibility” by cutting down on women’s health care.

Evidently, these cuts in the welfare sector do not affect all people equally. A report written by Sveriges Kvinnolobby (Sweden’s Women’s Lobby) shows that since the year 2000, no less than 13 birthing clinics have closed around the country, almost all of them in rural regions, making access to maternal and reproductive healthcare worse for those already poorly served. The report also states that in times of economic crisis, women’s healthcare (healthcare specialised for people with uteruses) is the first to go. This is due to the male norm that historically and presently characterises medical practice and theory, constructing women’s healthcare as a luxury that can be withdrawn when times are rough[3]. Consequently, rural women are especially hit by the dismantling of women’s health care as it predominantly affects the rural parts of the country. Thus, rural women face a two-pronged punishment, both as women and as rural dwellers.

The fight for a “living countryside” is a hot topic in Swedish politics. Recently the government appointed a Landsbygdskommittée (countryside committée) to investigate the cause of the rift between rural and urban, and present suggestions for a prosperous countryside in the future. In the 300 page report, and the 75 concretized suggestions, gender equality is mentioned twice, and never in relation to healthcare services and employment. In fact, throughout the report, accessibility to hospitals and maternal healthcare is not mentioned once. Instead, the main focus is on enabling private business and supporting infrastructure such as post offices and internet access[4]. The neoliberal solution leaves public welfare increasingly dismantled. In turn, the lack of state support in rural healthcare weighs heavier on women’s bodies as hospitals and care centres are workplaces heavily dominated by women[5]. Consequently, women’s ability to access safe employment is also undermined.

However, in the last couple of years there has been a popular rise against the dismantling of services in the Swedish countryside. In the town of Dorotea, activists occupied the local care centre for more than three years before it was reopened, and in Sollefteå, a massive occupation movement started as a reaction to the closing of the local birthing clinic in January 2017[6]. In October 2016, almost 15 000 people marched against the healthcare dismantling in Västernorrland region. In the summer of 2017, we visited Sollefteå to participate in the occupation of the hospital birthing clinic. The closing was a result of budget cuts, and has led to increased travel time for people in delivery, whom are forced to drive on roads in bad condition, with bad cell reception and heavy traffic, to the two remaining birthing clinics in the region, now suffering from overcrowding and lack of staff.

The occupation can be seen as a reaction to the lack of supporting infrastructure that lead to restricted personal freedom for people in Sollefteå. In contrary to the political actions, the resistance mobilised through the occupation, and the placing of vulnerable bodies in a certain space, characterised admitting the vulnerability caused by destructive rural politics, and was an attempt to step out of the binary of vulnerability and resistance. The resistance in Sollefteå also puts a finger directly on the problematic report written by the countryside committée, where a lack of intersectional feminist analysis resulted in suggestions that cemented an oppressive and exploitative system rather than challenging and changing it. Moreover, these actions of protest are relatable to a theory formulated by Judith Butler, Leticia Sabsay and Zeynep Gambetti, saying that there is potential for resistance in admitting vulnerability. The authors argue that there is a feminist action to step out of the binary of vulnerability and resistance, and to rather see the potential of mobilising resistance through vulnerability. This opposes the authoritarian, masculinist resistance to vulnerability as a manifestation of power. Instead, vulnerability is used as a means to demand change and the fulfilment of human rights[7].

However, politicians in the county council of Västernorrland (administrative unit for healthcare services in the area) argue that there was no other option, and instead of admitting their vulnerability in a broken system (rural areas in Sweden produce energy, forestry and food for urban centres, but taxes and profit is sent to the state and does not benefit the local community. Still, rural areas are constructed as “too expensive”, “too inefficient”, and in need of “support”) they try to claim power by dismissing it, and following the rite of passage for a “good politician” in patriarchal capitalism.

A politician in a Sollefteå municipality, My, told us that the counties in Norrland (the north land, 58% of Sweden’s total land area, inhabiting 11-12% of the population) need to ally and manifest their vulnerability in order to claim their rights. As Carina, one of the occupation founders, says: “Healthcare must be allowed to cost money, especially with the distances we have here in Norrland.” (my translation)[8].


[1] SVT (2018) Dokument Inifrån: Den stora sjukhusstriden. Sveriges Television. [Online] [Accessed: 2018-05-06]

[2] Plumwood, Val (2001) Environmental Culture – the Ecological Crisis of Reason. Taylor & Francis Ltd

[3] Alm Dahlin, Johanna (2017) Med Rätt att Föda – En granskning av satsningar på förlossningsvården i budgetpropositionen för 2018. Sveriges Kvinnolobby

[4] SOU (2017) För Sveriges landsbygder – en sammanhållen politik för arbete, hållbar tillväxt och välfärd. Statens Offentliga Utredningar. Elanders Sverige AB, Stockholm 2017

[5] SCB (2016) Inom vården finns Sveriges vanligaste yrken. Statistiska Centralbyrån. [Online] [Accessed: 2018-05-21]


[7] Butler, Judith. Gambetti, Zeynep. Sabsay, Leticia (red.)(2016) Vulnerability in Resistance. Durham: Duke University Press

[8] Carina, personal interview, 2018


Post 9 of #GPC@25: A defence of fourth wave feminism? by Lucy Clode


The ninth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is by Lucy Clode. Lucy is a BA Hons Geography Graduate, from Newcastle University, UK and has been awarded the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology scholarship for MA in Human Geography Research (2018-2019)In today’s post Lucy reflects on women’s rights in the neoliberal digital age and the role that feminist geographers of the fourth wave might play in tackling online misogyny. 
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 As Lucy’s post attests, we are delighted to welcome posts from scholars at all stages of their academic careers, including undergraduates.

Since the 2016 US presidential campaign and the inauguration of Donald Trump, the debate around women’s rights and inequalities has rarely left the headlines. The ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct both in governments, and also in the media and film industries shine a light on issues that can no longer be hidden in a rapidly expanding neoliberal digital age.

I am a member of generation Z, a post-millennial, digital native; I cannot remember a world without technology. The internet provides a platform for our interconnected world to flourish. Ideas and innovative concepts can be shared instantly. Unfortunately – and why this matters – is that it is also a space which attracts misogynistic trolls. These people hide behind a keyboard, for example, those who send abuse all over the world by creating memes that reinforce gender stereotypes to maintain the subordination of women. Feminist geographies allow for the online to be seen as a space which can reproduce everyday inequalities and reassert the patriarchy and feminist geographers are well placed to tackle this online misogyny. To date, global movements such as #MeToo (launched originally in 2006), which have opened up an online discussion for victims of sexual violence have not been universally accepted. This critique presents two clear problems: firstly, by accusing #MeToo of ignoring intersectional considerations while secondly, simultaneously dismissing these fourth wave feminists with the more generalised “generation snowflake” commentary; I use this blog to explore these criticisms.

The fourth wave of feminism has evolved from within this technological revolution, and I think that there is merit to the intersectional criticisms. The ironic banner from the Women’s March on Washington holds credence: ‘I’ll see you nice white ladies at the next Black Lives Matters protest, right?’. The first wave of feminism focused on legal issues such as women’s rights to vote. With the second wave came a discussion of reproductive rights and inequalities at work and in families, which are still highly debated issues within the United Kingdom. The third wave allowed a greater insight to how intersectional feminism acknowledges that oppression is not simple but has many layers, such as race and sexual orientation. The fourth wave builds upon this, however due to the growth of social media in the public sphere some women have a more powerful voice than others. The #MeToo movement took the internet by storm and women joined in with Hollywood celebrities to share their stories of everyday sexual harassment and abuse. Women were seemingly more united than ever.

black lives

The emergence of the fourth wave has jumpstarted a conversation which was needed years ago. Yet I still find people in power often dominate the headlines and speak for those who have less of a following or even no access to the online world. The places where the most serious cases of sexual violence in the world occur are, without a doubt, countries of the global south. In 2017 the Independent claimed cities such as New Delhi was one of the worst places to live if you were a woman. However, the majority of the population in India have no access to the internet. There are still many voices in the world who cannot be heard during the fourth wave of feminism. The coming together of women all over India in reaction to the 2012 Delhi gang rape had a more forceful impact on India’s patriarchal culture than #MeToo ever could. The movement might cover the everyday lives of people in the West, but many of those in the Global South can find it hard to relate to the elite of the US who seem to dominate the movement.

The third wave of feminism battled for individualism, but the presence of these online movements seems to group feminist narratives together. All women are put under one hashtag which unconsciously reinforces that women are not individuals but still one stereotype. Germaine Greer, a dominant second wave feminist voice, believes the movement is dishonourable.  Greer’s argument is that the women who have now come out to tell the story of their abuse did not do so when it happened years ago because they took the decision to accept financial incentives and supported the patriarchy in order to stay silent. However, now feminism is seen as trendy in the West and because celebrities are speaking up it is more socially acceptable for the general public to speak too. Society seems to still be following a traditional power hierarchy.

Greer argues that women are now still not allowed to even move on from their abusive experiences with the presence of the movements. They are pressured into reliving and embodying the experiences and if the victims say that they have moved on, online others will convince them that they are in denial. These experiences do not define who these women are, but social media is pressuring them to think that it is something which should consume them. Crucially though, Greer’s critique centres on objecting to the way many young feminists are “doing” feminism. Of Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism project she commented: ‘Unpacking your heart with bitter words to an anonymous blog is no substitute for action.’

Although the #MeToo movement has limitations it is helping some victims of sexual abuse and misogynistic behaviour to feel less alone. Feminist geography as a discourse allows scholars to deconstruct ongoing power relations within increasingly significant spaces, such as the online world. What 25 years of research into feminist geography has taught me is that an appreciation of the multi-layered nature of oppression and injustice is crucial (intersectional critique) whilst simultaneously, a generational dismissal (snowflake critique) is a wholly un-feminist act.


Post 8 of #GPC@25: Doing Feminist Geography With a Toddler, by Alison Alkon

GPC@25The eighth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is by Alison Alkon. Alison is Associate Professor of Sociology and Department Chair at the University of the Pacific, USA. Her research seeks to understand and advocate for food justice by exploring the ways that racial and economic identities and inequalities affect efforts to create sustainable food systems. In today’s post however, she reflects on how her work experience has altered since the arrival of her young son. This post will resonate with many feminist geographers and social researchers as it raises some of the implications of the specific challenges faced by female academics with care responsibilities.
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 writing on the practice of geography, and of social science in general, urges us to do more. We need to build strong relationships with the people whose lives are impacted by the phenomena we study; we need to solicit and incorporate their responses to our findings and our research process; we need not only to write peer reviewed articles, but blogs and other popular work capable of influencing public debates; maintain a twitter presence; seek out the work of underrepresented and junior scholars to reference, even (especially) when it’s not in mainstream journals; we need to mentor underrepresented and first generation students, ensuring that they get the support they need and the recognition they deserve. All of this work is invaluable. It makes us better scholars and teachers, and helps us to create the world we want to live in. But it’s certainly a lot of work.
Feminist geographers with children, particularly those of us who are women, are all too aware of the impossible balancing act that is work-family balance. We work tirelessly at our jobs, navigating the often competing demands of students, administrators, funders, colleagues and the like. Then we come home to what on our best days is quality time with our families and on our worst is a second shift of childcare and housework. And for graduate students or instructors not on the tenure track, or those struggling to navigate the craziness of the academic job market, there are additional financial and time pressures that I have faced in the past, but could not imagine facing with a family. That these conflicts are even more difficult for underrepresented and working-class scholars who are often supporting extending family goes without saying.
Before my son was born, I think I navigated these competing demands pretty well. My dissertation involved community-based research, and because I was lucky enough not to have to move when I graduated (an advantage somewhat mitigated by 5-10 hours per week of commuting), I maintained relationships with the communities I studied. They already knew me, so checking in once in a while, attending a public event, or occasionally reading over a report or grant application was enough to keep me present in their work, and in their lives. From time to time, I asked someone for an interview, and adding updated perspectives to my volumes of data allowed me to extend my insights in a number of directions. I’m at a teaching university, so there was no demand that I begin a new research project before tenure. Thankfully my publications were enough to satisfy my evaluators and received tenure.
Clearing the tenure hurdle, and being awarded a sabbatical, should have given me more time, and renewed energy to pursue my research. But now, toddler in tow, I’m sad to say my community work has been the first to go. I can’t seem to find the time to attend activist events, either because I’m exhausted from a day of teaching and commuting or spending it with my family. And I find myself needing more self care and support from friends just to maintain sanity amidst tasks and toddlers. That takes time too.
At any rate, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to show up for the folks who have so graciously allowed me to document their lives. In my new project, participant-observation has almost wholly been replaced by interviews, as I don’t really participate anymore. And community members and activists who I did not know when I was in graduate school have turned down my requests to get together. From their perspective, I haven’t gotten to know the community. They’re right. As the community I studied has changed, I haven’t kept up. Moreover, as my status has shifted from middle-class but low-income grad student to securely employed professional, the social distance between us has grown. These days, I’m more likely to send in a donation than help to till the soil. Although my work remains critical in nature (I study the ways that inequalities affect local food systems), I wonder if I can still call my practice one of feminist research.
I go back and forth on where to go from here. Sometimes I get angry with myself and make promises to show up at activist events. Often I fail to keep them. Sometimes I try to be ok with my current limitations. I’m fortunate in that my work is often taught in undergraduate and graduate classes, and so from time to time I meet students and activists who have read it and felt it spoke to them. As a white woman who studies race, this praise is particularly satisfying in that it often comes from students of color. I know my work has had an influence beyond the profession, but I wonder if these positive responses to the research I began as a graduate student will be warranted by my current approach. I’m only an early associate professor; I hate believing that my best work is already behind me. My current strategy is to try to write more for popular audiences. I have a piece going through the editorial process at Civil Eats and have been brainstorming and pitching a few more for this and similar sites. I’m even thinking about reviving my long defunct twitter account. I’m not sure that this will satisfy my malaise, but perhaps that isn’t the point. Trying to do a little bit of everything may not be intellectually comfortable, but for me right now, it beats trying to choose. And anyway, my son will someday be in grade school. Maybe things will be different then.

Post 7 of #GPC@25: What’s in a name? A feminist geography critique of study abroad trends, by Jade Lansing and Rebecca L. Farnum



The seventh post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is by Jade Lansing and Rebecca L. Farnum. Jade is a freelance researcher, and former manager of the Moroccan field school discussed in this blog post. Rebecca is a doctoral candidate at King’s College London, where she examines environmental peacebuilding in the Middle East and North Africa. She worked with the field school as a case study in her dissertation. Blog 7 is based on a co-authored article on statecentricism and inequity in study abroad in the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning and explores how understandings of trends in study abroad schemes can be enhanced by the theories and values underpinning feminist 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

Study abroad has become a fundamental rite-of-passage in forming conscientious, globally-aware citizens. Stakeholders posit that learning outside of one’s homeland challenges students to think critically, adapt to new environments, and develop vital intercultural communication skills.[1] Embedded within this pitch is the idea that foreign spaces inherently facilitate a new and beneficial way of learning. In a recent article in the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning, we question this assumption, with particular attention to how the naming and narration of study locales undermines the stated goals of equitable, nuanced intercultural exchange.[2]

A central narrative of feminist geographies calls attention to how the naming of spaces reflects elite, colonial, male, and heteronormative values and boundaries. Katherine McKittrick decries these categorizations as “social landscapes that presume subaltern populations have no relationship to the production of space.”[3] The uncritical use of terminology created by Western hegemonic discourses of ‘the other’ can reify and legitimise imperialist frameworks, further enabling political, social, and economic inequalities. Ideological regimes limit the very possibilities of ideas, categories, and identities, silencing less powerful voices by forcing them into narratives that speak for them without reflecting their realities.[4]

Unfortunately, these namings are the foundation of many study abroad programmes. Most are explicitly advertised as an educational experience of a state – especially in ‘developing’ states. Courses deal broadly with “development in India”, “healthcare in Brazil”, and “tropical agriculture in Sri Lanka”.[5] Students are invited to “study Morocco” rather than discover Marrakech or explore Mediterranean continuities and divergences.

The global study abroad sector thus has a dominant discourse that frames overseas learning in the clear-cut ‘packaging’ of country-based spaces. In the absence of critical reflection on how borders, institutions, and ideas come to be packaged together, this framing reproduces real and imagined realities of the nation-state, presented as externally distinct and internally homogeneous. Building educational curricula around these constructions of space reifies colonial dynamics that undermine local communities’ voices, reinforcing global inequalities and strengthening hegemonic centres of knowledge production.[6] Within programme structures and curricula that narrate their lives and livelihoods for them, host communities are asked to provide the experience of an ‘authentic’ other – becoming caricatures for a narrative drawn by the Oriental fantasies of sending universities.

Amy Allen’s feminist theory of power identifies three forms of relations: power over (domination and control), power to (capacity to cause an outcome), and power with (collective action and solidarity).[7] Applied to study abroad discourse: we can speak over (about ‘the other’), speak to (unilaterally address), or speak with (engage in equitable exchange and honest conversation) people. If study abroad aims to form conscientious global citizens, practitioners should consider planned interactions of ‘speaking with’ (rather than about or to) local communities as critical pedagogical tools. Locally led sessions, facilitated dialogues, and communal meals give stronger voices to host communities and leave lasting impacts on visiting students. Reshaping programme schedules and aims in these ways helps reframe the underlying value systems that define educational experiences abroad.

Like gender theory, education should seek “not the study of what is evident” but “an analysis of how what is evident came to be”.[8] Critical approaches to global education should encourage students to deconstruct narratives of how states and spaces are formed, as well as their own experiences, to examine a dynamic – rather than self-evident – world.

For insight on how a local Ethnographic Field School in Morocco has challenged and engaged with these dynamics, see the aforementioned article. We invite comments and critiques.


[1] See, for example: Association of American Colleges and Universities (2017) ‘Shared Futures: Global Learning and Social Responsibility’. Online. (accessed 8 March 2017); Lewin, R., ed. (2009) The Handbook of Practice and Research in Study Abroad: Higher Education and the Quest for Global Citizenship. New York: Routledge.

[2] Lansing, J. and Farnum, R.L. (2017) ‘Statecraft and study abroad: Imagining, narrating and reproducing the state’. International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning, 9 (1): 3–17. DOI 10.18546/IJDEGL9.1.02.

[3] McKittrick, K. (2006), Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. p. 92.

[4] Spivak, G.C. (1988) ‘Can the subaltern speak?’. In Nelson, C. and Grossberg, L. (eds) Marxism and

the Interpretation of Culture. London: Macmillan, 271–313.

[5] Michigan State University (2016). ‘Program Search’. Online. (accessed 17 November 2016).

[6] Hangen, S. and Sen, R. (2016) ‘Negotiating Time and Space on a Study Abroad Program in South India’. Journal of Cultural Geography 33:1.

[7] Allen, Amy (1998) ‘Rethinking Power’. Hypatia 13 (1): 20-41.

[8] Mikdashi, M. (2012) ‘How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East’. Jadaliyya 21 March. Online. (accessed 8 February 2017).

Author Biographies

Rebecca L. Farnum is a doctoral candidate at King’s College London investigating environmental diplomacy and education in the Middle East and North Africa. After meeting Dar Si Hmad during ethnographic fieldwork, she became a consulting researcher advising on their community-led fog-harvesting project, sustainable development initiatives, and youth empowerment programming. Becca has an LLM in International Law from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Water Security and International Development from the University of East Anglia.

Jade Lansing is a freelance researcher, translator, and teacher. She served as Dar Si Hmad’s Ethnographic Field School Manager for two years, helping groups of students and visiting researchers learn about Southwest Morocco’s diversity and environment. She has an MA in Middle East Studies, with concentrations in anthropology and education, from the American University in Cairo and a BA in International Relations from Lewis & Clark College.


Post 6 of #GPC@25: Feminist Geography and the 1918 Representation of the People Act, by Dr Francesca Moore

GPC@25Post 6 in our series of blogs celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25 is by Dr Francesca Moore. She is a Lecturer and Director of Studies in Geography at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. She is an historical-political geographer and her research focuses on reproductive politics and women’s political activism. In today’s post, Francesca explores how feminist geographies have enriched understandings of the social and spatial
changes that the 1918 Representation of the People Act created.

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

2018 is an exciting year. As Gender, Place and Culture celebrates its 25th birthday, we also mark the one hundred year anniversary of some women in the UK being granted voting rights. This was an important moment in women’s history and is being widely celebrated across the UK in 2018. In this blog, I think through the sexual politics of women’s campaign for suffrage and sketch continuities into the present. I also explore how important the work of feminist geographers is in helping us to understand the political, historical and spatial contexts of women’s citizenship and the new sexual politics of our time.

In 1994, Louise Johnson, writing in GPC, defined feminist geography as a discourse on the oppression of women in space (Johnson, 1994). The process of gendered geographical disadvantage has a very long history. For instance, the Victorians had an elaborate cultural imagination about what women should be and how they should behave. Coventry Patmore’s 1854 poem, The Angel in the House described the virtues of woman as a private, innocent and asexual being confined to the home. Such imaginaries indicate that women were thought to be too fragile and delicate for life beyond the home. Elaine Showalter recalls the significance of Virginia Woolf’s sardonic take on the Angel of the House. She observes that Woolf noted Angels should ‘never let anybody guess you have a mind of your own’ (Showalter, 1972). This would, then, rule out entertaining any thoughts of votes for women. All of this amounts to what scholars call the ‘separate spheres’ ideology, a male ideal of how women should behave. This is the notion that women reside in the private sphere of home, family and childrearing and that men belong in the public sphere of politics and commerce. This pervasive norm is a form of cultural discipline and was part of the reason it was difficult for women to get the vote.

Of course, such a designation was hugely problematic not least since the separate spheres ideology simply did not reflect the reality of women’s lives. Scholars have documented that in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, vast numbers of working-class women were employed outside the home, thus working a double shift of childrearing and paid employment (Rosenman and Klaver, 2008). Furthermore, Amanda Vickery discovered that the separate spheres did not fit the reality of middle-class women’s lives either (Vickery, 1998). Indeed, one of the most important tenets of feminist geography has been exactly this recuperation of the voices and experiences of women that are so often at odds with patriarchal visions of power. Yet, the separate spheres doctrine has impressive longevity and we still see evidence of it today.

It was not actually until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women achieved the same voting rights as men. The 1918 Act meant only partial enfranchisement for women. Those over 30 years of age who met certain conditions such as property ownership became eligible to vote. In reality, only around 40% of women in the UK were now able to vote and this was heavily skewed in favour of middle-class women. There were many objections to women being given citizenship rights and the road to enfranchisement was long and difficult. In a speech made in Parliament in April 1906, Samuel Evans, Liberal MP for Mid-Glamorgan, noted that women should not be granted the vote, because they ‘had their own honourable position in life, that that position had been accorded to them by nature and that their proper sphere was the home.’ This bio-determinist argument naturalises the patriarchal division of space and placed women squarely in the home. Evans also had some practical concerns about women’s enfranchisement. He was worried about who would do the household chores if women entered politics, arguing that women would be neglecting their homes if they were involved in public life![1]

Feminist geographers have been at the forefront of revealing the ways in which exactly these kinds of gender inequalities have actually persisted long beyond the granting of formal voting rights to women. For example, looking across the GPC archives, we can see that feminist geographers have used the urban as lens to contest the separation between public and private and patriarchal logics of space (McDowell, 1983; Little, Peake and Richardson, 1988; Madigan, Munro and Smith, 1990).

Arguably, the some of the most important work in feminist geography has explored gender and power at the scale of the body. Feminist geographers have challenged essentialist assumptions – like those of Samuel Evans, MP- through materialist readings of the body. We now see the body as both material and discursive, given and enacted (Jacobs and Nash, 2003: 275). Prokkola and Fidanpaa (2015) explored the relationship between the state and the body in the Finnish Border Guard Service. Here they find yet more bio-determinist arguments. They conclude that emotionally-laden ideas about national territory as female body that must be protected by a masculinist guard are based on essentialist and heavily spatial constructions of gender. Women are relegated to domestic roles and the sphere of reproduction, while men occupy the public sphere, for the sake of women (Prokkola and Fidanpaa, 2015: 1377). These essentialised arguments, just like in the nineteenth century, justify the different roles for men and women. These findings are echoed by Basham (2016) in her investigation of the poppy as an act of remembrance. She finds that the poppy can reinstitute war as an activity in which masculinised protectors defend feminised bodies who are in need of protection. Similarly, Herbert (2010)’s investigation of policing in Los Angeles revealed the masculinist culture of law enforcement and the actions of the state, thus once again relegating women to a more private realm. Disturbingly, Herbert (2010) shows how this culture has worked to uphold patriarchy and suppress democracy. What is so important about these analyses is the way in which space, right down to the micro-scale of the body, is read as an active participant in power struggles. Furthermore, when set alongside Victorian and Edwardian logics of gender, and arguments against the enfranchisement of women, these accounts raise questions about what, if anything, has changed in the politics of gender.

So, what challenges do women face in the present that can be seen as analogous to the campaign for women’s suffrage? And how will we study them? To name but a few, in recent times we have seen the continuation of the gender pay gap, the gendered impact of austerity and the post-2017, post-Harvey Weinstein sexual revolution. Sexuality is normatively private thanks in large part to the Victorians, but the #metoo campaign brought previously hidden cultures of sexual misconduct into the public domain. The unprecedented discussion of sexual assault and sexual mores facilitated by social media and the internet has served to highlight questions of sexual citizenship and re-ignite debates about consent and patriarchy. For example, the entrepreneur Cindy Gallop has argued for a revolution in sexual citizenship. Gallop has observed that ‘nobody ever brings us up to behave well in bed.’ She suggests that more openness around sex and what constitutes good sexual values can empower women, protecting them against sexual assault.[2] In January 2017, millions of women took part in marches around the world, using public space as a platform to campaign for abortion rights, equal pay and against harassment. This new vision of women exercising sexual and political power in both public and private spaces is a long way from the Angel in the House.

How can feminist geographers respond to and engage with these new forms of female power and the sexual politics of the next 25 years? The answer lies, I think, in mobilising our historical and political knowledge to critique the present. From Victorian Britain to Finnish border patrol in the present, it is clear that essentialised and largely Victorian representations of womanhood as fragile and powerless have had a depressingly long lifespan. It is also clear that women have been silenced and oppressed sexually, politically and otherwise by ideas that identify them with the private realm. Scholarship across the first 25 years of GPC has also shown us not to oversimplify the category woman and that, importantly, it is fractured by class, race and, sexuality and geography. Given the empirically rich and theoretically-informed nature of work published in GPC in its first 25 years, there is much to look forward to. I foresee the ongoing critique of Victorian power structures that have yet to be fully dismantled. In so doing, we can continue to recover the agency of all women in different social, spatial and historical contexts and break the conceptual stranglehold of Victorian mores about gender, sex and female power.

[1] Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) 4th Series, Vol.155, March 30 to April 25, 1906 , cols 1582-1587

[2] last accessed 04/03/2018


Basham, V. (2016) Gender, race, militarism and remembrance: the everyday geopolitics of the poppy, Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 23(6): 883-896

Herbert, S. (2001) ‘Hard Charger’ or ‘Station Queen’? Policing and the Masculinist State, Gender, Place and Culture 8 (1): 55-71

Jacobs, J. and C. Nash (2003) Too little, too much: Cultural feminist geographies, Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 10:3 265-279

Johnson, L. (1994) ‘What future for feminist geography?’ Gender, Place and Culture 1(1): 103-113.

Little, J., Peake, L. and Richardson, P. (1988) Women in Cities: Gender and the Urban Environment (London: Macmillan).

Madigan, R., Munro, M and Smith, S. (1990) Gender and the meaning of home, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 14, 625-64.

McDowell, L. (1983) Towards an understanding of the gender division of urban space, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 16, 59-7.

Prokkola, E. and Rudanpaa, J. (2015) Border guarding and the politics of the body: an examination of the Finnish Border Guard service, Gender, Place and Culture 22 (10): 1374-1390.

Rosenman, E. and Klaver, C. (2008) Other Mothers: Beyond the Maternal Ideal (Ohio: Ohio State University Press)

Showalter, E. (1972) Killing the angel in the house: the autonomy of women writers, The Antioch Review 50 (1): 207-220.

Vickery, A. (1998) The Gentleman’s Daughter (Yale: Yale University Press)


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.


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.

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