99: Domosh & Seager’s Putting Women in Place

In Putting Women in Place: Feminist Geographers Make Sense of the World, Mona Domosh and Joni Seager show that space and place are both gendered and integral to the construction of gender.  In providing an overview of feminist geographical scholarship (up to 2001), they argue that this gendering has historically (and is currently) integral to processes of segregation, dominance, and resistance, in places like work and home as well as in the actions of everyday life.  Further, they situate this discussion of gender and geography within both local urban historical geographies in Western Europe and the US AND a structural analysis of global gender issues.  Their book is divided into six parts:

Home: history and analysis of a space almost universally associated with women.  Focusing on England and the US form the 17th century on, they show how the emerging capitalist system separated the male world of production from the female world of reproduction, from the Victorian cult of domesticity to mid-century suburbia.  They then interrogate the raced and classed connections between notions of domesticity and turn-of-the-century social engineering projects aimed at “Americanizing” urban working-class and immigrant women and rural Native American women.

Women at Work: a structural analysis of gendered definitions of “work” and an intro to women’s labor issues.  They demonstrate how women’s work, including homework, formal work, and exploitative work under global capitalism is devalued and rendered invisible around the world, and they include discussions of the glass ceiling and the feminization of poverty.

The City: history of the relationship between gender and urban landscapes.  Beginning in the late 17th century, they trace gender in the landscape, from the creation of masculine and feminine countryside to the Postmodern city.  They then examine women as both consumers and workers, and show how the city and its spaces of consumption and production have been reconfigured as gender roles have changed over time.

On the Move: a discussion of women’s mobility.  Beginning with spaces of the body, they trace mobility across scales and spatial contexts.  They examine social structures, like transportation routes, that inhibit female movement, as well as the formal and informal processes of maintaining those structures; they also discuss different kinds of female travel, from Victorian female travelers to refugee migrations and sex tourism, to suburban women buying cars and women from 3rd world countries moving for work and thus feminizing the global workforce.  They show that gender impacts how and why people move and examine what women’s movements mean.

Nations and Empires: a mostly theoretical discussion of women’s mobility in the context of imperialism.  They consider geographical scholarship in gender, imperialism, and colonialism, with an eye toward the interpenetration of the domestic and the imperial as it pertains to women, and they examine (dis)placement of women and women’s issues within nationalisms and nationalist movements.

The Environment: Discusses connections between women and the environment, from the often devastating results of importing Old World links between control of nature/ control of women to the New World, to ecofeminism and other 20th century feminist/ environmentalist movements, including 3rd world environmental degradation.

As a survey, this book provides a good introduction to the ways in which gender and geography are studied and thought together, as well as some concrete examples of how the two intersect.  I do wonder whether they end up with a simplified understanding of the category of “women,” however; more discussion of intersections with race and ethnicity, as well as thorough analyses of the social constructions of gender in 3rd world countries, would make me feel better about consistently linking female bodies with the social construction of gender.

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