The Gendered City

Every day our comments on a city reflect our interpretation of it as a body, even when we’re not thinking about it. The mayor being the head of a city, the heart of a city being the cultural or commercial centre, or referring to something as the lifeblood of a city. But what about it’s gender? Is the city a man or a woman? Or even breaking out of these binaries. The author Angela Carter is quoted saying,

‘Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual’

The idea of how a city is modelled, and the aesthetics of a city, I believe could be seen to reflect this opinion. Looking at the skyscrapers that dominate many major city skylines nowadays, the buildings are phallic structures filled with white male professionals, exerting power not only over the rest of the city, but the rest of the country and beyond.

The author Michelle Murphy has written a book on how she feels this predominantly male construction process can lead to health problems in the city, specifically Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), stating even the ventilation engineers seem to have a gendered leaning when designing systems for new buildings- such as these skyscrapers and tall office blocks. The reason this is interesting is that statistics relating to SBS have shown that women are more likely to be affected by this than men. Interestingly, the author comments on universities being a key site for SBS episodes. Particularly for older universities, not only did they fail to foresee the upcoming digital changes that would need to be incorporated in to the buildings, but it could be argued that institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge that were founded with only the male student and professor in mind. Sources: Image- http://www.housmans.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/City460.jpg 1. Cohen, B. (2008). Sick Building Syndrome as a Problem of Design and Expertise: Part II with author Michelle Murphy. Available: http://scienceblogs.com/worldsfair/2008/09/09/sick-building-syndrome-as-a-pr/. Last accessed 14th Feb 2015. 2. Murphy, M (2006). Sick building syndrome and the problem of uncertainty : environmental politics, technoscience, and women workers. London: Duke University Press. 3. NHS Choices. (2013). Sick building syndrome. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sick-building-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Last accessed 14th Feb 2015.