Women in the Construction of Cities

Zaida Muxí Martínez

The history of public events has been written eliminating women’s contributions. The same has been the case for the history of the construction of cities.

History is written by power, and power is patriarchal. When a values ​​scale is built around an experience, everything that falls outside that perspective remains unknown, rejected and forgotten. Therefore, if the values ​​and experiences of men, through the patriarchal system, are what determine what is good and relatable, then half of humanity is not taken into account. There is no room for other values ​​or experiences or knowledge. This biased assessment is applicable to the stories of all ‘others’ or subalternates: that is to say, ethnic or other minorities, non-whites, non-rich, etc.

Thinking from a perspective other than that of established power carries with it a number of difficulties. The first question is: How can we build a new discourse, with different values, ​​if we have been shaped by the single standard of patriarchal, masculine and sexist values? This situation suggests the difficulty of thinking from outside culture and the symbolic order (Rivera Garreta, 2003) and of finding new indications that let us construct new narratives.

Writing about women and cities also implies describing contributions made from the wrong place, if we subscribe to the organization of gender roles: as a social construction, gender roles constitute a dual and artificial division according to which women are assigned to one space, the interior, and, one working world, reproduction. The invisibility of the private sphere and the lack of recognition of the value of reproduction – which includes all the activities of caring for other members of the family, the home, nutrition, life – have determined, and still determine, the activities carried out by the female gender, since these tasks are still today largely the responsibility and obligation of women. Evidently, these reproductive responsibilities come in addition to productive activities, in which women participate just as much as men. This role, which has historically been difficult to avoid for women, has had its consequences. On the one hand, it has meant that women’s activities in the spheres of production go unseen, since these spheres do not pertain to us, or are not appropriate for us. On the other hand, the invisibility and the lack of value associated with domestic tasks or reproduction has undermined the contributions that women can make from the obligatory and undervalued role they have been assigned.

The city, its construction and its spaces, as the maximum representation of the public sphere, has been a space from which women have been barred – or that is what the dominant narrative of history has led us to believe.

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