A Feminist Perspective on Planning Cultures: Tacit Gendered Assumptions in a Taciturn Profession

Authored by: Clara Greed

The Ashgate Research Companion to Planning and Culture

Print publication date:  September  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409422242
eBook ISBN: 9781315613390
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042167


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Urban planning in the United Kingdom is underpinned by nation-wide legislation, with apparently fixed rules as to what is right and wrong. But ‘planning’ is an elastic field of public policy, characterized by paradigm shifts and breathtaking reversals. Planning has variously focused on land-use zoning, regional economic issues, social policy and equality issues. Possibly most significant of all has been the shift to the ‘green’ environmental planning agenda that currently dominates. Whilst these swings appear extreme, from a feminist perspective the development of urban planning appears to have been gender-blind, retaining a tacit, substantive focus on predominantly male concerns. Gender may be defined as the cultural role ascribed to women and men in society, as against the biological sex to which they are born. Feminism describes a view of society and knowledge that is based upon the principle that men’s views and interests dominate and unequal gender relations result which disadvantage women. It was in this context that the ‘women and planning’ movement developed from the 1970s onwards as more women entered town planning courses. It sought to change the design and planning of the built environment so that the ‘different’ needs of women are recognized and planned for (Booth, Darke and Yeandle 1996, Greed 1994a, Matrix 1984, Panelli 2004, Reeves 2005). In this chapter, I examine the history of urban planning from a feminist perspective beginning first by defining planning theory, culture and the planning subculture. Then I will go through the phases of planning theory and practice, drawing out key factors that belie the nature of the planning subculture and ‘types’ of planner in each stage (Greed and Johnson forthcoming 2013).

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