Geography, gender and the
gender of geography
Dr Lee Thompson
• The gender of geography – challenging
the single perspective
• Different approaches to gender –reflect
shifts in social theoretical thinking
• Examples of geographical research that
pays specific attention to gender
• Gender does not only ‘belong’ to women
• Gender is socially constructed – rather than
• “One is not born a woman, one becomes one”
(Simone de Beauvoir, 1972: 525)
• Gender makes a difference
The gender challenges to/in
• Unequal experiences and opportunities for
men and women in geography and the
masculinity of geography, 1970s-1990s
– Women overwhelmingly positioned at lower
– Experience of white middle class men seen
as norm
Feminist theories
• How we think about gender in/and
geography – influenced by shifts in
feminist thought
– Radical feminism
– Liberal feminism
– Post-structural feminism
Radical feminism
• Women oppressed as women by men
• Replacement of motherhood via
reproductive technology – motherhood
free from patriarchal control
• Radical lesbian feminist separatism
alternative to patriarchal system
Liberal feminism
• All individuals equal in the eyes of the law
– should have equal access to the rights of
citizenship (emancipation of slaves and
women’s suffrage)
– Right for married women to own property
– Claims for equality in the workplace
– Equality the focus
Post-structural feminism
• Emphasis on difference
• No longer searching for ‘the’ grand theory
• More focus on equity rather than equality
– Notion of equality based on an individual who
is a bourgeois man
– Claims for equal rights in the workplace fail to
take account of women’s particular needs (or
increasingly men’s)
What counts as knowledge and
how do we produce it?
• Core challenge from gender theorists
– Knowledge is not out there waiting to be
found or revealed – we actively participate in
producing what counts as knowledge
– Multiple ways of knowing
– Knowledge production is never value-free or
Situated knowledge
– All knowledge is positioned or situated – it
comes from somewhere
– Objectivity – researchers make decisions
about research questions, data gathering,
analysis and writing
– Individual perspectives influence which types
of knowledge we privilege
Feminist research
• Upsurge of qualitative methods
• Focus on power relations between
researcher and researched
• Concerns with interpretative authority
• Ownership of research
Gender and monuments
Rolleston Statue
Robert Falcon Scott
Godley Statue
Kate Sheppard
Captain Cook
• Masculinity as subject/object of
– Historical factors
– Embedded representations
– Objects and activities
– Race, class and ethnicity
Masculine branding
• What kind of masculinity is being
represented in the advertisements?
• Are there any traces of femininity evident
in them?
• In what ways is identity being linked to
place in them?
• (From Le Heron et al. 1999 Chapter 6
“Gendering Place” in Explorations in
Human Geography)
Rural Health Care
• “My fear is that they will go out there and
start practicing independently, not fully
trained or supported, and that would be an
absolute disaster”
• “I’m sick of being seen as a stop-gap”
• Gender, power, professional status
Gender and development
• Gender, work and single motherhood in postrevoluntionary Nicaragua
• Male passivity and female activity
• Single motherhood viable
• ‘Good’ mothering – providing financially as well
as providing care for children

Geography and gender or the gender of geography?