Women's Spaces and Women's Rights in the American City
In Constructive Feminism, Daphne Spain examines the deliberate and unintended spatial consequences of feminism's second wave, a social movement dedicated to reconfiguring power relations between women and men. Placing the women's movement of the 1970s in the context of other social movements that have changed the use of urban space, Spain argues that reform feminists used the legal system to end the mandatory segregation of women and men in public institutions, while radical activists created small-scale places that gave women the confidence to claim their rights to the public sphere.
Women’s centers, bookstores, health clinics, and domestic violence shelters established feminist places for women’s liberation in Boston, Los Angeles, and many other cities. Unable to afford their own buildings, radicals adapted existing structures to serve as women’s centers that fostered autonomy, health clinics that promoted reproductive rights, bookstores that connected women to feminist thought, and domestic violence shelters that protected their bodily integrity. Legal equal opportunity reforms and daily practices of liberation enhanced women’s choices in education and occupations. Once the majority of wives and mothers had joined the labor force, by the mid-1980s, new buildings began to emerge that substituted for the unpaid domestic tasks once performed in the home. Fast food franchises, childcare facilities, adult day centers, and hospices were among the inadvertent spatial consequences of the second wave.