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Feminist Activism for Safer Social Space by Whitzman Essay (Article)

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

The article under consideration is “Feminist Activism for Safer Social Space in High Park, Toronto: How Women Got Lost in the Woods” by Carolyn Whitzman. The scientist pays special attention to the municipal parks, mainly High Park in Toronto, from the point of view of feminists trying to make women involved into the discourse concerning different aspects of the park.

First of all, the authoress justifies her research, referring to the argument formulated by Sandercock and Forsyth, which says that there is the necessity of application of the feminist theory to planning practice that would give women the role of active participants in social life (Whitzman, 2002, p. 299). She tackles numerous scientific works concerning the rules of the use and meaning of public space provided by feminists in the course of the development of feminist movement. The article is the case study that has a primary goal of the analysis of “identity politics in the public sphere” (Whitzman, 2002, p. 299).

The article presents the study of “Park Safety” that presents information about parks as the places of contest between people belonging to middle class and problem groups (homeless, people with low income). Women have been also involved into the “struggle” concerning the right to “own” the parks.

Further, the authoress recounts the information about High Park as popular and intensively used public place (Whitzman, 2002). The statistical information about the park is provided, including the information about the ratio of female visitors of the park to male visitors. The statistics shows that there is gender imbalance among the visitors, with male visitors’ prevalence. The authoress states that statistical information shows the injustice of the situations, especially if we take into account that women have more reasons for the usage of the territory of the park (as caregivers). The key factor that stifles women’s successful usage of the park is the threat of crimes and low level of park safety, though women should feel free to walk in the woods (Whitzman, 2002, p. 303).

The research conducted by Whitzman included the analysis of “The High Park User Study” that was composed by High Park Study Group in order to improve the reputation of the park after several rapes that spread panic among public. The analysis of the responses declared that the public fear was irrational. However, subsequent criminal cases with the place of location in High Park became sufficient reason for women’s fear of staying in the park alone.

The document “Planning for Sexual Assault Prevention: Women ‘s Safety in High Park” is compared and contrasted with the User Study. The results showed that this document was formulated better, contained detailed suggestions for the improvement of safety situation in the park, like public support of the police. Nevertheless, the plan was never put in execution because of the resistance of naturalists.

Whitzman also mentions Public consultation on the High Park Draft Proposals (2002), and safety plans as the results of the consultation. “The case of Whistling Pervert” is analyzed in its progression and public reaction (the increased number of people in park Watch program) is shown. However, the safety situation in the park is not sufficient and satisfactory so far. As for the future areas of investigation, the authoress states that such oppressed societal groups as children, senior people, people with disabilities should eventually get the right to use public places freely.

Reference

Whitzman, C. (2002). Feminist Activism for Safer Social Space in High Park, Toronto: How Women Got Lost in the Woods. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 11(2), 299-322.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Feminist Activism for Safer Social Space by Whitzman." November 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminist-activism-for-safer-social-space-by-whitzman/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Feminist Activism for Safer Social Space by Whitzman'. 25 November.

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