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Urban design "male" vs "female" communities

Maister

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Given the fact that the world's population is pretty much divided 50/50 along the gender lines, it might seem strange to think of a community exhibiting more 'male' or 'female' characteristics in the built environment, yet it could be argued this may well be the case.

'male' streetscape

'female' streetscape

male

female

male

female

The question of course is what factors are present in the built environment that makes it feel one way or the other?
 

Dan

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I see some streetscapes as being far more "manly" -- the mechanical commercial corridors, 1950s-era commercial strips taken over by used car dealers and vape shops, and the like. However, as a man, I don't find them appealing. Do we see them as "manly" because they're unpolished? Before we associate them with a gender, also consider those are the kinds of neighborhoods that are filled with places like "Grandma's Antiques" and "Karen's Kraft Korner".

When my wife and I visit DC, I jokingly call the Clarendon Metro stop the "Girl's Station". The neighborhood surrounding the station is very polished, and has the feel of one big lifestyle center. Lots of Lululemon/Ann Taylor-type stores, fro-yo and artisanal smoothie shops, fast casual salad/healthy restaurants, wine bars, yoga/barre studios, and the like. It's the last place you'd expect to find a Harbor Freight or Duluth Trading store. Is the Clarendon area "feminine", or just overly polished, with an agglomeration of upmarket "basic girl" businesses? (For what it's worth, the neighborhood also attracts its share of "basic bros".)

I've posted about "mommyhoods" or something like that a long time ago -- those gentrifying urban neighborhoods that seem to attract a disproportionate share of young professional mommy types. West Highlands in Denver, the Marina District in SF, and Park Slope in Brooklyn come to mind.
 

Maister

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I intentionally chose not to select street views that were real life caricatures. It would be easy to dig up some street view of a 'frontier' community in Alaska and see a line of 'rugged' businesses like Joe's Bar, Bill's Hardware, building/landscape supplies lot, gun stores, etc. or conversely, some highly urbanized lifestyle center on the east coast with wine bars, specialty clothing, notion shops and the like. This is a bit more subtle than that, and Dan is on target when he mentions 'polish.' I suppose 'grit' might be the male counterpart.

Using the Punxatawney example above, a certain critical mass of street banners, door and window awnings, statues, flower baskets, and other small but purely decorative/aesthetic elements contribute to give it a feeling of polish. The residential neighborhood in Springfield, MO exhibits a comparative lack of decorative elements in both the structures and the landscaping and feels more 'male'.
 

Dan

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Think about this: up until a couple of decades ago, we tended to associate the urban environment with men, and the suburban environment with women. Cities were dirty, gritty, dangerous places where people worked and made stuff. Suburbs were the domain of domesticity. From an 1959 ad for the Wurlitzer Park subdivision in North Tonawanda, New York ...

omg_shopping.jpg

And from an article about Buffalo's Skid Row.

skid_row.jpg

Today, it seems like the "genders" (note the quotes) of urban or suburban areas have flipped, or at least blurred. Cities are now glamorous, hip, and fun -- consider the setting of TV shows in the 1990s that were popular among women like Friends, Sex in the City, Mad About You, Melrose Place, and so on. Men and women are occupying the same workplaces, so it's natural the idea of "cities are for boys, and suburbs for girls" would start to feel dated. If I'm watching House Hunters, and I see some mom talk about how she wants a house with a big yard and cul-de-sac "for the kids", it sounds kind of old fashioned.
 

Maister

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See, this is the part I disagree with. Why do you assign "polish" to female and "grit" to male? It's a pretty sexist construct.
Indeed. The notion of gender exists on two levels: anatomical and cultural. It's the cultural part where we end up assigning qualities associated with gender. 'Good' or 'bad' are also cultural constructs from this standpoint.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

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I have a post from several years ago that contained a concept/site plan of a community marketed towards the lesbian community if I remember correctly. The concept plan was set up with the various types of structures and clubhouse to represent (in my opinion) the view a OB/GYN would have on a daily basis.
 

Dan

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Today, I learned a new word. Metronormative, From the link ("Queer anti-urbanism" on Wikipedia, lots of academic/SJ jargon )

Queer anti-urbanism manifests in practice in a variety of ways, which Herring refers to under the umbrella term of "critical rusticity." Some examples include the rural, all-female “Lesbian Separatist” communities that consciously spurned “the city” in favor of rural alternatives to a subjugated status under metronormative, white-male-centric, upper-middle-class gay culture. Such communities contradicted the gay rural-urban migration narrative, defying the values of metronormativity and replacing them with a new value system that was simultaneously rural and queer.

In another jargon-filled but comprehensive Wikipedia entry:

... Generally, lesbian-butch women are compatible with rural lifestyles as long as they can fit in with the typical masculine-female appearance. Rural spaces have even been referred to as makings for “lesbian lands,” in part due to their ability to blend in.

In the 1970s, women began to move to agricultural communes where they could live and work with other “country women”. In these communities, lesbian women built communes where they grew their own food and created societies away from men. They believed that living and working in nature allowed them to embrace their inherent connection with nature. ...
 

Maister

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Today, I learned a new word. Metronormative, From the link ("Queer anti-urbanism" on Wikipedia, lots of academic/SJ jargon )....
In another jargon-filled but comprehensive Wikipedia entry:.....
The important thing, however, is that we recognize the role of the urban subtext in considering any metronormative paradigms. Foucault promoted the use of pretextual Marxism to analyse and deconstruct sexual identity, whereas Drucker suggests that we have to choose between neomodern capitalist theory and capitalist discourse. The subject is contextualised into a substructuralist socialism that includes language as a whole. Thus, a number of appropriations concerning the role of the participant as writer may be discovered, particularly as urban planners effectively remove themselves from various decision matrices.
 

Dan

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The important thing, however, is that we recognize the role of the urban subtext in considering any metronormative paradigms.
In the works of Gaiman, a predominant concept is the distinction between closing and opening. It could be said that Foucault suggests the use of subtextual theory to challenge capitalism. Debord uses the term ‘semantic posttextual theory’ to denote the role of the poet as reader.

If one examines predialectic socialism, one is faced with a choice: either accept semantic posttextual theory or conclude that the establishment is capable of truth. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a predialectic socialism that includes reality as a totality. Foucault uses the term ‘subtextual theory’ to denote not, in fact, discourse, but postdiscourse.

“Truth is impossible,” says Derrida. It could be said that Sontag promotes the use of predialectic socialism to analyse class. Several appropriations concerning the dialectic, and thus the collapse, of conceptualist society exist.

In a sense, Marx uses the term ‘subtextual theory’ to denote a self-referential whole. Sartre suggests the use of precapitalist discourse to deconstruct outdated perceptions of sexual identity.
 

estromberg

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I reject your whole premise, which seems to be business/commercial = male; maintained residential = female. I don't see any indication of what the trend is in the last two links.

Just don't see it.
See, this is the part I disagree with. Why do you assign "polish" to female and "grit" to male? It's a pretty sexist construct.
I agree entirely with Doohickie here.
 
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I intentionally chose not to select street views that were real life caricatures.
Over the past two decades my Queens, NYC neighborhood has turned into a what you would probably call a "real-life caricature" of a stereotypical "male community".

It didn't start out that way! It had no stereotypical "gender" when I first bought real estate here. I saw great potential for economic & community development. The potential has been greatly realized. It turned out that almost all businesses interested in moving in here are "gritty", "unpolished" and require structures and/or machinery on a large scale.

The neighborhood is now officially called "Bricktown". One favorite hangout is centered around an eating place called "Dawgs". Each year more of the residents are male. It seems as if the presence of men attracts more men, (even though most of them are heterosexua)l.
I'm OK with all this, but I feel like shouting out to the ladies, "Don't be intimidated! This is a wonderful place to live!"
A map:
 

landy

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Indeed. The notion of gender exists on two levels: anatomical and cultural. It's the cultural part where we end up assigning qualities associated with gender. 'Good' or 'bad' are also cultural constructs from this standpoint.
I agree completely. OP is referencing gender in the socially constructed form which could change in 50 years. I see the examples as more green spaces vs capitalism than male vs female.
 
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