Cities are for Girls

That’s a crude summary of the argument that columnist Elizabeth Farrelly recently made in the Australian National Times.  She pointed out that in the 20th Century, the rise of the suburbs in the developed world segregated male and female activities and downplayed the importance of the latter.  Her argument is that, as urban forms change in the new century, traditionally female qualities will come to matter more:

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s true. That the 20th century represented the apotheosis of ”male” values such as speed, aggression, individualism, silo thinking and what you might call thrust, manifesting in cities of high-rise cores, an ”incontinent puddle” of freestanding houses and a spaghetti of motorways.

And say we’ve passed ”peak male”, just as we’re said to have passed peak oil, peak water and peak food. Assume also that Camille Paglia’s immortal quip that if women ran the world we’d still be living in grass huts is something of a caricature. What, then, might 21st or 22nd century cities look like, formed according to the more collective, collaborative values of the female hive mind?

She argues that feminized urban environments might have such a higher level of  connectivity that urban systems would be come much more like self-organizing life forms.  In her phrasing, cities could become like slime molds.  Not exactly a soaring bit of imagery.  And Farrelly’s analysis comes off as a cross between sociological analysis and simple sexual stereotyping, but for all that, it is still worth a read. You can find her full post here.

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