Since the beginning of geography we have seen its constant participation in the progress of races and genders and drawing the boundaries that separate and exclude the world of privilege from the other. However there are arguments some raised voices against the segregation within the discipline which challenges the sexist legacy still present in geography. The geographical works on women has developed swiftly over the past decade, as so has the issues brought to light regarding problems facing women within the profession. This can be attributed to the arguments proposed by geographers which challenged the gender role differentiation in people-environment relations
Feminist geography emerged in the 1980s as a movement within geography that later developed other family of theoretical positions, extending from approaches that are more structuralist in placement, which include, ‘Geography of Women’ socialist feminism, geography of difference.
Geography of women
Feminist geography emerged during the late 1970s and onward, take advantage of the second surge of the feminist movement in the 1960s and radical geography’s challenge to examine and to transform spatial divisions in society. Feminism occurs to analytically and self-reflexively examine systems of power at work in everyday life. With great focus to social differences, such as gender, race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, and sexuality, feminist geography looks at the importance of difference in shaping experiences of space and place. Feminism is well-known for challenging, investigate, expose, contest, and change gendered divisions imposed by society. The main argument presented in feminist geography was that the gender roles and the uneven position of power of women in society deserved to be brought to light as they have been ignored by geographers. Initial studies showed that gender affairs were the result of and revealed in the spatial structure of society. In so doing men and women experienced discrimination regarding work opportunities, wealth, power, and status, this in turn resulted in different spatial relations with respect to accessing of public and private space and time-geographies. At the core of feminist geography is the concern for the significance of gender, (in)equality, spatial politics and difference.
According to Dixon et al (2014), feminist geography is mainly concerned with the betterment of women’s lives through identifying, as well as through development of an understanding of the sources of women’s oppression, including the forces at work and spatiality of the oppression ( geography of women). This explanation of feminist geography is reflected by the works produced by feminist geographers that have adapted Marxist theory in examining the relations among economic development, space and gender under capitalism (Pratt, 1994). An example is the exclusion identified by Dixon et al (2006) that women have been left out from higher education during the late nineteenth to early twentieth century; early universities were mainly made up of upper-class white men. During that period of time, female were mostly found in the field of teaching and helping professions, and were generally far away in the disciplines and institutions that have played an important role in the formation of modern geography, such as geology and “expert” societies, such as Royal Geographical Society (Rose, 1993; Dixon et al, 2006). These “expert” societies were profoundly tangled with the creation of geography as a separate and distinct academic discipline, through the definition of geography’s research agenda and methodologies, and the creation of programs in institution of higher education (Dixon et al, 2006). Again in the nineteenth showed women were not well presented in the discipline; “the gender representation in science during the nineteenth century mostly excluded women, firstly science in general secondly those specific methods that roughly established physical geography of previous years which developed the discipline” (McEwan, 1998).
In that regard Feminist geography took the quest to understand the relationship between the division in gender and spatial divisions, as well as to challenge their imaginary naturalness and justification. This involves the examination of gender roles and divisions within the discipline itself with regards to the emphasis of study, the history, and practice of geography, and the balance of men and women employed as professional geographers and career structures, and challenging how geographical research is hypothesized and practised.
As much as feminist geography is greatly regarded as geography of women, however, feminist geographers did not engage exclusively with the lives of women. Feminist geographers are also concerned with development of geography, in relation to the exclusion and isolation of female scholars from the discipline, and how this has affected geographic research and thought.
Socialist feminist geography seeks to explain inequality and the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy. Socialist feminism has attempted to find the source of women’s oppression within the analysis of class and the relations of production. These attempts however have been hindered by a tradition al Marxism which has tended to reduce gendered relation of those economics. Through the use of Marxism and socialist feminism it clarifies the association of geography, gender relations and economic development under capitalism.
‘Feminist Geographies of Difference’
The third component of feminist geography is the feminist geography of difference geography. ‘Feminist Geographies of Difference’ – has a habit of reflecting more carefully the experiences of women, who over the past decade have begun to draw on a wide range of social and cultural theories in order to develop a more in-depth and intersectional understanding of the ways in which bodies and subjectivities shape, and are shaped by, space. Some of this research is concerned with migrant women, food and home critical geographies of love (Morrison et al., 2013); heterosexuality maternities (Longhurst, 2008); virtual gaming and gender (Todd, 2012); gender variant geographies (Johnston, 2012; Johnston ; Longhurst, 2013); and visceral methodologies where we use our bodies as instruments of research (Longhurst et al., 2008).a
Women have continued to be invisible throughout most of the history within the discipline, and when represented, it has been in the form of supporting role, indicating the world of work which favoured men. And so geography maintained the belief of separate public and domestic scopes, based on the ideological divisions which has limited the access of women in the public field, and the doubtfulness of our understand of gender relations as difficult relations of power. Feminist geography can be separated into three ‘classes’, the geography of women, socialist feminist geography and feminist geographies of difference (Johnston et al, 2000). The geography of women emphases on the explanation of the effects of gender inequality; socialist feminist geography gives description of inequality and relationships between capitalism and patriarchy, whereas feminist geographies of difference focus on the structures of gendered identities, differences among women, gender and constructions of nature.
Feminist geographers have made critical participations into the ways in which of research is conducted in geography, such as the presentation of feminist epistemologies and methodologies that challenge the masculinist construction of science as unbiased, neutral, and value-free, rather arguing that research always has a positionality that produces situated knowledge (Hall). Over time feminist set out to achieve a number of things such as opening the discipline up to more female geographers, through more unbiased hiring procedures and attempts to shift oppressive departmental cultures (Mott. 2016). And to stimulate geographers to improve scholarship that was aware of gender and that included studies of women and women’s concerns (Mott. 2016).
Since the beginning of feminist geography attention to gender has thus advanced into an emphasis on social difference more broadly interpreted. Feminist geographers have emphasized the significance of embodiment, emotion, and spaces of intimacy through geographic research. Hence nowadays we find the word “feminist” within geography implies to various things. For example, feminist geographies are often fixed in social justice concerns, attentive to the capacity for scholarship to call attention to the ways affected communities are negatively impacted by oppressive forces at work in the world. Another example is that feminist geographers are concerned with how greater regimes of power, such as governmental and corporate entities, and problematic social norms, are experienced and negotiated in people’s everyday lives.
Feminist geography has faced some critism, some argued that feminist geography is simply concerned discussions of women’s inequality rather than relating it to space. The gender separations that feminist geography is mostly attentive to are often rigid and unjustifiable in many conditions and it’s then clear that these rigid gender divisions which can grow as a result, are not always the greatest theoretical approach, and sometimes a more flexible method is advisable.
And finally with the few flaws faced by feminist geography, it is at a stage of development and so it is essential for Feminist geography to develop a gendered theory coming from critiques of masculine geography for its survival in the current academic field.