Bri Gauger on Feminism and Planning

Bri Gauger, a PhD student in Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, drew the connections between the history of planning and feminism in a presentation given to UMKC last week.

Gauger, who is also working towards a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies, gave students a sample of her work from the past few months. Her finished dissertation will examine the relationship between women’s activism and urban planning from the suffrage movement to present day, but Tuesday’s presentation focused on the way second and third wave feminism was embedded into planning from the 1960s to 1980s.

“We saw a lot of civil rights movements in the 60s and 70s,” said Gauger. “Planners during this time were beginning to acknowledge advocacy goals.”

Gauger said that most research over urban planning during the 60s and 70s focuses on racial issues, while little research exists over the role of feminism.

Sophomore Nick Coffey, who is earning a degree in Urban Planning, was curious how Gauger found the connections between planning and feminism.

(Source: Bri Gauger worked with women in urban planning from all around the country, including UMKC’s Dr. Clara Irazábal.

(Source: Bri Gauger worked with women in urban planning
from all around the country, including UMKC’s Dr. Clara Irazábal.

“I came to see how the concepts tie together,” said Coffey. “It was interesting to hear how second and third wave feminism impacted not only planning but how we teach it and how we learn about it.”

Gauger traveled the country to speak with various women who have been involved in planning over the years. Many of the women she interviewed were among the first generation of women planners.

Dr. Clara Irazábal, UMKC’s Director of the Latina/o Studies Program and a Professor of Planning, was one of the women Gauger interviewed.

Irazábal is also the author of Urban Governance and City Making in the Americas: Curitiba and Portland, which was published in 2005.

“I was contacted because of the work I have done over minorities in urban planning,” said Irazábal.

“We are living in a very critical era of history with challenges for women and people of color, it is not the first time we are facing this and we can learn the lessons of history, from how people have organized and confronted these challenges in the past.”

In addition to interviews, Gauger also gathered hundreds of documents from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. She searched for clues into the climate of women in planning when they were first entering the field.

During this segment of her research, she found a promo video for a master’s program for urban planning that portrayed women in a “very demeaning manner.”

“Women experience the city and urban environments differently than men and they helped rewrite planning history,” said Gauger.

“They drew attention to imbalances in labor and economic opportunities, called out planners for designing infrastructure around male employment patterns, called attention to the isolation of resources and socialization, of childcare, and of women’s experiences in public housing.”

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