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Women's social action and the city

From: Marina Cacace, Italy
Category: Category 2
Date: 11 Apr 2000
Time: 20:28:06
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Date: 11 March 2000 From: Marina Cacace, CERFE To: Subject: Women's social action and the city

The study of gender issues in the urban dimension and that of globalization leads us to take into consideration what we may term "women's global social action".

The connection among these three different perspectives (gender studies, urban studies and globalization studies) can be easily grasped if we consider the following social phenomena.

1. In the second half of the 80s, women’s collective action - which was particularly strong throughout the 60s and 70s - started to decline, especially in industrialized countries. Some scholars interpreted this process as an overall withdrawal of women from the public and social scene. Quite paradoxically, in the same period, empirical research carried out in different disciplinary and geographical domains began to show how women were bearers of peculiar capacities and orientations. We can mention here the studies undertaken on women management styles, on women communication and strategical capacities, on the role of women in conflict-resolution, on the weight of women in coping with social risks or on their high and ever growing level of achievement in education. Fot what concerns, specifically, developing countries, the role of women in economic and social development has been widely recognised by international agencies as well as by national institutions and NGOs.

2. Quite surprisingly, these capacities and orientations seem to be recurrently recorded in social, cultural and economic contexts which are often very different one from another. This fact suggests that there could be a connection - though not immediately evident - among these elements and the social and economic processes of globalization.

3. Contemporary women’s social action could then be interpreted as to be produced by sophisticated and hidden mechanisms, connected for instance with mass communication or with some kind of “distance adhesion” to the same cultural languages or values. All of that suggests that women, as a whole, tend to behave as a thorough social actor, capable of expressing similar meanings and of pursuing similar purposes almost regardless of the cultural and social context in which they are integrated as individuals.

4. It's clear the role that city plays in such a process of convergence of women's attitudes and expectation. Cities, as a matter of fact, are at the very core of the globalization processes and women, in cities, though facing huge difficulties and bearing multiple burdens, tend to more easily experiment what we have called the "anthropological transition", i.e. a process of structural change in the relationship among genders, which has effects on every aspect of social life and which often results in empowerment for women.

5. In this context, it is therefore necessary to make an extra effort in the field of research. In particular, a study of this sort requires a broad empirical basis, in which the psychological dimension needs to be involved, along with the sociological one. Such an approach would represent, indeed, an important step forward in the direction of the designing of more adequate policies and forms of intervention, able to perceive gender issues, not as a mere problem of rights, but rather as a key element for economic and social development.

Marina Cacace CERFE, Ro me (Italy)

Last changed: March 13, 2002