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In Place and At Home in the City: Connecting privilege, safety and belonging for women in Toronto

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In this article I theorize the connections between privileged social identities and women's sense of safety and belonging in a diverse urban environment, Toronto. Based on qualitative research with a small group of women who grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, and later chose to live in the city, this article is a preliminary investigation into the factors that make it possible for some women to feel ‘in place' in the city. I suggest that confidence, a sense of belonging, and the ability to distance oneself from violence are all related to privileges such as whiteness and middle-classness. In the Canadian context, these identities function as the invisible norm, allowing women to feel at home in an ethnically and economically diverse city. Moreover, the ability to move into and through urban space may function in a reciprocal manner to reinforce privileged identities. I argue that it is important to examine interlocking systems of privilege and oppression in terms of both women's affective experiences of urban space, and the gendered constitution of urban spaces. This approach serves to problematize and complicate the concept of appropriation of urban space through an examination of the salience of privilege. I conclude by suggesting that this article may serve to open dialogue about the relationship of privileged identities to marginalized identities in the city, in order to add complexity to feminist research on women's everyday lives in the city. Women are not merely objects in space where they experience restrictions and obligations; they also actively produce, define and reclaim space. (Koskela, 1997, p. 305)
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: York University, Toronto, Canada

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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