Diverse women's perspectives on everyday public spaces: A feminist ethnographic study from Ipswich-Toorbool, Australia, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Anita Egginton

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Feminist urban research has established how unequal power relations shape cities and public urban spaces, and recognises the differentiated effects on women, girls, and other oppressed peoples. Founded on ethics of equality and care, this research promotes urban planning, design and development processes that prioritise our equal participation and attend to our diversity.

Informed by these efforts and knowledges, my feminist ethnographic research aims to centre and privilege diverse women’s perspectives and experiences of comfort in everyday public spaces (EPS) prior to and during the COVID pandemic in the fastest growing local government area in Queensland (Australia). Over a two-year period, I had 90 curated conversations with women and public space producers, immersed myself in and formally studied public life across more than 60 locations, and reviewed local information and the wider literature. From this, I gained insights into the types of characteristics and conditions of EPS that protect and risk women’s comfort and the types of practices that women use to maximise comfort and overcome discomfort. Applying an intersectionality framework to my work helped me understand the nuanced differences among women, influenced by a range of individual and social factors, including, but more than, our gender.

An important contextual influence on women’s comfort in Ipswich-Toorbool, as elsewhere, is the way EPS are configured, connected, composed, built, managed, and maintained. Our collective experiences of COVID in the last two years have strengthened the evidence that EPS are critical sites of servicing, care, connection, action, and reflection. However, as my study demonstrates, because of the unequal power relations that are deeply embedded in our culture, institutions, discipline, and interpersonal relations, and spatialised in our material environments; not everyone has the same access and ability to enjoy and find comfort in these spaces.

The outcomes of my research suggest that a more considered and care-filled approach to the production of suitable, safe, inclusive, and sensorially pleasant public environments is required in rapidly growing outer metropolitan areas like Ipswich-Toorbool. This includes understanding and mitigating the existing spatialised social inequalities that exclude, diminish, and disadvantage particular people, including women; and mitigating the effects of segregated, sprawling, and vehicle-dependent patterns of development, particularly in light of the current climate emergency. At the heart of all these improvements is a need to better acknowledge, engage, and include the different mind-bodies, cultures, experiences, knowledge, needs, and capabilities of local people in our everyday environments.
Date of Award16 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBhishna Bajracharya (Supervisor), Daniel O'Hare (Supervisor) & Marja Sarvimaki (Supervisor)

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