Fainstein, Susan S. and Lisa J. Servon, Eds.: Gender and Planning: A Reader.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Hendler, Sue
Pub Date: 12/22/2007
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2007 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2007 Source Volume: 16 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Gender and Planning: A Reader (Book)
Persons: Reviewee: Fainstein, Susan S.; Servon, Lisa J.
Accession Number: 179315122
Full Text: Fainstein, Susan S. and Lisa J. Servon, Eds.

Gender and Planning: A Reader.

Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2005.

ISBN: 0-8135-3499-2

Having witnessed an apparent decline in publications on women, gender and planning, I was especially pleased to see the publication of Gender and Planning. The book is a compilation of (mostly) previously published journal articles and book chapters. The publication dates for the original versions range from 1978 to 2002, with one chapter by editor Susan Fainstein having been prepared specifically for this book. The chapters are divided into five sections pertaining to private and public space, planning theory, housing, economic development and transportation.

The book is intended to "produce a resource ... [for] gender-focused [planning] courses" (p. 2); the editors also "hope that the availability of a text will prompt instructors to include more of this work in their courses" (p. 9). Finally, and as "an intellectual endeavour [the editors] see this volume as juxtaposing insights from different disciplines as well as within planning itself that might otherwise not be combined" (p. 9). In this regard, the book succeeds in publishing a collection of discussions on disparate but related issues having to do with sex, gender, feminism and planning.

The book, however, is less successful in terms of being a resource for scholars in the field. Most researchers would be familiar with many of the chapters and, even if they are not, there is little to suggest that the chapters selected are the most relevant or most timely of those that might have been included. The collection is silent on work that has been done by numerous scholars such as Jo Little and Clara Greed in Great Britain; Barbara Rahder, Margrit Eichler and Beth Moore Milroy in Canada, and Gail Lee Dubrow and Jacqueline Leavitt in the United States; among many others. While some of these authors have not published research that is more contemporary than those included in this book, others have and their work represents more timely discussions of the integration of planning and women's/gender studies. Choice of writers aside, I would have liked to have seen at least one chapter each on environmental planning, social planning and health planning; these would have made the collection more indicative of the scope of planning as a discipline and profession.

I wondered, too, about the inclusion of work by philosophers Iris Marion Young and Martha Nussbaum. While I am not disputing the potential and real impact of these women's work on planning and other policy fields, their inclusion in a book on planning is questionable for two reasons. First, other philosophers could be seen as equally relevant, if not more so. Seyla Benhabib, for instance, writes on communicative ethics and this is directly relevant to ongoing interest in planning on communicative planning theory and consensus building. She is but one example of philosophers whose work bears directly on planning and planning theory and would have warranted consideration. One could extend this observation to writers from other fields as well.

Second, including work by two feminist philosophers can be questioned because of their disciplinary focus. That is, this is a book on planning and there is ample work within planning on feminist theory and philosophy; this does not render work by scholars from other disciplines irrelevant but it does suggest that work by researchers within planning per se could be seen as more appropriate for a collection of this sort.

Finally, the book is clearly focused, for the most part, on the United States. International readers might well be unfamiliar with many acronyms, places and incidents mentioned throughout the text.

The challenge inherent in editing a book of previously-published contributions from a number of different authors is to ensure that the resulting volume is timely and coherent. As such, the book would have benefited from afterwords by either the editors (or the authors of the original pieces) that would have cast the chapters in a more critical and contemporary light. Alternatively, an introduction to each section, either by the editors or other scholars highlighting some of the themes to be discussed in the ensuing chapters and presenting some (particularly) current ideas and arguments, would also have helped. While the book fills a niche in planning literature it could have filled it more completely and precisely had such challenges been addressed.

Gender and Planning will meet the needs of some students of the field, and in this way, it makes a useful contribution. It could be used in graduate and undergraduate courses on women and the city, women/gender and planning, and feminist approaches to planning. Regrettably though it cannot do more at a time when gendered aspects of planning seem to be only infrequently considered.

Sue Hendler, Associate Professor

School of Urban and Regional Planning

Cross-appointed to the Department of Women's Studies

Queen's University
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