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Sasha Beketov on What Would a Non-sexist City Be Like?
8 November, 2023
Dolores Hayden actively points to the sexist imbalance of contemporary housing in the United States (which I would personally extend to all North America and globally). As it is on many occasions, the urban sprawl is the main culprit to blame for the perpetuation of sexist stereotypes in home designs. Conservationism in planning that urban sprawls embody follows the inertia of the past century’s ideals of opulence, radical capitalism and environmental discreditation.
Most dwellings, with no regards to their size and arrangement, are built around “the same set of spaces: kitchen, dining room, living room, bedrooms, garage, or parking area.” Reinforced by the rise of individualism fed by capitalism, Hayden deplores the lack of communal spaces, especially those that can help with domestic chores, mostly executed by women. Among many alarming statistics on women’s inferiority in agency, the lack of housing alternatives and proper support systems for individuals outside of traditional living conditions is criticized the most. Moreover, the exclusion of men from unpaid housework aggravates the problem and remains largely unchallenged.
Looking for solutions, the author starts by presenting several examples from different countries that started working in the direction of abolishing the boundaries between private domestic labor and paid communal services. Even in the United States, experimental projects that tried to reinvent societal norms took place up until late in the 20th century. But for her, “reorganizing both home and work” to include both women and men working together to contribute to the creation of an egalitarian society is the needed course of action. Hayden calls her solution HOMES (Homemakers Organization for a More Egalitarian Society). Such organization would intend to tackle inequalities in housekeeping and childcare, paid labor, residential segregations and choices for households, on top of revising “unpaid domestic labor and wasteful energy consumption.” Applicable across urban and suburban areas, HOMES optimizes the use of existing facilities while providing opportunities for economic diversity within neighborhoods and increasing demand for services. Thus, the creation of new jobs for services that replace individual private household chores will also contribute to the abolition of sex stereotyping by employing people regardless of their sex, race, skill and hours.
By providing concrete numbers, diagrams and viable frameworks to prove HOMES feasibility, Hayden successfully shapes new guidelines by which non-sexist cities would improve our current state of housing. Her description of the benefits that would rise from the solution provided is the confirmation that such a system should be actively sought for, or at least taken into consideration when rethinking the future of our society that is still entangled in outdated stereotypes.