Geography Feminist Geography
Carrie Mott
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0123


Feminism exists to critically and self-reflexively examine regimes of power at work in everyday life. Through attention to social differences, such as gender, race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, and sexuality, feminist geography highlights the significance of difference in shaping experiences of space and place. Feminist geography emerged in the 1980s as a move within geography that took two primary directions. First, to open the discipline up to more female geographers, through more equitable hiring processes and attempts to shift oppressive departmental cultures. Second, feminist geography encouraged geographers to develop scholarship that was mindful of gender and that included studies of women and women’s concerns. Since feminism’s early forays into geography, attention to gender has evolved into an emphasis on social difference more broadly construed. Feminist geographers have emphasized the significance of embodiment, emotion, and spaces of intimacy through geographic research. Today the term “feminist” within geography means different things. First, that one simply does geography with a feminist lens, approaching subject matter that falls under the headings of any of the more traditional subdisciplines, including geographies of the political, economic, social, or environmental. Second, feminist geographical approaches often involve more participatory and inclusive methods in both research and publication. Third, feminist geographies are often rooted in social justice concerns, mindful of the capacity for scholarship to call attention to the ways affected communities are negatively impacted by oppressive forces at work in the world. Lastly, feminist geographers are concerned with how greater regimes of power, such as governmental and corporate entities, and problematic social norms, are experienced and negotiated in people’s everyday lives.

General Overviews

Many of the early overviews of feminist geography were further attempts to legitimize feminism within the discipline, often arguing for the relevance of such studies and attempting to speak broadly to human geographers about the value of incorporating feminism into geographic scholarship, and of supporting feminist scholars (who were also most often female). Massey 1994; Jones, et al. 1997; McDowell and Sharp 1997; and McDowell 1999 are all examples of these earlier collections that worked to highlight scholarship under a broad heading of “feminist geography.” While early collections were oriented broadly around feminism as a common thread, feminist geography has continued to evolve and diversify, and today it is much more difficult to simply group things together as “feminist.” Consequently, more recent edited collections tend to be oriented around a focal point within feminist geography, such as embodiment, feminist geopolitics, or sexuality studies.

  • Jones, John Paul, Heidi J. Nast, and Susan M. Roberts, eds. Thresholds in Feminist Geography. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.

    This edited collection attempts to show the state of feminist geography by looking to its “thresholds”: the pasts, presents, and futures of feminism in geography. The book includes contemporary scholarship by feminist geographers and also addresses prevalent issues facing the subdiscipline.

  • Massey, Doreen B. Space, Place, and Gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

    A collection of essays written by Massey addressing the ways that social relations inform experiences of space and place, including her understanding of space-time as a framework for conceptualizing the intersectionality and inherent multiplicity within any given space.

  • McDowell, Linda. Gender, Identity and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1999.

    This book examines the gendered dynamics and importance of the local, challenging widespread emphasis within geographic scholarship on the primacy of the global and processes of globalization.

  • McDowell, Linda, and Joanne P. Sharp, eds. Space, Gender, Knowledge: Feminist Readings. New York: John Wiley, 1997.

    Several of the essays in this edited collection are by scholars prominent in the initial movement of feminism within geography, as well as feminists from outside geography, such as Elizabeth Grosz and Judith Butler. An initial section dedicated to the relationship of gender to geographic scholarship is followed by sections emphasizing the practice of feminist geography through considerations of the environment, the body, everyday space, work, and politics.

  • Nelson, Lise, and Joni Seager, eds. A Companion to Feminist Geography. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470996898

    This edited volume brings together various key scholars of feminist geography, with essays focused on a variety of geography’s subdisciplines, including economic geography, urban geography, geographies of embodiment, political ecology, and political geography.

  • Women and Geography Study Group of the Royal Geographic Society. Feminist Geographies: Explorations in Diversity and Difference. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 1997.

    Written collaboratively with multiple authors for each chapter, this book aims to reflect both the contemporary state of feminist geography and to show the evolution of the field. This work is designed to be a pedagogical tool targeting undergraduate geographers. As such, it is peppered with excerpts from important works by feminist geographers, as well as activities and points for discussion designed to enhance students’ understandings of the scholarly practice of feminist geography.

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