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Black women’s perspectives on neighborhood safety: Reflections from The Women of Northeast Oklahoma City Photovoice Project

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Abstract

This paper presents findings from the Women of Northeast Oklahoma City Photovoice Project, an action research initiative of 26 African American women co-researchers who photograph their neighborhoods to understand and expose unmet safety needs in their community. The co-researchers’ findings suggest that the intersectional experience of Black women’s safety is underappreciated in safety scholarship and participatory policy making and that meaningful knowledge production must be recentered and guided by Black women themselves. We argue: 1) That the co-researchers findings suggest that neighborhood safety perceptions cannot be disentangled into discrete individual or demographic modifiers and that the emphasis on individual experience within safety scholarship has the potential to erase the intersectional political and spatial identity of Black women. 2) That participatory safety methods that focus on individuals’ recommendations or which focus narrowly on fixes to the built form will miss meaningful aspects of women’s socialspatial lives. 3) Ultimately, the discourse within the project lead the co-researchers toward political and economic solutions and an understanding that positive change will occur only when they gain control of the tools of urban development and the participatory processes that create urban policy.

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... There has also been a growing number of studies based on the intersectionality framework (intersection of multiple identities), for e.g. examining migrant children (Sime, 2017), or adult women belonging to a racial minority (Davis et al., 2020). The design of unsafety perception studies, however, depends on the geographical context, as different environments are typical for different types of threats. ...
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... In addition, experts in a study on Black women's perception of safety concluded that changes in policy or environment aimed at increasing safety only focused on singular aspects (as compared with systematic changes) may miss meaningful facets of Black women's lives. It was argued that positive change will occur only when Black women have meaningful participation in the processes that create urban policy (Davis et al., 2020). ...
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The literature suggests that individuals will be healthier if they live in Active Community Environments that promote exercise and activity. Two key elements of such environments are walkability and safety. Examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, 1988-1994 and using a multilevel analysis, we found that individuals who live in counties that are more walkable and have lower crime rates tended to walk more and to have lower body mass indices (BMIs) than people in less walkable and more crime-prone areas, even after controlling for a variety of individual variables related to health. Among lifelong residents of an area, lesser walkability and more crime were also associated with respondents reporting weight-related chronic illness and lower ratings of their own health. The effect of high crime rates was substantially stronger for women than for men, and taking this interaction into account eliminated gender differences in walking, BMI, weight-related chronic conditions, and self-reported poor health. The results suggest that to promote activity and health, planners should consider community walkability, crime prevention, and safety.
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This article argues critically that the consequences of a binary system of gender norms is experienced as a kind of gender tyranny both for those who transgress gender in their daily lives, but also for those whose lives are lived within such constraints. Feminist geographers and urban theorists have argued that space is gendered and that gendering has profound consequences for women. This article extends this analysis and shows how rigid categorizations of gender fail to include the intersexed and transgendered populations, a small and highly marginalized segment of the wider population. This article uses autoethnographic methods to illustrate the ways that those who transgress gender norms experience a tyranny of gender that shapes nearly every aspect of their public and private lives. The nature of these consequences is explored using citations from the transgender and queer literature as well as the lived experience of this tyranny by the author in a continuum of public to private spaces, including: parking lots, public restrooms, shopping malls, the workplace and the home.
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This paper examines experiences of gentrification from the perspective of young working class women of color who have grown up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1980s and 90s. In a participatory action research project entitled “Makes Me Mad: Stereotypes of young urban womyn of color”, six young women researchers investigate the relationship between the gentrification of their community, public (mis)representations, and their self-understanding. Focusing on how young women negotiate processes of disinvestment and gentrification, this paper offers insights into how globalization is worked out on the ground and in their everyday lives. Bridging the material and psychological, I explore the socio-spatial constitution of young women's identities as they interpret their experiences growing up on the Lower East Side having to live up both to the grittyness of ghetto life and the glamour of the club, café and boutique life. Drawing connections between the white-washing sweep of gentrification, and socioeconomic disinvestment of their community, the women express a nuanced understanding of neighborhood change. I maintain that we can learn about the contradictions of globalization from these young women's ambivalent relationship with neighborhood change.
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This study examined the associations between social networks, social support, social cohesion, and perceived neighborhood safety among an ethnically diverse sample of 1352 residents living in 12 low-income public housing sites in Boston, Massachusetts. For males and females, social cohesion was associated with perceived safety. For males, a smaller social network was associated with greater feelings of safety. Social support was not a significant predictor of perceived safety. The findings reported here are useful in exploring a potential pathway through which social environmental factors influence health and in untangling the complex set of variables that may influence perceived safety.
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When Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins was published in 1990, reviewers called it "remarkable," "rich and valuable," and proclaimed, "with the publication of this book, Black feminism has moved to a new level." Now, in Fighting Words, Collins expands and extends the discussion of the "outsider within" presented in her earlier work, investigating how effectively Black feminist thought confronts the injustices African American women currently face. Collins takes on a broad range of issues-poverty, mothering, white supremacy and Afrocentrism, the resegregation of American society by race and class, the ideas of Sojourner Truth and how they can serve as a springboard for more liberating social theory. Contrasting social theories that support unjust power relations of race, class, gender, and nation with those that challenge inequalities, Collins investigates why some ideas are granted the status of "theory" while others remain "thought." "It is not that elites produce theory while everyone else produces mere thought," she writes. "Rather, elites possess the power to legitimate the knowledge that they define as theory as being universal, normative, and ideal." Collins argues that because African American women and other historically oppressed groups seek economic and social justice, their social theories may emphasize themes and work from assumptions that are different from those of mainstream American society, generating new angles of vision on injustice. Collins also puts such oppositional social theory to the test: while the words of these theories may challenge injustice, do the ideas make a difference in the lives of the people they claim to represent? Throughout, Collins provides an essential understanding of how "outsiders" resist mainstream perspectives, and what the mainstream can learn from such "outsiders." Historically situated yet transcending the specific, Fighting Words provides a new interpretive framework for both thinking through and overcoming social injustice. "In her perceptive book, Fighting Words, Patricia Hill Collins, a leading scholar in critical theory, argues that intellectuals who break with conventional wisdom are more of a threat to the establishment than their numbers might suggest." Joe R. Feagin in The Chronicle of Higher Education "Fighting Words is a treatise, if you will, encouraging all black women to engage in dialogue and to reach out to each other, regardless of education, income, or class. Fighting Words is an amazing work in the way it seamlessly combines the histories of black women and feminism. Even more impressive is the way Collins blends her personal experiences as a black woman, educator, and sociologist. Collins is all about telling the truth, now. That is probably why Fighting Words is such a revelation." Black Issues Book Review "Fighting Words ably demonstrates that Collins is still our leading theorist. Those who understand black women in terms of reductionist categories and who need to read this book probably won't. But it gives the rest of us another sharp implement with which to saw at the ropes." Women's Review of Books "Collins argues that the political gains of black women's 'talking back' now must be measured against changes brought on by the postmodern criticism of social science and Afrocentricism. Collins calls for a critical social theory that not only encourages black women's full participation in social life but actually grounds its own authority in its ability to enable black women's full participation." American Journal of Sociology "Collins' exploration of the question, 'What is knowledge?' demonstrates the value of a perspective that brings together the complex interrelationships of race, gender and social ranking. The text is both counter-theoretical and practical­­a readable, persuasive and important source. Highly recommended." The Diversity Factor "Advances a much needed discussion, beyond feminism and identity politics for black women and, presumably, for women of color generally." National Women's Studies Association Journal "Hill Collins provides a refreshing new look at theory that is not mired in obscure language but purposely written in multiple languages to welcome a broader audience. By using accessible/inclusive language and drawing on many schools of intellectual thought, she informs and educates across disciplines ­ a unique characteristic in academia. She delivers a critical and passionate work that is inspiring to a new generation of scholars and renews the spirit of existing scholars." Gender and Society "Collins has offered an excellent text that helps us understand not only Black feminist thought and its relationship to Black women's experiences, but also how it may help those of us truly working for social justice." Feminist Collections "This book has many suggestive ideas and well-thought-through social theoretical analyses. In line with her earlier work, Collins continues to argue that group positions generate epistemological standpoints from which people ask and answer questions of social knowledge in different ways. She considers whether recent theories of Black women as having 'intersectional' positions is a better conceptualization of the specific standpoint of Black women. Collins's book offers much to think about and to discuss for those involved in struggles generated by encounters and events beyond theory." Hypatia "This is a work that is both theoretically rich and yet deeply personal in its expressive voice. Collins points us toward the construction of new critical theoretical approaches that can effectively advance the struggles for social justice. Fighting Words is a powerful and passionate work." --Manning Marable Patricia Hill Collins is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Sociology in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Cincinnati.
Photovoice is a participatory action research strategy that may offer unique contributions to women's health. It is a process by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique. Photovoice has three main goals: to enable people (1) to record and reflect their community's strengths and concerns, (2) to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about personal and community issues through large and small group discussion of their photographs, and (3) to reach policymakers. This report gives an overview of the origins, key concepts, methods, and uses of photovoice as a strategy to enhance women's health.
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This study investigates the sense of belonging to a neighbourhood among 9445 women aged 73-78 years participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Thirteen items designed to measure sense of neighbourhood were included in the survey of the older women in 1999. Survey data provided a range of measures of demographic, social and health-related factors to assess scale construct validity. Factor analysis showed that seven of the items loaded on one factor that had good face validity and construct validity as a measure of the sense of neighbourhood. Two of the remaining items related to neighbourhood safety and comprised a factor. A better sense of neighbourhood was associated with better physical and mental health, lower stress, better social support and being physically active. Women who had lived longer at their present address had a better sense of belonging to their neighbourhood, as did women living in non-urban areas and who were better able to manage on their income. Feeling safe in the neighbourhood was least likely in urban areas, increased in rural townships, and was most likely in rural and remote areas. Older women living alone felt less safe, as did women who were less able to manage on their income. This study has identified two sets of items that form valid measures of aspects of the social environment of older women, namely the sense of neighbourhood and feelings of safety. These findings make a contribution to our understanding of the relationship between feelings of belonging to a neighbourhood and health in older women.
Article
Patterns of mental health are clearly associated with life circumstances, including educational and economic opportunities, access to safe and supportive neighborhoods, socially structured exposures to stressors and to supportive relationships. In this article, we examine the social and economic correlates of depressive symptoms among African American women residing within a predominantly African American urban neighborhood in Detroit, USA, with relatively few economic resources. We identify distinct stressors associated with financial strain, neighborhood social disorder (concern about police responsiveness, safety stress), and experiences of discrimination. We test the extent to which each of these stressors mediates relationships between household income, length of residence in the neighborhood, social support and depressive symptoms. Our results suggest that for women in this racially segregated area with a high concentration of poverty, relationships between household income and symptoms of depression are partially mediated by financial stress and social support, but that stressors associated with neighborhood disorder and discrimination influence depressive symptoms independent of household income. Furthermore, we find that length of residence in the neighborhood is negatively associated with financial stress and positively associated with police stress and social support, with no significant net effect on symptoms of depression. We conclude that higher household income may help reduce symptoms of depression by reducing financial stress and strengthening social support even within neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. However, increased household income does not protect African American women residing in a high poverty community from distress associated with neighborhood disorder or experiences of discrimination.
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This article describes the Framing Safety Project that the author developed to do collaborative, community action/education research with battered women about the meaning of safety in their lives. The project is built on the use of participant-generated photographs and photo-elicitation interviews as methods for exploring with women, in support group settings, the meanings of violence in their lives and their approaches to creating safer spaces. Although visual sociologists have used variations of these methods, particularly to study the experiences of children, the author combines them in a uniquely feminist approach that leads from the women's photography and interviews to a community education and action component. The author describes the process of developing and implementing this project with Mexican and South Asian immigrant women and discusses the ways in which its methodological approach serves to amplify the voices of silenced women, and to offer opportunities for community education and social action.
Gender, Race, Age and Fear in the City
  • Rachel Pain
Disgraced ex-cop Daniel Holtzclaw sentenced to 263 years for on-duty rapes, sexual assaults
  • Sarah Larimer
Restricciones Ciudadanas: Las Violencias de Genero en el Espacio Publico
  • Ana Falú