Nautilus

Your City Has a Gender and It’s Male

I have a secret to tell you about my city,” she says. “It has to do with what Eve Ensler calls the feminine cell.”

It was the autumn of 2016. I’d met her in Quito, Ecuador, at the United Nations’ Habitat III, the biggest global urban development conference in two decades. After a week spent pondering cities, we found ourselves talking to each other like strangers often do in the tired, busy evenings that follow a day’s hustle.

“What’s the feminine cell?” I ask.

“It’s empathy. It’s respect for the human experience. It’s being aware of the space you take up in the world and how that relates to the commons.”1

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Outside the colors of Quito were drenched in rain as the bars filled with eager conference attendees and locals alike. In the second year of a post-doc studying energy footprint reduction in cities, I was just about beginning to see the connections between social justice, the urban experience, and what makes a city “tick.”

“My city is always looking for solutions,” she continued. “There is no ‘place’ in my city. There are only points and routes that connect those points.”

merica is having a bit of a moment right now. Powerful men long considered beyond retribution are being called out for their transgressions. Behavior long

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