Why Expanding the Commons Will Save Women’s Lives

A woman alone

“The more rigid the separation of private and public spheres and the more unsafe, unwelcoming and inaccessible public spaces are, the more isolated, exposed and vulnerable people become to those they share private space with.” – Andrea Gibbons

The Feminist Green New Deal

I was invited to a roundtable discussion by the brilliant Women’s Budget Group this morning. We were discussing the Green New Deal, and what a Feminist Green New Deal would look like when it comes to housing. The GND is a programme for a carbon neutral Britain and includes the creation of thousands of new ‘green’ jobs.

I was joined by several other impressively knowledgeable experts in the field of economics, urban development, and health. It was one of those conversations that leave you feeling energised and hopeful. We love those.

terraced houses

Enlarging the Commons

One particular section of the paper really struck me with its clarity and accuracy:

“The more rigid the separation of private and public spheres and the more unsafe, unwelcoming and inaccessible public spaces are, the more isolated, exposed and vulnerable people become to those whom they share private space with.”

Part of the Feminist Green New Deal includes ‘enlarging the commons’, or expanding the amount of space that we dedicate to shared public use for this exact reason. The less time women spend in public places, the more vulnerable they are to being abused in private places.

Not only this, but an ugly compounding effect of the shrinking of the commons means that once abuse has happened, it is less likely to be noticed by others and the victim is less likely to get help.

Shrinking the Commons

Over the last 10 years of the Conservative governments cuts, public facilities that offered vital lifelines to women have been shrunk or abolished. This includes:

Women are more likely to be violated by men in their own homes than anywhere else. The distributed support networks of neighbours, friends, and people who notice when something is wrong are vital for protecting women from male violence.

women neighbours chatting

Shared spaces that are well lit, close to public transport, have plenty of seating options, and are within walkable distance of housing clusters can save women’s lives.

Moreover, tiny houses which are affordable to a single woman on her own could save her life. One third of women in relationships with men report that they would not be able to cope financially if the relationship ended. This keeps thousands of women trapped.

What do you have in common with your neighbours?

I read once something along the lines of:

“The opposite of tyranny is not democracy, it is connection.”

The idea is that in order to fight tyranny, we have to know our neighbours by name. It is only then that we notice when people are disappeared, or bludgeoned, or need some milk. It is often in common spaces where we can bump into and get to know our neighbours.

what do you have in common with your neighbour?

Perhaps this can end with an open invitation to consider what you can do today to get to know your neighbour, and take up arms against tyranny.