Koskela, Hille. 1999. Fear, Control and Space: Geographies of Gender, Fear of Violence, and Video Surveillance.

Koskela, Hille. 1999. Fear, Control, and Space: Geographies of Gender, Fear of Violence, and Video Surveillance. Helsinki: University of Helsinki Press.

Women’s fear of violence is socially produced, not natural – these are spatialized – a process itself that is social. Women’s feelings of fear and discontent help to shape and define these spaces, in relation to gender, as well as other spaces. Surveillance as both incurring feelings of safety and of unsafe (often sexualized) voyeurism.

Fear, Control, and Space – Introduction

Geographers’ study of patterns/effects of crime on geography have been long studied (Smith 1986, Evans and Herbert 1989) – this gives rise to the study of the fear of crime on place – “Fear of crime can contribute to lowering the quality of peoples’ lives as much as crime does, and fear of crime can thus be as great a problem as crime itself” (1).

Geography as a way to examine space in material and social regards – in terms of practices and beliefs – as possessing both physical and social dimensions. Space can be produced – as a relationship of meanings that inform and construct a space (Gregory and Urry 1985, Foucault 1977)- offering experiential dimensions where space, its meaning, and the social relations are re-/negotiated. Several urban planners (and criminal justice organizations) purport the use of surveillance in addressing/pre-empting crime.


Evans, D.J. and D.T. Herbert (eds.) 1989. The Geography of Crime. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of a Prison. Translated by A. Sheridan. London: Penguin Books.

Gregory, D. and R. Urry (eds.) 1985. Social Relations and Spatial Structures. Hampshire: Macmillan.

Smith, S.J. 1986. Crime, Space and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

‘Bold Walk and Breakings’: Women’s Spatial Confidence versus Fear of Violence

Even in nation-states with noted levels of political (and cultural?) gender equality, fear of violence is manifested within spatial relations. Though spaces may be “public,” they may also be imbued with exclusions, based on race, class, gender, ability, etc. (Valentine 1996) – this asserts that spaces are subjective, produced, and social (Rose 1993), and act as a medium for identity and group constructions (Bell and Valentine 1995, Ruddick 1996). Senses of danger related to feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, ambiguity, unfamiliarity (Merry 1981) while safety is often related to feelings of empowerment, community support, network alliances (Smith 1986)- which translates to a “fill” of space – free movement, competent navigation, advising others on its terrain, experimentation with dress, style, and articulation.

Fear as culturally reproduced- socialized through education, relatives, media, peers – reinforced on daily bases by news programs, etc. noting the presence of crime, the “prevention” of crime and the limited narratives that are offered through gendered defense – fight back vs. avoid it altogether.


Bell, David and Gill Valentine. 1995. “The Sexed Self: Strategies of Performance, Sites of Resistance,” in Steve Pile and Nigel Thrift (eds.) Mapping the Subject: Geographies of Cultural Transformation. London: Routledge.

Merry, Sally Engle. 1981. Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers. Philadelpha, PA: Temple University Press.

Rose, Gillian. 1993. Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Ruddick, Susan. 1996. “Constructing Difference in Public Spaces: Race, Class and Gender as Interlocking Systems.” Urban Geography 17: 132-151.

Smith, Susan J. 1986. Crime, Space and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Valentine, Gill. 1996. “(Re)Negotiating the ‘Heterosexual Street’: Lesbian Production of Space,” in Nancy Duncan (ed.) BodySpace: Destabilizing Geographies of Gender and Sexuality. London: Routledge.

‘Gendered Exclusions’: Women’s Fear of Violence and Changing Relations to Space

“Fear can be argued to be a consequence of women’s unequal status, but simultaneously it is contributing in perpetuating the gendered inequalities” (1) — often related to female victimization, fear of victimization. Pain 1991 – spatial fear differs by gender – not only per extent, but by the nature and characteristics of it, mostly differenced by a fear of harassment or sexual violence (Valentine 1992), a potential barrier for women in participating in public spheres and places (Gardner 1994).

Fear does not just source from spatial or physical characteristics, but the symbolic features of the area (Pain 1994) – not only as a site of social action, but as a product and consequence of social actions, emotions, experiences.   Shaped by “ideologies of fear”- cultural transmission and reproduction of fear – often purported by family, media, other agents of socialization – that tend to exaggerate violence and contribute to the strength of (rape) myths (Valentine 1992).

Trivialization of sexual harassment (Morrell 1996), though experiences of harassment often shape women’s lives through demonstrating vulnerability, a gender-differentiated interaction and access. Avoidance of areas seem to be a common tactic instead of standing up or confronting issues of harassment, violence, assault.


Gardner, C.B. 1994. “Safe Conduct: Gender, Public Places and Situational Disadvantage.” In R. Friedland and D. Boden (eds.), NowHere: Space, Time and Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Morrell, H. 1996. “Women’s Safety.” In C. Booth, J. Darke, and S. Yeandle (eds.), Changing Places: Women, Violence and Social Control. London: MacMillan.

Pain, R. 1991. “Space, Sexual Violence and Social Control: Integrating Geographical and Feminist Analyses of Women’s Fear of Crime.” Progress in Human Geography 15: 415-431.

Pain, R. 1994. Crime, Social Control and Spatial Constraint: A Study of Women’s Fear of Sexual Violence. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh.

Valentine, G. 1992. “Images of Danger: Women’s Sources of Information about the Spatial Distribution of Male Violence.” Area 24: 22-29.

Koskela, Hille and Rachel Pain. (date). Revisiting Fear and Place: Women’s Fear of Attack in the Built Environment.

City and urban planners have often attempted to “design out” geographies of fear/crime – this does not seem to take into account the strong interconnection between emotional and spatial landscapes. Though “designing out” fear may take into account physical hazards, feminist perspectives of design may explore the deep entrenchment of patriarchal relations into the environment and sociocultural uses of space, gendered perceptions of risk, and other normative gender behaviors.


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