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How to Rebuild Cities for Caregiving

Decades after critiques on how cities fail caregivers, the same problems remain. The new book “Feminist City” calls for reimagining urban infrastructure.

A mother pushes a bicycle carrying her daughter after picking her up from a nursery school in Tokyo.

A mother pushes a bicycle carrying her daughter after picking her up from a nursery school in Tokyo.

Photographer: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP via Getty Images

The following is an edited excerpt from Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World, out July 7 from Verso Books. Its ideas have taken on new resonance in a world in which a pandemic and racial justice protests have elevated the conversations around child care, public space and radically rethinking equity policies.

When I started my master’s degree with a child under one year of age and no way to afford daycare (wait lists for subsidized spots were outrageous), I scrambled to find time to complete my work. Luckily, I met Anneke. We had classes together and discovered that we were both the primary caregivers for very young kids. I started bringing Maddy to Anneke’s house two days a week and we took turns watching the kids while one of us left for a few hours to study. The little bit of extra time afforded by what I liked to call Toronto’s “smallest babysitting co-op” made a huge difference. At the time, I thought that we were just lucky. I didn’t realize that we were part of a long tradition of mothers and other caregivers coming up with ingenious arrangements for doing care work in the city. These creative practices of “getting by” have informed feminist urban interventions since the nineteenth century.