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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

Part 3 – Current Literature

Part 4 – Case Studies

Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

CRITICAL GEOGRAPHY: Where the Homeless and Poor Live
Critical geography is a branch of Marxism that focuses on city politics and how people live and inhabit cities on a socioeconomic level. Important authors in the field such as David Harvey, CUNY professor of anthropology and geography, and Peter Marcuse, professor emeritus of urban planning, evoke the “right to the city”. The “right to the city” is an autonomy people have in owning and shaping the cities they live in in ways they wish or need to, to have a shaping power over the very process of urbanization itself.[1] Down to the very substance, critical geographers explain how neoliberal capitalism and globalism help a small number of rich people get richer and more interconnected with the rest of the world while the majority of people become poorer and more isolated. Critical geographers analyze such processes as deindustrialization and gentrification of the inner cities as factors in this overall trend.

The history of the discipline is an interesting one, evolving from the theories of radical geographers by incorporating Marxist theories into their work. Originally, only the concept “radical geography” existed as an obscure and loose collection of different ideas from academics who tried to analyze different forms of oppression and power structures by examining the geography of an area. In 1969, the journal Antipode appeared, allowing radical geographers to make their ideas visible to mainstream academia. Radical geographers published articles on imperialism, poverty, ghettos, African Americans, geography’s whiteness, women, American Indian geography, the environment and nature, remote sensing, migration, and map projection.[2]

In the 1970s, radical geographers extensively read the works of Marx, making the reading of Marx the norm for their group. At around the same time radical geographers fought against mainstream geographers in academia because more conservative members had reservations about the radicals’ new theories. Mainstream academia denied radical professors tenure and replaced those with teaching positions. Over time radical geography absorbed the radical social movements from the 1960s and 1970s, such as second wave feminism, black civil rights, and sexual liberation, transforming into critical geography by 1986.[3]

Once the discipline “critical geography” was coined, academics branched out to form their own niche categories. Antipode boasted academics of many different shades from feminists to environmentalists. By the 1990s, critical geography became mainstream in academia, but it still had its problems. The majority of critical geographers in academia are white men and most critical geographers limit their analysis to class, a truth even of the esteemed David Harvey. Nonetheless, some critical geographers such as Gibson-Graham use feminism and queer theory to inform their discipline.[4]

Currently, in it’s most recognizable form, critical geography analyses how people’s right to the city exists or does not exist under modern capitalist society. Writers such as David Harvey especially concern themselves with how capitalism excludes lower class people, deeming them to no longer own or belong in the city. For example, globalization creates a demand to gentrify cities so the cities can compete in the global market. The process involves rebuilding “blighted” areas and outsourcing industrial jobs so the city can accommodate affluent middle class people who move in.

How does critical geography relate to homelessness? The overall trends of neoliberal capitalism and globalism divide American classes further apart, with the middle class and poor becoming ever poorer, more isolated, and with less employment and resources in declining inner city infrastructures. Poverty and isolation do not necessarily cause homelessness by themselves but they increase the likelihood as poor people do not have the financial and state benefits middle class and upper class people have. Poverty also increases the likelihood of many aggravating factors that contribute to homelessness, such as domestic violence,[5] crime, imprisonment,[6] drug abuse, and mental illnesses.[7]

Poverty and its attendant factors are major features of homeless people in America and major reasons why people become homeless. Many interviewed homeless people testify to coming from dysfunctional and abusive backgrounds, where they adopted dysfunctional behaviors that make it harder for them sustain a living and coexist with other people in society.[8] Homeless people are more likely to abuse drugs than people who aren’t homeless,[9] and some even directly link their drug use to their homelessness, while many homeless women become homeless after fleeing an abusive husband.[10] All the poverty has a context, a history that reveals deeper truths about the American politics and culture that shaped it over the decades. To fully understand how and why people become homeless, one needs to have a solid understanding of the culture and environment these people live in. They act and are acted upon in that culture and environment. One must see the entire forest and not only a few trees.

Gentrification and globalism are just a few ways capitalism pushes more people into poverty. It does so by stratifying society, giving more wealth to the few rich property owners while sapping wealth from middle and working class people. At the very end of the spectrum, working class people lose their jobs and can no longer live in homes. Homelessness is the utmost extreme end of poverty. Many different policies are enacted in gentrified places to force homeless people out, such as replacing public spaces with privately owned places[11], increased police surveillance, and anti-panhandling laws[12]. The policies make it abundantly clear that homeless people are not welcome in those areas and do not have the right to the city.

Don Mitchell, professor at Syracuse University, elaborates in “The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space” the many ways capitalism has taken away underprivileged people’s right to the city through its more recent developments. He provides relevant insight on America’s notion of public space relating to the September 11 attacks, stating that the fear and anger created from the September 11 attacks did not create new ideas about public safety. Rather, they pushed forward ideas that already existed with greater urgency, especially ideas from “security experts” that public spaces are a security threat.[13] With this increased vigilance, public spaces are tightened, made less available for all sorts of “undesirables” and “dangerous people” such as teenagers, women, workers, organized unions, and the homeless.

In another example, starting from 1994, the Berkeley City Council passed stricter laws as “quality of life” initiatives to regulate street behavior. The laws ranged from forbidding “aggressive” panhandling to forbidding sitting on the sidewalk. In 1998, San Francisco issued more than 16,000 “quality of life” violations for actions such as “camping in public, loitering, urinating, and defecating in public”.[14] Passing such laws and issuing such violations targeted homeless people most severely as they depend on city space and public services more than anyone else.

Such cities with their “tough enough” policies are part of a larger picture, one of gentrification and globalism. As city spaces become ever more privatized, homeless people have less public space to live in. Thus city spaces come increasingly under the control of private owners who drive homeless people out as the homeless are bad for business. In the process “going global” uproots the need for capitalists to establish businesses in certain exact places since modern technology provides, even requires, them with resources and connections all around the world. Paradoxically, globalism instills in capitalists the need to reproduce certain kinds of spaces; mainly gentrified areas that accommodate white middle class people, the new globalist workforce [15] As industrial jobs are outsourced they are replaced by service and management jobs made ever more lucrative and essential to a new globalized economy through modern technologies such as the Internet. Lower class and homeless people, meanwhile, cannot afford luxuries such as laptops and private Internet access.

Ironically, private property owners and civil servants need homeless people and the lower classes as a justification to renovate cities. A city space needs to be seen as “blighted” or decayed in some way in order to justify gentrifying the area. The fear of homeless people, the poor, and other “undesirables” and “vagrants” is needed to control the city with strict police surveillance. It stops any behavior that interferes with the accumulation of capital and prevents people from fighting for their right to the city in solidarity.[16] Capitalists see the homeless and poor as a drain on capital accumulation and frame their problems as individual failures. This not only steers people away from debating economic issues but also justifies removing homeless and poor people from the gentrified city, as their poverty and “deviance” is seen as their fault.[17] In the end, homeless people are the butts of capitalism and class war. Gentrification and globalism ways capitalism pushes down people who don’t accumulate capital and thus are not “productive”.

A good example of using critical geography is analyzing how mortgage brokers crushed many black families during the housing crisis and how their actions paved the way for gentrification of black neighborhoods. We would like to think of mortgage brokers as honest and fair people, giving those who made mistakes with their money in the past a second chance to keep their homes. In reality, many mortgage brokers grant subprime loans as a form of investment to make a profit. Furthermore, they grant subprime loans based on a person’s race and gender, not on their credit history.[18]

In low-income neighborhoods, housing developments defined “low-income” to be higher than a neighborhood’s median income, making the prices of the homes greater than what people who lived in them could earn. Mortgage brokers took advantage of an already vulnerable population by intentionally giving them subprime loans and charging them more money than they would a white, middle-class person. As a result, tens of thousands of people, mostly black, lost their homes. Their neighborhoods sunk deeper into poverty and became targets for businessmen and urban planners with “broken windows” policies.[19]

As most Marxists would say, ideology follows from a class structure, especially when one class oppresses another. The attitudes of the “political elites”, of businessmen, politicians, bankers, and urban planners reflect this truth. The “political elite” intensely dislikes features of inner city neighborhoods such as unruly people, loud noises, and “dirty” objects such as graffiti. This seems like common sense – most people do like to live peacefully. While they are indeed common sense they do reflect underlying politics. The “political elites” dislike inner city neighborhoods because they are in conflict with both the interests of neoliberal economic machines and the socio-cultural order they want to maintain. In other words, they want to transform urban space into a middle class neighborhood commodity, which invites tourism, high property values and the comfort of the business community.[20]

The “political elites” of the 1940s to 1960s wished to clean up the blighted slums in large cities and replace them with a new middle class space dominated by large business such as megamalls and tourism. Today, “political elites” wish to gentrify inner city spaces to attract white-collar workers who will contribute to the new global market. In the process they expel poor and lower middle class people, segregating them” into housing projects and dilapidated apartments, burying them into deeper poverty and isolation from mainstream society, keeping them out of sight and out of mind. Modern day “political elites” no longer describe inner city spaces as “blighted”, but they provide the same rationale as their predecessors did to enact similar policies. The people in the projects were, and still are, denied many of the benefits middle-class people have such as good quality education, hospital care, and nutrition.

Intersectional feminism, the second discipline, analyses how different facets of people’s socioeconomic lives intersect with each other to form a person’s existence and lived experiences. Intersectionality is “”the interplay of race, class, and gender, often resulting in multiple dimensions of disadvantage”[21]. Discriminated social groups, such as lower class people, women, and people of color, do not exist in isolation from each other. A black woman, someone who belongs to two disadvantages groups, does not experience black and female disadvantage separately but together, often interacting and reinforcing each other.[22]

Intersectional feminism has a unique and specific epistemology, employing a perspectivist approach towards knowledge, recognizing that different views of the world, and consequently different truths, are arrived at from different perspectives. It stresses an alternate, “multi-axis” way of analyzing people, cultures, and events, integrating different disciplines and perspectives at once. It recognizes the limitations of analyzing the world through only one perspective or discipline, and the presumptuousness of declaring one analysis the absolute truth.[23] To do so neglects other complex realities, something intersectional feminists learned from older feminist movements. An example is how older feminist movements turned most of their focus to white, middle-class women, while neglecting women of color and non-straight women.

According to Vivian May, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, in her book Pursuing Intersectionality Intersectional feminism counters the positivist, “objective” epistemology that originated in the Enlightenment, which is common in most Western philosophies. Positivist, “objective” epistemology is “single-axis”. It tends to analyze things through only one, or at most a few disciplines and perspectives, and assumes that people can gain a purely objective, God’s-eye view, which can see the true nature of things free of biases.[24] It tends to universalize insights gathered from a few disciplines onto everything, and frequently divides the world into an us-versus-Other dichotomy.

Intersectional feminism cannot be done in an idle and disinterested way. It is linked closely to activism and is intentionally subversive in its aims.[25] Its “multi-axis” approaches are used to aid disadvantaged people, most commonly women of color because their lives are often rendered invisible. If not made invisible, they are often Othered, made into something alien and mostly negative, outside of the social norm, which is often represented as white, male, and positive. It is a perspective like all others but is treated by mainstream culture as an objective standard to base its worldview. Intersectional feminists combat women of color’s invisibility and Otherness by bringing their lives to the forefront and subverting dominant cultural norms.

What does intersectional feminism have to do with homelessness? If critical geographers can be said to examine economic factors that cause poverty and inequality, then intersectional feminists can be said to examine cultural factors that cause poverty and inequality. For example, the decline of the inner city and the rise of housing projects and mass unemployment are informed by a long history of systemic racism. Similarly, most women make substantially less money than men and own less property than men do and women are also more likely to be impoverished than men are, both manifestations of systemic sexism.[26] Poverty has a woman’s face. Domestic violence is another serious manifestation of sexism. LGBT people are often stereotyped as affluent gay men who live in San Francisco, but the reality is the majority of LGBT people are poor. Within affluent neoliberal communities, one sees only a narrow, specific form of LGBT identity accepted, while the majority of other LGBT people, those who tend to be poor, are seen as “deviant” and “underserving” of dignity or state benefits, and are brushed away from the mainstream.[27]

As stated previously in the critical geography section, poverty and attending aggravating factors increase the likelihood of homelessness. Intersectional feminism can be used as a tool for analyzing factors such as systemic racism, sexism, and heteronormativity in depth, and drawing links to homelessness. Poverty in nonwhite communities contributes to lack of employment, drug abuse, and dysfunctional homes, which all contribute to homelessness. Women tend to be poorer than men and are also more likely to be abused, and when they flee their abusers they have few resources, especially poor and nonwhite women, which contributes to homelessness. [28] Many LGBT people face stigma for their sexuality, tend to poorer than straight people, and make riskier decisions about sex and drug use.[29] Pushing most LGBT people away from the mainstream only stigmatizes them further, increasing their likelihood of homelessness. As before, it needs to be stated how important context and history are to fully understanding factors that increase the likelihood of homelessness, racism and sexism included. The whole forest must be seen, not only a few trees. Ignorance and shortsightedness will only lead to inept policies at best and disastrous consequences at worst.

Angela Davis, veteran counterculture activist and scholar, gives a thorough intersectional analysis of black history in Women, Race, and Class. She places the history of black women in particular as the center of analysis because of the ways in which gender and racial oppression intersected each other in unique ways relative to each historical era. For example, Davis shows how “racialized gender” and “gendered race” were different in the days of slavery than the “racialized gender” and “gendered race” that existed in the 1980s. Nevertheless, they are similar to their core, and the racism and sexism black women face today can be traced back to the racism and sexism they faced hundreds of years ago.

Since the days of slavery, black women had to be independent and assertive, more than capable of doing the same labor black men did while cementing the family together. Slavery ironically allowed black women a lot of premarital sexual freedom. Their contributions to the family were as significant as their husband’s and they worked outside of the home more than their white sisters.[30] Davis points out that the nineteenth and twentieth century ideals of womanhood, though projected as universal and biological by white society, was an ideal for white, middle-class women. It was an ideal with very specific racial, class, and historical contexts, an ideal that was levered against black women, where their relative freedom and strength were twisted into signs of promiscuity and immorality.[31] The specter of the black woman welfare queen was created simultaneously with the boogeyman of the black male rapist, and both stereotypes contrasted the domestic ideal of the Christian, stay-at-home mother, and altruistic middle class white woman.[32]

Both racist caricatures are alive today. They harm black women not only through simple racism, but also through sexism. Racist white men have frequently used the myth of the bad black woman as a pretext for sexually brutalizing them. The same sexualized violence was also committed against white women, which shows how easily racism and sexism bleed together. Racism, sometimes used specifically as a provocation to rape black women, ricocheted to white women, causing white women to suffer as their black sisters.[33] This is just one of many examples of how racism and sexism intersect with each other to create the oppression of both black and white women, an oppression that comes in different shades yet has fundamental similarities.

Of course, intersectionality is used to study different forms of oppression today in all of their complexity. The civil rights advocate and scholar Kimberle Crenshaw provides a useful guide to using intersectionality in the 21st century in her essay, “Mapping the Margins”. According the Crenshaw, the mainstream liberal view is that racism and sexism as systemic forms of oppression no longer occur, that any racism and sexism experienced today are vestiges of oppression in the past. However, modern feminism says that systemic oppression is very real, such as racism, sexism, and classism.[34] However, a major problem among modern academics and activists alike is adopting identity politics to a zealous degree, making them parochial as they myopically focus on pet issues close to them but refusing to see the bigger picture.

Modern academics and activists are not the only ones to have such a tunnel vision. Their ancestors suffered from the same narrow-mindedness. Racism is a shadow that lingers throughout most of feminist history. American suffragettes appealed to white women in southern states, saying their votes would cancel the black male vote and, in a 1913 suffragette march, black women activists marched behind their white sisters. Even women’s liberation activists in the 1960s focused primarily on aiding white middle-class women while neglecting black women. Black civil rights activists at the same time had their fair share of misogynists who contended that liberating black women would further tear apart black families. The modern descendants of both women and black civil rights groups retain some of the same flaws as their predecessors, but thankfully they have greater awareness of other disenfranchised groups and reach out to help them accordingly.

There are many different ways people can endure more than one form of oppression. Latina immigrant women are more tied to their homes than middle class white women, not only because Latinos tend to have more traditional gender roles than middle class whites but also because immigrant women have fewer ways of seeking help to escape abusive husbands. Immigrant women fear reporting abuse to the police or going to a women’s shelter because of language barriers, the possibility of deportation, and the possibility of women’s shelters not accepting women who cannot speak English into their care.[35] In this case, immigrant women are burdened by sexism, in the form of domestic violence, and by racism and classism, in the form of their immigrant, low-income status, creating extra dimensions of disempowerment.

Similar forms of oppression and silence can be seen in black communities as well. When black women seek to politicize the domestic violence they experience by speaking out about it or doing some form of activism, black communities will react by ignoring or silencing black women. Black communities do so to keep the integrity of their communities, both in the sense of preserving its reputation to the outside world and to protect it from falling apart from the inside. Some black people, desiring to protect their community, can deny domestic violence as being a problem at all; feminism with internally divides communities of color. An example is Shahrazad Ali, claiming in her book, The Blackman’s Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman, that the black community deteriorated because black women are insubordinate to black men, who need to “discipline” women to reestablish their inherent male authority that racism has taken away from them.[36]

One reason women of color do not disclose the domestic violence they endure to the police is because they fear police hostility. Women of color have reasonable fears since the police and judicial system have unrightfully persecuted black and other nonwhite people for a very long time whether through shootings, lethal beatings, and long criminal sentencing. Racism can also bleed with sexism through the form of toxic masculinity, the sense of entitlement and violence men display to appease society’s expectations of being a “real man”. Systemic racism disempowers black men while white men are spared, but because of sexism black men have similar expectations and sense of entitlements as white men do. Black men beat black women both as a way of releasing the pains they endure from systemic racism while trying to claim what little masculine control they can.[37]

LGBT communities have intersectional issues of their own, such as the “austerity in the bedroom”. The subject of LGBT rights is still a polarized issue in America and the United Kingdom. Even though LGBT rights are legally protected, culture does not acknowledge all LGBT people unequally. The neoliberal societies of America and the United Kingdom reward LGBT people who make income through private means rather than relying on welfare by acknowledging them as “proper citizens”[38] and recognizing their sexual lives as “appropriate intimacies” rather than deviations.[39] Neoliberal societies choose which LGBT people to accept as “normal” and which LGBT people to marginalize under narrow criteria. Within affluent neoliberal communities, one sees only a narrow, specific form of LGBT identity accepted, while the majority of other LGBT people, those who tend to be poor, are seen as “deviant” and “underserving” of dignity or state benefits, and are brushed away from the mainstream.[40]

What does neoliberalism and LGBT identity have to do with homelessness? The popular stereotype of LGBT people is that of an affluent gay man, but in reality the majority of LGBT people are poor and LGBT people tend to be poorer than straight people. With neoliberalism and LGBT issues, one can see that gentrification is not only the commodification and exclusion of some classes over others, but also the commodification and exclusion of some identities over others. In the process the majority of LGBT people, those who are poor, are pushed away by gentrification into deeper poverty, marginalized by their identity as well as by their class. As the literature review will later show, LGBT homelessness is usually caused by poverty and social stigma. The gentrification of LGBT identities contributes to the two aforementioned factors.

As neoliberal urban planners and businessmen gentrify LGBT neighborhoods that once housed LGBT people of low income into commoditized, middle-class enclaves, a new gay identity is created in the process. The new gay identity fits with gender binary and nuclear family norms, appearing to be a statement for diversity, but in reality a standard to exclude LGBT people whose sexuality, race, or ethnicity is seen as too excessive and threatening to the neoliberal establishment.[41] There is a large difference between the newly accepted, depoliticized, desexualized, middle class gay community and the low income or homeless LGBT people of older gay communities, who are seen as threatening by neoliberals.[42]

Neoliberal urban planners and businessmen realized that they can make affluent, middle class communities appear diverse and progressive by accepting middle class people who are LGBT and nonwhite as long as they whitewash their identities into something acceptable to the gentrified city space, places still mostly white. In turn, LGBT and nonwhite people are granted access to cultures, accessories, and places that allow them to express their identities. In this way, neoliberal society assimilates gay and multicultural cultures, making the neoliberal society more diverse, at least superficially. However, neoliberal society uses the new middle class LGBT and nonwhite person as a standard, contrasting them against racial, ethnic, and LGBT people who use state-funded programs, deeming them as “threatening”, “deviant”, and a hinderance to free labor markets.[43]

Like critical geographers, intersectional feminists hold a deep interest in poverty and homelessness, seeing oppression through sexism and racism the way critical geographers see oppression through space, social class, and economics. Feminists frequently critique each other and intersectional feminists are no different, such as critiquing social workers, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters. Carol Zuffery, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy at the University of South Australia, used intersectionality to analyze and critique homeless shelters in Australia, titling her work “Intersectional Feminism and Social Work Responses to Homelessness”. While she based her work in Australia many of her insights are relevant to American homeless shelters since America and Australia are both neoliberal democracies and hold similar racial disparities in wealth and quality of life.

Zuffery concluded that social workers were influenced by what she would call dominant, normative discourses. In other words, social workers were privileged in contrast to the homeless people they sought to help and held power over them, whether they knew it or not. Social workers also held ideas that were white, middle-class, and male, since most came from middle-class backgrounds, and acted on those ideas.[44] Her ideas are not new. It is not uncommon for people to criticize social work and other liberal causes to help the downtrodden for being paternalistic and reinforcing the very dominance the oppressed try to escape from. The most prominent critics tend to be leftist activists and academics, those who have an insider’s knowledge of social work and other government institutions.

To Zuffery, social work and bureaucratic policies at homeless shelters tend to be very simple and reductionist, applying one size to fit all. For example, many shelters and social work adhere bourgeois, middle class views of homelessness and, likewise, what having a home and being functional is like. This is similar to Riis’ own ideas about a century ago. According to many homeless shelters, not being homeless specifically means owning a house, a suburban and white, middle class ideal, as opposed to being nomadic or roofless.[45] Homeless shelters and social work also tend to be gender blind, ignoring the specific plights homeless women face. In Australia, indigenous Australians are four times as likely to homeless than non-indigenous Australians and 44% of homeless people were women in 2011. Women become homeless primarily because of domestic violence, and indigenous women are hospitalized for domestic violence 38% more than other women. Homeless women are also more likely to receive assistance from shelters if they act in a traditionally feminine way, appearing dependent, frightened, and vulnerable.[46]

In 2003, Emi Koyama, an activist located in Seattle, Washington, gives a stronger critique. She specifically speaks about domestic violence shelters for women, which house many homeless women, often women who fled from their only home. She aptly named her work “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System”. Once a homeless and bettered woman herself, Koyama explains how shelter workers would constantly police the guests by giving draconian threats and punishments, especially to black and Latina women with children recovering from drug abuse. Shelter workers encouraged guests to snitch on each other to make sure no one broke any curfew rules or relapsed. When doctors at a mental hospital asked about her background as a prostitute, Koyama learned to answer their insensitive and dehumanizing questions with “correct” answers. Another prostitute, Lulu, shared the same grievances as Koyama, noting how shelters treated the guests as “abuse addicts”, women who craved the abuse they received and needed to just “snap out of it”.[47]

After early domestic violence shelters were created in the nineteen seventies, executive directors from the mainstream entered and increasingly began to institutionalize and professionalize them. As the radical feminist Gaddis recounts, “Shared power among employees was quickly discarded and ethical practices that included the voices of battered women, basic training on the dynamics of domestic violence, and the power of shared experience among women was frowned upon…” The guests, fleeing the prison of an abusive relationship, were now imprisoned by shelters with their never-ending list of rules. Victims were seen as crazy and were swiftly disciplined for disobedience. Most insidiously, the shelters prevented women of all different social classes, races, ages, and religions from entering, which prevented women from uniting in solidarity.[48]

As state bureaucracies overtake women’s shelters, the shelters increasingly impose systemic oppressions such as racism and sexism. Women’s shelters today close their doors ever tighter: the lists of women they do not admit grow ever longer. “The list of ‘we don’t shelter those women’ just keeps growing: women with substance abuse issues, homeless women, women with mental illnesses, women who are HIV-positive, women who won’t attend parenting classes, women with physical disabilities, women who don’t want protective orders, women who won’t submit to drug tests and searches…” Priorities have reversed: the basic needs of battered and homeless women are replaced by completing the in-take list.[49]

Police increasingly arrest abused women under false accusations from their abusers or because the woman fought back to protect herself. Domestic violence “experts” use “battered women’s syndrome”, once used to explain why women stayed in abusive relationships or murdered their husbands rather than to leave or contact police, as rhetoric for stripping away battered women’s agency to confine them to state and shelter regulations. Since the state treats assaults on women as crimes, fewer nonwhite women charge their husbands for abuse, well aware of the racism in courts and prisons. Those very institutions aggravate women’s conditions through neoliberal economy and racism, since women who are poor or nonwhite are more likely to be beaten by their husbands. Furtherore, as Koyama asks, how can a state that has so much institutional racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and such a corrupt economy with a small minority owning two-thirds of the state’s wealth while everyone else becomes increasingly poorer, be expected to aid and empower battered and homeless women.[50]

Koyama also levels her complaints against radical feminists. The doctrine of shared women’s experiences, a universal oppression all women face and could bind together in solidarity, is a two-edged sword. It helps women see the patriarchy and sexism that affects all their lives in order to address them, but women who adhere to the doctrine often blind themselves to complex realities many women live in, and ironically, the complex reality of the sexism and oppression many women face. Angela Davis’ descriptions of black women facing “racialized sexism” and Kimberle Crenshaw describing the systemic racism and poverty that creates a community where domestic violence against black women is common, are two examples. The feminist euphemisms “women’s shared experiences” and “survivors’ shared experiences” only make the problems harder to address, and are also paternalistic.[51]

[1] David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (New York, NY: Verso Books, 2012), 4.

[2] Linda Peake and Eric Sheppard, “The Emergence of Radical/Critical Geography within North America.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 13 (2014): 309.

[3] Peake and Sheppard, “The Emergence of Radical/Critical Geography,” 309-14.

[4] Ibid., 318-19.

[5] “The Characteristics of Homeless Women,” Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, 2012,!userfiles/TheCharacteristicsofHomelessWomen_lores3.pdf.

[6] B. Petit and B. Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.” American Sociological Review 69 (2004): 152-155.

[7] Martha Livingston Bruce and David Takeuchi, “Poverty and Psychiatric Status.” Archives of General Psychiatry 48 (1991): 472-73.

[8] Desiree Hellegers, No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death, and Resistance (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) 28-38, 49-59.

[9] “Policy Brief: Overview of NASADAD Priorities.” (NASADAD) National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. 2007.

[10] “Domestic Violence and Homelessness,” National Coalition for the Homeless, accessed April 27, 2016,

[11] Don Mitchell, The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space (New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2003), 171.

[12] Ibid., 161-62.

[13] Ibid., 3.

[14] Mitchell, The Right to the City, 160-62.

[15] Ibid., 164-65.

[16] Mitchell, The Right to the City, 174.

[17] Ibid., 178-79.

[18] Clayton Perry, “What the Housing Crisis Can Tell Us about Racism, Sexism and Homelessness,”, June 30, 2008, 2.

[19] Perry, “What the Housing Crisis Can Tell Us,” 2.

[20] Ronald Kramer, “Political Elites, “Broken Windows”, and the Commodification of Urban Space,” Critical Criminology 20 (2011), 243-44.

[21] John J Macionis, and Linda M. Gerber, “Intersectionality” in Sociology, Seventh Canadian Edition, (Toronto, CA-ON: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011), 310.

[22] Sheila Thomas and Kimberle Crenshaw, “Intersectionality: The Double Bind of Race and Gender,” Perspectives Magazine 2004), 2.

[23] Vivian M. May, Pursuing Intersectionality, Unsettling Dominant Imaginaries, (Abingnon, UK: Routledge, 2015), 33-5

[24] May, Pursuing Intersectionality, 35-7

[25] Ibid., 91

[26] “The Characteristics of Homeless Women.” Report. Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, 2012, 2-3,!userfiles/TheCharacteristicsofHomelessWomen_lores3.pdf.

[27] Gavin Brown, “Marriage and the Spare Bedroom: Exploring the Sexual Politics of Austerity in Britain,” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. Department of Geography University of Leicester 14 (2015): 977-980.

[28] Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43 (1991): 1263-1265.

[29] Maurice N. Gattis, “An Ecological Systems Comparison Between Homeless Sexual Minority Youths and Homeless Heterosexual Youths,” Journal of Social Service Research 39 (2013): 5-7.

[30] Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race, and Class (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1983), 3-4.

[31] Ibid. 176.

[32] Ibid., 174.

[33] Ibid., 176.

[34] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1242.

[35] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1249.

[36] Ibid., 1253-254.

[37] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1257.

[38] Brown, “Marriage and the Spare Bedroom,” 977-978.

[39] Ibid., 980.

[40] Ibid, 977-980.

[41] Michelle Billies, “Low Income LGBTGNC (Gender Nonconforming) Struggles Over Shelters as Public Space.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 14(2015): 994.

[42] Ibid, 996.

[43] Billies, “Low Income LGBTGNC (Gender Nonconforming) Struggles ,”1003.

[44] Stephanie Wahab et al., Feminisms in Social Work Research: Promise and Possibilities for Justice-based Knowledge (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014), 91-92.

[45] Ibid., 93.

[46] Ibid., 92.

[47]Emi Koyama, “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System,” in Disloyal to Feminism: Confronting the Abusive Power and Control within the Domestic Violence Industry (Portland, OR: Confluere Publications, 2003), 4-7.

[48] Koyama, “Disloyal to Feminism,” 9.

[49] Ibid., 10.

[50] Koyama, “Disloyal to Feminism,” 11.

[51] Ibid., 17.


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