What Women Want, In Physical Space
In 2007 I earned my PhD at the University of North Dakota. My dissertation included research on how rural women utilize built environments for physical activity. There are a number of lessons from my research that inform my thought process as I consider my work with the DMC Heart of the City committee. Specifically, what are the elements of spaces (built environments) that are important to women and how does that help everyone feel welcome? Indulge me for a moment.
I found that women perceived streets and roads as conducive to outdoor physical activity. Themes that influenced the women’s choices of built environments emerged as safety and maintenance.
Perceptions of safety were influenced by the presence of other people during outdoor physical activity, poorly maintained built environments, traffic control, seasonal issues (e.g darkness), and wild animals. Structure issues included condition of built environment and traffic control. One woman referred to safety being an issue based on the “numbers of people around, numbers of cars around, depending on where you are walking, low incidence of crime and those who would be out to prey on others”.
Living with extended periods of darkness also posed a concern. The winter darkness issues impacted those who chose to walk early in the morning or after work. When communities have limited or no artificial light source to penetrate the darkness of winter, the spaces are not conducive to use.
Furthermore, poorly maintained built environments impacted the willingness of women to utilize build environments. Women defined poorly maintained as broken-up or cracked sidewalks, un-shoveled sidewalks, and icy sidewalks or streets. Further, women identified safety concerns related to traffic (e.g. fast moving traffic or limited in the frequency and number of vehicles using that road), the dangers associated with those concerns were fear of being hit by traffic or fear of being harmed due to isolation.
What does all of this have to do with how we develop spaces in Rochester? I believe considering safety and long term maintenance will impact the short and long term usability of the spaces we develop. Safe and maintained spaces are welcoming. Women bring their families to welcoming spaces and come back time and again. Spaces like this do not just happen, they are developed. Planning and input from those who are most influenced by safety issues will ensure that everyone feels welcome. Let the development begin.
Civil Discourse and Questioning
The political season is off and running! I love the passion and opportunity to hear about future ideas and plans for our country (state and community). High season for civil discourse (I hope!). Asking questions to better understand the opinions and life experiences of those in our community and country is key. I have been thinking about what questions I have to expand my understanding, which has lead to more reading of documents and articles. How can we stay civil with a country so divided? Then I found and was intrigued by the National Association of School Psychologists statement on violence (https://www.mspaonline.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Violence-Statement_July-2016_FINAL.docx). One of the six statements was that “Other people’s perspectives matter”.
“Other people’s perspectives matter. The very nature of civil disagreement is to acknowledge respectfully the views and experiences of other people and learn from differing perspectives. Adults can start by reflecting on their own experiences and how these shape their interactions and reactions. They can help children to do the same and ask questions of each other, rather than hurl accusations. Adults can create safe spaces for youth to share their feelings and concerns while also exploring how they might feel and act if they were in someone else’s shoes.”
This document is for schools, however, I believe there is a societal lesson. We should encourage individuals to share their lived experience, how these experiences “shape their interactions and reactions”. Which leads me to ponder,,, even question.
Where are the places, who are the people, and how can we engage in civil discourse? Where do we start?
Blessings and Renewal
The schedule is packed, things to do, people to see, more to get done. Work work work! Wait a minute, what about relaxing, taking a deep breath, perhaps even renewal? The work versus relax dilemma has always been a tough one for me. Part of it is upbringing and part is I just like to be productive, and I really like my work and my colleagues.
Growing up on a small farm in northern Minnesota was a gift to me. I learned how to work hard, not to take the ability to work for granted, and to make hay while the sun shined! Literally, we made hay when the sun shined!! When your formative years are busy with farm work, the responsibility and continuous planning, doing, evaluating cycle defines you.
Entering into my career I found that every new person and experience brought an opportunity to learn something new. I loved the learning, the challenges to my beliefs, and knowing that humanity could be so beautiful and intriguing. Engaging with colleagues, growing together, and creating great opportunities for students is a great way to make a living, lucky me! So, why bother with relaxing?
Last week I was enjoying some time away from work, relaxing and reflecting on my year, my family, and life. That busy life and schedule I choose to have and enjoy, does not allow for reflection. Thinking time, just contemplating can be so important to putting big world issues and small local dramas into perspective. I am blessed to have time to work hard and to relax. Not everyone is given the opportunity or ability to work or relax. A blessing. Ah, renewal.
Thank you for being a part of my small world and remember to take a deep breath for you are a blessing to me.