Public toilets for women: how female municipal councillors expanded the right to the city in Sweden, c. 1910–1925

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This article shows that women’s formal political citizenship is intertwined with the right to the city. Using Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be’ approach, we study how female municipal councillors argued for more public toilets in Sweden's three largest cities. In their motions, the lack of public conveniences was mainly related to a binary discourse of gender, and arguments referring to biological needs of the female body and women as mothers proved more successful than the argument that uneven access to public toilets was an example of gender inequality. Class-based arguments against fees were largely ignored when the motions were transformed from potentially contentious political issues into technical issues of urban planning and municipal utilities. However, the material effects of the policies—public toilets placed mainly in working-class areas—led to an extension of possible radiuses of movement within the city for women, and perhaps especially working-class women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-495
Number of pages20
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History
  • Gender Studies

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