Thursday, September 08, 2022

Is Havana the World's Least Sexist City ?

Geochicas has been at the forefront of efforts around the world to reveal the under-representation of women in street names. Their interactive map Las Calles de las Mujeres explores the ratio of streets named for men and women in a number of cities in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, Paraguay, Peru, Italy and Uruguay.

The Geochicas map now includes an analysis of street names in 32 cities around the world. While this is obviously a minuscule sample of the world's cities it is still interesting to compare the percentage of streets named for women in different cities and countries. For example, of the 32 cities analyzed so far by Geochicas Havana, Cuba has the highest percentage of streets named for women and Brescia, Italy has the lowest percentage.

According to Geochicas 37.8% of streets named for people in Havana are named after women and 62.2% are named for men. Although having nearly twice as many streets named to honor men as named to honor women is not perfect, this ratio is still better than every other city analyzed on the Las Calles de las Mujeres map. At the other end of scale the 5.3% of streets named for women in Brescia is really awful. What does it say about the value you place on women's lives and achievements when nearly 95% of all streets named after people in your city are named for men?

Apart from Havana the only other cities which have over 20% of streets named for women are all in Spain. For example, 25.6% of streets named after people in Alaquàs are named for women, in Gijón it's 22.1%, and in Madrid 21.4%. According to this article by Bloomberg many Spanish cities have been using laws designed to honor Franco's dictatorship to rename streets after women. 

Looking at the streets named after women in Gijón it seems to me that a lot of the female named streets in the historic center are named after saints. Outside of the historic center however there are a number of streets named after prominent 20th Century women (e.g. the biochemist Margarita Salas, poet Gloria Fuertes and the singer Carmen Amaya). This suggests that the city has recently attempted to address the gender imbalance in street names by actively naming more streets for notable Spanish women.

Geochicas is not the only attempt to analyze the gender imbalance in street names. You can explore the gender imbalance in street names in a number of other towns and cities around the world on the EqualStreetNames website. The EqualStreetNames project has now analyzed the inequality in street names in 47 cities around the world (including San Francisco, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna).

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