Girl About Globe | Women, let’s get walked all over

Linda Kennedy

Meet me on Jane Austen Street. At the tea room, beside the cake shop.

No, don’t get the smelling salts, I’m not having a turn. There is an actual possibility such streets could be for real. But we have to fight to get Jane with a pavement, and other female addresses. Our enemy? Tech Giants.

Things have been happening on our cityscapes. Let’s start with the good stuff and I’m proud to report the involvement of my hometown: Glasgow, Scotland. The Glaswegian streetscape honours men, rarely women. And so, a proposition was put to Glasgow City Council to redesignate main thoroughfares such as Ingram Street and Argyle Street after women like Mary Barbour or Jean Roberts. Barbour led protests against private landlords in 1915. Roberts was the first female Lord Provost in 1960. (Yes, a lady Lord Provost. Hey, it was 1960.)

It’s not just Scotland. In Spain, some street names which reference the country’s fascist leaders are being ‘retired’. They’re being called instead after women. For example, a formerly fascist Madrid street is to be known as Calle de Soledad Cazorla, the first Spanish prosecutor to specialise in work against gender violence. 

In the Spanish city of León, citizens were asked to vote for a number of leading women to name streets after, including Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen and local inventor Ángela Ruiz Robles. Imagine Jane Austen Street. I would vie to live there, a heroine scrambling for square feet not a squire. If it rained, a canopy shaped like a bonnet would extend across the whole street.  Neighbourhood watch would have opera glasses. The road would be narrower in the middle, and this undulation would be the safest point for pedestrians to cross. Corsets have some uses.

Amusing diversions are created by all this. Like, a new first date question –  ‘if you were a street, what would you be?’ Would you feel way-ward? Linda Way. Or more like an alley? Maybe a passage? Would it feel weird to be trampled on, seeing as the metaphoric ‘being walked all over’ is not unfamiliar to women in history? If England followed Scotland and named streets after leading women, would ‘Margaret Thatcher Boulevard (French, that would annoy her) have a ‘no turning’ sign? And what about postcodes? A zip code of 34-24-36 would undermine the feminist message.

Now, boo hiss, the bad part. Just as I was getting ready for global maps hailing maidens and madams, Apple declared its stores were to become ‘town squares’.  Piazza iOS?  Traditional church clock replaced by a giant in-store Apple watch?  No need for a weekly market: you can buy fresh Apple products every day.

It’s not been the company’s only onslaught on the fabric of our cities. ‘Apple Park’ is the name of their new HQ, from which we can deduce green spaces are also a target.  New Apple strategy: from domination of apps to maps.

And so, ladies and arterial route inspirations, we may have street brawls ahead of us. Tech is generally no friend to females and given the expression ‘information superhighway’ is almost a forgotten term, I fear we’re seeing a tech giant switch to domination of local roads. Why should Apple stop at Piazza iOS? In the near future, might every city have a Steve Jobs Way or Tim Cook Drive? Me, I’d always prefer Jane Austen Street but so far in life, there have been as few women in town as there are in tech. 

As for Glasgow, I hope they don’t follow Apple and turn the streets into tech. InSTAgram Street rather than Ingram Street.

Categories Opinion