PhD Student’s Research Asks: How Safe Do Women Feel in Portsmouth?

Sarah Cheverton talks to PhD student Eugénie Le Bigot about her ongoing research into how women feel about and use public spaces in Caen, Rouen and Portsmouth.

Eugénie Le Bigot is asking Portsmouth women to take part in a research project she is running on how safe they feel the city is, at night and during the day.

‘My [research] subject is women’s bodies in public spaces, looking specifically at Caen, Rouen and Portsmouth,’ said Eugénie. The researcher, from the University of Caen, chose Portsmouth because of its twinning link with Caen.

‘I wanted to make a comparison between two countries to see cultural differences,’ she said. ‘I want to understand if there is a link between the way women behave and act in public spaces – how they dress, walk, use their phone etc – and how the space is constructed, e.g. whether there is seating, bins, play areas etc. I’m also interested in the effect that women’s perceptions of public spaces – including from the media, family or friends – have on how they use those spaces.’

To help her research, Eugénie has created an online survey asking local women to identify up to 4 spaces in Portsmouth where they feel safe or unsafe during the day or night. The survey collects information about the space (whether it’s a bus stop, public square, park and so on) and the reasons why each woman feels it to be a safe or unsafe space.

You can take part in the survey here.

Eugénie takes each response and uploads it to an online map, where people can view the areas submitted by participants and read the responses (which are anonymised).

‘You just have to choose a place you want to comment on – whether your feeling is positive or negative, whether it is safer at night or during the day – and add your experience or feeling about that place. I also ask for information on age, neighbourhood and employment because I’m interested in intersectionality: whether age, ethnicity or other social categories affect women’s feelings about public spaces. Not all women may feel the same.’

The survey is completely anonymous and you will not be identified on the map if you take part.

Eugénie will also be undertaking some further research to follow up on the map.

‘I will be doing some observations in 8 public spaces in Portsmouth and on 2 bus lines. I also want to create groups of women (3 to 4 each) in three wards, who can help me with my research in a bit more detail.’

Eugénie has run the same project in Caen and Rouen, and the Portsmouth project has its own Facebook page, where you can follow the map and the project as it develops: Women in Portsmouth’s public spaces.

She hopes that the research will be of value to local women as well as her own research.

‘I hope the map will be useful to identify areas in the city that women feel are a problem or unsafe. When more people start to get involved in answering the survey, I hope that the Facebook group will also be a space where we can discuss what solutions there might be for spaces that don’t feel safe for women in the city,’ said Eugénie.

You can take part in the survey here, follow the progress of the map, and keep in touch with Eugénie and the project on Facebook.