Where Should You Live If You're a Feminist? The 8 Best Cities For Women (and Men Who Care About Equality)
So, you're a feminist. Looking to move to a city that has both a low cost of living and reproductive rights? Good luck with that.
Perhaps looking for a feminist city doesn't seem like the most straightforward way to pick a place to live. After all, moving to a new place is always a dilemma: should you value equal pay or a great music scene more? You shouldn't have to choose, and luckily, some of the coolest cities also happen to treat women most equally.
To come up with the list of the most feminist cities, we looked at a myriad factors: earning power achieved by women relative to men, laws relating to health, sexual and reproductive freedom, and even the historical foundations of progressive feminism in the city. Of course, finding stimulating and engrossing places to live — hopefully with a nice view here or there — is no less important. Click on to see if your city made the cut.
Images: Getty Images
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is a delightful place to live — for anybody who can afford it. Cost of living is extremely high, but luckily, women working in San Francisco earn a median income of $54,600 annually. That’s the third-highest median income in the country, and 84 percent of men’s median salary in the city.
That (tied with New York City) is the closest that women’s median income gets to equaling that of male residents in a U.S. city. While the 84 percent figure doesn’t take into account differing experience levels and footholds in different fields, the basic fact of unequal pay is a discouraging and vivid reality.
San Francisco also has the highest minimum wage in the country at $10.55 an hour.
By reputation, Portland is considered one of America’s most liberal, hyper-locally obsessed, and eclectic cities. Striking a sort of halfway-point between California’s sun-drenched splendor and the oft-gloomy confines of Washington state, Portland has a textured history of progressivism on women’s rights.
One such historical example is the publication of The New Northwest, a weekly feminist newspaper from the 1870s to 1880s run by Abigail Scott Duniway, an ardent advocate for suffrage and occasional traveling companion of Susan B. Anthony. To be both a strong feminist voice and in charge of a weekly publication in the late 1800s was no small task, and speaks to the fertile political ground of the Pacific Northwest.
Portland’s also home to one of the nation’s top-rated liberal arts schools, Reed College. Reed’s male founder, William Trufant Foster, was a significantly enlightened mind on women’s rights as early as the 1910s, embracing feminism and female emancipation as hallmarks of his institution. It’s unofficial motto: “Atheism, Communism, Free Love.” Which says just about everything on its own.
When you read the words “liberal enclave,” you may as well be reading the name “Austin.” The crown jewel of the Texas left-wing (and its only reliably Democratic population center) Austin offers a unique, urban liberalism unavailable pretty much anywhere else in the state. Isn’t there a little charm in the tight-knit feeling that comes from being surrounded?
It’s by no means a picnic in Texas when it comes to women’s rights, however. Sitting within Texas’ borders, residents of Austin are subject to the same set of restrictive abortion regulations that state senator Wendy Davis filibustered (but ultimately failed to stop) last year.
But democracy is an active process. The only way to make things better is for more feminists willing to take up the cause to move there and make themselves heard. Make this your home if you want to be an activist.
San Jose, California
It’s easy to forget that California’s third largest city is also America’s tenth-largest city and a major economic center.
It’s also as good as anywhere for women in one raw financial sense: San Jose boasts the highest median income for women of any city in the country, at $56,000.
This is a reassuring fact for women who want to live along the endlessly charming California coast — because things aren’t exactly cheap out here. Few places offer the same blend of progressive values, thriving culture, and breathtaking natural beauty.
And while San Jose may never get that baseball team they’re angling for, you can always take in a hockey game.
Thanks to that Mitt Romney fellow’s initiative in selling and signing the Affordable Care Act, a staggering 98 percent of Massachusetts residents have health coverage.
This is a big boon to women in the state — although the Massachusetts law didn’t outline paid-for contraception as preventive care like the national version, a 2002 law mandated that health insurance plans cover contraception as though it were any other prescription drug.
Boston also notches the sixth-highest median income for women out of all American cities, which compounded with health care — and maybe a restful moment with some chowder down by the harbor — paints a pretty alluring picture.
Take Back The Night actually started in Philly. The prominent anti-sexual assault and violence movement may have done more to mainstream the concept of dignified refusal to submit to fear and violence than any other.
After the first march in 1975, a response to the stabbing murder of microbiologist Susan Speeth, the movement went global with marches in Belgium, Rome, West Germany, and England.
It’s a fantastic cultural contribution from the city of Philly, because believe us: college campuses sorely need it. More like city of sisterly love.
With the second-highest median income for women in the country at $55,500, the financial motivation for a woman to seek out residence in our nation’s capitol is obvious enough.
But the city distinguishes itself by offering a good deal for men, too — specifically new dads. A man who’s held the same job for a year or more, working at least 24 hours per week, is eligible for about three months of paternity leave when their child is born.
Sadly, we still don’t have anything like a functioning, paid paternity leave system in America. After Australia passed a law for paid paternity leaves last year, the U.S. is now the only industrialized nation not to have some form of paternity leave legislation.
New York City
There are few better places to live, culturally and aesthetically, than America’s most storied metropolitan center.
In addition to providing women with 84 percent the median income of its men (which may sound awful, but is actually tied for the highest rate in the nation), it has a long history of equality movements.
A prime example is the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a grisly blaze in a squalid clothing building staffed entirely by women. So overlooked was any thought to their safely or importance that fire escape doors were left obstructed, and the abysmal safety conditions left the women helpless when an fire broke out in a scrap cloth bin. The blaze left 146 people dead, and so was a new conversation on the rights of workers and women seared into the city’s conscience.