Gendered Boundaries

In considering what it is about the gender(ing), situation(s) and treatment of women that entails their heightened susceptibility to agoraphobia, geographers have considered the potential significance of gender role stereotypes. For women, such stereotypes involve characteristics not dissimilar to those found in agoraphobia; a woman's place is commonly described as in the home. Such notions about proper behavior and roles are culturally pervasive to the extent of being cliches; they portray and arguably partially construct women as more dependent, emotional, passive, fearful, home based, etc. It thus seems relevant to our understanding of agoraphobia that, despite the achievements of feminism in expanding women's horizons, the gendered identities of women are still more likely to be enmeshed with the fabric of the home than those of men. In many ways such stereotypical expectations make it easier, more normal, and acceptable, for women to fall into and develop a pattern of agoraphobic avoidance. Staying home is less deviant or unusual for women than it is for men, who may be more likely to receive direct challenges to and indeed opportunities to curtail signs of agoraphobic behavior. Women, however, are still culturally encouraged to experience home as a normatively feminine place of retreat and refuge, where gendered boundaries are protected and potentially reinforced.

Of those few social theorists who have offered gender sensitive insights into agoraphobia, some have attempted to contextualize its emergence, occurrence, and experience in terms of wider cultural, economic, and political circumstances. Issues of sex inequality and its effect on social institutions are, on such accounts, particularly relevant. Consequently, in accordance with feminist aims and objectives, putting the beginnings of a cure into place would involve the creation of real options for both sexes, in the home as well as the market place, and the widescale reduction of sex inequality in institutional structures.


Feminist geographies of agoraphobia have stressed the importance of a relational and gender sensitive understanding of space and subjectivity. By conducting indepth research on the phenomenology and embodiment of agoraphobia, and the kinds of places perceived to threaten or protect the self, studies highlight the complexity of interactions between gendered bodies and environments.