"Cities are becoming more female," writes Leo Hollis in his book Cities Are Good for You (which I review on page 39). "Almost everywhere in the world, the proportion of women to men is changing... The rise of women in the city is perhaps one of the least-discussed aspects of the urban future." For so long, we have coded the city as a dangerous place for women, a place that corrupts and abuses them. The story often told in movies and news reports: An innocent young woman moves to a big city, is seduced by some ruthless man, becomes experienced, and ends up a fallen streetwalker. But the real story of the city can be found in another page of Hollis's book: "Kavita Ramdas, head of the Global Fund for Women, noted in 2001: 'In the village, all there is for a woman is to obey her husband and relatives, pound millet and sing. If she moves to town, she can get a job, start a business..."
The city also liberates women from children, one of the stupidest animals in the world. Human babies are totally useless, and yet it is this very uselessness that opens the way to our species' intellectual mastery and highly developed form of sociality. From Sarah Hrdy’s paper: “The Past, Present, and Future of the Human Family”:
Because [human] babies are born immobile, there is no chance that any baby will wander away and latch on to the wrong mother. There is no way for the mother’s milk to get embezzled by the wrong baby. Evolutionarily this is important, because it means that primate mothers don’t have to imprint on their babies right after birth the way sheep and other ungulates whose babies run around right after birth do; and they don’t. Primates are very flexible in this respect. The mother’s emotional attachment to her infant can begin right after birth; but bonding is an on-going process, so that the actual window of opportunity stretches out for weeks and months.
What is opened in the absence of imprinting is the way to shared parenting, and this sharing leads us directly to the golden door of our sociality. But the burden of a human baby's born dumbness has mostly fallen on women. In the city, this burden is eased in a number ways, the main of which is that the city offers all more choices.