While Zaha Hadid found inspiration to speak out against misogyny, recent discourse on industry gender disparities sparked by a recent survey in the Architect’s Journal somehow prompted one misguided Telegraph writer to come up with the following: “For safer, prettier cities pick a woman to build them.” (WTF?!)
Many a female writer has been quick to attack such idiotic word choice, but to be fair, the writer was informed in part by AJ editor Christine Murray’s comments that we found problematic in the first place: “Women have a unique perspective on the world,” she told the Telegraph, musing on the possibility that more women in architecture would result in “better lit streets, improved baby buggy access and ‘child friendly’ areas and changes in the way schools and nurseries were designed.” There was also talk of “high streets… suffering from differing perspectives because of the limited ‘gene pool’ of senior male architects.” (In England, a high street is where people shop at places like H&M and Topshop, FYI.)
As Murray, a wife and mother, must know, the female experience is a unique one. But pointing to shopping strips and playgrounds as places that could use the maddening cliché of a woman’s touch reduces women architects to various female archetypes — mom, victim, shopper, makeover enthusiast. This reduction is further exacerbated when a male journalist chooses to label these potential contributions as “pretty,” the most pandering, shallow adjective no one has ever used when talking about the aesthetically indulgent designs of male architects such as Frank Gehry.
Let’s rein in the point: As Hadid stated in her interview with the Guardian’s Observer, articulating these disparities should push societal reforms that give women more equal footing in the field. No one should suggest that serious women architects enter the profession with dreams of total-city-makeovers à la “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” By the way, Betty Friedan’s landmark “The Femine Mystique” turns 50 this year. For some, it should have been required reading. [h/t to ArchDaily]
— Janelle Zara