I’ll start this International Women’s Day with a call to reflection aimed at all my architect colleagues, both men and women – that is to say, women architects who don’t carry their gender experience or sexuality luggage around with them when exercising their profession but attempt to act with the fake neutrality they’ve learned from fake scientific objectivism. In particular, I’m addressing those who, like me, are teachers. How can it be that we still find teachers capable of trivialising the knowledge and reflections the different feminist movements and the application of gender perspective have contributed to the collective understanding of architecture and urban planning? Or that a teacher, when asked why he makes no mention of women architects in his course on 20th architecture, has the effrontery to reply that it’s because he doesn’t know any. Isn’t it his job, as a teacher, to be up to date, to know, to find out…? I’m tired of the feeling that it’s something “they don’t understand, because they’re not familiar with it, and so they don’t think it’s valid” or that it’s something “they don’t agree with, they don ‘t believe in”. I think it’s fine (or maybe not, but that’s up to them) that they don’t know, or don’t believe, but their job isn’t to create clones of themselves: it’s to encourage each student to develop their own critical spirit and go their own way.
Let’s clarify the basic points. First, applying intersectional gender perspective means understanding that, in our societies, human beings are governed by roles determined and pervaded by differences of class, age, origin, etc. – roles which make us experience life differently in line with pre-established rights and duties and which in practice represent inequalities. Applying gender perspective in architecture and urban planning should therefore allow us to work for fairer, more egalitarian societies. It’s about having equal rights, while accepting differences and not harbouring the absurd intention to make everyone conform to the sacred symbol of the modular, or statistically average, man (an intention not only impossible but also undesirable). People are different and ignoring that is counterproductive and unfair because it generates inequalities. Acknowledging the different needs of the people for whom we design will therefore allow us to come up with more suitable solutions than if we design for an “average, neutral, universal, objective” being or taking the designer’s own opinions as the measure of all things. How many times have we heard “I prefer it that way” as the justification for a correction? And, as a result, we get students asking each teacher about his/her preferences. Obviously, it’s not a question of taste but of solving real problems. It’s a question of interpreting, analysing and solving problems using one’s own tools.
Feminism encompasses a variety of opinions and tendencies, and can basically be described using the strikingly simple definition provided by Marie Shear (1940-2017): “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”. So how can this be applied to architecture and urban planning? By acknowledging and revealing feminine genealogies, naming women architects and evaluating their works and contributions on their own merits and not in terms of their adherence to or kinship with male architects. By recognising and assuming the responsibility that our profession is a powerful tool for change. We therefore need to be very aware of what we’re proposing. We have to work for a fairer, more egalitarian world, not to uphold privileges and inequalities.
[…]Different life realities result in different experiences, and therefore in different starting data with which to address technical solutions for any project. Different experiences from the perspectives of both gender roles and sexualities. Recognising these differences does not mean reaffirming inequality. It means acknowledging that different experiences entail different ways of understanding and existing in the world, and it’s necessary to learn how to attach equal value to those differences.1
For those who say they know nothing about it, and use that as an excuse for not incorporating feminisms and gender perspective, we’re working on a system of bibliographical resources and recommendations to help them do so. This will put an end to the excuses. Will they find a new one to keep ignoring the skills, the contribution and the needs of over half of the population?
Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
Zaida Muxí Martínez, Mujeres, casas y ciudades. Más allá del umbral.[Women, Houses and Cities], Barcelona: dpr-barcelona, 2018
Vive en Barcelona y nació en Buenos Aires, arquitecta por la FADU-UBA en 1988 y doctora arquitecta por la Universidad de Sevilla en 2002; profesora del Departamento de urbanismo y ordenación del territorio de ETSAB-UPC. Entre 2015 y 2019 ha sido Directora de urbanismo, vivienda, medioambiente, ecología urbana, espacio público, vía pública y civismo de Santa Coloma de Gramenet. Especialista en arquitectura y urbanismo con perspectiva de género y feminista. Autora de entre otros: La arquitectura de la ciudad global (Gustavo Gili, 2004) Arquitectura y política. Ensayos para mundos alternativos (Gustavo Gili, 2011) y Mujeres, casas y ciudades. Más allá del umbral (DPR-barcelona, 2018)
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