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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Out-takes XXIII

‘This is one of the big divides between your generation and mine,’ Celia said. ‘Feminism’s been a wonderful thing and I’m glad I lived long enough to be part of it. But evil isn’t really anything to do with gender. People of either sex are capable of anything. This man who is set on destroying Sam doesn’t prove that all men are bad. And that building, women of my generation would know instinctively that it could have been designed by a man or a woman.’

‘I doubt it, Celia. Were there any women architects in your generation?’

‘Yes, there were, Marie. You’d be surprised how many. They designed roof gardens and patios, kindergartens and country cottages.’

‘But not social security buildings.’

‘Not that I know of. But it wasn’t for lack of talent, there was a dearth of opportunity. If we had a level playing field, which is what we should have. If women were given the same opportunities as men and the same wages and if the system was fair right through the education system and beyond, then I believe we’d see women architects making the same kind of mess as the men do today.’

‘OK, there’d be a few. But women would bring something new to architecture. Overall there’d be an improvement.’

‘I’d like to think you were right,’ Celia said. ‘There’d be some progress. But the rewards of progress aren’t always what they seem. The motorways were regarded as progress a few years ago, now we wonder if they’re such a good thing. Technology, the industrial revolution, all of that was progress, but now we’ve got global warming as a result, your house is under water and it looks increasingly as if mine will be within a few days.’

‘You sound rather reactionary, Celia. As if you’d like everything to stand still, maintain the status quo.’

‘Not at all, Marie. You know me by now. I’m not a conventional person. I applaud the women’s movement and every step we take towards equality with men is worth celebrating. But I don’t want us to fool ourselves. We won’t end with a perfect world, all we’ll have gained is equality. There will still be the big questions of freedom to deal with. Gender is only one of the things that divide us. When we’ve sorted that one out we’ll still have the divisions of class and race, of rich and poor. Men and women aren’t perfectible, that’s what makes them so fascinating.’

All we’ll have gained is equality? Seems to me like that would be wonderful.’

‘It could be,’ Celia said. ‘But it doesn’t have to be. Equality in itself isn’t wonderful or disappointing, taken out of context it doesn’t have those kinds of values. There are certain realms where equality fits, where equality is essential, and there are other areas of life where equality is inappropriate. We should all have equal rights, access to housing and justice and jobs. It would be wrong if we weren’t all equal in those areas. But in the cultural life we aren’t equal. We can’t all be musicians of the same calibre, or dancers, or poets or teachers. We can’t be equal as potters. In those areas we need to maintain our individualities and our freedom. If we bring equality in there it will choke self-expression and the planet will dry up and die.

‘We’ve got to establish equality and freedom but we have to know where they are appropriate so that they serve our interests. This is something that governments don’t seem to concern themselves with. Their paternalism doesn’t extend itself to social education. They’d rather cut down the pension payments and give us a bag of coal at Christmas so we retain our confusion.’

One Response to “Out-takes XXIII”

  1. susangalique says:

    I wish we could title our comments I would call this:

    Waking up with brain storming

    very thought provoking post. I seemed to remember one woman architect that I saw on the history channel so I googled it. I don’t exactly know which generations are being discussed but California had Julia Morgan, the first registered female architect in California. She was well thought of

    just one example, and there were others.

    Gender relations are always neat. One of my male professors just mentioned a cool new historical monograph that is out about male as a gender in history. We sometimes forget that men are gender too.

    I personally don’t believe in equality on earth. The only way I can survive in my marriage and in life without my mind going crazy is that he and I both agree that we are equally powerless before our “higher power” or “God” and that left to run our own life, we will fuck up every time. I guess its basically the center of an AA life mixed with feminist theory and physically living and growing up southern baptist in the American south.

    jb says: By some strange quirk of fate, most of the architects I have known have been women. But, Susangalique, that combination of AA, southern babtist and feminist theory sounds something like a mountain range I once tried to cross in a clapped out van. Only just made it . . .