No Classification of Physical Traits,
Just the Beings and the Being.
We are all aware of how women in architecture, or any other profession, have always been looked at. While more pressing issues of the global competition, racism and unequal economic power have now overshadowed the concept of women to be domestic beings, seems like the thought remains embedded within the bloodstreams of mankind.
It gives me great displeasure to be sharing that more than 70% of the architecture graduates drop out of this profession in Bangladesh, even today. Out of hundreds practicing, less than 1% of the practicing architects in Bangladesh are constituted of women. Having to work more civic hours, juggling motherhood with profession are few of the many hurdles that women overcome in order to establish independently. But the unpredictable difficulties they overcome each day at work are those that are never spoken of in classes, forums, associations and are only topics to be discussed in ‘kitty parties’
Pursuing teaching and practice together, little had I known how I would be awakened to the disregard of the feminine in the profession. Sharing one of the recent experiences, I was astounded at how a client disregarded a proposal, nodding his head off in in-curiosity as I presented, but only to absorb every word that my male colleague repeated along my lines. The contest continues on every construction site, where architects from the feminine gender face an extra challenge beyond that architectural implementation offers. A basic conception of the ‘Sir’ being in command of all the right decisions regarding even the trivial still persists. “Madam can come up with the name of the project, while my brothers design the resort,” is a line which well describes the ideology every woman must welcome. At work, there is an imbalance in the number of girls to boys enrolling for a Bachelor of Architecture; with a relatively high number of girls. However, I cannot be thrilled as I know that this ratio is not to continue into the professional field, as the girls who are soon to be young adults are yet looked at as nothing more than ‘the deities of the household fire’ (Tagore, The Home and The World). Yes, is annoys me to share how this trend is yet persistent among those that we refer to as ‘the educated.’ Talking to a young girl at school a few days back, I was astounded how she was being forced in to marriage as her family did not approve of the guy she was dating, and thought that marrying her off to a bloke ten years older to her is what would get her ‘thinking straight’ again!
Women aspiring to be successful in my profession either adapt into opening a firm in association with their opposite sex, usually through marriage, or guide an empire previously built by their fathers. And though we may laugh, mock or ridicule them to our hearts content, have our predecessors taken a step that would allow the others to avoid such decisions in life. Though it gives me great pleasure to see three women awarded at the Aga Khan Awards 2016, or knowing that Zaha Hadid, an architect known for her boldness in personality and her work, is the first female to achieve the Pritzker Prize in 2004, it gives me greater displeasure to see the lack of determination and the absence of an urge to make a stand in the society continue among the females in my profession. Many take to exemplifying the unhappy personal lives of successful women in practice or academia to influence the thoughts a young girl into having ‘a more stable lifestyle, with a family and household’ to look after. But what they forget is that the feminine is only a gender and cannot be a lifestyle, a thought process, a measure of the intellectual capacity; it can and is only a physical trait.
There are many that look up to Bibi Russell, Mary Kom or Wasfia Nazreen, but are afraid to turn into one. Each woman stepping out of line today is knowingly or unknowingly an idol for hundreds tomorrow. It is still considered to be unorthodox when a woman is unabashed by the ‘piercing gaze’ of her male peers, when she is unperturbed while making a presentation to her masculine boss, when she brazenly leads a team of co-workers mostly comprised of the opposite sex.
Is a woman outside the domestic unorthodox?