Design Media's Disguised Sexism Called Out
Sexual misconduct by high profile individuals has been 'front page' news lately. "#MeeToo" and "#TimesUp" have become household terms. This circumstance has triggered discussion and re-examination about the boundaries of acceptable inter-gender communications and conduct, especially where a person's career is implicated. It has also triggered a re-examination about what constitutes discriminatory and sexually harassing conduct. The design and planning professions should not be exempt from this scrutiny.
In a 2017 article, also summarized in Planetizen, planning consultant Michele Reeves lightheartedly described different strategies for revitalizing commercial districts as masculine and feminine. She referred to the strategy of replacing blighted buildings with new buildings as a masculine approach. She referred to a gentler, lighter-touch approach of restoring and improving what is already there as a feminine approach.
Some readers of the article took offense. Some argued that the article was insulting to men who employed the nurturing approach, and that it would be unacceptable for men to write or speak that way. Others argued simply that the article should have been gender neutral.
The article and comments were an opportunity to discuss the boundary between discrimination and celebrating diversity and differences. An example of how confused the issues of sexism and racism can become, one need look no further than the misguided or disingenuous condemnation by some (including Fox commentators Rudy Giuliani and Bill O'Reilly) of the Black Lives Matter as "racist" against whites because BLM's quest for equal treatment of blacks by police required it to reference "black lives."
However, Reeves received an email from one incensed planner who went too far and appeared to embody the lack of self-awareness in those who complain multi-culturism and feminism are discriminatory. He concluded his email by saying "the only feminist development I’d like to see is on your chest and between your legs."
His email compelled Reeves to respond with a follow-up article calling out the hypocrisy and inappropriateness of this type of commentary. Read her cogent, cutting, and funny response in the source article.