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letters Gender discussion oversimplifies debate

I could not let your review of Gender, Space, Architecture go without comment (aj 30.3.00).

You accuse architectural feminists of political correctness, stifling a diverse set of voices and experiences. However, while I support your call for greater honesty, your call for feminism to 'grow up' and develop a more sophisticated set of agendas in relation to 'real life' sounds patronizing and dismissive rather than a cry for further research.

If a woman has 'used her gender to her advantage', it is perhaps because this is a method by which society has socialised her to achieve a form of power. Your argument, addressing the practitioner, assumes that the structure of commercial life is inevitable. However, the fact that society - and the practice of architecture, as a small mirror of that society - structures relationships in this way is not inevitable: it suits certain interests that things are like this.

Theories have an important role in raising awareness of societal situations and positing alternatives. They are not necessarily naive because they do not fit current societal conditions. Additionally, the connections between theory and practice are neither instrumental nor inevitable, but rather, complex and variable and therefore an important site for debate. Theories may be more or less relevant to 'real life' and feminism is one of those theories which is absolutely grounded there. It is also absolutely true that gender and practice intersect in important ways which require much more study. But in this context, all theories, of whatever kind, do not need patronizing, they need supporting.

Sarah Wigglesworth, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, London N7

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