A few months ago, walking on campus at UC Berkeley–where for the last almost two years I’ve been involved in a sexual harassment case in the department of architecture–a friend of mine mentioned how she’d heard about a famous architect and his bathrobe. Since hearing that, I’ve been waiting for something like the New York Times article that was published yesterday, in which multiple women accused architect Richard Meier of sexual harassment. Some of us have been wondering when #MeToo would hit architecture and design. The time appears to be now.
I have seen a lot of handwringing about how hard it is to fight harassment. It’s actually not that hard. Maybe it’s a little hard. But it’s not impossible. I believe that there are vey specific—and very actionable—measures that we can take to protect architectural and design workers from mistreatment. Here is my wishlist.
1. NO PLATFORM. Stop writing about harassers. Stop posting about them.
2. Every single firm should write a statement that they will discipline harassers. The existing policy seems to be to make vague statements about “supporting women.” No. Discipline harassers. Maybe that’s firing. Maybe that’s a leave of absence. You know what it’s not? “Training.” People don’t abuse power and show up in their bathrobes and expose themselves because they didn’t get the training not to. Discipline and consequences work. Abstract statements of “support” do not.
3. We can’t remove architects’ buildings, nor can we refuse to look at them. But I’d say we add corrections to every article about these dudes that say something like, “In 2018, Richard Meier was accused of harassment . . . ”
4. I get legal issues surrounding these kinds of cases. It is my hypothesis that some firms have legal funds to pay out settlements, and also that they don’t fire harassers because of concern about potential legal retribution. Maybe instead of having a pot of money to use for harassment suits, use that to defend a firm against potential legal action taken by potential people getting potentially fired for alleged behavior. Be like “We don’t have a settlement fund but we do have a fund to pay for complainants’ lawyers and our own lawyers if we end up getting sued!”
5. Offer legal training in all firms–let people know their legal rights. Inform them about things like the statute of limitations.
6. Get management that will actually do shit. Hire people with a moral backbone.
7. There should be “sanctuary firms” that will hire people who have been fired from other firms for speaking up about harassment. “Got fired from this place for speaking up? We have a spot for you!”
8. Architects and designers should unionize. Start here.
9. The conditions of capital and power are very linked here. This is not about men like dyyyyyyyying to sleep with hot women. This is about systems of power and systems of the production of labor that favor people already in power. So pay architects better wages so that they don’t feel like they have to put up with unlawful shit, like sexual harassment!
10. Protest. People who are afraid to lose their jobs need to know that there are so many others out there. Maybe there’s a spreadsheet about shitty architecture and design men going around. Maybe not. Who knows! But there are more of us than there are of them. Protest the shit out of this unlawful behavior until it stops.
Eva Hagberg Fisher is an architectural worker who’s finishing her PhD at UC Berkeley. She is the author of two books about architecture and the forthcoming book How To Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship. She is pretty sure she has accidentally written about harassers and is looking forward to appending corrections to some of her many articles, which have appeared in Dwell, Wired, the New York Times, Apartamento, Metropolis, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine.
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