alexa BlackBook: Flight of Fancy: Why The Wing — NYC’s Buzzy Club Just for Women — is Taking Off

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GIVE credit to The Crown for schooling us on the anachronistic culture of gentlemen’s clubs. The show’s depiction of the Thursday Club, of which Prince Philip was a member, is all squeaky chairs and sexual impropriety that reeks of unreconstructed masculinity. But what would a women’s equivalent look like today?

Now we know, thanks to the Wing, an all-female club and co-working space, with branches in New York and DC, that’s responding to the #TimesUp moment by creating a safe environment in which women can network and socialize.

“When we think of a gentlemen’s club or even contemporary social clubs, we imagine these dark places, filled with smoke, taxidermy and dark leather,” explains 30-year-old Audrey Gelman, a former Hillary Clinton press aide, who founded the Wing with Lauren Kassan, also 30. “We wanted to take that idea and turn it on its head.”

 

Founded by Lauren Kassan (left) and Audrey Gelman (right), amenities at the chain of NYC and DC clubs include colorful libraries, cheery cafes, notable art, lactation rooms and high-profile speakers, including Hillary Clinton.

 

The results are clean, brightly lit spaces filled with midcentury-modern furniture and amenities including free blowouts and a lactation room. (Not to mention celeb guests like Hillary Clinton herself, who popped by last week for a talk.) The design is “sophisticated, smart and intelligent, but unapologetically feminine,” Gelman tells Alexa.

Whether the best way to respond to gender segregation is with more gender segregation is about to be tested, after the New York City Commission on Human Rights launched a “commission-initiated investigation” into the Wing’s membership policy (which excludes men from joining) last week.

But, as Gelman points out, dedicated women’s spaces are nothing new. “The idea for the Wing was really inspired by the women’s club movement of the 1890s and early 1900s,” she says. “These spaces made a huge impact for women, who could come together and organize during times of political and social change. Here we are, a hundred years later, in another time of change, and we wanted to create a space where contemporary women could do the same.”

She and Kassan aim to cultivate an environment where the aesthetics match their ethos of empowerment. With the help of designer Chiara de Rege and curator Lolita Cros — who fills the locations with works by acclaimed female artists like Marilyn Minter — the two have produced what Gelman calls a mix between “a color-coded women’s college library and the cool Danish apartment of a girl with whom you’d want to be friends.”

 

The Wing’s just-opened space in Dumbo, Brooklyn, offers members a strictly women retreat, intended to foster female empowerment.

 

The Wing is more focused on community and inciting a cultural movement than it is on advancing women’s careers — although that’s also a perk for members, who network with one another and learn valuable lessons from a variety of panels and events held at the space.

“The community aspect of the Wing is the heart and soul of it,” says Gelman. “It’s a space where women can get together, make friends and share ideas — then hopefully create some real, tangible change.”

 

Photos by Bilyana Dimitrova

 

Feminist Activist Zainab Halbi Talks ‘#MeToo, Now What?’

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Image courtesy of PBS

 

Sexual assault has long been a problem, not just in Hollywood but around the world. And the justice system hasn’t helped much either. According to RAINN, out of every 1000 rapes, only 310 are reported to the police, and out of those, only 6 rapists will ever be jailed. Over the last year, women have finally decided to fight back, sharing their stories and calling out abusers using the hashtag #MeToo.

The result has been revolutionary. Celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Aziz Ansari have been outed and punished, and women are banding together to finally say #TimesUp to sexual abuse. But what happens after you share your story and log off Twitter? That’s the question posed by PBS’ latest docuseries, #MeToo, Now What?

Through five episodes, host and activist Zainab Salbi tackles the crucial issues behind the #MeToo movement, exploring how sexual assault can be prevented and what women can do going forward. Bringing together journalists, activists and pop culture personalities like Editor in Chief of The Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo, executive editor of Teen Vogue and co-author of Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, and Nadine Strossen, the first woman ever to lead the ACLU, #MeToo, Now What? doesn’t just discuss sexual assault  it provides an outline for real change.

As the docuseries comes to a close, BlackBook sat down with Salbi to talk activism and what to do, even after the protest ends.

 

Tell me about the program.

#MeToo, Now What? is trying to contribute to the discussion of #MeToo that’s currently happening. In my mind, to really contribute to that conversation, we need to look at the issue from a complete 360-degree angle. That includes not just looking at individual stories, but looking at our culture at large and how it plays into what’s happening, which means exploring things like money, race, the normalization of behavior between women and men and class. The reason we need to examine all of these layers — from the treatment of women in the workplace and not just in regards to harassment, but with wage inequality and everything else — it all adds up to the images we are portraying in how we treat women. All of this has just been boiling over for so long, and it really shouldn’t be a surprise. I know a lot of men seem to be surprised, but I’m not. It’s overdue — long overdue. And to ensure that this movement leads to lasting change, we need to get to the root of this issue. It’s just not good enough for me to name these people — that’s a great first step, but this needs to transform culture as we know it.

How does this series add to the conversation? I mean, like it says in the title — #MeToo, Now What?

Right. I hope the series is contributing to the discussion, not just replicating it. For example, the part I’m proudest of is in one of the episodes, where we discussed an accuser and the accused. Beyond just discussing what happened and what he did to her, she basically said, “If I really believe in restorative justice, I need to really examine how that applies in my life.” He came around, after he lost everything in his life and said, “You know, I’m a liberal progressive man, and I did this. If I really believe in the values I thought I did, like I’m a feminist who believes in women’s rights, then I’ve failed myself. How do I fix that and make amends to her?” That, for me, is another layer that shows what we’re trying to do with this program. If the nation is taking about naming names and behaviors, this particular episode was taking it a step further and looking at the meaning of reconciliation. Can we have restorative justice? In another episode, we look at the culture and the mass objectification of women. Of course, these issues have been discussed many times before, but sort of on a small scale — like in the Women’s Studies department at colleges. So, our goal is really to bring these kind of topics out into the open, on a national level, and start a bigger dialogue.

What made you want to get involved with this project, personally?

I’m a women’s rights activist — that’s what I do with my life. After 20 years of being in the humanitarian world and exploring all aspects of it, I came to realize in the process that what really needs to be done, beyond humanitarian work and education, we really need to inspire a new discussion. The secret ingredient to change is inspiration — I really believe that. What we’re trying to do here is take this movement — the #MeToo movement — and make it have a lasting impact. It’s like, how can we use this moment of crisis to look at ourselves and actually grow?

#MeToo has actually been around for awhile. A lot of people don’t know this, but Tarana Burke actually started the movement online in 2006. It just happened to go viral last year. So, what do you think it is about the current political climate that made it finally erupt?

Yeah, it’s been around forever. I was even looking at my speeches from 2010 and I was saying even then that we need to band together and break our silence. But I think women’s issues on a larger scale have always been more like thirld world women’s issues, or women of color issues, instead of the overarching problems all women face in our culture, you know? That’s frustrating for me — when we limit women’s issues. But I think it took a couple of things, one of them has definitely been the celebrity aspect. I know that’s made some people kind of cynical like, “Oh, it’s taken a bunch of celebrities to say something for this to be real?” But you know what? I’m glad they did. As a woman of color it’s like, “Finally! White women are also breaking their silence. This is real. This is sisterhood.”

Right. But I think culturally, everything has sort of lined up to create this moment. First, Trump was elected, which immediately gave women more of an incentive to speak up, and then Hollywood broke their silence. So, why do you think now is such a good time for this to happen?

Having Trump as President has definitely ignited everyone to act. But I’ve been working on this since 1993 and there’s really no perfect time. Like I said, it’s happening now, so I’ll take it. I’m glad. But I also think all of the men who are chiming in negatively are fueling it. You have people calling it a witch hunt or saying it’s gone too far, and this is progressive men saying this — not just Trump. It’s easy to blame him, or Harvey Weinstein. It’s a lot harder for these men, who think they’re liberal and support women, to look at themselves and see that they’ve done wrong. I think that’s inspired women too, because this isn’t just about the bad guy. It’s about the good guy — every guy, the ones who have been silent while all of this was happening and hid behind the fact that they’re not so obviously bad.

Do you think the movement will actually change anything in Hollywood?

I look at it like this: follow the money. I would want to see much more money behind female filmmakers, making sure every actress receives equal pay. I want to see true transformation in the culture of HR departments, I want to see more women all around the board. We cannot stop here. But the day I actually believe things have changed is the day I see more money behind women — not just in Hollywood, but in Silicon Valley, in politics, in the grocery store, everywhere. And that hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve talked a lot about this with my female friends and co-workers, and this is also why I responded so strongly to your program, because it’s easy to show up for the Women’s March, or to share your #MeToo story on Facebook, and then go back to your regular life. What do we do to keep this momentum going, to keep women inspired and interested everyday, not just International Women’s Day?

I struggle with this too, of course, because I want people to walk the walk and talk the talk. But we have to be patient. We’re in a place where so many more women than ever before are finally waking up and saying something — and that’s huge. But we have to remember that it’s a process, a journey — it can’t all happen at once.

 

Watch ‘#MeToo, Now What?’ in its entirety, here.

WTF? Museum First Proposed to Celebrate Women Is Now Dedicated to a Serial Killer

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Photo via Wikipedia

We were going to enjoy insight into women”s history, now we”ll have to endure Jack the Ripper.

Women have a hard enough time in the arts, and in history. This kind of hoodwinking isn”t helping the situation.

This past fall, former Google diversity chief Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe won approval to convert an old Victorian-era shop (or, shoppe) into a museum that would examine East London women”s contributions to society throughout history. But this week, it”s been revealed the museum is now going to be online casino about something a little…different. Namely, infamous London serial killer Jack the Ripper. Um. What?

“We did plan to do a museum about social history of women but as the project developed we decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper,” Palmer-Edgecumbe said in a statement to the London Evening Standard. “It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place.”

“Got into that situation”? What? Who “gets into” being murdered? Instead of celebrating the accomplishments of women, they”re glorifying their deaths at the hands of a serial killer.

This is basically a snuff film in museum form.

 

ARTNews Calls Out Rampant Sexism in the Art World: Everything You Need to Know

ARTnews June 2015
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Where are all the great women artists? The gender gap in the industry may have reduced in size over the years, but as ARTnews’s June 2015 issue points out, there’s still rampant sexism in the art world.

Curator Maura Reilly begins by breaking it down numerically and structurally in her article “TAKING THE MEASURE OF SEXISM: FACTS, FIGURES, AND FIXES”, from the amount of press women artists get to museum representation statistics. For example, since 2007 only 29% of solo shows at the Whitney Museum went to women. She continues,

It’s not looking much better at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2004, when the museum opened its new building, with a reinstallation of the permanent collection spanning the years 1880 to 1970, of the 410 works on display in the fourth- and fifth-floor galleries, only 16 were by women. That’s 4 percent. Even fewer works were by artists of color. At my most recent count, in April 2015, 7 percent of the works on display were by women.

Guerrilla Girls

Feminist collective The Guerrilla Girls’ “Report Card” from 1986 takes galleries to task over how many women they represented. Pussy Galore’s 2015 version show how much (and how little) has changed in 29 years.
©1986 GUERRILLA GIRLS; ©2015 PUSSY GALORE

 

Theorist Amelia Jones argues that women (as well as artists of color and queer artists) are allowed into the hegemony of the art world so long as they ape the identities and roles of straight white male artists; the purported archetype of the “artist genius”. It may behoove those on the fringes to eschew this institutional authority and develop spaces outside to foster a new kind of art world. Jones says,

While not disregarding the potential importance of large museum exhibitions and programming in foregrounding feminist goals, artists, and movements, I find […] more modest venues more creatively vital at this moment for achieving feminist goals.

She cites the Blk Grrrl Book Fair, an LA-based event this past March which combined artworks, poetry, performance and more from anti-racist, radical feminists, as “the art world I want.”

Linda Nochlin, in many regards the progenitor of the feminist art movement, spoke with Maura Reilly for the issue, touching on everything from her hatred of Tinker Bell to the landscape of feminism in the arts today:

It is undeniable that both institutions and education have changed a great deal. M.F.A. programs are now comprised of 60 percent women students. There are courses on women artists, feminism and art, contemporary women artists, etc., at major institutions of learning. This would have been unheard of in my day.

Check out all of the art world feminist goodness in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews.

Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer Slam Hollywood’s Sexism Problem, and It Gets Pretty Nasty

Lena Dunham
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Photo via The Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter gathered this year’s crop of Emmy-contending comedic actresses for a roundtable discussion and, sad to say, the conversation highlighted how sexism still permeates the industry.

“The way women are spoken to in social media is truly shocking. It’s how you imagine people screaming at prisoners in Guantanamo.” Lena Dunham said as she and Amy Schumer, Gina Rodriguez and more talked about the amount of rape threats and death threats they receive on Twitter.

Someone even wished Amy Schumer would get ovarian cancer.

Moving beyond the terror of internet trolls, the women touched upon the institutionalized discrimination faced in the industry. Dunham recalled how one man who worked on Girls made fun of her weight and said he hated his job because a man was not in charge. Tracee Ellis Ross, star of Black-ish, said working on a show run by four women (Girlfriends) set up false expectations of the industry.

There are hardly substantial roles for women in Hollywood, let alone roles for women of color. Michelle Rodriguez echoed this, and explained why she would never play a role to reinforce negative stereotypes. “When you compromise, you don’t do your best work.”

Feminism has emerged as a strong force in the entertainment industry as of late. Shonda Rhimes has created an incredibly successful television empire where straight, white, and male is not the default. But that doesn’t mean the struggle’s over by any means.

As comedic actors, lots of these women weaponize irony and humor in the fight (Schumer wrote a whole sketch of men arguing whether she was attractive enough to be on TV), but there are still long strides to be made with women in Hollywood.

Schumer ended with a sound resolution: “Let’s never apologize for anything.”

Check out the full interview at  The Hollywood Reporter.

Free the Nipple: Lina Esco Makes a Movie, Starts a Movement

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Photo: Courtesy of Free The Nipple

Most directors seek to make a movie for their debut; Lina Esco has sought to make a movement. In a true case of art imitating life (and life imitating art,) the timeline of making the just released film Free the Nipple occurred in conjunction with the start of an IRL movement, one championed by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, and Scout Willis. Esco is firm on her statement that her primary goal isn’t to urge crowds of women to rush topless into the streets, but rather to create a dialogue.

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The movie, at its center, is in itself a piece of activism. It lies at some vaguely defined midpoint of activism and art. As far as an art form goes, “It’s not your typical Hollywood film,” Esco says…“or your typical Hollywood plotline–this is completely different.” The film is supposed to convey “what it looks like when people really want to change the world and the realistic obstacles of what really happen.”

It is about girls challenging censorship laws. Esco is baffled by society’s perception of the nipple as vulgar. To portray her feeling of dumbfoundedness, she juxtaposes the issue of female censorship with the notion that violence is much more publicly displayed. We see gunfire, bodies, bombings on TV, but a nipple is taboo. Even in cities like New York, where a female’s exposed breast has in fact, been legal since 1992. As a taboo, the nipple has thus also become a metaphor, “You would not be talking to me right now if this movie was called EQUALITY,” Esco assures me on a phone call.

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But lest you think a movie is enough for this first-time filmmaker, you’d be wrong, she hopes to use proceeds to work with a constitutional lawyer on issues surrounding censorship of the female body.

“I’ve done what I could,” she says. “The only way this movie can make an impact is if people take something out of it. I want it to open your mind to see things in a different way, it’s not about hating men. Feminism is about men and women. Feminism just means that men and women should be treated equally.” In 2014, we hope that message is clear with or without boobs involved.

Get Ready To Smash The Wiki-Patriarchy This Weekend

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Ready for some renegade e-activism to right the gender imbalance of the Internet? Tomorrow, New York’s Eyebeam joins a bevy of international organizations for the Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon, a collective, participatory action directed at the online encyclopedia’s demographic ills. (According to press materials, only 13% of the site’s editors are women; as a result, “Wikipedia is clearly skewed.”)

Volunteers are invited to Eyebeam’s 540 West 21st Street location for an afternoon of concentrated editing, all with the goal of increasing the representation of women artists on Wikipedia. “There isn’t really any rhyme or reason for the absences and gaps,” Eyebeam’s organizational committee told me via email, speaking of the site’s current blind spots. “Across the board you can say that living female artists of a similar stature to their male peers don’t have pages, or their pages have much less information on them. The Edit-A-Thon will ultimately be driven by the interests of each participant: for example, co-organizer Michael Mandiberg intends to create well-cited stubs for Caroline Woolard, Kristin Lucas, and Simone Leigh.”

These BYOLaptop events (all of which offer childcare options) will unfold simultaneously at a total of 22 venues, including the Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum; The Public School in Los Angeles; De Appel in Amsterdam; and Eastern Block in Montreal.

What prominent women artists are inexplicably missing on Wikipedia? Tell us in the comments (and then go do something about it).

The Active, Strong Women of Prada

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Considering the feminist slant in Miuccia Prada’s show in Milan, it makes sense that to decorate her runway set she would enlist six contemporary artists to paint portraits on the walls, instructing them to create “an active, strong woman,” according to WWD.  The line-up of artists included El Mac, Mesa, Gabriel Specter, Stinkfish, Jeanne Detallante, and Pierre Mornet – a list that includes men. Men can be feminists, too, you know!

All six artists only painted women’s faces, leaving bodies out entirely, to Miuccia’s surprise. But given the way women’s bodies have been cut up visually in advertising and other arenas, reducing them to no more than a set of legs or cleavage, it sort of makes sense to leave them out. A little eyes up here, please, and I have a brain, you know.

Bras worn on top of clothing and shoes that could not have been farther from sexy continued to communicate the aggressively feminist aesthetic of the show. And for what it’s worth, feminism’s not a dirty word when it doesn’t have to be, but aggression in all forms is asking for confrontation. And I will never be convinced that those shoes are appropriate, or that wearing bras on top of a shirt is chic or functional – something most women I know generally require. 

These Woman Directors Have Been Overlooked By The Academy

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Tomorrow night is the Academy Awards and yet again, no women have been nominated for Best Director. In 85 years, only four women have received a Best Director nomination and only one — Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker — has won. Bigelow was overlooked this year for her film Zero Dark Thirty, along with numerous other women directors. The blog Women & Hollywood put together a video to highlight ladies in the director’s chair who have been ignored.

  • Brenda Chapman (with Mark Andrews) for Brave
  • Lana Wachowski (with Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer) for Cloud Atlas
  • Jennifer Westfeldt for Friends With Kids
  • Ava DuVernay for Middle Of Nowhere
  • Aurora Guerrero for Mosquita Y Mari 
  • Valerie Faris (with Jonathan Dayton) for Ruby Sparks
  • Sarah Polley for Take This Waltz
  • Lynne Shelton for Your Sister’s Sister

According to the 2012 statistics from the Center for the Study of Women in Television, women only directed 9% of the top 250 domestic grossing films. Clearly, the problem of women’s representation as directors is two-fold: they need to be hired to direct in the first place, then they need to be acknowledged and encouraged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their work. Otherwise the Oscars’ Best Director category will be the same sausagefest, year after year.  

Watch Women In Hollwyood’s video "To The Academy: Consider The Women" below: 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.