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

 

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?’

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.

Two Members Of Pussy Riot Flee Russia

Earlier this month a Russian court condemned three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot to a two-year prison sentence for staging an anti-Putin protest inside a church in February. Now two other members of the group have fled Russia to avoid persecution, the band has confirmed.

Pussy Riot’s Twitter account said earlier today that the two activists are no longer in Russia and that the group is "recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new protest actions." There are still 12 members of Pussy Riot living in Russia; it is unclear if the escaped members were two of the five performers who evaded arrest after the protest in February. However, given how Russian police still claim to be on the hunt from the two who evaded arrest, its reasonable to assume these recent Russian defectors might be them.

Celebrities from Madonna to Bjork to Paul McCartney have spoken out in defense of Pussy Riot prisoners Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich and their right to freedom of expression. I’ll be curious to see which "foreign feminists" the group recruits to stage larger actions and especially which country grants the two escapees asylum.

I’m Not Sure That’s What “Feminist” Means, Aaron Cohen, But OK

All kinds of bizarre things come into my life via a "feminist" Google alert and one of them is this music video by Mishka NYC for the Seattle rapper, Aaron Cohen. The song, Feminist, produced by A$AP Ty Beats. doesn’t seem to have a single thing to do with feminists, though.

 

 

"Life’s a bitch, but I’m a feminist" taken on their own are lyrics I and the rest of the hairy-armpitted, baby-killers can get behind. But I sense he’s rapping the worst "feminist" as if it means "ladies’ man," because the rest of the lyrics aren’t about gender issues or women’s rights or anything close to it really. I’m not saying every song that uses the word "feminist" has to be off Free To Be You And Me; I’m just saying it’s all confusing.

Anyway, HypeBeast says the single is from Cohen’s upcoming mixtape MURK, which will come out in August by Miskha.