House, HB

Happy Birthday Dr. Gergory House/Hugh Laurie. (According to wiki Dr. House’s b’day is on June 11, the same day as the actor who plays his part.)

One of the most fascinating and intriguing male characters on television in years. (The only three other male characters I liked on TV were Jeremy Brett as Holmes, Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele.) Love your wit, sarcasm, cynicism, say-it-as-it-is-biting-brutal-honesty; your puzzle-solving obsession, your efficiency-over-emotionalism, and the complex depth underneath the hard surface. INTJ man extraordinaire.(It is sad at times that as a female INTJ, we can often relate and identify so much better with the male fictional counterparts in their inner natures, (minus their misery) since women of this type are so, so small in number and hardly any are shown in the media, especially on TV……oh well! Maybe only Lisa Simpson & a few of the female detectives in Law and Order….)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_House

Student: “You’re reading a comic book.”

Dr. House: “And you’re calling attention to your bosom by wearing a low-cut top.”

[the student covers her chest with her clipboard]

Dr. House: “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought we were having a state-the-obvious contest. I’m competitive by nature.”

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Sidetracked Alert: Happens often to most of us, I guess. And so much better explained graphically by uber-geek & unconventional cartoonist Randall Munroe of xkcd.com:

source: xkcd.com/214/

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Racqueting on a Grass Court

(The following post ‘Racqueting on a Grass Court’  was originally posted in April 2010)

DOUBLE FAULT: How to fill that hole in your soul with everything other than healthy self-esteem and self-reliance:

(or) LOST IN IDIOT-IZATION

The ‘perfect’ Cosmo-Girl (base pic of the lampoon via ‘Inredimazing’ – I changed the text a bit)

0-15: I have often wondered: When was the last time the media showed as a true real-life inspirational figure a smart, sexy, kind, level-headed, brilliant, beautiful (in and out) and emotionally healthy woman? With good taste in books , art and music and style. Especially one that a young girl could emulate as a role model?

Today, the images of women the media bombards you with as a cultural norm and “normalcy” seem like an anthology of bimbos and borderlines. (And I don’t mean actresses. At least, most accomplished actresses went to film  and theatre school and have talent and self-made wealth and some among them, such as Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman have other university degrees to boot. There are extremely grounded ones like Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Julia Stiles and Jorja Fox. And the quotes of the beautiful Sophia Loren and Katherine Hepburn portray an incredibly wise philosophy about life.)

I mean the women who gained their fame through little real talent or work, but rather through undignified notoriety.

Today anyone, it seems can sashay into the limelight through scandal, sex tapes and/or being the ‘other’ woman. Or popping out multiple octo-kids or getting pregnant as a teen for some ‘reality’ show. (ok – there’s nothing inherently wrong about making private ‘sex tapes’ or even being the ‘other woman’ (I’m not judgmental that way) – but claiming ‘fame’ on that basis alone with no real talent or accomplishment of your own is just plain crass and  idiotic.) Or  if you are an out-of-work ‘celebrity’ by crying aloud some sad ‘victim’ story. Give me a break – instead of their weight battles about how much food they gobbled or threw up – go take a trip to some war zone or some suppressed country and then you’ll know what TRUE suffering and victimization of women is in those parts.

As a young girl I used to have posters of Steffi Graf on the walls of my room. And one of Valentina Tereshkova., the first woman in space. I was also a huge admirer of the physicist and chemist Marie Curie but they didn’t make posters of her ;-) (And though I did have a stunning pin-up of Marilyn Monroe, my mother had made sure to tell me about the instability in her personal life, so I could admire her beauty, but not her turbulence.)

Speeches by Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher were  often in the news. And I went through a phase where I read all about the concept of Shakti (Sanskrit for ‘to be able’ and part of the Shiva-Shakti , or male-female duality) or the feminine form of creativity and energy which existed in a state of svātantrya, or ‘self-reliance’ with ‘a dependence on no-one yet being interdependent with the entire universe.’ The concept of Shakti was symbolized in the goddesses in Hinduism whose multifarious forms denoted the versatile roles  a woman could have  all-in-one – magnificently draped in red and gold, with each hand holding an instrument signifying the multiple tasks she could perform – as a scholar, musician, warrior, lover, mother, wife, businesswoman, explorer, compassionate giver and many more. And apparently ‘practicing symbolic hand-gestures’ with the hand that was empty!  (A certain rebellious gesture?) I thought that was a cool departure from the patriarchal sad or stern-faced ‘Gods’ and ‘saints’ whose portraits adorned the corridors and chapel of my all-girls’ Catholic private school. (As a mix of six different ethnicities I was exposed to many different religions – Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and hence saw the pros and cons of all – so I have to say I’m a non-religious atheist more in the school of thought of the rationalists like Dennett, Russell and one of my heroes – Carl Sagan.)

Anyway, in my room Fraulein Graf ruled the walls.  I would be glued  to the TV every time she played. I’d scour sports-mags to find her photos. And I used to think back then, and still do, that Steffi embodied smarts, health, self-made wealth through her talent; she was an avid reader of Hemingway, Vonnegut and other good writers; loved dogs, horses and at one time was the highest donor to the World Wild Life Fund for Nature; and then went on to start her own non-profit charity Children of Tomorrow  (for those traumatized by war) without making a media circus. And was not tabloid-crazy but rather maintained a quiet dignity about her private life. (And also had a good eye for furniture design.)

My other role models included women I personally knew and came across in life who combined femininity and feminism in a beautiful way. Who were dignified, intelligent, strong, self-assured but had not compromised their empathy, softness, kindness and feminine skills that are unique to womanhood. Women who I considered as ‘complete.’ And balanced.

Steffi Graf – An inspirational individualist & a versatile winner. Her posters adorned my walls in my teenage years:

15-30 : Yes – I truly wish there were more role models for women these days – those who combined humour, smarts, attractiveness, kindness, empathy AND rationality AND integrity. And were mentally balanced and humble.  The ‘options’ the media presents are usually the airhead busty bimbos OR the pathologically narcissistic she-men ruthless-corporate-bitch-prototype OR the dowdy-intellectual-angry-feminist-male-basher OR the crazy-sexually-rampant-artist-suffering-from-borderline-personality-disorder OR the dumb-girly-girl-Cosmo-worshipper OR the new-age-pseudoscience-worshiping-post-hippie OR the perennially-depressed-nagging-anorexic-or-overweight-arty-girl-with-issues OR those nauseating real-housewife-of-some-county-type OR the heart-of-gold-stripper OR the-rescue-me-single-mom (whether they need rescuing or it’s just a hook.) My random in-jest or perhaps true guesses for the reasons behind the glamorization of borderline, narcissistic and/or histrionic women in the media are:

(A)   Most neurotic, nerdy screenwriters are magnets for attracting women with BPD/HPD. The initial hooking-game, the crazy sex, the push-pull dynamics, the manipulations/lying/cheating/screaming. That’s why they feature so much in film and TV scripts and dramas. (Hmmm – in fact guess what? That is a fact: http://gettinbetter.com/award.html  Drama – queens sell drama. Who knew? ;)

(B)   Most female bosses in show-biz might be narcissistic.

(C)   Most fashion magazines have tons of gay men on their staff who care very little about what ‘type’ of woman they are promoting as long as the shoes and clothes look good on her. (I do have many dear close gay friends, and do know this for a fact.)

(D)  You have to be drawn to attention and drama to throw out your problems and skin to the media – so if you seek notoriety you actually DO get rewarded for it – because the crowds love the freak show! It sells! Money & the masses rule over ‘quality’! No surprises there.

I cannot even remember the last time I saw a balanced intelligent woman in the  media in the last several years. Maybe Tina Fey? Rachel Maddow? Norah Jones (before she went revengeful after her recent heartbreak?) Danica McKellar (who’s talented, sexy, grounded and a brilliant math whiz and writer.) Or the introverted and down-to-earth violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn who is smart, witty, beautiful, super-talented, supports philosophical and rational ethics and writes very well on her online diaries? Why don’t they give women scientists more coverage? The only ones who seem to actually embody some good or interesting qualities are fictional: Amelie Poulain, Lara Croft, Uhura, Lisa Simpson, Elizabeth Bennett.

A few good inspiring women all seem to be fictional fantasies but are based on the small minority of women who have avoided extinction:

The shy, quirky, introverted do-gooder Amelie from the movie “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain

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The kick-ass, no-nonsense, smart, sexy archaeologist & adventurer Lara Croft (and yes – I’m a Tomb Raider gamer since 1999.)

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The role of Star Trek’s gifted communications officer Uhura Nyota was not only a trailblazer for women of colour when she first appeared in the 1960s, but the 2009 version shows a brilliant, attractive and confident geek -girl who also combines empathy and tender understanding as evidenced in her relation with the logical and stoic Mr. Spock.

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Lisa Simpson is a pretty good role model for geeky girls who’re into books, jazz, environmental ethics, political awareness & maintain their own individuality without succumbing to peer pressure.

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The elegant, outspoken, independent Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Victorian classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’ still embodies the timeless essence of a soft-feminine-yet-strong-intelligent woman with a dignified sense of self.

When did goodness-with-brains-and-beauty-and-talent-and-dignity become boring? I think when that combo became a minority and in order to ‘sell’ you had to present women who represented the loud masses. Hence the idiot-ization of womanhood. Or the glamorization and fake-beautification of frivolity. On one  increasingly extreme corner is where plastic surgery is considered normal. During my two years in Florida, I was horrified how rampant cosmetic surgery was. Ads promoting it were more common on the radio than weather reports. In fact, I even thought at one point that on South Beach’s Ocean Drive where people would loudly honk in the slow rubber-necking traffic, they should sell bumper stickers or have traffic signs that read ‘Honk if Your Boobs are Real’ in order to ensure quiet.

Then there is its anti-movement which is another extreme and equally illogical. This extreme promotes that even if you eat insanely, do not exercise and do not wish to make any attempts to be pleasing even to the man you love (and spend the days in ill-fitting jogging pants and smelly t-shirts and consider cooking as ‘demeaning’ and shaving hairy legs as ‘suppression’) – you should be accepted as ‘beautiful,’, ‘healthy’ and cherished and respected, by virtue of being a woman alone – and hell should have no fury like a woman scorned for not being called ‘beautiful’ EVEN if she truly, factually, visually, mentally isn’t!   i.e. Feelings have to become Facts by cognitive dissonance and all shapes and sizes – not due to genetic predisposition – but due to unhealthy diets should be considered ‘beautiful’ in an orgy of political correctness. And Woe betide the man who follows his evolutionary instinct to find a certain hip-to-waist ratio attractive and can’t get turned on by wobbly pears and apples! ‘Accept my shapeless body as beautiful, or else prepare for my wrath!! Don’t you dare watch those Victoria Secret’s models!! Stop responding to your male hormones!! Submit to me alone! Respect! Restrain! Reassure! ’

So in either case, an Extreme rules each end and is glorified : either utter prudishness or gutter promiscuity, either armed combat or wanton wombat, either the she-man or the gossip-girl, either the Bible-nut or the Satan-‘slut’ – and no one seems to question – where is the middle point? The balance? The equilibrium which does not swing to polar opposites? That  feels neither the need to be  exhaustingly needy nor the need to be exhaustively controlling? That stable mid-point where you neither need to prove nor preen, but just enjoy being your own authentic self? A complete, healthy, confident woman?

But if the ‘feeling, hyper-ventilating’ girls are over-represented in society and in the media, where then are the ‘thinking’ women hiding? Locked up in ivory towers where the class bullies from high school will never get them again? Or introverted and shy like Amelie, just wishing to quietly go about their lives helping others; or adventurous in their solitude and travels like Lara Croft.

I will write more about my thoughts on ‘thinking’ women another day. (And whether it works or not, what I found out about my own Briggs-Meyers personality ‘type’ –INTJ (bordering on INTP & INFJ traits as well)- after years, literally years of puzzling why ‘introverted thinking’ women were a minority. If these tests and typologies work, then only 0.0075% of women , i.e. 0.5% of 1.5% of the total population who test as being so, belong to the type INTJ [Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging] and it seems the majority of women in the world are Extroverted, Sensing and Feeling as opposed to ‘Thinking’. Note: Everyone thinks and feels, but ‘feeling’ here means decisions based more on emotional (subjective-feeling-based) reasoning instead of rational (objective-fact-based) reasoning. In the past, INTJ women were probably burnt off as witches for being independent thinkers and not following the crowd but their own concepts.)

30-40, DEUCE: Before I walk off the court, here’s an example of what kind of ‘pain’ is thrown out as a claim check to pity these days….it is sometimes so ridiculous, one has to laugh! And who can you blame when Cosmo-girl and some entitled-self-absorbed-‘real’(a.k.a so good at faking, it feels real)-housewives-of-tanning-salon-orange-skin-county type idiotic reality shows are teaching young girls how to leech off men or rather how to learn the art of being the ‘professional victim’ or the ‘entitled princess.’

Here is a link to an article from a rather humourous (and healing) site I recently discovered run by a Rene-Magritte-loving, Bill-Maher-loving, witty,  no-nonsense, non-sappy woman therapist who decided to finally have the guts to point out that in many instances women’s ‘rights’ have been pushed to the point of unjustified and unfair entitlement and misused to the point of male-abuse. And that a lot of our shallow media messages – as well as the pathological lack of empathy in such women – are teaching them to behave like spoilt, entitled ‘victims’ (even when they aren’t real victims) and getting away with screaming, abusing, controlling and whipping their partners to pamper to every whim of theirs. This particular article is hilarious as it shows how in the present economy, women who, well, shall we say married for the perks, are now lamenting that they can no longer afford their overpriced cocktails and Jimmy Choos now that their Wall Street husbands have lost their ‘sheen’? And Oh! Isn’t that such a tragedy? Here is an excerpt from Dr. Palmatier’s article. ‘I Ain’t Saying She’s a Gold Digger: Entitled Wall Street Wives Bail on Their Husbands’

“According to the New York Times article, It’s the Economy, Girlfriend: “Once it was seen as a blessing in certain circles to have a wealthy, powerful partner who would leave you alone with the credit card while he was busy brokering deals. Now, many Wall Street wives, girlfriends and, increasingly, exes, are living the curse of cutbacks in nanny hours and reservations at Masa or Megu. And that credit card? Canceled.”

Wow, where do I begin? How about their seemingly gross lack of emotional support for men whom they supposedly love? Instead of helping their husbands and boyfriends, they’ve formed a “support group” where they mourn the loss of their carefree shopping sprees and weekends in the Hamptons. The craziest thing about this gaggle of entitled, shallow women is that they actually take themselves seriously. I’m waiting for their televised charity benefit, “Blahniks for Selfish Chicks.”

For the full article and a fuller laugh, go here (really worth it!) : http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/gold-digger-entitled-wall-street-wives-bailing-on-their-husbands/

ADVANTAGE, GAME, TIEBREAK: Now, I’m not saying that ‘pain and sorrow’ does not exist for many women in the world. We have come a long way through the efforts of trailblazers and pioneers who have fought for the equality and rights many take for granted today, and whose names are less remembered than the ubiquitous names of many airheads that dominate the news on a regular basis.

But as I had written earlier(We all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful) there are different degrees, types and intensities of pain and anyone who has taken the time to educate herself on global problems will know that such horrible acts of injustice, misogyny and abuse go on towards women in many parts of the world that the damsels born in wealthier and more democratic countries should thank their lucky stars that they live here.

Really.

You cannot compare your ‘victim-hood’ of a non-matching purse-with-shoes to the rape and poverty that goes on in some very real places in the world. And even if you are luckier for the country you live in, this is not to say that abuse, abandonment and other emotional/physical traumas don’t take place here either. But you have to get a grounded perspective depending on how real your pain really is, and that you do not exaggerate imagined hurt. If you have faced real, tangible trauma then that is extremely sad and needs to be healed. But if your ‘trauma’ comes from truly superficial frivolities, please do a check-up for selfishness and shallow-self-centredness.

I have myself  been attacked on the streets twice here, in North America (and I won’t even go into the incidents that I braved in some other parts of the world.)  My family was an ocean away so I did not even have the luxury of recuperating under loving care, but had to find my strength from within. I have overcome the physical pain and the mental trauma and identified them as isolated incidents. I have not gone around holding out my pain as some claim check to pity or to lash out at every man because he happens to belong to the same gender as the attacker on the street. And I have faced emotional trauma too in other instances, but I’ve learned, grown and strengthened from them, as I have found quite a few other women do the same. So it surprises me to no end when I see some girls or women kicking, screaming and crying because their mascara is smudged or their hairstyle got perturbed or their boyfriend is late or if he hasn’t called them with tele-marketeer frequency. Geez – Get some perspective of reality!

Healthy, seemingly strong women are not impervious to pain. We feel ‘pain’ too, often deeply and intensely – only we have learned through our own rationality and work and creativity to channel it into productive positivism after understanding it, instead of wallowing in it.

Rational or more reflective women use their own pain to churn out positivity and introspection, and if possible help others gain perspective. Our self-respect stops us from doing ‘save me’ tactics and games. Our ‘grounded-ness’ or rather, an honest appraisal of our own flaws and strengths prevents us from becoming self-delusional, or worse, deluding others. We are vulnerable and definitely sometimes need a man’s help and hand too – only we understand it in a sane, free, respectful way – not as the cunning vampirish ‘rescue’ hook-and-suck which professional victims like to play and which we are incapable of.

Just like I’ve seen in life that some of the toughest, strongest men are vulnerable inside, so are the strong women. They are very vulnerable and in touch with their feelings too, but perhaps a bit more private about it. Except they have learned to solve problems through their own intellect and learned to laugh and be free and happy.

And what does society do? Instead of rewarding them for their strength and goodness, they bend over backwards to ‘reward’, and ‘understand’ and ‘rescue’ the manipulators and liars who can play ‘victim’ over the smallest petty problem. This might be a capitalist country but it practices ‘emotional socialism’ more than any other! And bullies and men/women with issues and insecurities take full advantage of it. While the givers and emotionally healthy men and women are punished and flogged till they can give no more and are exhausted; and till more fresh healthy givers to suck blood and empathy from arrive. Careful! Don’t get Stockholm Syndrome by falling in love with and defending emotional abusers!

This may sound harsh, but it has to be said like it is. Because the truth is that the end-result of the ‘training’ of young girls and women to not work on their self-reliance and self-awareness, but instead to be frivolous, materialistic, manipulative, dependent, shallow, greedy and get influenced by stupid magazines and media-shows takes the toll when they in turn teach those ‘values’ to their own daughters or find men they can whip and manipulate to be their sugar-daddies or slaves-of-surrender. And the cycle of emotional abuse in relationships begins again. So the shallow ‘tips and tricks’ that are taught and learned – in short to be dumb-greedy-manipulative at the end definitely devour souls and self-esteem. In addition to brains, of course.

6-7, 2-0: I’ve often thought there should be a movement to launch a magazine titled ‘Thinking Women’. For and by thinking women.

If I had to sum up most of the shallower women’s magazines, soaps and shows that are out there, all their articles and episodes can be neatly divided into two categories :  (1) How to GET a man. (2) How to GET OVER a man.

Or in other words – how to remain constantly insecure. And jump in and out of relationships instead of finding yourself first.

Or ‘Flirt. Fuck. Fight. Flight.’ The art of flipping out or freaking out for finding froggy princes.

Or ‘Re-Open. Ride. Roost. Till you get Ring. Then – Rant, Rave, Regurgitate. Then -Rinse, Repeat.’ Period. And that’s not a pun, although I’m inclined to say that the message that most vacuous and manipulative women seem to wish to propagate through their words and actions is: “How to crave and scream and complain in a permanent PMS-mode.”

And then there’s that male-bashing as a justification to bad moods. The only men who pay the price  for the PMS-permanency are the kinder, gentler men. The men who are truly nasty continue to remain so. And the good men end up paying the price for the bad apples. Just as good women end up paying the price for the misconceptions created by the malevolent ones.

6-7, 6-3, 6-0: True femininity does not have to come at the expense of feminism. Nor intellect at the expense of beauty. Why can’t a woman be intelligent, self-assured, intellectual and at the same time sexy, soft and feminine? A balance, sans extremes.

Does my stand make me an anti-feminist? Not at all. As a woman in a technical field with almost 90% men not only am I quietly and more strongly doing something for gender equality through my profession, my sympathies lie with those women who are smart, kind, strong, rational and know the value of both inner and outer beauty and are true representatives of what as individuals they can achieve. Individual women who embody authenticity and integrity, rare as they may be in our society today. And I salute them.

But to those women I’ve called out on their ‘act’ here who want to show bitchiness, craziness, irrational rage, emotions and entitlement and idiocy as some ‘norm’ of being ‘womanly’ in some circle of sappy greedy sinister sisterhood – sorry – you are the real betrayers of your gender and an insult to what being a complete woman, or a Woman of Substance truly means to be.

And that means playing life with a strong,  fair forehand. No self-delusion, no self-denial. No games. No tricks. For the only ‘games’  should be on the tennis court.  Game, Set, Match-point.  And you don’t have to be either super-rich nor famous to be a winner, for the only ‘spectator’ you need applause from is your own authentic sense of self.

True self-confidence is when you need no one else’s approval except your own to feel good about yourself. And in the long sweaty tournament of life, it takes a real champion to win with true integrity. Consistently. Their numbers may be few, but they are the ones who are true upholders of the responsibility entailed in being a complete, real, versatile woman. I have a feeling Fraulein Forehand would agree with that.

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“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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Related posts:

(1) Punishing an ENTIRE team ’cause a woman engineer was both whipper-smart AND gorgeous. (The ridiculous University of Waterloo incident.)

(2) Saltationism of Silliness (Monty Python’s Silly Walks vs. the heinous cruelty of what goes behind fashion’s fur products.)

(3) Sweatshops for your Sex and the City Too.

Fly-in-the-Circus

MONTY PYTHON  – THE ARCHITECT’S SKETCH (FROM ‘THE FLYING CIRCUS’)

because sometimes we all need to ‘lighten’ up and ‘shake hands’ after ‘rotating knives’ and yelling out the frustrations of a ‘struggling artist.’

Unfortunately, the only video available with the entire sketch has Swedish subtitles. But unless you read Swedish, it’s not too distracting. Also, never have an upper floor office without having a bucket of water in a corner handy.

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Sidetracked Alert : For a simple approach to sketching through life and learning, check out ‘101 Things I learned in Architecture School.‘ And yelling like Cleese certainly wasn’t one of ’em, although  we wish we had – but that’s the old school way that could get you in trouble these days for being ‘politically incorrect.’ Sigh. http://www.amazon.com/101-Things-Learned-Architecture-School/dp/0262062666

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Greekonomics

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Headline news: Canadian dollar touches new low after rise due to  Greece’s economic crisis. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

And  just when  you  thought  that  the  economy  was  painfully  limping  back  to  the  surface,  a  kick  back  into  the  hole  with :

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(drum roll)

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The return of  les  enfants  terribles

(“And we need YOUR bailout money to keep our sun-drenched lazy retirement-at-53 packages alive!! And fair or not, we will FIGHT for it!! And if you block out the sun then we will fight in the shade!”)

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Hmmm. Looks like I found another usage for this phrase, already a part of the urban dictionary with implications as varied as irrational argument-wins to male testosterone reclamation to phrase uttered during male orgasm http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=this%20is%20sparta (should you care to see its other meanings.)

Mine is :  This is Sparta =  “Just when you thought you were ‘shining’ back into the light for an economic resurfacing – a kick back into the black hole of economic woes caused by bad financial choices and practices.” (copyright (c) the gipsygeek)

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Update:  Within hours of posting this – the markets took another nosedive into the well (the graph a literal plunge, 1000 points in one day!!! The Biggest in Dow Jones History.) : http://money.cnn.com/2010/05/06/markets/markets_newyork/index.htm?hpt=C1

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Sidetracked Alert! For possibly the most famous kick in movie history in probably one of the most visually and artistically stunning  war films ever made, something that really touches you in the core of the unshakable pride and ego and testosterone that comes with manhood,  here goes:

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Sex and the Starchitect

SEX AND THE STARCHITECT

Abstract: While our society seems to treat the “sexiness”of male architects with giggly humour, if a woman architect or engineer confidently displays her intelligence, talent AND feminine sexuality with  dignity and humour – she faces a weird opposition of jealousy-disguised-as-righteousness from other women and is often not taken seriously by male architects and engineers for shedding the ‘asexual/tomboy’ persona required for women to succeed in this field.

Bjarke Ingels

The “sexy male architect” archetype

Cambridge, April 3, 2010. The trigger for writing this came after attending a talk at Harvard GSD by hyper-energetic and hyper-humourous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Ingels is one of the fastest rising young architects in the world today – befitting the term “starchitect”. What makes him different is his age – as most “starchitects” so far have usually been eccentric men in their late 50s and older (which is considered the time it takes for an architect to reach his ‘peak’ and climax, professionally of course). Phillip Johnson, Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, I.M Pei, Santiago Calatrava to name just a few. Mostly sporting a varied array and style of white hair or shiny bald plates and thick-black-framed glasses either in perfect circular or rectangular shapes – the latter ‘look’ having somehow become the latest fad among hipster men in North America. 

The last time a 30-something male architect came even a wee bit close to the starchitect  stature and had a movie-star aura – it had been Bjarke’s fellow Dane – the incredibly gifted Jorn Utzon who designed the landmark  Sydney Opera House and faced an incredible amount of jealousy and became a victim of back-handed politics to tragic consequences. The starchitect status seemed to safely belong to men who were intellectual design innovators but sadly –  quite simply put – rather bland in the aesthetic and sex-appeal department.

Bjarke has been luckier. Much like Utzon he won his place in the world through an impartial design competition. He went on to win many more and established his new firm in 2006. The difference is that he was born 56 years after Jorn Utzon. And is both a product and a player of our times, his appeal reaching across time zones and boundaries due to the benefits of online magazines, social networking media and online videos.  

His facebook fan page boasts  over 8000 fans at print time (update: nearly 20,000 in 2012) and his ‘personal’ circle on his own page contains an ever growing list of over 4000 friends. (For a quick comparison, People magazine’s 2008 ‘Sexiest Classical Musician & Frenchman’ – brooding violinist Laurent Korcia – has a slim following of some 95 fans on his page  – at least at the time this post was written – even after having fiddled into hearts for over 25 years while Bjarke has burst in the limelight only in the last 4 years!)

These are not huge numbers if you compare with the average following of top-notch or even moderately known pop or rock stars, and neither numbers nor glossy magazines should be held as the only barometers of popularity or of talent; but this is a rather phenomenal outreach for a 36 year-old designer in a profession never quite known for its social or marketing skills, but more for its masochism and workaholism in its inner circles. After all, on any given day, more people would have access to classical music than to the works of a Danish architect. So it is quite an interesting paradigm.

Then of course, there  is Bjarke’s personal charisma:  Matt Damon-ish boyish looks with comical Jack Black eyes, a Robin Williams-type sparkling on-stage wit and effervescence and an intellectual powerhouse reminiscent of his one-time boss  renowned architectural pioneer Rem Koolhaas.  Here is a typical Ingellectual example:

“Historically the field of architecture has been dominated by two opposing extremes. On one side an avant-garde full of crazy ideas. Originating from philosophy, mysticism or a fascination of the formal potential of computer visualizations they are often so detached from reality that they fail to become something other than eccentric curiosities. On the other side there are well organized corporate consultants that build predictable and boring boxes of high standard. Architecture seems to be entrenched in two equally unfertile fronts: either naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. We believe that there is a third way wedged in the nomansland between the diametrical opposites. Or in the small but very fertile overlap between the two. A pragmatic utopian architecture that takes on the creation of socially, economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective.’’ – BI

You can see how Ingels has won over the jargon-happy intellectual theorists too – the kinds who largely rule academia and are, in a sense, quite removed from the reality of construction sites and budget issues. 

A friend of mine who has been working in Rem Koolhaas’s Rotterdam office for 10 years now loves what Rem produces but admits that it is a high-level intellectual-and-creative-but-brutally-hard-working sweatshop.  Interestingly Koolhaas’s first degree was in Film and Television Studies (and among many versatile and interesting projects has a soft-porn film script to his credit.) He had learned how important marketing and advertising one’s personality is to secure major projects. It’s not that hard in a profession dominated by mostly introverted, quasi-schizoid artistic geeks – who prefer to work in solitude rather than socialize.

This is why the former end up as the servile faithful employees and associates of their more dynamic bosses who are free to market and bring the meat home and proceed to sketch imaginative concepts on paper napkins during lunches (in fancy cafes, or airplanes if you are Toyo Ito) which their old faithful flock then proceed to implement into workable designs. This is largely true for Gehry, Libeskind, Hadid and many others who do not know how to use graphic computer software and whose projects rely more on their associates and some insanely intelligent structural engineers. Calatrava is an exception – only because he has degrees in structural engineering, sculpture and architecture and is one of the few “greats” who knows how to make his fantastical designs be built. His designs have become a bit too redundant and repetitively and stylistically flamboyant by now, where his “signature” forms are overtaking functions…not to speak of budgets ;-) Also, like many architects of his time, his views on women remain from the old school of patriarchy.

Another one who knows how to make his designs “work” on his own  – is Canada’s very own starchitect and recent Order of Canada recipient Dan Hanganu  – who is my mentor (and will soon be working with Koolhaas on a Quebec City museum project.) In addition to his architecture education, Dan had spent time in the trenches and on construction sites working alongside Italian construction workers in his youth and understands design, material and construction inside out. And like many avant-garde architects, is brashly open in his conversations with its generous doses of sexual metaphors. While not patronizing to women at all (his own wife is an accomplished firebrand architect and has been a mother-figure to me) – he certainly is very open and vocal with his appreciation of feminine beauty. His diplomatic skills are quite another story…..

But Bjarke Ingels is a whole other animal. What makes him different is his underlying shrewdness at knowing how to succeed both artistically AND financially AND politically in today’s world. And “sexiness,”certainly, is a part of it. For better or for worse, sex sells. Koolhaas knew it. Johnson knew it. And to Bjarke – the sexual metaphors in his speech come naturally. And easily.  As in his opening words at a TED talk, a lecture he has repeated elsewhere he breaks the ice with the audience by asking whether London’s famous gherkin is a giant sausage or a sex tool.

The rampant usage of sexual metaphors in the academic and work climate in architecture is not new. It is in fact so matter-of-fact that most architects are horrified when we find that engineers and business executives and city council members squirm at some of the terms so commonly used in the design world. And we have to learn to bite our tongues for more prim and proper (a.k.a prude and stuffy) corporate climates. Examples include:

  • Design masturbation = when you spend hours trying to make something work before you finally achieve  something that gets a resounding ‘yes’ in terms of the joy derived of ‘coming together’ at a solution that meets functional, aesthetic and budgetary expectations.
  • Design prostitution  = when you are forced to take up a project and design kitsch or blandness out of the sheer necessity of getting a paycheck, but feel as though you have sold your soul towards design integrity in the process.
  • Phallic Frenzy = the eternal and timeless competition for who or which city can boast of building the tallest tower. Very Freudian indeed. In fact most students on entering the program come with dreams of some day building the world’s tallest tower. Most of the compromise and lost dreams in the profession come from the impending gloom that alas, that may not be the case and that one has to settle for much less impressive mounds. In the field this is referred to as the ‘glass dildo’ complex. Variations of the glass dildo include the ‘glass vagina’ entryways as evidenced by I.M. Pei’s famed entrance to the Louvre museum in Paris. Bombay- based starchitect Hafeez Contractor was also known for building his first tower which looked alarmingly like a giant penis and variations of this form along with various triangles predominated his early practice. No kidding. Take a look below.
  • Several other metaphors that are too risqué perhaps to print here. But in short, this goes back to the history of architecture….domes were inspired by the female breast, column heads such as Doric, Ionic, Corinthian etc. by….er, varied expressions of gushing joy of the male member, the pyramid they say was inspired by….you get it…… and so forth…..While ancient Europeans believed in shape-dependent metaphors in their architectural expressions, ancient Hindu architecture was quite more, shall we say, explicit?

Vastu – a suggestion by architect Hafeez Contractor?

another suggestion by Mr. Contractor? ;)

methinks this architect is trying to ‘suggest’ something…

The London gherkin. Sausage or ‘sex tool’ asks Bjarke.

The ultimate entryway as we architects affectionately call the Louvre glass pyramid

The eternal quest for the highest tower. Burj-Dubai

The Chicago Spire the tallest residential tower in the U.S. whose concept is of a giant rotating screw emerging from the ground to pierce the sky.

UPDATE! Feb, 2011 – Architect Bjarke Ingels unveils his Manhattan ‘pyramid’. Proving  his ode to women ;-)

As Hanganu once explained to a journalist about the inspiration behind the lush deep red swirls of fabric hanging from the ceiling of his stunning concert hall for the l’Anglicane de Lévis: it’s like being a boy at fifteen looking up a woman’s skirt for the first time.

Some men perhaps never really grow up from their fifteen year old sexually-curious age. Especially if they pursue professions they had a passion for as children – musicians, airplane pilots, architects. Being playful is part of their work (pilots being the exception, though every single one of them loves to fly and are known for their libido). Their associates, employees and support group unfortunately are the ones who have to grow up, bear responsibility and become utter pragmatists. There is both a sense of irony and unfairness to this situation. Some bear the responsibility of taking responsibility so their employers can dare to dream.

William Butler Yeats had written : ‘In dreams begin responsibility.’ Only the undertaker of the responsibility is often not the dreamer once you have established your firm and your career. But daring to have dreamed in the first place commands credit.

ONE GENDER IS SEXIER THAN THE OTHER. ONLY, AMONG ARCHITECTS, IT’S THE MEN – SAY THE  NON-ARCHITECT WOMEN

Back to Bjarke. I spoke to him after the talk. His friend introduced us.

The GSD’s hall was displaying an exhibition of  the works of a certain well-known Montreal landscape architect at that time and Bjarke asked me to show him around. He was laid-back, easy-going – that same relaxed introversion-in-person vs. extroversion-in-performance seen in many musicians as well. (It reminded me of the time I had met Lenny Kravitz whose private and stage personas seem diametrically opposite.)

Bjarke’s first question when he met me was trying to place my ethnic origin and mixes. It happens all the time, to the point where I’m often tempted to do this. His guesses took him from South America to Europe to near-east Asia and had errors, as is often the case. I blushed and asked if he really wanted to know all my genetic history. Yes – he insisted. When I told him of my six ethnic mixes with my Canadian citizenship he said that his lecture series on ‘Breaking Boundaries’ could not have been more appropriately directed at a person. I guess so. I sometimes joke that I was conceived in a UN orgy.

He carried that Scandinavian air of unpretentious humility that does not come so effortlessly in many American over-achievers, the smarter among who try to sometimes act too consciously self-deprecating which then comes across as a put-on. (Canadians, naturally modest, except snooty Torontonians, are different though.) And unlike the Armani-clad Libeskind, he prefers to wear old  jeans and t-shirts with the rugged ease of a construction worker. We exchanged views propped before landscape architect Claude Cormier’s “Blue Balls” & “Lipstick Forest” projects. I felt a bit awkward at some of his probing questions that followed. Then I realized he was, after all, a fellow architect. I had forgotten momentarily how easily such language came to us, intended in the most innocent way. In a profession whose practitioners are mild closet-Aspies you have to talk directly and to the point. We do not understand innuendos.  We always run into trouble for our innocent comments on architectural metaphors when we, in fact, ARE referring to designs, not desires. I later saw this article he’d posted:

Women rate architects as the sexiest professionals. Strangely women architects (as usual) are completely ignored despite several sexy ones in the profession.

Interesting. Stud architects were common in films in the ’50s and ’60s. They were gradually replaced by lawyers and potty-mouthed doctors and investment bankers as the new alpha-males on film. The film Something about Mary (where the protagonist wishes that her ‘perfect man’ should be an architect) should have given me a pointer about the desirability of male architects. Or the fact that during my graduate program, girl friends from other departments would cajole me to  introduce them to my male classmates.  But perhaps now the paradoxical requirement for men to be both creative-and-savvy, soft-yet-strong has brought a return of the male architect?

The girls in architecture never really liked our heterosexual male counterparts. We often found them condescending, smelly,  goofy, nerdy workaholics, bratty if not schizoid and I guess, pretty much took them for granted. Occasionally of course, some among the few women would pair up with a male classmate in life and in work and go on to have successful firms, but largely, the women in the field were desensitized to all the ‘shining, versatile, intellectual, artistic, pragmatic, ethical, monogamous’ qualities of our male colleagues, surprised that they were so much in demand by other women. 

[Full disclosure: till date, I have never been on an official “date” or felt the compulsion to date nor have even been attracted in a romantic way to any male architect, although I have dined with many – professionally; and been asked out by many over the years. I feel rather “sisterly” or “daughter-ly” towards them, depending on their age. I’ll confess, however, that there’s only one architect, who will turn 41 in August 2010 who I do find rather alluring in many ways.  I won’t mention his name, but he is certainly fiercely intellectual, remarkably humble, enormously talented & well-spoken, with a quiet steely intensity (a quality I find extremely attractive in men) and resembles a near-perfect male sculpture in physique housing a pensive philosopher’s mind. Of course, shy as I get when I really fancy someone, I’ve never had the courage to even speak to him. But then, my significant other – is rather magnificent himself & ferociously brilliant and quite the polymath besides being an accomplished musician/neuroscientist/academic, who is often nicknamed “Aragorn”- due to the physical resemblance to Viggo in the film portrayal (only he’s taller and younger than VM) – so I certainly have no complaints ;-) In fact, it was he, with his Danish ancestry who had excitedly shown me Bjarke’s TED talk for the first time and said he had a feeling that this man would become really, really big.]

Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt. Or rather familiarity breeds, well – over-familiarity. Like couples who after years of marriage settle to some sexless sibling-hood, perhaps the few women in architecture largely felt that the men in the profession were more like asexual brothers rather than sexy beasts. After all, you have to wonder about what shortcoming these men were trying to overcome in their quest for the tallest towers? (Ok – that was snarky. Sorry ;) Quite a few girls in architecture invariably had among their best friends the gay men in the classroom. Strangely, we did not find our heterosexual classmates sexy. Which is why their sex-appeal outside the classroom was rather baffling to us girls. Could it be that they incited some primal  instinct of being “nest-builders”  to those women?

Once a group of my Canadian male classmates even presented a slide show of a strip-tease act they had performed in everyday locations, (for instance standing nonchalantly in their underwear at a library or at a bus stop or in front of a Tim Horton’s) at an award ceremony with the blessings of their equally open-minded professors. In fact our department head in a very British accent gave the voice-over commentary and went along with the spoof.  Alas, we girls were still unimpressed.

How is it that in the above news article women architects do not make the cut? Is it because in a profession with only 10%– 13% women the well-respected ones such as Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Louise Harpman and many others do not care much to be fashionistas in their dress codes?

Then there is the strong-willed, fiery indisputable genius Dame Zaha Hadid – a tour de force of architecture – who loves dressing fashionably, sometimes in her own creations, and critics seem to focus more on her character than her work, even though her firm’s rating on Glassdoor by employees who know her first-hand is an enviable 4.5 stars, way better than the rating for male starchitects. Also, Odile Decq, another favorite of mine, creates stunning designs yet there again more is spoken of her Goth wardrobe as though it is some crime, when it is her work that should be the focus. Why the double standard? You don’t hear writers talking about the dressing style or “character” of male architects, plenty of whom throw tantrums, can be verbally abusive and at times outright narcissists?

Zaha Hadid is indisputably the pioneer of both the sexiest curved and straight lines of architecture and has designed everything from buildings to shoes, and yet, while her male counterparts shamelessly stole her designs, she was held back for years from actually building  her works. I had attended Diller’s talk earlier last week and had been blown away by her wit and slide show (principally of NYC’s Highline park.) There was a lot of nudity in the show too – full frontal views of male streakers  and such who would flash at the park’s users from hotel windows nearby.

Diller – who has seamlessly blended theatre, film, concept art and cutting edge architecture also freely uses sexual metaphors and imagery, but as she admits – in a more “Jerry Seinfeld” kind of way. One of my architectural theory teachers back in school had shown us a sublimely artistic slide show of her photographs that showed the similarities between female anatomy and airplane parts.

And there are so many others….the Hariri sisters (who I have adored for a very long time – they were the original Amal Clooneys of architecture – brilliant brains, brilliant work and elegantly glamorous), landscape architects Janet Rosenberg, Maya Lin, Kathryn Gustafson…..I will also shamelessly admit, I have more respect and awe for those who set up their solo practices unlike many much better known names who did so with their architect-husbands. Or those who felt the need to have a male partner in their firm. In this respect, yes, the Hariri sisters are quite inspirational – as unlike Hadid, Gang, Diller – they did not even feel the need to have an architect-man as a husband or a partner.

Yet, how is it that the women in the profession were viewed as tomboys? (which I can see given the “look” many of the best among them seem to adorn.) I had started my own firm in my early 20s before getting a burn-out and had then proceeded to take an academic break and the next 8 years working for various offices. My own “womanization” and  the shedding of  tomboy looks had occurred when I’d found myself in my mid-20s  suddenly transformed from geek-to-print-model by a well-known ad and art photographer. And this had helped more than my years in dance and theatre. But although I have reconciled with my womanly looks, I still remain an Über-geek inside.

Zaha Hadid building

Zaha Hadid shoes

The feminine women architects are not much different than the men in their extroversion-on-the-podium yet introversion-in-person yet imaginative-in-the-bedroom. I know of some wonderful young women in the field who could give any male architect a run for his money – in terms of talent, poise, brilliance and work ethics.  Yet many are kept largely in the backdrop or increasingly leave the field after frustrating years. (One cherubic beauty I personally know who  did excellent design work is now making a career-shift as a singer-songwriter, and there are others I know who have veered off into graphic design, UX-design and even retail and sales.) 

The “culprit” here is not just stodgy patriarchal/condescending older men in the profession, but also and quite often those high society women and museum and art-history curators who like to promote the ‘sexy’ young male painters as they do to the ‘sexy’-young-male-architect. (Is it a coincidence that the archi-godfather Frank Lloyd Wright was also known for his affairs with his clients’ wives? )

When was the last time you heard of the high society women – who also convince their husbands through nasal nagging which architect to choose – promote the career of a young sexy-intellectual female architect? And if the husband does so, he would be shot down by the angry wife. 

The same applies to the architectural “critics” or “theorists” in academia and often the blogosphere – especially the women and often the men. Except for a few exceptions, they would rather promote, write and swoon about the “brilliant, sexy young talented man” than the sexy brilliant woman. Yes – they will promote women but those who are no threat whatsoever in the physical sexuality department. The beautiful-intelligent-talented “freaks” are looked upon with suspicion. Don’t worry, some of those “freaks” will be “honored” posthumously or when they are octogenarians, inciting grandmotherly warmth rather than youthful chutzpah.

Many male critics and curators are no different. While privately many hit on and even sexually harass/proposition attractive young women (a well-known secret in the profession which many don’t even dare to speak up), the men too are rather condescending to attractive women designers (using the stale “beautiful = dumb” cliche) while having no qualms promoting male peacocks. A male critic who openly ass-kisses famous architects even wrote a rather disparaging post on FB saying how he went around unfriending any woman architect who looked “sexy.” No one even called him out on his sexism….or the fact that some of the men laughing and liking his comment had tons of photos of themselves trying to look “sexy” or “alpha-male”-ish. 

While male starchitects can flash around in designer jackets and glasses, women who decide to abandon the standard black unisex turtleneck and black pair of straight pants which is a must to survive in the profession are not welcomed with open arms in those exclusive wine and cheese  media and magazine launches. Would they not take the thunder away from lady architectural theorist and lady high society contributor to the arts? And the men who engage in this form of discrimination – oh, we know well – young attractive female architects should know their “place,” right? – as victims to your moves and propositions, and be judged on their looks not their work or talent. In fact the more you may be attracted to their looks, the more dismissive you have to be of their work, right? Riiiight.

Lip urinal by Dutch designer Meike van Schijndel

Even Hadid was finally  accepted only after she had practically reached menopause. The Dutch woman designer Meike van Schijndel who made the “lip urinals” faced persecution from several women’s rights groups, especially the National Organization for Women and her products were removed. The “lips” were later moved to the JFK airport by Virgin Atlantic only to be  removed by NOW once again.

Now, wait a minute – so it is okay for most women and soccer moms to take pole dancing classes, read idiotic pop-psychology ‘how to’ books and moronic Cosmo-girl ‘tips on great sex’ and that was sending the “right, empowering” message to women, and every male starchitect gets to openly talk about various parts of the female anatomy and call their buildings glass dildos  and buxom curves as giggly feminists blush at their “flirty brilliance”, yet all hell breaks lose and the same feminists gang up in some moral righteousness against a rather pretty 30-something woman designer who had some fun with rethinking a urinal?! According to NOW, the  experience for a man using it would have been akin to fantasizing about oral sex. And that, it seems, was “sexist”!! I rest my case.

To Schijndel’s benefit, nothing helps private sales like public controversy :)

To add to the equation, unfortunately, most of the ‘home’ shows on TV are run NOT by women architects but by former bored housewives who think that a course in ‘decorating’ has now given them the license to promote kitsch and candy.

The TV home-ladies  gleefully invite and interview the “hot young designers” who most certainly are always men and nary a mention is made of the hot young women in the profession. That queen of daytime television Oprah who touts “feminism”  and every cliched “new-ageism” has promoted every gay decorator (decorator, mind you, not even architect) on the block and mysteriously seems to forget that women architects exist too.

And for the liberal arts women’s-and-feminist-rights intellectuals, how much nicer to tout and talk of the sexual “lib” of long dead actresses such as Mae West, Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn (her – absolutely deservedly) or the new darling-of-nag – the rotund Lena Dunham, than acknowledge the existence of those sexy women who are battling it out in mostly-male professions? Artsy women – Hello! it’s time you looked beyond some of the wolfy narcissistic Naomis and looked at the 20 and 30-something women architects who are so not into Britney nor Blahnik-crazy Carrie Bradshaw and could out-intellectualize your envious political correctness any day and outdo your work ethics. The true goddesses with brains and talent are  right in your own backyard and were buried there for a long time in the form of the early and  forgotten women architects and engineers as well. Oh – I forgot – “not in my backyard” is the dictum you’d rather rant about, right?

Not surprisingly Hadid’s first project, won fair and square at an international competition, faced unprecedented opposition not by men, but – the women in high places in various ‘councils.’ Alas, women still largely remain the cause of not allowing other women to be recognized. Especially the ones whose inner strength and indisputable talent seem to threaten others at some inconceivable pathological level. Insecurities are veiled by ‘righteousness.’  Jealousies run deep, however politically incorrect it may sound to say so.

Sure, there are some exceptions who genuinely help the “sisterhood,” but even a well-established young female arts journalist/critic friend of mine who writes for a very popular publication, did sheepishly confess – when I dug deeper – that many female journalists and critics enjoy the “chemistry” they feel while interviewing or plugging attractive male artists/musicians/architects, and secretly wish to (and often do) date or at least hook-up with them. And, that same chemistry they cannot feel with an attractive, talented female artist/architect and let alone a female engineer. Besides, as women themselves in a low-paid writing gig, why the hell should they promote another woman, when promoting a man would give them other “perks?” I commend her for her honesty. But she and others I asked did finally confirm – at the promise of anonymity – that yes, they are not that generous to young female architects (who in some ways, HAVE broken female stereotypes) because, perhaps, deep down – there is a subconscious sense of envy brought in by sexual-market politics. Well, what about the much older women architects – especially after they’re dead? “Oh, no problem! Then we can say how they faced sexism from the men! Then we’re clear.” Bingo! You nailed it sistah!

And Ada Louise Huxtable, the one exception and a true objective critic who truly cared and wrote about women architects who were great designers, wept.

Flash-forward 2012. I will not even go into great detail of what I experienced first-hand on repeated occasions by the wife of a prominent architectural theorist and critic in New York who hobnobs with the 1% cream of the architectural world. The wife, although in her 60s and a former aging beauty with a language degree, who likes being the prima donna and center of attention at the “dinners for architects” she occasionally throws, has probably been the perpetrator of one of the most horrific cases of “sexism”  I have faced. Invited at their place by their daughter, initially I was very excited to meet her, thinking she would understand our plight.

Alas, this was not to be.

I was at this time in a very high level position for a very well-respected European firm, whose founding partner happens to have male-model looks. She giggled and flirted like a schoolgirl around the chap – ignoring my presence and credentials completely, occasionally cutting me down if I attempted to give my opinion on some work of art or literature, and as a final cut – which I learned later – belittling and critiquing me viciously in front of other established male architects. Till date she’s never warmed up to me, despite my being warm and welcoming to her.

I finally received some comfort when another woman architect my age finally told me in confidence that she had observed that “women in non-professional branches who ‘used to be hot’ and had a history of being the proverbial “mean girl” and now no longer have the clout they used to earlier – tend to be one of the meanest ones out there – who, instead of developing a motherly empathy, use their influence in their husband’s social circles to bring down any other woman, regardless of age, they feel threatened by.” The last I heard, this critic’s aging wife was trying to get into Oprah’s O magazine for a “60 and hot” or some such photo-shoot. Hmm. (She continues to correspond with the “hot” young male architects, as well as the male musicians her daughter hangs out with, but I have now been cut out from those dinner circles, despite some feeble protests by her husband who had genuinely liked my work, but now is more than a little afraid to praise me before his wife.)

As for myself – the option of living off the grid, far from the madding crowds and rat-race is beginning to seem more and more appealing :)

Do the male architects who recognize this come to defend the talented women in their field? Well no, why should they? In a world where they anyway have to compete for mileage and recognition among politicians, actors, male musicians, tech CEOs – any attention and coverage is deeply desired and fought for. In their own inter-male competitiveness, why even bother to worry if their female counterparts are getting due credit or not….Instead, sit back and enjoy the catfight – as you bask in the wide-eyed attention that female bloggers, event hostesses and critics are willing to give you – in their attempts to play Dominique to your Roark delusion.

And thus, alas, this backstabbing-in-the-female-species works best in the favour of the young male starchitects. In the double standards of sex in our society, the women who lose out are usually the smart,  individualistic, feminine ones who by entering fields of work largely dominated by men, face both sexism and stereotyping from the men AND sexual politics from other women. While women engineers and architects are the ones who perhaps do the most for female equality by entering hitherto-male-dominated technical professions without beating a drum about it, they get largely overlooked by the mainstream media and pushed down by their own male colleagues and female art critics.

While the media either promotes the usual clichés of giggly materialistic pampered cosmo girls or alternately male-bashing women’s-lib-yelling-lawyers or at most, the smart-caring female-doctor,  the 10%-15% women in technical fields largely remain unknown.

And “sex and the starchitect” continues to remain a largely male bastion to this day.

But you gotta hand it to Bjarke. His achievement honestly comes from his talent,  his work ethic and a refreshing departure from stuffy protocol and actually daring unapologetically to take architecture to an infectious level of public accessibility for the media. His (and his team’s) work is  well-thought of, the logic with which he derives his solutions show brilliance and clarity; his designs would have made Utzon proud, and are mostly based on genuine eco-sensitive principles – something he now calls “hedonistic sustainability”.

I have met him several times after, since our first meeting and he is always grounded, always humorous and genuinely good-natured.  His unassuming humourous sexual metaphors in his thick accent don’t hurt either. Even his firm as an unintended pun is named BIG. Or big.dk to be precise. There is always something comical about him, (despite his underlying seriousness, and if there is melancholy – he sure knows how to hide it well in public) – whether he’s pitching projects peppered with archispeak or showing a cartoon of an octogenarian Philip Johnson mouthing  “I am a whore.” As Bjarke points out in the opening minutes of his video posted above – from ‘Less is More’(Repression) through to ‘Less is a Bore’ (confused realisation), and to the post-promiscuity of ‘I am a Whore’ (purely in term of architectural excess, you pervs)  we should move on to a stance of self-acceptance and affirmation with ‘Yes is More’.  

And I hope someday – in some just future, in the proverbial nomansland of the overlap between fantasy and reality – a smart, savvy, sexy young woman architect who truly made it in a  nearly 90% man’s  profession will be able to and be allowed to accomplish what Bjarke Ingels has done. And no longer have to cloak her sexuality or femininity behind the she-men/asexual/womyn clichés of misconstrued feminism.

Yes, Oh Yess! and Yesss to that!

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Trivia : Architects (and architecture students) who went on to have successful music/acting/writing  careers include: members of the band Pink Floyd; Seal; Art Grafunkel; the band Air; a few band members of Tool;  Geroge Takei; John Denver; actors Jimmy Stewart, Anthony Quinn & Samuel L Jackson; actresses Ashwarya Rai & Courtney Cox; writer Arundhati Roy; Graphic artist M.C.Escher. Scrabble-inventor – the American architect Alfred Mosher Butts. Weird Al Yankovic; rapper Ice Cube; fashion designers Tom Ford & Bill Gaytten; Avant-garde theatre set-designer George Tsypin.

For more on the sexism in architecture : http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2005/feb/19/workandcareers.jobsandmoney1

One of the world’s most talented and innovative architects Denise Scott Brown (Venturi’s better half) writes about the sexism in the star system of architecture. A must-read: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic753413.files/14_Outsiders%20in%20the%20Profession/Brown_Sexism.pdf

For more on the bitter-sweet story of Jorn Utzon and to be inspired by a man who designed one of the world’s eight wonders amidst insurmountable opposition and whose name was not mentioned in the inauguration of the Sidney Opera House – here’s an interview of his when he finally broke his silence : http://ericellis.com/archive/utzon.htm

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A follow-up discussion on sex, role-models & the quest for a balalnce between feminism & femininity: Racqueting on a grass court (or) Lost in Idiotization

An architect’s take on the cultural monstrosity of the Sex and the City movies: Sweatshops for your sex and the city too.

How Waterloo Engineering’s Dean punished a woman mechanical engineer and suspended the ENTIRE SAE team because the female student had worn a bikini: An Inappropriate Punishment.

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Update 2016: I ended up being featured in a New York Times article talking about sexism in architecture, following the death of Dame Zaha Hadid. I was asked to send my head shot and to come to the Times office for a photo-shoot by the woman journalist who’d written the article. The photo-editor – a man, asked me to e-mail him some headshots – and then wrote back (and I have his emails) that I “looked too glamorous to be an architect,” and so my photo would not be the one used as the featured female architect although my quotes would be.

Later that year an independent arts magazine published an entire feature on me and my work and although the main image has me looking more like a “traditional” woman architect, I insisted that I wouldn’t do the interview until they used one of me where I DON’T suppress  femininity nor glamour in my appearance. They conceded.

Baby steps ;)

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