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.

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Sweatshops for your Sex and the City Too

My blog stats are showing that this post has been getting thousands of reads  from both sides of the Atlantic (and a trigger to launch a secret movement by straight men in the west called ‘no more wussification!’ & its sister movement ‘Greater Dignity, Fewer Shoes! more self-reliance, less Choos’  – kidding on that bit but it would be nice!) But thank you readers! – GG.

SWEATSHOPS FOR YOUR SEX & THE CITY, TOO.

(UPDATED Post – with a Super Sweet 16 video to show the end product of your ‘fabulousness’ and the link to a video showing the heart-wrenching heinous reality of brand-name Fur products that our fab-four have touted throughout the series and in the first movie.)

(OR)

HOW ABOUT A REALITY CHECK?

Warning: This is a post written for those with a blunt or INTJ sense of humour and those who don’t mind seeing the harsh reality behind consumerism without sugar-coating. Readers who might be offended for calling a spade a spade, or a boob a boob and don’t get the humour or a reality-check, proceed no further. Same applies to those who blindly think that SJP  has the same sex appeal as Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly. Stop right here. (This is very hard to explain  to many women, but something only straight men and women who are artists will understand – it’s something evolutionary that we can’t explain – on the same line as the ingrained biological differences between men and women…like the attraction to a certain waist to hip ratio for instance. So those women, please don’t confuse gender equality – which I’m 100% all for – to gender ‘sameness.’)

This post is suited more for straight men and for women who are individualists and had enough with the consumerism/shallowness touted.

Others, you’ve been warned ;-) and I’m not going to engage or deal with Miss cyber-bully-with-BPD (you know who you are – although you’re using different names, your IP address is the same.) Amusing how you spewed full force for my tiny photo at the end, and the fact that placing a mouse on it enlarged it. Deal with it, lady. I’ve done 7 years of architecture (a B.Arch & a M.L.Arch) & 10 years of work on the field.  And have slogged  very hard in life (since you’ve been sending me those vitriolic e-mails). And if my sarcasm or the fact that I’m a woman architect ‘upsets’ and ‘offends’ you, well, too bad. This is my personal blog – and you are free not to read it. (To those women – I’m  that girl you used to bully back in school for being the nerd who was good in studies and music. And doubled the bullying even more  ruthlessly if she happened to look nice.) Also, can the other miss cyber-bully (who has claimed to be a feminist,) give a logical explanation of your claim that my photograph on a site ‘kills feminism’??? I’ll state it directly lady – what you mean is that I should  look ‘manly’ and/or hate cooking in order to qualify for your concept. And you’ll defend me only if I shed all traces of femininity. Or walk around with an utterly misconstrued sense of ‘entitlement’ based on gender alone, without any hard work or self-reliance like that horrendous sense of entitlement with which the women in this film plodded on.  Sorry ma’am- ain’t happening here – I’m too objective – and think BOTH genders are EQUAL and being a woman does not ‘entitle’ me to be pampered. Nor would I look for ways to enhance myself at the cost of unfair man-bashing based on sweeping generalizations. Please take your notions elsewhere.

It is ironic that empathy is not reserved for bonded laboureres, child sweatshop workers or  the real victims of misogyny in rural villages, but truthfully calling shallowness -”shallowness” is seen as ‘not having empathy!’ Oh Rationality, where art thou?! Those wishing to spew ‘stead of humour, here’s a bit of Monty Python to lighten up: The Architect Sketch or chill out on my ‘Jazz’ page. And for those girls wishing to get  more upset by more sex and  women in architecture, go here: Sex & the Starchitect.

Next.

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So I went to see the movie Sex and the City 2  mainly to write a post about it. At a theatre near Cambridge, MA, for a matinee show and a ticket price of five dollars which I think is just about what I would pay during this recession to not partake in the overindulgence of consumerist frivolity that this movie endorsed.  I went alone as I have never ever dragged any man nor ever will to watch chick-flicks. Deliberate man-torture is not my style and I’m happy to say that I have also never dated any man who was into chick flicks. As for my other girl friends they are not the groupie-type either, so for that matter I have never watched any chick flick in my life with a gaggle of girls either. And here,  I don’t know if it’s because it was Cambridge or Harvard or just the student population around Sommerville theatre…..but surprisingly the main movie hall contained only 11 other women, all alone, watching the film and the only group was of two girls. Later I would read that in many cities this was a huge girls’ night -out event.

And oh my! Oy vey! Holy moly! I have only one reason I can think of why they made this movie: The cast and crew badly needed the money. A TV series that had started off as witty and sassy, despite all its sometimes funny, candidly open yet mostly frivolous messages, has sadly demised into an orgy of stuck-in-time ogresses touting consumerism and navel-gazing shallow, selfish ‘pain’ over trinkets and trivialities.

March of the Aunts : Part 2 of the Trilogy Lust of the Ring

Where should I begin? Perhaps it is best I write my peeves and pondering as an analytical list, and the rather unsubtle and unsettling messages the movie sent. Those in doubt, may go see the film to truly understand where this analysis is coming from. Really :

Message no. 1 : “We are preening, privileged princesses”: Let’s start at the beginning….the cheesy fairy-tale ‘once-upon-a-time’ opening line was already a dekko of what was to follow for two and a half hours of this ‘orgy of excess.’ Or a ‘greedfest’ as the Independent rightly called it. A story that prefers the omission of facts and the gritty underbelly of the world that makes your consumerist luxuries possible, ladies. To create a ‘magical’ fairy tale world of fantasies far removed from the reality of the sweatshops from where a lot of your shoes and bags come from.

So we have close –ups of the Chrysler building in the opening shot. Many, many of those till you scream internally – ‘I get it, I get it. New York City.’ Yes – we know it is New York City. A city which does have a few other buildings too, you know. Perhaps the ‘Abu Dhabi’ part of the movie was in tribute to the fact that  90% of the Chrysler building is currently owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council? Those in doubt – can wiki ‘Chrysler building’ to verify this fact. I felt like saying – yeah, go ahead bellas- ignore the 10% women architects who ARE doing something silently and unconsciously for gender equality so your Blahniks and Choos can walk over our designs.

Just to insert some reality check about the Chrysler building here’s an interesting fact (from wiki) about the man who designed it:

Architect William Van Alen had failed to enter into a contract with Walter Chrysler when he received the Chrysler Building commission. After the building was completed, Van Alen requested payment of 6 percent of the building’s construction budget ($14 million), a figure that was the standard fee of the time. After Chrysler refused payment, Van Alen sued him and won, eventually receiving the fee. However, the lawsuit significantly depreciated his reputation as an employable architect. His career effectively ruined by this and further depressed by the Great Depression, Van Alen focused his attention on teaching sculpture.

I had to insert that geeky fact up there just as a brief respite to clear my head from the frivolous ‘fabulousness’ that paraded for more than 2 hours before my eyes yesterday afternoon. I’ll try to keep the rest of the post geeky-free.

Message no.  2: “We are super-sexy Fabulous femmes even with our saggy boobs as long as we display them fully flapping – I mean fully drooping – I mean fully propped up – I mean…..we ARE beautiful, aren’t we? Validate us! Please, please validate us!:” Ok – I should clarify here (for my lynch-prevention by SJP fans) – I think the actresses (SJP & co.) who played the parts in their REAL life are nice ladies who went along with the script and fashions, and I am also sure that in real life they would have touted more relevant values and causes had they been made more aware. (Though an article in a UK newspaper details how the main character took home all the clothes and accessories for free and her nexus with the store that uses the movie for marketing its products; and some of her online interviews are so navel-gazing at one point going off for 15 minutes on David Letterman about her facial mole removal and not one word about the world except “I, I’m like, I, I, me?me?me!” Really. Give me Charlize Theron or Hilary Swank any day – those ladies came up in even harder ways in life – or the more privileged but smart Amanda Peet – and still are some of the most grounded, truly intelligent, outdoorsy and aware-of-the-world actresses in real life.) In any case, my take is more on the characters depicted in the movie, not the actresses in their real lives. So here goes:

We are greeted by the ‘fab-four’  and by the time the film ends you wish the scriptwriters had looked up the dictionary to find that there are more adjectives than ‘fabulous’ – a word that is flatulently repeated ad nauseum by every character. The original series, despite its unrealistic lifestyle-on-a-columnist-salary and $800-a-pair-shoe-buying message which ended up teaching many a young woman to have bad financial acumen and go into debt and look for sugar daddies to support a forced fairy-tale lifestyle (and as Gov. Spitzer’s former escort Ashley and actress Lindsay Lohan have confessed that the series were the ‘inspiration’ to their lifestyle), at least had some wit and sass, a refreshing sexual openness and candour not seen before on television and some hilarious scenes and dialogues. (one laugh-out-loud-line of Samantha outlining how oral sex felt paradoxically ’empowering’ to women: “You may be on your knees but you’ve got them by the balls.”)

And though I was younger than the age group the women portrayed in the series, I am told that it captured to some degree the reality of the dating and party-girl world of NYC in the late 90s, and early 2000s city life. This film unfortunately is like a female version of watching four retired flabby-bellied male Casanovas trying to recapture their old glory days and womanising with limp, tired, flaccid members. Only, here it’s 4 females in some sad effort to lubricate their labia with a vaginal Viagra version of nagging and complaining.

When I Googled Sarah Jessica Parker, Google’s  autocomplete popped up the sentence next to her name ‘looks like a —-’. I’m not kidding. It’s a dark humour site, and though disturbingly hilarious is a bit mean, though its profits go towards retired NYC city steeds. I began to wonder if Google had some inside joke with the South Park creators who had recently made an unkindly funny spoof about the star. In the looks department, I have to confess, that though SJP maintained a killer pair of legs, her other ‘pair’ needed some props, to say the least. (And whatever else, kudos to her for not having gone the silicon way.) Only Charlotte looks appealing on the big screen and Kim Cattrall, once so gorgeous, would do better to dress more age-appropriately. No offense,  she still looks ‘fabulous’ for 52, but a little dignity goes a long way. I don’t care so much about fashion details and embroidery, girls. I judge beauty more the naked way – skin, body shape, perkiness and facial bone structure. If that makes me like a man, can’t help it. I do have a mildly-aspie-male math brain and am a painter of the female form.

Should looks be important here? Yes – Only because ‘sexy looks’ and ‘fashion’ ARE what have often been the selling points of the SATC series so I think an objective appraisal should be made however politically incorrect it may sound. (Meryl Streep, unconventionally beautiful, for instance is naturally and uniquely sexy and dignified in every role and at every age precisely because she has never promoted herself as a sex icon but as an actress of exceptional abilities, which she is. And therefore she will never and absolutely rightly so, never have to contend with the objective criticism that the fab-4 have brought upon themselves. At the other spectrum, at 51, Madonna who has promoted herself as a sex icon always lives up to that image and does look unbelievably sexy and photogenic even now, and therefore can never be, and rightly so, never be criticized because she has lived up to her status without disappointing. Unfortunately our fab-4 failed to be both Madonnas or Meryls and yet are demanding the same adulation without the work – and I think that is what is so disappointing and feels forced for most rational people to accept. That is why the truth has to be spoken.)

I hate to say the truth for what it is: But the only visually redeeming breasts in the movie are definitely the Irish nanny’s.

Perhaps Carrie and Samantha should gracefully let the next generation take over when it comes to revealing exposed bosoms. I think women in their late-40s and 50s look more elegant if they wear tight turtle-necks with a bra underneath that could show the shape of their breasts and waists or perhaps V necks- that enhanced some parts instead of displaying full blast tired cleavages and droopy pears with sun-ravaged skin? Unless of course, you do have great skin and a real ageless bust like Monica Bellucci and some real natural beauts.  Ladies, with all due respect, the art of ‘sexiness’ is revealing sparingly with some element of mystery. When you have every body- part propped up or hanging out there in middle age, it just looks, well, sadly desperate. As though you are unable to gracefully pass the torch on to younger girls, rather than entering into some competition with them.(The same applies for men too – those Dorian Gray men who refuse to grow up.) Your ‘sexiness’ would be so much more appealing with some dignity, you know?  It would have presented such a better image of mid-aged women and not turned the real and far more grounded ones into jokes now. Take a page out of the glamorous yet superbly dignified and sexy Sophia Loren’s book – she and other older actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn and some others aged so gracefully without losing their sense of style. Perhaps there is a reason why Mr. Big is watching 1950s black and white films – wondering when did the woman’s sexual-freedom movement end up losing feminine dignity and mystique? (Or perhaps, he is figuring out that he should pull some hedge-fund investment scam  to continue supporting his royal smugness and her royal nagness in their over-priced lifestyle?)

Message no. 3 : “We don’t want men for husbands, we want rich whipped-wussies”: I saw a cartoon last year: “The road to economic recovery: Gay marriage registry.” In light of that perhaps the scriptwriters decided that an exorbitant film version of a gay wedding was exactly what we needed. Or perhaps because SJP largely owes her ‘fashion icon’ status immeasurably to gay men rather than straight men. So we are put through a 30 minute over-the-top wedding at the movie’s start with a dilated eyed-Liza Minnelli cavorting around with many gay chorus men. Really – girls who have dragged their boyfriends to watch this film, please, I repeat PLEASE see it as a sign of their selfless love for you. Had I been born a man, I’d have refused to be bamboozled into watching 2 and a half hours of this self-absorbed nasal-nag-shag-entitled-hag-torment. (The irony is that straight men live and have relations with straight women in real life. Yet gay men have decided to lay down the rules of engagement in heterosexual relations. and have promoted it through the films. Does this sound illogical and ironic to anyone else, too?)

The wedding scene is more relevant for eerily realising that the gay men seem to have more chutzpah than the straight men in the scene, because – lo and behold! the straight men in the form of the docile husbands of three of the women have invisible signs stamped on their foreheads: ‘Operation wussification complete!’ To think that these have become the new ‘representatives’ of manhood! There seems to be a silent competition of which husband can outdo the other in wussified docility to their nagging wives. Mr. Big takes the cake – his wussification and metrosexualizing has been so severe over the years, he has resigned to the finality of life with his long-faced, entitled, insecure and jealous wife. (The scene with his brief conversation with Penelope Cruz is a pointer to Carrie’s insecurity.) I don’t know what I preferred more: His past smirky smugness and indecisiveness or his present mildly abused persona grappling for some freedom by asking his wife if  he can take two days off his marriage every week…now why do I keep remembering captions and photos from the hilarious satirical site Unhappy Hipsters? (it’s on my blogroll those who wish to take a gander – absolutely worth it.) 

And boy – to think that Carrie is seen as some ‘unique’ woman in today’s world??!! Which the scriptwriters remind us a few times through the film. To think this consumerist complainer with her closet full of shoes and chain-smoking past habits (which has obviously taken a toll on her skin) and someone who in the series had cheated on her grounded nice-guy boyfriend with the then married Mr.Big and had displayed shallowness on many occasions even back then is seen as some ‘role model’??!! The reason she is so popular is because unfortunately she is so ordinary and there are so many women like that  who hoard excess, that to make them feel ‘special’ and justified for their consumerist overdose and self-centredness, this movie has been made. That’s what you get when you have a book written by a former party girl picked up for a TV series – although Candace Bushnell’s novel had some literary class and sassiness and it was a critique to this brand-worshipping man-chasing lifestyle as being ultimately hollow, not a glorification as the series turned it into.

I am waiting for John Edwards’ mistress to write a new book to launch another tsunami in the name of ‘women’s sexual freedom.’ You already have Gov. Spitzer’s former escort writing a sex column for the New York Post (not that she shouldn’t, or that they should be judged – it’s their life, but it’s funny sometimes the road to media notoriety that suddenly makes someone an ‘adviser’ in this country. Will that be filmed into a future series to ‘educate’ young women? Is it possible to get any more confused in the name of ‘sexual freedom’?) Harry Mount in the UK Telegraph has given a spot on review of why this movie is so popular amongst many women. Mediocrity of intellect and looks packaged as ‘special’ sells as it does not incite jealousy and therefore has more mass appeal. Period.

Except for a last somewhat redeeming act of a little generosity to a hotel staff in Abu Dhabi, throughout the entire movie Carrie comes across as the shallowest, naggy-est, most self-absorbed person of the foursome. (Miranda at least has some smarts, Sam has some humour despite her nymphomania, and Charlotte still seems sweet-though-overwhelmed, though you have to wonder what mother cries more over her ‘vintage Valentino’ skirt on the phone than be understanding  of her daughter’s playfulness.) Carrie instead gloats over her huge closet and an Imelda-Marcos-shaming shoe collection. She shows no gratitude to the husband who has paid for their lavish Manhattan apartment and for those shoes and clothes. No. Not at all. Instead, when the husband comes home tired after a beating in the stock market she nags and laments and uses guilt-trips to drag him to a movie premiere, only to whip him back the minute a lovelier woman talks to him. How about a back-rub to that husband who pays for your Choos, honey? She shows a lack of empathy bordering on clinical NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) as she fights with him for feeling tired after a long day of work. She raps him for placing his feet up on the expensive couch. She refuses to cook even one home-made meal reminding that she is more ‘Coco-Channel’ than ‘coq-o-vin’. Looked more ‘croc(odile)-o-whine’ to me, hon. She complains like it is a great tragedy that he has bought a flat screen TV as her anniversary present and not ‘some jewelery.’ Finally she does get some jewelery as her ‘reward’ after she has hurt said husband by smooching an ex.

So, husband gets a third degree at home for conversing with a bank president played by the beautiful Penelope Cruz and missus gets a giant diamond ring from husby for inciting his insecurity by smooching her ex and reporting it to him on a work morning with not one statement asking him how his work is going or if he is stressed out for the economy. Really, what kind of message are you sending women out there who are your fans precisely because they can identify their own shallowness, selfishness and materialism in you? To say that I found a lot of this sense of entitlement and self-centredness disgusting is an understatement. Sorry fans of the foursome – to me, that doesn’t come out as some woman’s ‘liberation’. That comes out as husband-abuse and narcissistic selfishness.

Message no. 4 the oft-repeated lesson of the series in general. “Crazy sex and skin exposure is the only road to girl-‘power’: Was women’s sexual lib necessary? Absolutely. 100% Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And it did exist in many ancient pagan cultures in the form of goddess-worship centuries  before Judeo-Islamo-Christianity masculinised religion. (Take a look back at the kamasutra and the romps of Greek and Roman goddesses.) But the past century’s  woman’s lib movement was necessary especially after many male-dominated centuries when women were suppressed and discriminated against. Does a woman have as much right and privilege to sleep around and enjoy sex and many sexual encounters the same way as a man? Yes. Absolutely. Undoubtedly. Without being judged and only if she wishes to. NOT  due to peer pressure or because media messages in the present age influence her to.

But is this sexual-romping the only route to women’s ‘power’ as this movie and series has tried to endorse? ‘To have sex like a man’ – which was the slogan of the series to begin with? Perhaps this is where I raise the voice of reason. And concern. And raise rational questions. Because to me ‘to have sex like a man’ is such a superficial skin of real strength or girl-power. Isn’t this on the same level as the line ‘dress like a man’ which was one of the bra-burner messages? Only now instead the ‘act like a man’ or ‘be tough like a man’ has been replaced by ‘have indiscriminate sex like a man with hundreds of partners because the TV tells you to.’ To me personally, I would feel more powerful if I could rather have ‘sex like a self-assured woman’ and choose NOT to sleep with any man or random stranger who wants to. Nor give it so easily and indiscriminately. Don’t get me wrong, I am an  imaginatively erotic person in exclusive relationships. But the man has to be worth it for me to go that distance. If you spread yourself so thin,  as the series promoted, doesn’t sex lose its value and become just some ubiquitous meaningless act?

In her recent book  ‘Enlightened Sexism: The seductive message that feminism’s work is done’ a scathing look at the messages that became rampant starting in the late 90s, professor and cultural historian and critic Susan Douglas makes a similar argument that in an orgy of the over-sexualised facade of ‘girl-power’ the over-sexualisation of girls, young and old,  is now seen as harmless and funny and in some weird way feels like a ‘creepy triumph.’ In a sarcastic ending she ‘dreams’ of the day ‘baby thongs’ and ‘baby pole dancing classes’ will become a normal practice. To quote from the closing lines of her ‘Sex R Us’ chapter which takes an objective assessment of the impact of Sex and the City and other TV series on contemporary culture, she concludes:

“So the question of whether the sexualisation of our culture is good or bad for females may not quite be the right one. More important is how girls and women have been sexualized, how that’s different from the way men have been, and what the consequences might be. Because while an increased frankness about sex in the media might indeed seem to be a liberal, even progressive advance from the days when the Catcher in the Rye and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were censored, the content of this media, the way girls and women appear in them, may often be as sexist as it ever was. The new hedonism and the sex-positive talk to, about, and among women in the media, which seemed so fresh, new, and controversial, was the shiny cellophane that helped mask a Mars-Venus discourse about men and women being fundamentally different – and thus maybe not equal. It also deflected our scrutiny away from the under-lying message: women were nothing without Mr. Right and so they had to do anything they could to land him. This is sexual liberation?”

I couldn’t agree more. Basically now the ‘new improved’ cultural reality of the message taken by many women in North America is :  70 years ago modesty was the value promoted to find Mr. Right. Today immodesty is the value promoted to find Mr. Right. What is my peeve with this?  The fact that the ‘means’ have changed but the ‘goal’ a.k.a Mr. Right remains the same! The fact that the  misguided message  sent  is  that a woman’s personal happiness is not tied with a strong sense of self of her own, or self-confidence, self-reliance and dignity, but more with actions directed to finding that Mr. Right to ‘complete’ yourself rather than finding yourself first before seeking ‘completions through others’ and/or obsessing about complementing another and then obsessing about ‘changing’ him/’holding’ him/ ‘wussifying’ him. My point is that a woman’s feeling of security (and sexiness) should  come from within – through a grounded sense of Self – whether without OR with a man; independent of the frequency or presence of  penises popping in. Mr. Right is not the goal, but should be rather the person who sees and appreciates you for who you really are and joins you in life for the Right reasons.

Message no. 5: “We have the kitschiest taste in books.” A book on faking your body clock written by dazed and confused new-age Hollywood quack Suzanne Somers makes an appearance early on in the film as Samantha’s inspiration for pill popping to stay young and the book pops up again in the finale touted by other women. Enough said. I do not even wish to get into the pseudoscience being promoted by Somers. People – prepare to see many pre-menopausal women shooting up oestrogen injections through their vaginas in the coming years thanks to the free-promo the movie provided.

I’m not the only one who has a complaint against her book. Newsweek wrote two articles on the craziness and questionable safety standards of the pseudoscience promoted by Somers. “Doctors who specialize in treating menopausal women feel they’re fighting a tsunami of misinformation. Highly sophisticated, unsubstantiated and downright dangerous marketing is leading women to go in and make demands for these bioidentical products, believing them to be effective and safe.” And here’s more from that article since Somers has been claiming how ‘successful’ her treatment is: “If you feel compelled to read Somers’s book, do so carefully. You’ll find lots to question. For example, she says bioidenticals kept her slim but then later complains about weight gain. She says she feels great but then later acknowledges that after years on bioidenticals, she was bleeding so heavily every day that she recently had to have a hysterectomy. That’s the kind of success we can live without.”

http://www.newsweek.com/2006/10/30/a-blow-up-over-bioidenticals.html

http://www.newsweek.com/2009/05/29/live-your-best-life-ever.html

What is so sad is that these women had such a loyal following and such a strong influence on millions they could have used it to promote 10,000 better and more ethical things and causes  I can think of – environmental sustainability, green design, frugality, moderation, organic gardens, a self-reliance sans penis-count or jewelery-negotiations, the horrors of sweatshops or the skinning alive of furry mammals for the fur fashion industry – and instead they chose to promote the most vapid, superficial, materialistic means of refusing to grow up gracefully and wanting to remain caught in a time-warp like female Dorian Greys. (Also anyone in doubt to what extent consumerism and hedonism in the US has increased need look no further than the nauseating reality shows – My super sweet 16, and the Real Housewives series which, alas, our ‘fab-4’ mention in the movie.) Infrastructure sustainability planners are up against an unbeatable tide and a losing battle crying out in vain that if this consumerism continues, a tipping point of no return will  be reached; that Americans have to stop the propaganda of excess that has become the dream-standard of other women in other nations too; that this lifestyle is just not sustainable for the planet- financially, environmentally, and I think I should add – even in the self-esteem department.

Message no. 6: We alone are emancipated women. All other cultures have backward, suppressed, fully clothed women. And because the radicals among Islamic men are conservative and dangerous and we can’t teach them a lesson without getting killed, we’ll make the American men pay the price for their crimes, by default that they are ‘men’ and hence should pay for the sins of other brethren of their gender:Hard to believe, but this is certainly one of the most illogical messages sent out in this film. In fact Sarah Jessica Parker in a gushing promo interview compares the plight of women in the Arab world to the ‘struggle with traditional roles of women right here in New York City.’ Puh-lease!!!! As a person who has traveled widely and seen and worked in many places of the world (including the Arab world) and as I have often retorted – you CANNOT, I repeat cannot, compare your ‘suppression’ or ‘misery’ of non-matching-purses-with-shoes and no-dinner-appointment-at-fancy-resto to the very real suppression that goes on in some other parts of the world. Materialistic self-absorbed selfishness like that is just SO appalling, I do not even know where to begin! For a reality check, the movie is banned from theatres in Abu Dhabi, so don’t compare your ‘crisis’ of which boyfriend you get to shag to the choices of public expressions of affection women have there.

The message here is the same illogical one that just because women elsewhere are suffering, we Blahnik-crazy shopaholics will bash the men a little bit more here, in NYC. This skewed logic is the same as how some people in relations treat the guy/gal in their present life like dirt to pay for the sins of a past lover. Doesn’t make sense, does it? But no – in this movie where our fab-four cannot think beyond their own problems, they look to the Middle East to draw parallels to their own lives. Miranda complains how she lost her job because she was a woman. How they can’t be more ‘free’. Can these gals think of anything or anyone beyond themselves and the mantra ‘me, me, me, buy-Blahniks, me, me, me, poor-me chicks, me, me, me, ogle-at-men’s-dicks?’ I will not mention it here but a certain quote of Nietzsche came to my mind halfway through the movie. And it had nothing to do with the resemblance of a certain actress to……

The eastern ethnic ‘man-servants’ at the luxury hotel are of course shown like genies to our princesses in an excruciatingly painful-to-watch colonial attitude and we begin to suspect that the hag-four will not be satisfied till they have whipped their own husbands back in Manhattan into servants in the future – all  in the name of women’s lib, of course.

Ok – I have to hand it though that the scene in the finale of Samantha flicking off ultra-conservative Islamic men surrounding her was a funny one. I rather enjoyed that, having seen firsthand the suppression of women that does go on in some of the rural parts of those countries. I think in that one redeeming act, Sam did echo the sentiment that many women feel of being enraged at the overtly (and sometimes criminally) patriarchal system of misogyny that goes on in rural areas there. Now that was a cathartic scene. One that touched a personal note to me, as well, as I recalled the time on a construction site long back in a certain conservative country these  really nasty men  had beaten an innocent girl falsely accused of being ‘immodest’. I was so enraged, I had picked up a bull’s balls from a butcher shop and (without revealing its source) had shown it to  those men and swung the balls around saying that if any man dared touch her or abused any other woman in their community, I’d snip his balls off. I was playing on the ‘eye for an eye’ dictum that works in certain rural areas. They let me be and backed off from the girl and the women thanked me later. I did have a couple of guards with me, I must confess, so I didn’t get torn to pieces myself. Those Americans wishing to know more about the condition of rural Islamic women can look up blogs written on the  Doctors Without Borders website, or even the recent TIME magazine issue.

But other than that, the condescending way in which the foursome talk about Arab women and their dresses is quite patronizing again. Agreed that dress codes are very strict there, but in desert climates (and I’ve been there) the sun is so scorching and the sand so fine that to protect your skin from premature wrinkling and even skin cancer, being covered is often the best option. But of course, in the movie the four  dames were shown as proponents to ‘woman empowerment’ through – well, human rights causes? No. Investigative journalism? No! Going to rural villages and setting up schools or encouraging/buying the textiles made by local women there to help them financially? No!! They were shown as ‘empowering women’ by – get this – singing karaoke. Yes. Really. By singing ‘Woman’ just before picking up a man at a bar.

I wanted to yell out – Hey ladies, the world’s greatest and most futuristic woman architect who has built many ‘fabulous’ fantastic contemporary buildings all over, including in Abu Dhabi and won architecture’s highest prize in the world, is a British Iraqi Muslim woman – Zaha Hadid. She is the only woman amongst the top 10 all time greats of architecture. (And just so you know has designed possibly the sexiest pairs of shoes, chairs and cutlery,other than buildings, too. Read my ‘Sex and The Starchitect‘ post) And she is such a powerhouse of true strength, all four of you together couldn’t even hold up a matchstick to her. And hey, just so you know, there are many countries of the world other than America which have had woman presidents and prime ministers since the 1950s. Here’s a list. How’s that for a reality check? Could it be that in some countries women just choose not to translate their power or liberation through rampant sex but rather in more substantial ways – such as ruling entire countries (and some of them are Muslim, just so you know.) And the longest ruling woman leader in the world of course was a secular Hindu (i.e. Indira Gandhi. Maybe she didn’t wear tube tops in public to show her freedom, she just was free to become the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy.) Here’s a list, just for some FACTS and not fairy tales for instance:

List of women Prime Ministers: http://www.terra.es/personal2/monolith/00women3.htm

List of women Presidents: http://www.terra.es/personal2/monolith/00women2.htm

And talking about the U.A.E and our foursome’s take on ‘freedom’ I had to write the following incident because their premise on thinking they were so ‘powerful’ while being slaves to their own insecurities just seemed so misguided. Last month at a long infrastructure sustainability conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the closing ceremony’s main speaker was a brilliant remarkable architect, planner and engineer who is the Director of Sustainability for building an entire 3 sq. mile eco-city in the U.A.E. and has a doctorate from U.K’s top school and graduated from UAE’s Engineering University. This person is a grad from Harvard Business School, a former deputy Director of the Abu Dhabi Police Force AND has scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro. And guess what – she is an Arab WOMAN, who wears a head scarf in public. She has spoken on panels invited by President Clinton himself, Brad Pitt apparently gushed on meeting her, and she is in charge of building the world’s first zero carbon footprint eco-city in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert. Sorry to say, but in the U.S. in the sexist culture of architecture, for a woman to reach that level of leadership and power in engineering is still far away. I heard her speak at the conference and was blown away by her intelligence, sharp wit and the amount of work she has done. She spoke to me later (without the head scarf, which she only wears on the stage) and I was  so inspired by her beauty, confidence and strength in person. Here’s a link on a newspaper article about her before her Harvard stint (check it out):

http://www.abudhabiweek.ae/component/content/article/54-movers-and-shakers/1706-a-view-from-the-top-nawal-al-hosany?directory=69&Itemid=69

Why do I feel, ladies, when I read this, that I want to shake her hand and say she has done more for women’s freedom without losing her femininity than the parade of frivolities I saw you present in the movie where kissing some ex was seen as a ‘highlight’ and ‘crisis’ in your life. How sad. I must say Miranda, this lady in the news, Nawal Al-Hosany, is much more ‘liberated’ and a greater trailblazer and true pioneer who has battled sexism and come out with flying colours much more than even you have. You judge her by the scarf on her head, and not by the brain in her skull or the courage in her heart. I’d like to see how you would behave on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. From what I saw, you had to all carry an entourage of ‘slaves’ for just an afternoon in the desert and at least a dozen suitcases EACH for a week of vacation. I weep for the way you have stereotyped femininity, and especially stereotyped N.American women, for the masses.

Oh, and guess what, she and others like her I have met, treat the men in America as equals and with grace and respect without indulging into the power plays and wussification-whipping-and-complaining that your foursome parades as ‘girl-power.’ I also must confess that in my group of friends when we meet we talk of global affairs, design trends, the economy, ethics and tons of other things and keep our private sex life details private. I am not a Muslim and neither are my four best friends who were raised in N. America, although one of them is originally Lebanese (and a doctor). For those who wish to argue that SATC represents only privileged white  women, let me say that those best friends are white, educated, middle class and one  of them was born extremely privileged. And yet I can say that hardly any professional/non-professional, grounded, intelligent AND truly liberated women, regardless of their colour or ethnicity or financial status, really have the time of the day to get together for gaggly lunches 4 times a week and obsess about men or analyse every inconsequential statement they made. They’re too busy for that. And there are far more interesting things happening in the world than man-obsession. Really.

Message no. 7: “We crave for consumerism and have no clue of what goes behind, nor global realities.” Hey – girls, how about the sweatshops that make your purses or the bonded labourers who work on the construction sites of Abu Dhabi which created the hotel you salivated over?

There will be many bloggers and female reviewers who will gush about the fashion, the hair, the makeup and yada yada yada. I might be having some girly chip missing – I was born without it. Sure, I do groom myself well, and like keeping fit, but I will never, repeat NEVER understand the appeal of garish overpriced designer clothes and shoes and purses (the cost of which could literally save many lives of street children). Last year on a trip to India, I saw the sweatshops where many Italian companies manufacture their sunglasses and purses before they are shipped off to Italy to get the ‘made in Italy’ stamp and then sold in NYC boutiques. We can argue that these provide the locals with jobs. True. But the money you spend ladies to buy those Fendi purses would fund the education and food of 30 street children per purse. I kid you not. 

I’m writing this here because I do know from personal experience and application how little it costs to sponsor those children due to the currency exchange rates. And I support birth control methods too, because I do strongly believe that people should first think of the reality of the quality of life they will offer their children before making them. But regardless, omission of facts does not take away the reality of the sad manufacturing process of luxury items that are touted as ‘status symbols’. The sweatshops are in many other countries too. So, since pictures speak better than words, I decided to include here instead a behind-the-scenes imagery of what or who lies behind the making of your shoes, purses and clothes that grace your arses. And the appalling conditions under which the construction workers who build your luxury hotels in the U.A.E live. Just a reality check, madames. Omission of facts does not omit the truth about the world. And your fake fantasies do not obliterate the realities behind your royalty:

Sweatshop labourer for designer shoe, Vietnam

Gucci purse worker. Earns $1 an hour.

Awareness ad showing the the reality of the Apple I-Pod worker

Designer fabric beading sweatshop, India

United Arab Emirates – the beds of tired construction workers

Here’s an article on  child labourers used in a GAP sweatshop:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/oct/28/ethicalbusiness.india

On the condition of sweatshop workers for Gucci, Prada and your overpriced status symbols.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sunday-mirror/2007/12/02/designer-labels-sweatshop-scandal-98487-20191613/

And here’s an article on the human rights watch of the construction workers who made your $22,000 a night suites.

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2006/11/11/uae-workers-abused-construction-boom

And hey, Miranda – maybe you could have represented the real tragedy of these girls instead of Samantha’s ‘pain’ of not being kissed in public.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UNqiqm3L90&feature=related

And do you really want to know what goes on behind the fur industry of brand name products as well as cheaper stores? Fur, that Samantha you laughingly wore in the first movie, to feel sexy, and that Carrie and Co. have consistently touted since day one of their TV series that brought back a revival of fur products into city stores through the free advertising they provided? Take a gander with Stella McCartney here who shows the torture and literal anal electrocution of innocent animals whose fur is used for many designer (and non-designer) label clothes.  But perhaps it will make you consider how truly evil women who see fur as sexy and fashionable really must be to knowingly adorn this.  (Unless you’re into bedding those who knowingly endorse the skinning alive of mammals.) There are many alternative warming products available instead of fur.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rhFj2NfBsI (And this has been long known in the fashion industry and still continues! and is furthermore promoted by our ‘fab-four’ throughout the series and in the first SATC film and their star-struck followers. Remarkable, truly mind-rapaciously remarkable!)

If you also wish to see the unbelievably evil skinning-alive-for-fur video that Vogue and other high-fashion authorities have tried to bury please read this post, where there is the facebook link of the video that fashion houses do not want you to see: Literal skinning alive of innocent animals. Warning: That video is too gut-wrenching especially the end. Do NOT watch if you are squeamish. https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/saltationism-of-silliness/

If anyone has some sense of ethics or humanity and rationality in the world, I challenge them to read these, watch the links and then go and watch the movie and then realize just how nauseatingly hedonistic and heartless it seemed. I will be writing a separate post one day on the purse sweatshops I saw run for Italian designers. I want to say to the ladies in privileged countries: we cannot change many conditions, especially for those who were born due to their bad luck into poorer and sadder places, but what many  women in N. America CAN do, is nag and complain a little less, be more aware of global issues instead of their ‘princess attitude’, and stop this hedonistic consumerism that subsists on a slave society of letting the less fortunate slog for your luxuries. And unless you’re so heartless that you endorse the skinning alive of animals not much different than your dog and cat (and including dogs and cats in many countries), STOP buying fur! And shopaholic women – stop wishing  your husbands to become man-servants and instead make them more aware of realities other than your whiny dinner cancellations. And most of all, stop using sex as a negotiation game.

[If you really want to see the end product of what you are promoting here – Charlie Brooker looks at the mini-narcissist ‘princesses’ who have been produced by their mothers in the show Super Sweet 16. Perhaps you will now see how this ‘harmless fun’ & ‘biased misogynistic reviews’ as some rabid women defenders of the film termed this hedonism as is nothing more than a new form of globalized slave society. I would feel more enraged that real misogyny and torture of child workers is not considered by these so-called ‘defenders’ but calling these heartless women out on their emptiness is seen as wrong??!! Wow! ]

Message no. 8: “Male architects are sexy beasts”: Oh boy, the past few years seem to be the comeback era of ‘architect sexiness.’ I had actually written a post on it way before this movie came out: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/sex-and-the-starchitect/ The only somewhat masculine man (who has not been wussified) featured in this movie is a Danish architect who captivates Samantha’s desires. I actually know quite a few sexy Danish architects in real life and their girlfriends are all introverted non-consumerist grounded women who prefer camping and the outdoors to shoe-a-holicism; my ‘sexy Danish architect’ friends said that Samantha is really ‘not their type.’ That those women embody everything about narcissism and consumerism that Danish urban planners and their current culture has tried so hard to veer away from in the last few decades, leading to their present culture of post-consumerist moderation, eco-sensitive planning and an emphasis on happiness based on less, not more. In fact they were a bit embarrassed by ‘the sexy architect’ stereotype that they get stuck in. “It’s just a fantasy for the American ladies” said one. “They would find us too quiet and frugal if they knew us. And that we don’t want to change to fit into their unrealistic expectations.”  “The reason the architect in the film wanted to fuck her on the beach is because, as a Dane, spending $22,000 on a hotel suite would seem just too much of a waste,” said another. There you have it ladies – your ‘Lawrence of the Labia’ as Sam gushes out doesn’t crave for you enough to pay for even a bed for your booty.

Sorry ladies, I’m not done with my dose-of-reality yet. The sexiest Danish architect by far, creator of the Sydney Opera House, Joern Utzon was happily married to his childhood sweetheart till his death. And a recent extremely popular ‘young sexy Danish architect’ (who shall remain unnamed here for his privacy) had a long-time very sweet, beautiful and highly intelligent girlfriend who makes documentaries to outline human rights injustices and prefers bicycles and camping to anything that remotely resembles the activities Sam & friends partake in. And he is a fan of some really good literary works, reads the philosophy of Nietzsche and is a fan of film maker Charlie Kauffman and Christopher Nolan, all several cuts above the Suzanne Somers book you read and the movies you promote. So there ladies – I’ve given you a reality check of what the sexiest amongst male architects really prefer. Most male architects are quasi-schizoid and are so darn busy with work, they are lucky and grateful when they can maintain one steady relationship and are quite faithful to their partners. The same applies for the ‘sexy women architects’ too ;-) Selfish consumerist Casanovas are not our cup-of-tea either. Perhaps it is a telling message when the above mentioned Danish architect in the movie reminds Samantha that sometimes it is more alluring when a woman waits and shows some restraint.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: Ok – so the series was funny and the first film had some ‘girly-bonding’ substance. (Sorry – I’m not the girly-bonding type– never was, never will be, and my girl friends are individualists, but I can understand the necessity of female-bonding for most women. (Unfortunately  I belong to the INTJ personality-type on the Briggs-Meyers, only 0.005% women are. To the woman who found this ‘offensive’ (?) and sent me personal attacks on the comment section of my post, please know – we were the introverted girls in school who were bullied and left out of groups (and double if we looked nice). Finding our ‘type’ was probably one of the first steps to feeling normal for many INTJ girls. Here’s a link – so you know where our ‘self-confidence’ comes from : http://typelogic.com/intj.html) But as I looked at these ladies grinding out on their over boiled franchise, I thought there is something called the last bow, you know….. it was better to gracefully take the last bow when the going was good than to end up as the ‘last ho’.

And hey – to those supporters of this clueless consumerist propaganda who might think I am some angry ungroomed  unfashionable radical ‘feminist’ – here, pictures speak louder than words. And yes, I have lived and worked in many cities of the world and am not some clueless backwoods girl. London, Paris, Milan, U.A.E – seen it all. As for my knowledge of the U.S. – I lived in Miami for two years, I’m in Cambridge for two years, and will be in Chicago for this summer and then am moving to NYC’s upper east side this fall for the next several years.  And have traveled extensively around many states of this great country, my Canada’s southern neighbour. So I do speak from experience and am not doing any illegitimate lashing at the superficiality promoted in the film. (And also, to that girl who had ‘issues’ against all posters, and while ignoring the 10 pages of sensible stuff I wrote, got belligerent at me  for posting my photo on my own personal site – deal with it.  I refuse to engage in your cyber – ‘challenging’. Lady, if  I really wanted publicity I’d have used my actual name and much better photos since I’ve also done print modeling. And I’d have name-dropped my forefathers well-known in  the poltical histories of  Britain & Sweden. I rather enjoy this anonymity. Have been the silent-behind-the scenes-politically-correct-do-gooder far too long to keep silent and invisible any more, and probably the consumerism touted in this film was the last straw on this camel’s back to speak up.)

You know what feels rather “empowering” to me, Fab-4 ladies? That there are other roads too. When you have made it in a traditionally man’s field through your own hard work and education & because you love your work; When you walk on a site as an architect and conduct yourself with dignity and rationality, in a way that every construction worker and site engineer treats you with RESPECT and not as some easy sex-object; and when you have not discarded femininity in appearance even as towers that define a city’s skyline based on your drawings get built. When you are aware of the inequalities that occur in the world and do your best to help in small ways. How’s THAT for women’s lib, eh? And hey- you DON’T need any overpriced designer-wear nor  indulging-in-male-bashing nor hundreds of lovers  for that.

(Those who wish to know more about what women architects go through, click here: where sexism is part of the architecture Just to know how tough it is to get to the point of building towers. And if you think the problem is men, you’re wrong. As strange as it may sound, the truth is, it’s not men, it’s also women in various self-righteous ‘councils’ and even radical feminist groups who neither promote, nor write about nor let women architects or engineers be more visible in the media : Sex and the Starchitect. In fact, a sincere thanks to the brilliant Christopher Nolan – that for the first time someone (he) wrote and created the character of a smart self-assured woman architect in a movie: Inception. I still have to see any woman screenwriter write of a woman engineer or architect.)

I’ve always questioned – Why should femininity be compromised for feminism? And I think femininity goes far deeper than touting overpriced garish outfits. I do love to cook, and see nothing demeaning about it at all. Yes, I do know how to make coq-o-vin, Carrie.  And speak French too. And think that when a man I love comes home tired after a long day at work, just as he sometimes likes to give me a foot rub on his own when I’m tired, I like to massage his stressed neck and back too instead of whipping him to pamper every whim of mine or accompany me to parties where you can have fun but he cannot even talk to another beautiful  lady because of your insecurity. Because, real love and caring comes with empathy and genuine warmth and being secure and confident at an intrinsic level– something all the ‘vintage Rolexes’ and designer couture and giant-diamond-bribes can’t buy. And Ms. Carrie & Co.– I am OK being a no-nonsense person. Both when with and without a man. Without the need for brand labels. And knowing not just what makes stunning interiors and tall buildings, but what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of the construction workers, the stone quarry workers in far out lands where the granite you walk on comes from, the math behind structural engineering that hold up the towers you show in your opening scenes, and the intricate cycle of production and consumerism and economics and infrastructures. It’s called being a REALIST. And I salute  all the grounded, hard working,  rational, kind-hearted, self-assured, realist women in N.America and around the world, ’cause to me – that’s undeniably  authentically sexy.

Stick that up your labia, for a change ‘stead of those hormone creams. And you’ll realize that perhaps the key to sexiness comes from within. And needs only its own validation of authentic self-affirmation and self-acceptance to operate and bring intrinsic pleasure and joy. Whether your vagine’s virginal or ‘vintage’ (to use Carrie’s ‘in’ word).

Dig Dignity, you know. Often, that’s what represents the It, the je ne sais quoi, the Sexiness that is timeless.

And hey, just for the record – you got that from the mouth of a ‘sexy architect’. I’m sure even the sexiest of Danish architects you lust after would agree with all the facts and realities of life I’ve outlined here ;-)

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Sidetracked Alert: To get that consumerist fantasyorgy out of my head, I just watched once again the Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy Before Sunset– probably the most realistic, romantic, grounded beautiful and dignified sequel ever made by an American independent film maker. And just to remind myself that there are still some women out there who can decipher fakeness from authenticity, I read these two witty, grounded, and oh-so-true articles written by Dr. Palmatier – You are Not a Princess (click here) & Blahniks for Selfish Chicks (click here.)

Finally – Some Sense in this City, indeed!

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(1) For a post on the lack of role models for young girls in the media today : https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/racqueting-on-a-grass-court/

(2) Do architects think of sex too much? Sex and the Starchitect : https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/sex-and-the-starchitect/

(3) For THE “ART’ OF COLOURING THROUGH RGB COMPOSITES OF LANDSAT7 & TERRA SATELLITE IMAGES click  here

(4) Thoughts on the relativity of happiness….This too shall pass.

(5) I’d rather go for the Monty Pythonesque Silly Walk than endorse the hideous YSL/Gucci/Prada Vogue-endorsed deigner purses made out of skinned alive animals for their fur : Saltationism of Silliness

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NOTE: I’m non-religious (and more a scientist & rationalist) and do not think ‘values’ of rationality or ethics are tied to religion per se.


A Heartfelt Comment

A HEARTFELT COMMENT:

I have to confess that a reader recently wrote something so touching with such a level of understanding, it truly moved me. So I thought I should post his comment. The actual thread is here, in the comments of a previous post. It was based on gender-stereotyping in our society when it comes to the way men perceive women as ‘naming colours.’ I felt that as an architect, structural engineer and designer who has worked in the field for over 10 years, I could see that stereotypes such as this end up affecting those technical-brained minority of women who DO work in the engineering and construction industry and are not the caricatured ‘girly airhead’ that a lot of people would like to portray ‘women’ as.  The debate also was about the ‘male-brain’, the ‘female-brain’ and colour perception. My reference to the ‘gender’ of the brain was based on an interesting study by Cambridge professor of Developmental Psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen on the ‘brain-wiring’ of those with ‘Aspie’ qualities. I was interested in his work on finding my own extremely high brain-systemizing quotient through his tests when I found after many years that the reason why I was interested since childhood more in those activities and occupations that are generally done by men, amongst many other characteristics, to be linked to traits seen in Asperger’s (the somewhat socially naive ‘inventor’-type Aspie, not the severely socially challenged type.) My brain systemizing quotient is 66/80. ‘Normal’ men according to Cohen have a score at ‘30’ and ‘nomal’ women have it at ‘24.’ Hardly any women at all have their “brain systemization” that high. Thankfully I  scored in a very high range on the ‘empathy quotient’ too, which meant that the ‘extreme-male-brain’ or the ‘picture-thinking’ which is my usual way to process information  had not come at the compromise of more ‘softer’ qualities. For more on Cohen’s book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Difference-Women-Extreme-Science/dp/0713996714

Both radical feminists AND some geek-girls (as I sadly found out) can be ruthless to those women who have chosen not to give up softness & style yet retained a sharp intellect.Its an either/or approach for the bashers.

But despite having been interested and involved in those activities and occupations that have traditionally been ‘male’ (engineering, architecture, mountaineering, flying), yet being outspoken – and not docile – to assertively say what I think, I have never believed in compromising my femininity or ‘softness’ in looks or poise. Nor given up my love for cooking, nurturing, painting or even knitting for that matter, or those traditionally ‘feminine’ hobbies that can be practiced in solitude and alone. And unfortunately I found that this has few takers both amidst radical feminists and even amongst certain ‘geek-girls’ who I thought would be less complicated but found out sadly that that isn’t always the case. I do not believe in the ‘man’ifying of womanhood or changing my biological hormones or chromosomes to act outwardly as some gender that I am not. And although I have always preferred rationality and logic over emotion in my choices and thinking, I do not believe in the ‘extreme’asization  of sexes and mannerisms or the either/or approach which seems to be the way both traditional and radical schools of thoughts and/or movements seem to promote.

In any case, what touched me incredibly is this writer’s empathy at the end of the comment. To know what strength it does require to maintain individuality without losing integrity. Especially for the women in architecture. So I decided to put this up.

Here is the comment:

“.….This(a reference to another comment terming “nothing inherently male” about computers, math or technology) fails to provide a complete survey of the entire landscape. From a biological perspective, there doesn’t seem to be inherent or biological differences between males and females on these fronts. If we lived in a world free of socially constructed gender roles, the chances of any given male or female infant growing up to be a mathematician, scientist, architect, or computer whiz would be theoretically equal. Well, we don’t live in a world like that. Little girls aren’t encouraged to go into these fields as readily as little boys. In many cases, they’re told that boys are better at math, and research on stereotype threat has demonstrated that these kinds of stereotypes actually lead to exactly the kinds of deficits that they tout. The stereotypes are self-fulfilling in that way. They lead to anxiety and stress, and contribute to their victims underperforming their male peers on math and science tests, undoubtedly sending many careening off into careers more “typically female.”
Just because we want something to be true (socially constructed stereotypes don’t exist, and have no adverse effect on women) doesn’t mean it is.

The fact that I point to these socially constructed gender roles as impediments to females’ success, does not mean I support them. (though I realize that there is a certain brand of feminist who love to kill the messenger if there aren’t any other worthy targets in the vicinity.) My point being that because of the extra barriers to entry for women trying to enter predominantly male fields, the ones who do make it would tend to be most qualified, the high achievers, the outliers. I will come back to this point in just a minute.

Men also have to subscribe to assigned stereotypes. Until recently, it was difficult to find many men working in the fields of nursing or teaching kindergarten (the nurturing professions) as these fields were, and still are to a large extent, seen as the province of women. And it’s still the case that most US courts will favour the mother in divorce/custody cases, as it’s assumed that children would be better off with their mothers, who are thought to be the inherently better parental option. You won’t see many men showing up to work with lipstick, or a nice blush to compliment their ties, or carrying purses. Nor will you be likely to find groups of men forming knitting clubs. There is nothing inherently female about any of the above activities – there’s no biological reason why I shouldn’t tote a nice purse around – yet, there exists a strong gender delineation there. The difference here is that my life won’t be adversely affected if I can’t throw some eyeliner on tomorrow morning before I head into the office. This is a gendered custom I can afford not to challenge. But what of the woman who is a natural born systems analyst or architectural engineer? Considering all of the obstacles that woman would have to break through, starting in childhood, to “make it” into and to the top of these fields, should we really expect that she wouldn’t be an outlier, that she wouldn’t be a somewhat atypical female? I can almost hear the feminist hive mind buzzing as I write this: “Typical female! The nerve!” I submit: Stephanie Meyer is not a multimillionaire because boys are lining up for her books, nor is the value of any modern sports franchise dependent on the burgeoning interest of young girls. Whether the forces that led to these differing interests are “inherent” or not is essentially irrelevant.

Some women, against all odds, are able to buck the stereotypes. Gipsy Geek works in an extremely male- dominated field. In order for her to have built a career for herself there, she would have to endure far greater hazing than any of the men did. Additionally, if she is as stunning as those eyes might suggest, then the hazing must have been doubly worse. I realize it’s terribly un-PC, but one issue that isn’t spoken of enough in regards to gender stereotyping, is that specific flavour of bias faced by intelligent and talented women who are beautiful and sexy, but not slutty, and who don’t downplay their feminine sides. To be able to hold on to this brand of feminine identity AND be successful in a male dominated field takes an immense amount of strength. And I, for one, think this should be rewarded, especially by other women, because if there is any hope of us breaking free of these deeply embedded gender myths it will only be through the example of women who are willing to stand alone.    – D

Reader who wrote this – I cannot thank you enough – it really brought a lump in my throat and all I can say is thank you for nailing the isolation I have often faced. People think it is easy. It is not.  Often if you have too many interests, you will never ‘fit’ nor be accepted in any one group. And somehow this becomes doubly difficult if you are a woman who has not compromised femininity entirely for feminism. Few men understand the strength it takes to keep going. And women, even if they understand it, resort to more envy and back-stabbing than loving support. Thank you reader, for your insight and empathy. My reason for placing your comment is  both for its wisdom about gender roles and out of gratitude.

And thanks to him, I received an apology, by someone whose intentions were good, but who had misunderstood. And hers was  a true, genuine misunderstanding compared to what I had  faced earlier and later by a bunch of girls who I mistakenly thought I was defending but found sadly that you will be accepted in certain geek-girl groups only if you go all the way and maintain a dorky appearance and are no threat to the geek-narc-queen. I found even in girl-geekdom intense territoriality and  a vicious brand of intellectual-competition-and-annihilation (that could put even girly girls to shame) exists and women who flock around the ‘geek-King’ can be incredibly vicious in their power structure and politics and display a peculiar form of ruthless unempathetic cerebral NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and backhanded politics. Perhaps those who are bullied for being geeks turn cyber-bullies instead? Or maybe the true measure of character at the end just comes down to goodness and ethics that hearts contain, and how secure you are with yourself – whether one is a geek or a non-geek.

I am finished defending any ‘group.’ And choose individuality. Yet. Again. And  men and women who are similar to me. Or those women who understand the value of the blend between feminism and femininity. And goodness. And for those who wish to term self-respect as pride, frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn. You are only proving Freud’s projection theory true. Multi-dimensionality and paradoxes have few takers in the world, and even fewer supporters. Sad, but true.

And those who can’t stand multi-dimensionality in others, deal with it. Take your group bullying and cyber-harassing/blocking/virusing/ganging elsewhere. You’re up against one that has climbed many rocky cliffs before.  In real life. And is not afraid of her strength nor her curves. And may I point out, that there is a difference between strength and power. A secure woman stands for the former. The bully uses and salivates for the latter. And therein lies the difference. Whatever the form or disguise. Real strength comes from within. It needs no followers and is self-sufficient, self-generative. Conversely, ‘power’ from controlling others. It craves for followers for its sustenance. So women who wish to engage in power plays, take it elsewhere. Please. This is my cliff. And it has no foothold for those who are insecure and manipulative.


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Sidetracked Alert : I have been a long-time advocate against female bullying and had written a well-received piece about it in  the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph a few years back. But to learn more about bullying go here – the site run by a no-nonsense Bill Maher-loving & Rene-Magritte loving say-it-as-it-is Dr. Palmatier. For a book on female bullies from school to office – a good book – here. There is also a good book on female politics at work: Nan Mooney’s  ‘I can’t believe she did that : Why women betray other women at work.’ http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0312322062

Also to introverted girls in school (the Lisa Simpsons and similar ones) who have faced bullying before, I want to say: Those who will criticize you one way or the other, that is a form of using their positions of power. To them you have to say- ‘Your approval neither needed nor desired’.  One of the hardest yet most liberating things of life is to learn to say : “I do not wish to engage in giving  those bullies even a single minute of my time, nor the space of even a neuron in my brain.” But getting to this stage is absolutely worth it. The weirdness of life is that when you play a victim (whether you really are or not) you will have more people being understanding. But if you find inner strength and self-affirmation through your own introspection and effort, it will be termed as ‘pride.’ Maybe it is just ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-reliance’?  Women complain ‘there are not enough girls with healthy self-esteem’ – but when one comes along, there will be lengths taken to shoot that person down. (Translation of the shooter’s stance: ‘I, alone, am the example of a woman with self-esteem and I will help only those who come to my fold and who cannot threaten my superiority and affiliation with powerful men. Any other will be seen as a threat, and I shall not rest till she has been demolished.’ ) This is another form of bullying although it is disguised in more covert ways. And so women still will unfortunately largely remain the ones who will not let other self-assured women come to the surface. It is a sad truth of life which has to be accepted, but girls in high school reading this, remember that self assurance is the key to not suffer the consequences of bullying. As Eleanor Roosevelt said : ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ And if it still continues, here’s another quote of her (where I’ve replaced ‘heart’ with ‘brain.’): “Do what you feel in your brain to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

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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 a single 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. And while I won’t mention his name, I’ll only give one hint – he’s a “Prince” among architects – 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/scientist/academic, who is often nicknamed “Aragorn”- due to the physical resemblance in the film portrayal – 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, 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. Of course, the Queen among the solo practitioners is Zaha Hadid due to her unapologetic grit and tenacity.

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 more so – rather 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. 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.

Lip urinal by Dutch designer Meike van Schijndel

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 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?

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 yep – 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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