From a year ago….because it’s that time of the year again. (Follow the link)
From a year ago….because it’s that time of the year again. (Follow the link)
AND EVOLUTION CREATED WOMAN
On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (March 8th) – a list of all the past posts on this blog that featured women, womanly ways and/or womanhood as a theme. The good, the bad and the ugly of womanhood. Women who inspire your very soul, and women who irritate the heck out of you. The kind-hearted and the cold-hearted. And of course, what enchants me personally the most – the beauty (in and out) and the strength and serenity of those women who have real authentic goodness. (Click link to read post)
“How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.”. – Anais Nin (1903 -1977)
“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” – Sophia Loren. (You’re right madam Sophia…albeit those breathtaking curves of yours and Monica Bellucci help ;)
(The following post ‘Racqueting on a Grass Court’ was originally posted in April 2010)
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:
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.
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.
* * *
“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
(2) Saltationism of Silliness (Monty Python’s Silly Walks vs. the heinous cruelty of what goes behind fashion’s fur products.)
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.)
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.
* * *
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.
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’?) For once both film critics at the UK Telegraph & UK Guardian seemed to agree. That in a nutshell, this movie is so popular among many women because mediocrity in 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 has the smarts, Sam has the humour, 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.”
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:
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):
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:
Here’s an article on child labourers used in a GAP sweatshop:
On the condition of sweatshop workers for Gucci, Prada and your overpriced status symbols.
And here’s an article on the human rights watch of the construction workers who made your $22,000 a night suites.
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.
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 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 quite 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 : https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality ) 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.)
(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.
The Moth, For sure
her soFter MouTh
rose (eros), Fur, heM, hotT ( strictly from the perspective of how a dad views ‘mom’ – his wife)
Generally, I do not ‘observe’ a date just because some group at some point decided to designate a certain day of the year to commemorate some cause or event, either real or invented and which years or centuries later Hallmark decided to capitalize upon and for which hundreds and thousands of flowers are plucked and bundled up. Nor do I think that people who are truly important in our lives and to whom we owe a lot should be wished and remembered only on the one day our calendar has demarcated us to. But some ‘designated days’ perhaps are named after those people without whom we would not have popped out into this world. Literally.
So since I’d thought of writing about these women some day in any case, I thought that it would be only appropriate that I send them a virtual salute on Mother’s Day. And I’ll keep it short ’cause even before I completed this paragraph my geeky mind had veered off into all the different connotations of the word and somehow I’d found myself wiki-ing the word ‘mother‘ and its translations in different languages. But, thankfully, I’m back after that meandering away from the Mother ship.
I have four mothers in my life. There is no other way to put it. And no, my father did not marry four times. In fact he is still married to the woman who gave birth to me. I have four mothers because I received love and learned from four women through different stages of my life. And since I lived in different cities and countries where my birth mother wasn’t always physically present, I had my other mother-figures as surrogates by accidental meetings. But because of these four very special, very wonderful women I have learned so much about love, about life, about learning and logic and limericks and laughter, it would seem unfair to say that one was less influential than the other.
To this day they love me, and I love them incredibly. And so this is my little ode to each of them. Though I am inclined to not cite their names, more so because I am very private in person, I still feel I should. When out there in the media, so many shallow women battle to get their names in and mentioned through acts of notoriety, I’d rather put forth instead the names (or at least parts of the names) of four authentic, beautiful, brilliant , humble and truly good-hearted women. I have used the maiden name for my mother here, and for the other two the family name they go by, and only the last lady mentioned here took on her husband’s family name.
Mom no. 1 (A. Dutsch): My birth mother. The one who shaped my first perceptions of the world around me. Gentle, calm, confident, beautiful and rational-to-an-extreme. A blend of four ethnicities. A doctorate in philosophy with a major in mathematics and a minor in political science. A perfect 100% score in mathematics in her high school graduation. Former math professor and teacher. And also a yoga teacher for a while. Still practices yoga daily and can do envious 180 degree splits and twist her body like a pretzel. The one due to whom I was exposed to books of both western and eastern philosophies early on, particularly Russell, Nietzsche and Aurobindo. To books of math, physics, paintings, puzzles. And M.C. Escher – her favourite. The one who made sure I ate healthy meals; who encouraged my fascination for jigsaws, riddles, Lego, scrabble, gymnastics, ballet, science books, Tintin & Asterix comics and trivia-quiz books (while my dad was only too happy to teach me about car engines and geologic rocks on Sundays).
The mom who was tolerant and accommodating of every little wounded bird and animal and critter I’d ‘rescue’ and bring home as a pet; who made me a member of a library at age 7 giving in to my incessant pleas; who attended every major event of my academic and cultural milestones to show her support and love: my first dance performance, every theatrical play I featured in later, my photo-shoots (‘just to make sure the photographer doesn’t take advantage of you!’), my music concerts, my award ceremonies for various quiz and debating contests, when I graduated from architecture school as valedictorian and snagged both the gold medals; at the inauguration of the first project I designed from the company I’d started, the look in her eyes when I showed her my work was the best fee a young architect could get.
The one who was strict towards me at times telling me I could have a boyfriend only after I graduated from university. The one who stayed up late in the nights when I’d pull all nighters at work just in case I needed something. The one who went up to the Himalayas later to convince me to not become a monk in the mountains nor quit through escapism; the one who decided to learn and master the Russian language at age 40 ‘for a lark’ and ended up acing her class. The one who finally reconciled with my hobby for extreme sports and mountaineering. (I think now sometimes how she did it…I wonder how I’d feel if I ever had a child and knew that he/she did high-risk acts.)
Efficient, ordered, introspective. A woman who abhors guilt-and-pity-inducing-displays by adults and yet is an immensely generous donor to animal shelters and for sponsoring street children. Quietly and privately and anonymously. And still loves roller coasters and amusement park rides.
The mother who briefly teared up for only the second time I saw her cry in my life when I boarded the plane to go far away from home. The one who cheered as I won four fellowships in grad school. The one who would exasperate me at times reminding me of the writers, doctors, mathematicians and Euro-socialist politicians from her side of the family. That our “genes kick in sooner or later, until we use our Will to shape our futures.” The one who would call me ‘impractical’ because I’d follow my heart; till the day she finally admitted I was more intelligent than her and made good decisions.
The one who sent me long philosophical hand-written letters, who called in to check once every 2 weeks, who has a tendency to never display her own needs partly out of self-discipline and partly out of pride to never show her vulnerability. Yet almost telepathically calls me when she ‘senses’ something’s wrong at my end. The one who is so darn rational, unemotional and unruffled, at times I suspected this year that she might have a mild touch of Asperger’s. Who took so effortlessly to her first laptop late in her life without even any instruction manual that I had the aha moment that my mother all along had been an ubergeek born before her times.
The one who had told me to “be strong, don’t cry” so forcefully and repeatedly every time I’d come home after facing bullying in school, that it took me years before I learned to not be so Spock-like stoic, but take time to quietly cry if I did feel sad. The one who follows her head more than her heart (except when she had fallen in love with my dad at 18). The mom I have never ever seen screaming, yelling, raging or ranting. Nor ever fight with my father. Not one single day for all the years I have known her. The one who is calm and strength and stability personified. Whose girlish feminine voice belies the undisturbed steel inside.
The woman with an age-and-gravity-defying bosom (genes I’ve hopefully inherited.).
The one who loves discussing about science, philosophy, the inter-connections of the world around us, yoga, the problem with religious and medical quacks, sees the ridiculousness of most forms of ritualism and bursts out laughing at those…..the one who told me and often repeats: “There is no compromise to personal dignity.” (Please check the ‘AFTERTHOUGHTS’ addition at the end for a more ‘human’ painting that represents my mother.)
Mom no. 2 (R. Zimberg): Funny, fiery, feisty, optimistic, freckled, petite, bursting-with-chutzpah redheaded Rochelle. Where do I begin?
She took me into her house on Dudley Avenue one windy grey November night when I had to move out from two very cruel roommates during grad school. My landlady, my friend, my mentor on financial acumen, my part-time surrogate mom – to me and to many other girls who by an incredible luck in life ended up as her tenants.
A former Director of the association of Canadian municipalities for her entire province. Former Liberal Party of Canada member and election candidate. Breast-cancer survivor and proud of it. Avid golfer; dragon-boat-rower; Entrepreneur. Art-collector. Aunt to many kids, godmother to others. Never got married. An infectious laugh that brings a room to life. Canadian. Australian. Russian-Jewish. Had two cats, Peanut and Pi – the latter who lived for a record 24 years. Open, adventurous (at 23 she went off for over a year hitch-hiking all through Europe and the Middle East after catching a Dutch freighter from the port of Montreal after a visit to the Expo and later went on to scale the Tibetan mountains at the age of 65) and traveled widely. Went off for 3 years in 2006 to start up and work as a principal in a school in China. Wrote a series of ‘postcards’ about all her travels from Mongolia to Vietnam and everything in between.
Rochelle, who would leave treats for me when I’d come back home from long nights at the studio; who told me that a man ‘unwinds’ in front of the TV and a woman unwinds in a bubble bath jacuzzi. Rochelle – who drove me many times to the airport when I’d just be about to miss my flights; Rochelle – who taught me all the tricks and trades of good financial decisions, investments and financial independence and security; Rochelle – who loved hosting dinner parties with great panache, candles, silverware and all the works; Rochelle – who held me tightly as I cried inconsolably the evening my very first boyfriend broke my heart and when I was done crying I looked out at the yellow-pink sky after a storm and saw a rainbow and solemnly announced to her that ‘This rainbow is my new beginning’ and she said with all her chutzpah – “There you go, girl. Never, never have regrets in life; and never look back, only ahead.” Rochelle who– when I in order not to be noticed too much after an incident in grad school had started dressing dowdy – stopped me in front of the mirror one morning on the way out and told me: “Now listen. Never, never give up your personality and never dress dowdy just to appease those who are insecure. If you are a lady and other women get jealous of that, that’s their problem. And if men get attracted because of how you look, that’s their problem too. Promise me that you won’t lose who you are because of those who like to bully a good girl.” And then she made me change back from the shapeless gray smock I was wearing to an elegant red blouse – one of my favourite colours.
Whenever I come across any good-hearted young girl who has moved to or is visiting Canada, and if she needs some help or advice, my heart goes out to her like an older sister. When one lovely girl I met last year wanted to thank me, I told her it wasn’t necessary – I was only passing on Rochelle’s legacy. For once I had been alone and naive and because of her I had been safe from a storm. And even to this day I can call her when I want and talk to her about my life. My work. My dilemmas. Or lament why I tended to get attracted to insanely intelligent eccentric men, who would mostly turn out to be Jewish. And she would let out her characteristic laugh and say: “Oy vey! as long as you can deal with the Mother!”
Update (2010): Since writing this article, Rochelle went off on a two year stint in Egypt taking up another school Principal assignment. The revolution in Egypt started and she had to run to Israel for security. After her return to Canada, she will soon be off to Arizona. Her adventures continue……
Mom no. 3 (S. Brien): I fell in love with Sylvie at first sight. Completely. Irrevocably. Unfathomably. Not because she resembled a Raphael-esque version of a Marilyn Monroe but with higher cheek bones, not because she was the mother of the Frenchman I was with at the time and would stay with for many years, and not because of her poise and elegance. It was because of a powerful connection to a heart that was softly, beautifully, unconditionally good. Pure unadulterated Goodness. That stood out at our first meeting. The first hug. The first smile. We recognized something in each other that I still cannot find the words to explain.
She was the mother I still consider as the one who gave me the softest, warmest kind of unconditional love. My real mother loves me unconditionally too, but as I’d mentioned she is rational and ruled-by-her head. Sylvie was all heart. She took me into her family like a long-lost daughter. She told me that she’d always wanted a daughter, after her 3 sons, and had gone as far as trying to adopt a girl (which never happened as some corrupted officials of the country from where she was adopting, as she later found out, had stolen the money and bungled the process.) Sylvie herself had been adopted. Along with her twin sibling and two other children by a kind dentist and his wife.
Sometimes, when I need courage and/or inspiration in life I think of her personal story of strength and resolve. Her life itself, which I will not talk about, was like the fantastic plot-line of a novel – one that she herself should write a book about someday – as she had transformed from a mother-of-twins-at-19 to a lawyer to a best-selling author in French both for adult and children’s books. She became the first woman and only the second writer from Quebec that the exclusive French publishing house Gallimard had signed up and her books are widely read in both Quebec and France. Currently one of her books is being made into a film. When you hear a young girl on French TV say that her favourite young-adult writers are J.K. Rowling and Sylvie Brien, you know that you’re writing something that young teens love to read. Albeit the French market is very small.
In the last few years she has already produced 20 books and now makes her living as a writer. Complete with a cottage in the picturesque Laurentian mountains which she recently acquired. But when I’d met her she was still practicing law. A workplace accident that forced her to take rest for a year made her decide to write her first book and there was no looking back. The first book I still think was her best – a story about a woman’s journey through time and of love and loss, written with an extremely elegant literary flourish.
It is from Sylvie that I learned the most how beautifully a woman could combine femininity and feminism (that of inner-strength and intrinsic self-worth, not the angry ideological kind), to have kick-ass time management and organizational skills and yet retain soft-loving-kindness. To manage to be a mother, wife, writer, traveler without losing any of her strength to her delicate appearance. One day an evening a few years back, I was passing by a book store on a street in downtown Montreal and saw the store window lined with her books and a huge picture of her. The book ‘Les Templiers du Nouveau Monde,’ had been written a year before the Da Vinci Code and was a work of literature unlike the latter, but the curiosity of the Templars increased by the Code had boosted the sales of her book. Sylvie was very embarrassed about it and wished the timing had been different.
It was weird when I saw her poster – to me she was the woman who would bake the best banana cake at Christmas and serve a meal to remember every time I went to her place, but to the buyers in the store she was ‘an author’ for whose signed copies they had lined up. She’d take me along at times to her book readings and launches. She does not like driving and has a hard-to-resist vulnerability that belies her inner will. It is truly strange how when you know someone on a personal level, their public persona is something you can never get used to. Another book of hers went on to get chosen by the UNESCO to represent Montreal when the city was declared the world book capital in 2006. She has told me many times to write my own books and said it was an injustice to one’s heart to let words and thoughts remain unexpressed. “The first book is always autobiographical,” she said. “Therapeutic. And after that you are set free.”
The French literary world may view her as a successful writer for youth and adults, but to me she will always remain Sylvie, the soft, kind, loving mother who always wore her heart and vulnerability on her sleeve for me, who hugged me the day I went crying to her over my lost cat, the one who understood the cruelty of the world to women with good hearts, the one who always baked a cake for me on my birthdays and gave a thoughtful present on Christmas (including the very first bottle of French perfume anyone had ever gifted me), the one who took my side over her own son when he’d make errors, the one who even after I was no longer with her son warmly invited me to stay over at her house when I had moved away from Montreal and no longer had a place of my own to stay in the city on a visit back there, the one who told me that she loves me so much that the bond she and I share would always be there, no matter who I chose to be with. That some connections of love can never be broken because they are framed not by blood and legal ties, but by ‘the language of the heart.’ And by the recognition of inherent goodness.
Mom no. 4 (A. Hanganu): At Le Groupe Arcop, Anca was called the ‘resident nut.’ Lovingly of course. The first impression when I saw her at my first job at a Montreal firm (after my free-lance days) was of a woman who was unique. And exceptionally different in every which way. Stunningly beautiful. With the saddest, craziest pair of green eyes that saw right through you. Intelligent and talented to the point of insanity. And eccentric. Oh yes! Eccentric.
I told her years later that even though she was much older, I had felt an attraction to her first that had been strongly, alarmingly, almost sexual. (Nothing of that sort materialized in reality, for those with imaginative minds reading this ;-)
Anca, who could dine with kings and heads of state at building inaugurations like an elegant fashionista in the most refined locales of the world, then fly off in a rickety helicopter to do a project all on her own for a school in rural Bangladesh, then go off to exotic lands like Tajikistan, forests in Madagascar, tea gardens in Darjeeling and war zones in Afghanistan. She possessed the stubbornness of a mule, the courage of a lioness and the litheness of a gazelle. A mother to two gorgeous daughters. Today at 62, her works and designs as an award-winning architect are splattered through the world.
The firm paired us up almost immediately in the year 2000. “She’s a very difficult woman to work with,” said Bruce, a senior partner, “but for some reason she likes you a lot and you seem to get her. Yes, in fact you seem to get along very well with her. Damn, I think she loves you.”
The question was – how could I not get along with her?
This was a woman after my own heart. Free. Feminine. Fearless. And incredibly, yes, incredibly, unfathomably kind. The same Anca, who could grab a contractor on site by his collar and speak to him like a man over some construction issue, could delay a meeting at work if she had to help some stranger on the street or fight for a social cause where someone had faced injustice. Her work in the world included as much architecture as it did social justice. Especially for the women in forgotten parts. With an abhorrence for publicity and an adherence to only her integrity. To write of her works would take an entire post so I will not include them here.
With her I had spent countless hours at the office, pouring in cups of coffee and poring over drawings till 4 in the morning at times. Accompanied her to crazy places and sites and discussed design with the passionate fire that had kept us in the profession despite all its trials and tribulations. Straight lines, sinewed curves, drafting, daftness, defiance, devotion. We would often describe the thrill we got as we created concepts and designs to an orgasmic experience. It was largely due to my proximity and dialogues with her that I got released to be free with the sexual metaphors that are used in the architectural workplace. Anca was uninhibited. Wild -yet-principled. Never cared for the status quo nor gave a damn for protocol. She still remains that way.
Those long nights of work, dinners at sushi restaurants, little gifts she would bring for me from her travels, free discussions about sex, philosophy, life, love, those caring, loving, wild, free, gypsy eyes…..it is always with a twinge that I remember both the exhaustion and exhilaration of working, working and designing with her, before she sent me to work for her famous and even more eccentric husband as he asked her if he could ‘borrow’ me at his firm.
I never understood how she loved him the way she did, and one day I understood when I felt that for someone else. When I did, I told her husband words he said he will never forget: and which had made him cry: “I often used to wonder how your wife can love you as she does, no matter the difficulties and disappointments you have given to her in Life, although you are a genius at your Work. Most would say she’s a fool to love you the way she does. But the truth is, and it shows in her eyes, she stays by your side as your greatest supporter, your deepest lover and your most faithful friend simply because she loves you. Immensely. Her love is so complete that it never edits out any part of you. She had once said to me that when you had married her she had told you that she would love you just the way you were and you never had to change a thing. I can see now how she lived up to her words. Once, when I had asked her how she could put up with all your moods and ways, she had told me laughingly – “It’s so easy!! People like to complicate things and look for all sorts of intellectual, philosophical, material and psychological explanations; but the simple truth is that when you love someone completely and unconditionally, it all becomes easy. SO easy!!” And she had laughed in her carefree and mad way. I used to wonder what force kept her going. But now I understand that when love is real and based on acceptance and not expectation – nothing, that’s right, nothing that that person says or does, no matter how his moods sway, all of him is taken in by the love you hold for him. That love like that lives, inspires and redeems for itself.”
Yes, it was understanding Anca and her unique way of perceiving the world that made me decipher something very powerful in life. A lesson even more important than the work and the architecture that had bound us intrinsically together and lived through our joint designs in sandstone and steel. silk and stucco. Anca my work-Mother who taught me what real love, talent, passion, artistry, invincibility and eccentricity truly are and why those qualities when added with everything else makes a woman so remarkably unique.
Here’s to my four mothers! The scientist-philosopher, the leader-entrepreneur, the poet-planner and the architect-activist. Definitely the four most important and influential women in my world who taught me lessons on love, life, logic, language, laughter and learning. I wonder sometimes if life chooses our mothers for us or we choose the mothers in our life…in any case I feel incredibly blessed to have had both. A happy day to my quartet maternelle – and to all the kind, loving, wonderful mothers around the world…
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AFTERTHOUGHTS ON MOTHER NO. 1
I realised this evening after publishing this post that M.C. Escher is my mother’s favourite artist along with Dali and Picasso, so the Escher etching represents more her mind or her mode of thinking, but it does not represent her femininity. So I chose two paintings which to me capture my mother’s essence the most and her favourite colour blue; her high level of comfort with her body; her love for the ocean; the way my father whose hobbies included photography would capture her in his photos in earlier days; and the way I myself had photographed her once draped only in blue fabric. The woman in ‘Le Magie Noir’ represents more her calmness – her abstract, yet complex mathematical way of thinking while the one in ‘La robe du soir’ is more of my first memories of her physical appearance and her long hair. It had to be Magritte because if Escher is the ‘harder’ representation of her mind, Magritte is definitely her softer, mysterious side.
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Note: When I had started this blog I had promised myself that this would cover topics that were not just reflective and thought-provoking, but that in the process of sensitivities, the harder and not-so-pretty facts of life would not be omitted. So in light of the day, I’d like to point out that those of us who are lucky in life to have had good moms, consider yourself exceptionally fortunate. Unfortunately for some people, and I hope that is a real minority, this may not be the case….Long before neuroscience and experimental psychology found how stress-and-fear related hormones like cortisol in our systems can be permanently affected by the way a mother loves/or does not love her children, and how so much of our mothers’ behaviour affects our psychology later in life, Sigmund Freud had already found the connection between mothers and children in the shaping of our future patterns and choices in life. So in order to keep the truth objective, and to leave it to the reader to continue their own research should they want, I have attached this link about a new book that has hit the stands ‘Mean Mothers’ by Pegg Streep and its related article : ‘Freud was right : Mean mothers can scar for life.’ For those of us with good mothers who were not affected by BPD, NPD, HPD and other mood/empathy disorders please feel lucky, very very lucky. And perhaps that itself is enough reason to wish your mother warmly today and at many other times through the year.
Also – Rebecca Walker- the daughter of famed feminist Alice Walker – writes how her mother’s fanatical ideologies tore them apart, and how her mother’s public persona of a woman’s rights activist was sharply contrasted by the reality of how ruthless, emotionally withholding and narcissistic she was in her private life towards her own daughter. A must-read : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1021293/How-mothers-fanatical-feminist-views-tore-apart-daughter-The-Color-Purple-author.html