Give credit to “The Crown” for schooling us on the anachronistic culture of gentlemen’s clubs. The show’s depiction of the Thursday Club, of which Prince Philip was a member, is all squeaky chairs and sexual impropriety that reeks of unreconstructed masculinity.
But what would a women’s equivalent look like today? Now we know, thanks to the Wing, an all-female club and co-working space, with branches in New York and DC, that’s responding to the #TimesUp moment by creating a safe environment in which women can network and socialize.
“When we think of a gentlemen’s club or even contemporary social clubs, we imagine these dark places, filled with smoke, taxidermy and dark leather,” explains 31-year-old Audrey Gelman, a former Hillary Clinton press aide, who founded the Wing with Lauren Kassan, also 31. “We wanted to take that idea and turn it on its head.”
The results are clean, brightly lit spaces filled with midcentury-modern furniture and amenities including free blowouts and a lactation room. (Not to mention celeb guests like Hillary Clinton herself, who popped by last week for a talk.) The design is “sophisticated, smart and intelligent, but unapologetically feminine,” Gelman tells Alexa.
Whether the best way to respond to gender segregation is with more gender segregation is about to be tested, after the New York City Commission on Human Rights launched a “commission-initiated investigation” into the Wing’s membership policy (which excludes men from joining) last week. That policy also means that those who consider themselves gender nonbinary, like “Billions” actor Asia Kate Dillon, may have a hard time passing the Wing’s admissions rules.
But, as Gelman points out, dedicated women’s spaces are nothing new. “The idea for the Wing was really inspired by the women’s club movement of the 1890s and early 1900s,” she says. “These spaces made a huge impact for women, who could come together and organize during times of political and social change. Here we are, a hundred years later, in another time of change, and we wanted to create a space where contemporary women could do the same.”
She and Kassan aim to cultivate an environment where the aesthetics match their ethos of empowerment. With the help of designer Chiara de Rege and curator Lolita Cros — who fills the locations with works by acclaimed female artists like Cindy Sherman — the two have produced what Gelman calls a mix between “a color-coded women’s college library and the cool Danish apartment of a girl with whom you’d want to be friends.”
The Wing is more focused on community and inciting a cultural movement than it is on advancing women’s careers — although that’s also a perk for members, who network with one another and learn valuable lessons from a variety of panels and events held at the space.
“The community aspect of the Wing is the heart and soul of it,” says Gelman. “It’s a space where women can get together, make friends and share ideas — then hopefully create some real, tangible change.”
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