The long read: The Wing is a private members space for women that claims to be an accelerator for feminist revolution in the US and now its coming to the UK. But how progressive is it really?
On a recent weeknight in midtown Manhattan, a trickle of professional women wearing sheath dresses and smart blouses swept into a delicately lit penthouse. The space they entered was filled with women quietly working and chatting, seated on an array of curved pastel furniture, designed to fit the precise ergonomic specifications of the average woman. The womens computers bore stickers reading Im With Her, Hermione 2020, and Cornell. The colour-coded bookshelves behind them included works such as 50 Ways to Comfort a Woman in Labor, Suffragette: My Own Story, and Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.
It was a typical Wednesday night at The Wing, an exclusive club that describes itself as a network of work and community spaces designed for women of all definitions. For between $185 and $250 per month, US Wing members or Winglets, as the company sometimes calls them can use the space to work, eat, socialise, breastfeed, shower, network, exercise, nap, reapply their makeup, meditate or all of the above. In other words, The Wing is a one-stop shop for the performance of contemporary mainstream feminism, a meticulously curated space where women can blow-dry their hair or stage a small coup, depending on the day.
Audrey Gelman, the companys co-founder and CEO, often tells The Wings origin story roughly as follows: she was working as a press secretary, and later as a political consultant, dashing from city to city and from meetings to parties. This lifestyle forced her to change her outfits in Starbucks and Amtrak bathrooms, places she found semi-degrading. She dreamed of having a more dignified place to go, where women like her talented, outgoing, highly ambitious could find like-minded souls, get changed and charge their phones in peace. Thus the idea for The Wing was born.
The company now has eight locations three in New York City, and one each in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington DC, with five more scheduled to open imminently. Its first international outpost, on Great Portland Street in London, opens next week. Second locations in London, San Francisco and LA are in the works; there will be 20 Wings by 2020. Over the past two years, The Wing has raised $117.5m in funding, attracting a formidable and diverse array of investors, whose ranks include Serena Williams, President Obamas friend and former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and members of the US womens soccer team.
Since the moment it opened its doors three years ago, The Wing has attracted the kind of buzz, funding and controversy usually reserved for projects involving Gwyneth Paltrow or Lena Dunham. (Not totally coincidentally, Dunham is a close friend of Gelmans and a Wing founding member. Gelman had a cameo on Girls, and was famously the basis for the character of Marnie.) The attention The Wing generates is, in large part, because it was founded upon a paradox: its brand is steeped in the feminist language of emancipation, empowerment and equality, while its business is based on one of societys most elitist institutions: the private members club. The result is that the company has become a kind of proxy for national debates over issues of gender, race, inclusivity, intersectionality and the limits and possibilities of neoliberal democratic politics. And yet, the number of people who actually belong to The Wing is still pretty small it aims to have about 15,000 members by the end of the year, slightly less than the monthly circulation figures for The Cricketer magazine, and 16 times less than the total youth membership of the RSPB.
Because The Wing is in part a co-working space, many of its members hail from professions in which office space is a rare commodity the creative class of writers, editors, freelancers, artists and influencers who make up the media. Handily, these are precisely the same kind of people who like to tweet, Instagram and write about the world as it looks from The Wing. This has ensured that even its minutest details, from the coffee to the furniture to the lunch offerings to the customised scented candles in the gift shop, have been deemed worthy of an article of their own. It also means that The Wing has been the subject of seemingly endless criticism accused of being too rich, too white, too cis-gendered, too feminist, not feminist enough, too liberal and not liberal enough. One former employee described it as a super-toxic place, while a British member told me that upon walking into The Wing in New York, she felt that she had found her holy grail.
Hi my name is Kareem Maize and welcome to my personal blog. I am 26 year old musician and information technology professional with a passion for learning new aspects of life everyday. On my journey to express myself I began blogging to share my ideas with others. Now I intend to write fun, interesting, and engaging content for my viewers to help them grow spiritually, physically, and mentally . The concept of belief systems and the law of attraction peak my interest!!! I believe blogging about my personal experiences, beliefs, and ideas is the best way to achieve these goals!!!