FEMININITY IN SILICON VALLEY


Hello, blog! It's been a year. And oh, what a year it has been. I'm not too interested in waxing nostalgic here since the ins and outs of the time since I last posted have been well documented on my Instagram. I will say, though, that if you've not kept up there, a lot has changed since I last wrote. Most notably, I moved to Silicon Valley to start my first real deal job. 

There are lots of very cool things about working in Silicon Valley. Free lunch is definitely one of them. Also, working at break-neck speed means that I've learned from and been responsible for a number of projects that wouldn't usually land in the lap of someone one year out of school. (Sending emails to millions of people, for example.) 

But outside of working hard and learning tons, there's one thing that's been particularly challenging: embodying femininity and flamboyance in the land of the hacker hoodie dress-code. 

It's funny—CEOs here wear Patagonia vests and sneakers. The CTO of my company rides around our office on a Segway. So if you're out there watching Silicon Valley and wondering if the real place lives up to the stereotypes, the answer is, "Well, sorta." 

One thing people forget to mention about Silicon Valley: it's a collection of about 10 suburban cities with no true center. After nine months, the relentless suburbia and the ultra-casual corporate dress code has left me feeling...hemmed in. 



One thing you don't see here very often is hot pink. Or dresses. Or neon orange. Or basically anyone taking fashion risks. The leniency in office dress code seems only to apply if you're forgoing professional attire in favor of the hyper-masculine anti-fashion uniform of hoodies and puffers, t-shirts, nondescript pants, and sneakers. 

I want to reclaim my fashion independence. I want to fearlessly wear what I want without worrying about who I'm shocking. This was rarely a worry for me in the past, but now I feel like I need to work myself back up to not giving a damn. 

My first step to re-embracing femininity and flamboyance has been painting my nails hot pink with disco sparkles. This color combo looks like a tacky Barbie car, but every time I see it (especially when I'm at the office) it gives me a private sense of satisfaction. Look at me, sticking it to the hoodie-clad man. 

Hot pink has become a sort of power color for me. Pink (also my last name) used to be one of my least favorite colors. It felt too girly, too frivolous, too sugary sweet. In the last year or so, though, I've realized that there is power in campy, saccharine performances of femininity. Especially in environments like Silicon Valley, where masculine norms permeate expectations for everyone's behavior, claiming and performing femininity becomes radical. 

In an attempt to emancipate myself from the false liberty of the Silicon Valley uniform, and in an attempt to reclaim a lost sense of self, I've set myself the task of dressing more flamboyantly for just a week to see what progress I can make. Here's what I've worn so far. 


The first day on my anti-corporate hegemony dressing journey, wearing a vintage fuschia top with flocked black polka dots and Armani Exchange jeans, Donald Pliner boots, and of course sparkly hot-pink nails. 


Day two, wearing a vintage tiger-print cotton jacket, vintage cherub earrings, black & other stories turtle neck. In my book, fantasy, camp, and high-femme elements are, in their flamboyance, all frequently grouped as "frivolous," and are therefore all similarly radical.  


And finally, day three: a very disgruntled shot of me looking into the sun (at long last!). Wearing my vintage baby blue housecoat with gorgeous embellished collar, my Ghost of Fry's tee, a Van Gogh scarf in my hair... embodying grace and femininity in small ways while wearing a picture of Valentina (an expression of my most fantastically feminine self) plastered across my shirt. 


Thank you for reading! Are you a femme-identifying person working in tech? I'd love to hear your thoughts about gender expression through fashion in the workplace.

CLOTHES AND INTERIORS, BODIES IN MOTION








Clothes amplify a body in motion. Yesterday as I walked the streets of San Francisco's Mission district, my pink skirt billowed and whipped in an unseasonably strong wind. The fringe on my jacket jumped and swayed with my stride. My handbag, which I held by its straps beside me, swung to and fro as I moved quickly up Valencia Street. My outfit, animated by my movement and by the conditions of my environment, was acting as a corporeal extension. 

This particular choice of skirt and jacket (both susceptible to energetic activation by the force of the wind) on this particular day significantly altered my experience of my body in space. With the skirt flowing around me, I became more acutely aware of the lyricism of my movements. And as I walked along the street, into and out of shops, up stairs, and along train platforms, I was aware of a rhythm and grace to my own motion, as if my body and my clothes were performing a swirling, improvised duet in front of me. 

Much like my interest in clothes, I am drawn to spaces for their potential to transform one's bodily awareness. In the case of my clothes yesterday, my skirt made me feel as though I was moving in communion with the wind. The wind's force, my skirt's billowing, and my light step created a cluster of articulations that, taken with the movements of the city around me, accumulated into a greater cloud of motion and noise. Though they were perceptible to me and perhaps those around me, on a grander scale my movements were lost to the general chaos of the outside world. 

Designed spaces, however, refine our attention. They direct or limit the potential for those aforementioned accumulations of motion. Perhaps a space makes us feel small, enveloped in vastness. Or perhaps it purposefully pins us shoulder to shoulder in narrow passageways thronged with other people. Or perhaps we are confined to a space whose walls are just wide enough to allow the passage of our bodies, raising goosebumps as we brush past drywall or stone. In each case, the spaces we find ourselves in offer a tertiary level of corporeal experience. 

Perhaps this is why some spaces, like some outfits or items of clothing, have the potential to excite a sort of bodily ecstasy. Spaces and clothes both broaden the scope of our embodied sensations, creating situations of heightened spatial, bodily, and visual harmonies that I find both exciting and deeply satisfying. 

- - -

Yesterday was my third visit to 500 Capp Street, the home and life's work of the late artist David Ireland. Like his work at the Headlands Center (read about my time there), Ireland's attention to his home chronicled and beautified the house's state of flux as it aged. 500 Capp Street has always been a deeply moving space for me. Capp Street is particularly unique due to the way it has been wrought: Ireland spent nearly 30 years meticulously crafting the home’s interior as a living installation, and the fruits of his labor and the tenor of his presence remain in the house years after his death. The ochre walls, narrow Victorian staircase, and piles of Ireland’s concrete dumb-balls and found-object assemblages take ownership of the house in lieu of their creator’s presence.

On every visit to the house, I've wanted to move about the space and document my presence in it. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to do just that. 

If you're in San Francisco, don't miss 500 Capp Street. You can arrange your visit here

THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES



The Color of Pomegranates (1969, 73 minutes) 
Written and directed by Sergei Parajanov

On the tails of the Met Gala and the opening of the Met Costume Institute's Heavenly Bodies exhibition, it seemed appropriate to start this series (Summer Movie Nights) with The Color of Pomegranates. The film, like the Costume Institute's new exhibition, occupies itself with the intersections of divinity, ritual, and human life. 

Intended as a biography of the Armenian poet Sayat-Nova, Sergei Parajanov's master work, The Color of Pomegranates, winds its exquisite way from childhood to death. Though it gestures to the arc of a lifetime, the film is more accurately a collage of rich tabelaux and surreal depictions of Eastern Orthodox ritual touchstones that occur over the course of a person's life.

The Color of Pomegranates is permeated by a deeply moving, melancholic otherworldiness that emanates from the matter-of-fact performance of sacred rituals. The fantasy of the film's costuming, its considered, painterly compositions and its focus on strange yet beguilingly familiar ritual performances of Eastern Orthodox Christianity create a vision of a world totally removed from our own.

The Color of Pomegranates is a visual feast. Every actor's movement is slow and considered. In every frame, it appears as if an illuminated manuscript or perhaps a gilded biblical painting from the wall of an ancient cave church has been reanimated. Scene after scene captures highly charged moments of the human relation to and creation of divinity.

Just beneath the surface of the film's loosely biographic narrative lies a broad-sweeping account of divinity and humanity. The film's depictions of the menial and the sacred illustrate the intrinsic link between man's knowledge of self and man's concept of God. The anointment of the quotidian, in which we see books, bread, and birds as religiously charged objects, is a gesture to man's capability to channel meaning through objects and actions. Man's ability to know himself and to derive significance from his interactions with the world he has built mirrors his ability to conceptualize and physically render divinity. Though it seems to hover above the human domain, the divine is innately human, as it was created by and for humanity.


To watch The Color of Pomegranates online, click here
If you are a Bay Area local, don't miss the opportunity to see the film at the Pacific Film Archive on June 8th or June 9th, 2018. You can purchase tickets here