Tuesday, December 3, 2013

95. The Accidental Femminist

Zaha Hadid to me has always seemed to be a feminist of convenience; that is to say she is a chameleon-like figure that magically transforms into a feminist only when it suits her; notably, when she is criticized in public by using it as a defense mechanism. When she is criticized by men (which most critics are) she pulls out the gender card and cry “You are criticising me because I am a woman!” and follow up with sentences beginning with the phrase “If a man had done this then….. . However when it comes to standing up for women's rights, in cases where she could use her power and visibility as one of the world's most famous women to defend other women or feminist causes, she tends to go silent. Such was the case when she sat on the Pritzker jury and did not do much to stand up for Denise Scott Brown. I went into this in more detail in note number 92. Zaha & Josephine: A tale of two celebrity women.

The other thing with Zaha as well as other starchitects is that they generally use their works to glamorize autocrats that are inherently violent or oppressive. By choosing to work for dictatorial and oppressive regimes they become complicit in the opression. One such example is where Zaha entered into a contract with Muammar Gaddafi to design a new conference center outside of Tripoli shortly before the regime collapsed in 2011. Gaddafi had enlisted Zaha’s services as part of a larger plan to project an image of cultural refinement and soften his image as a regime that was friendly to western culture and safe to invest in.

So when I saw Jon Stewart’s skit a few days ago in which he remarked that her Qatar football stadium proposal looked like a giant steel vagina, I thought it was kind of ironic. Qatar like Gaddafi’s Libya is also ruled by an autocratic regime - in this case an absolute monarchy - that has laws among others that deem it illegal to criticize the Emir - the highest ranking monarch.

Some other notable  laws gives employers unilateral power to cancel residency permits, deny workers the ability to switch jobs and deny them permission to leave the country. Relative to the fact that Qatar is a country where the great majority of the population are foreigners, the result is a system of forced labour where it is difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer or travel overseas without permission. So in other words a defacto system of slavery.

When it comes to women rights Qatar boasts one of the best among arab countries, but take that with a grain of salt. Despite having one of the worlds most lopsided gender ratio where women make up just one-quarter of the population, Qatar has one of the highest female prison populations in the world. Most of these female prisoners are low paid immigrant workers, tried in an unknown language, without representation and often without access to consulate assistance. To top it off, in some cases in family courts, a female's testimony is worth half a man's and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.

So why would Qatar hire a woman - Zaha Hadid -  to design their prize stadium?  For the same reason Gaddafi hired Zaha - damn good PR! Qatar has a public image problem with The West, among them with women rights. Hiring one of the world most famous woman architect would go a long way in mending that image as well as embelishing them with the "sophistication" of western high culture.
The irony in this case, is that here we have a patriarchal society that tramples on women's rights and diminishes them in general and yet their proudest new monument looks like the gaping hole of a vagina.
Holy Shit!...Zaha unleashes a giant steel vagina on the cock crammed skyline on Qatar

But here is another way to look at it - perhaps just a fantasy of Conrad Newel. The fantasy is that Zaha is actually not just an opportunist or a tool for hire. No! Zaha is actually a real feminist behind the veil of an arrogant unconscionable diva. She is a real champion for women and human rights. Actually she is much smarter and smoother than anyone of us had imagined. What if the stadium was intentionally designed to look like a vagina? Perhaps that was the plan all along. Perhaps she really wanted to send a thinly veiled message to the Emir. Something like this:

Fuck you you sexist oppressive prick!  
I am going to take your money and make the proudest new addition to your cock crammed skyline into the image of a cunt!  
This one is for the imprisoned women of Qatar.
Imprision this Emir!

Conrad Newel

Liberating Minds Since August 2007


Anonymous said...

this was published on archinect in response to this article-image:

there is something wrong with the article and the image.

it isn't merely zaha who worked with gadafi's and qatar's regimes. everyone and their uncle worked with them. zaha is equally as "guilty" in that sense. no one bothered to collage their image with their building like penises.

did the person who make this image ask permission from zaha hadid first and get it? i assume not. in which case, i assume that they have taken advantage of her image and manipulated it to their end.

which means that, in the name of a so-called feminism (that is an exaggerated pathological direct outcome of sexism -other side of its coin-and not an actual independent feminism that respects women's/people's individual images and bodies), she's being abused by being collaged into an image that - i strongly believe- would contradict with her wishes.

the author and fabricator of the image fall into the same hole -truly no puns here- that this image is employed to counter.

furthermore, there is a strong suggestion that this is was taken from some terrorist attack/military zone - perhaps in iraq. the inversion of victims into suggested violators now being violated by a vagina is completely tasteless.

everyone in this image is being used for a single minded purpose trampling on quite a few people - inverting them for its own whimsical and perverse end.

Conrad Newel said...


Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. Please see note #96 for my reply to this message.



Eric Tan said...

But, would she ever live in those places? No.
Does it look like a vulva?