New York Human Rights Commission's Inquiry Into The Wing Spurs Twitter Battle

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Women are tweeting "#IStandWithTheWing" and sharing their uplifting experiences about the women-only space.

Late Monday evening, Jezebel reported that The Wing — the popular women-only social club founded in 2016 by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan  — is being "investigated" by the New York Human Rights Commission. The reason? Apparently, the women-only policy (which applies to employees of the organization as well) may be a violation of New York City's gender discrimination law. 

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, The Wing's lawyer Karen Dunn noted only that the Commission and The Wing had agreed to "have a conversation," but that no further communication had taken place.  

“The headlines this morning have been much more dramatic than reality," said Dunn. "All that has happened is that The Wing and the Commission have mutually agreed to have a conversation. We are looking forward to a productive talk with them. After all, last I checked, human rights included empowering women not taking more away from them. The law recognizes this too and is consistent with The Wing’s values and mission.”

Those same headlines, however, have ignited a fiery Twitter storm, with members and nonmembers alike standing up for women's right to a space all to their own. Several directed their tweets specifically at the NYHRC and added the hashtag, #IStandWithTheWing. 

Hari Nef, who was on the cover of The Wing's inaugural issue of its biannual publication, No Man's Land, tweeted to the NYHRC on Tuesday, "The Wing is a safe and necessary space and I'm proud to call it my home away from home." 

Her tweet fueled a response from the Commission, which wrote back that "no one should be discriminated against or harassed because of their gender." 

The Commission has also replied to several other supporters of The Wing by pointing to work they've done in the past to curb sexual harassment in the work place, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.  

So far, the Commission has sent upwards of 15 tweets regarding their work for women as a response to the backlash. Their attempt to quell the voices of women who rely on The Wing as a safe space free of the threat of sexual harassment — both within the workplace and outside of it — has not proved successful, as social media support continues to pour in.  

Media professionals Alyssa Mastromonaco of A&E and Jessica Blankenship of LinkedIn are among the women who are sharing their stories of finding solace, community and safety in the confines of The Wing's pastel pink walls. Amber Tamblyn as well as writer Roxane Gay also voiced their support; Gay asked the Commission, "are you going to close down Curves too?"

As Jezebel notes, The Wing's women-only policy, which applies not just to members and guests but also employees, puts the organization in a legal gray area, as the city's Human Rights Law forbids "businesses that furnish public accommodations, including most private clubs (though not all), from discriminating against customers because of their gender."

That being said, others wondered if The Wing is an improper target for the Commission. Melissa Murray, a law professor at U.C. Berekley, told Jezebel that the Commission's decision to shed even an ounce of its focus on The Wing is "absurd," especially "when we've had, over the last six months, numerous complaints about workplaces being absolutely hostile to women in terms of pervasive and endemic sexual harassment." 

Indeed, some users have even offered suggestions about what the NYHRC could instead investigate. For example Harvey Weinstein, the homeless population or the alleged sexual assault committed by two New York City police officers last fall. 

Others have also insinuated that The Wing, which will soon open a location in L.A., may have been unfairly targeted given the significant amount of largely positive press (both for its stylish interiors and the millions of dollars it has raised from investors) that it has received since opening its doors a little over a year ago. Considering women's clubs have existed for centuries in New York City, the integrity behind the decision to come after The Wing — which has drawn celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and brand partners like Chanel to its quarters — is being called into question. 

Over the past few years especially, similar women-only institutions have opened their doors across the country. So even though New York's HRC is conducting the investigation, other cities may look to its findings, causing more widespread repercussions.