the Ruffle: Musings on the Nonsensical

A 100 foot pink ruffle is, as one observer observed, nonsensical.  And it's true, an enormous ruffle created to fit an uber-utilitarian balcony is in fact ridiculously impractical.  It is not, however, without meaning. 

A ruffle is a decorative touch, a frill, a confection.  This ruffle, the Ruffle, is made up of layer upon layer of pink netting, bordered with a line of pink cotton flowers and over-sized sequins.  It is a fluffy extravagance, a pink cloud, fluttering gracefully above a very practical and very sheltered little parking lot usually left to automobiles in repair and carpet cleaning vans.  Most of the people who inhabit this space are men.  After business hours it's mostly just stragglers, either people passing through or else stopping to use a dark corner for some private reason.

In spite of being 100 feet long and being attached to a balcony, the Ruffle is really very traditional.  It is entirely reminiscent of weddings and ballerinas and tutus.  the Ruffle speaks to us of girl/woman dreams of being a princess, of being beautiful, of being romanced.  Frothy dreams.  Fantasies.

In discussing the Ruffle, some have referred to the parking lot/courtyard as masculine, but that designation is perhaps a trifle easy.  After all, concepts of masculinity and femininity tend to be more fluid and richer than they have been in the past.  The parking lot is masculine in the same way that the Ruffle is feminine.  These are the extremes of male and female: being masculine means spending all of one's time fine tuning cars on a patch of oily cement, while being feminine means to love all that is pink, ruffly and decorative.  These stereotypes are absurd of course, but given the right circumstances, they are oh so romantic, n' est-ce pas?  Think romantic comedy...boy meets girl, or in this case, 100 foot ruffle meets auto-mechanic haven and sweet havoc ensues.

In reality it is not at all a case of boy meets girl.  It's a case of girl invades boy's tidy but spare boy space with what is a parody of girly-ness.  It is a provocation; it is a verb as well as a noun.  It intentionally attempts to provoke a response.  the Ruffle, being pretty and delicate and an extreme version of femininity is everything that the space in which it exists is not.  In a cement courtyard frequented by male auto-mechanics, the Ruffle becomes strident and immodest, demanding the attention of all.  The men who work there are forced/seduced into turning their eyes towards something pretty and pink, something nonsensical, when instead they should be focused on cement and auto bodies.

It is from this sense of discord that we are able to draw even darker parallels.  the BALCONY gallery is located near Bay and Government Streets.  This is a neighbourhood well known for sex workers, women of all ages, standing curbside, waving down men as they pass in their cars.  The prostitute, like the Ruffle, is another extreme example of the feminine.  The prostitute is the wild woman, the outlaw woman, in love with sex and drugs and parties.  Or so we often assume.  Of course there are many reasons why women turn to sex work.  Some because they really do love sex, some because they're forced into it by a pimp, some because they are drug addicted, some because they're earning their way through medical school.  Probably a lot do it because they were abused as girls and don't yet realize that there are other ways to be valuable.

the Ruffle and the woman/sex worker occupy entirely different ends of the femininity continuum.  Ruffles are associated with little girls and female goodness (brides and aprons and panties), while sex workers, obviously, are considered dangerous, to families, to men, to themselves.  One thing they do have in common, however, is a need for attention and probably approval, from men.  the Ruffle, not by it's own choice, mind, is a disruptive force in a quiet peaceful work space most frequented by men.  The prostitute bargains for sex/money on the street with strangers.  She displays her feminine charms, whether prettiness or youth or a heartbreaking despair, to attract men.  Ostensibly she wants to earn money, but she provokes in many, her customers and others, feelings of anger and disgust.  She exists like the Ruffle in an ugly environment, unprotected and vulnerable.

Then and again, maybe these musings are a stretch too long.  Maybe the Ruffle is no more than a ruffle should be: pretty, frothy, fun and flirty.