Lifestyle 28 January 2018
As a female immigrant to this country, I had big dreams and even bigger obstacles to overcome. Looking at where I am now—running my own business, managing an all-female team of designers, and living out my passions to bring healing and positivity to the world—I wish I could tell my younger self to worry less and dream even bigger. I still wonder what was the strongest drive that kept me moving. Was it my motive to prove my worth as a woman entrepreneur? Or was it my desire to infuse greater meaning and mindfulness into the interior design industry?
Perhaps, it was both.
I am Mitra Pakdaman Silva, the founder of the Beverly Hills-based LA Healthcare Design Inc. I started my journey as an interior design student, made my way into the design industry by working with leading firms, and now, here I am, leading an all-female team of designers and architects in a joint mission to encourage greater healing through thoughtful, spiritually-minded, and eco-conscious interior design and architecture.
Photo Courtesy of addvantageusa
Over the last several years, popular design trends, such a minimalism and hygge, have shown just how significantly interior design can influence our mental attitudes. As someone who has placed my focus on the healthcare industry specifically, I would like to now familiarize the public with the concept of “healing design.” In taking a more mindful approach to the interior aesthetics and even the architecture of a space, I believe we can create environments that actually enhance our ability to heal. Furthermore, as a female interior designer thriving in the male dominated medical industry, I am hopeful my work will contribute to cultural healing between genders as well.
Mitra Silva. Photo Courtesy of lahealthcaredesign
Here are my top three design mantras:
“Heal the space and it will heal you.”
The word “healing” is a multi-perspective concept. It is both internal and external. Healing is an authentic place of being, and that which triggers recovery from within, but it is also energetically linked to our surroundings. For most people, a visit to the doctor’s office will trigger thoughts of a cramped, dark, and stressful waiting room along with a confusing maze of cold and intimidating examination rooms. This external experience impacts the patient’s internal wellbeing in a negative way, which is the entirely opposite point of visiting a doctor in the first place. These are places people go to feel better and yet, the design often connotes the antithesis of this. It is this lack of soul, energy, and life that inspired me to seek a more thoughtful solution to healthcare design. I believe that if you can heal the space, the space will in turn, heal you. Implementing mindful design elements that are both internally and externally aligned to the core purpose of the space will create a natural sense of harmony that will lend to greater peace, comfort, and wellbeing for everyone involved.
“Clutter invites chaos. Emptiness invites energy.”
This thought has altered my personal design perspective dramatically, as I move to create more authentic, appealing, and transformational medical spaces with a personal touch. As a spiritually minded individual, I have fused traditional healthcare interior design and architecture methods with my objective to create qualitative and quantitative healing spaces. Finding the balance of decluttering your environment while also ensuring no details are left out and everything is at a hand’s reach, is the basis to creating a healing space. When I look at a space, I draw a mental image of how I would want the space to look and feel if it were my own. I ask, “how can this contribute to recovery?” This is the starting point in finding the necessary precision that is required of a space that is both aesthetically-pleasing and functionally-efficient. I often meditate on the Yin-Yang, which indicates a balance of negative and positive energies. Healing design needs emptiness to breathe, but also a certain amount purposeful objects and elements to give it life.
“Design is neither masculine nor feminine. It is a powerful fusion of feminism with its masculine counterpart.”
I am a strong believer of Feminine Power and the potential of women in business. A majority of women entrepreneurs in the design industry dedicate themselves to residential design, and limit their scope to creating concept sketches, sourcing materials, and providing the complete design package. However, as a business woman in the modern era, I believe women have equal potential when it comes to contributing to the architecture and construction administration when compared to men. In a male-dominated industry, like Healthcare Design and Construction, I am wearing more than one hat – of an interior designer and another of a construction administrator. In a world where interior design delivers a gender-specific feel, my unique designs are a blend of masculine and feminine energy to create holistic balance, and of course, healing. We’ve always been the women who care, now it’s time to transform a generation of mothers, sisters and wives into ‘women who dare.”
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.