Tag Archives: feminism

Don’t stick a qualifier in front of whatever I am!

lucky Lionel

As a female child I was labelled a tomboy because I loved playing with cars, building roads in the dirt, making kites, shooting at things with my homemade bow and arrows, riding my skateboard, hunting for tadpoles, playing with LEGO…..and all those other fun things that kids do, well male children do without a second look from anyone. But because I was a girl, well, obviously I was a tomboy! Quick get her a barbie and into a frilly dress before it’s too late………

I always felt there was something wrong (and I was a bit resentful without having that bigger picture understanding) with the way the toys I liked never had girls playing with them in the ads or on the packaging, or the characters in Adventure novels that were having all the fun were nearly always boys. So my solution to this puzzling omission was to make the characters female (particularly for movies and books) in my mind and imagine myself chasing pirates, fighting off aliens, and saving wild animals from poachers and circuses…EASY! Once I became a bit older it all became crystal clear. Two comments from my father will always stay with me and still make me bristle: “Girls don’t have train sets” (the response to my wish for a train set for Xmas one year, my brother got it despite not actually wanting one and I got a barbie…true story! GRRRR) and “Girls are nurses not doctors” (after announcement of my desire to go to uni to maybe study medicine…. GRRR squared! well, that was far too much study thus I became a scientist majoring in botany and entomology instead). Guess it took a while to know what it was all about: hello feminism! Thanks dad!

So the announcement of the release of a “Female Scientists Set” by LEGO was a moment of celebration and vindication for me that finally in 2014 young girls can have some ownership of these toys and see!! women can be scientists too, even LEGO says so. But then I started to get annoyed (never takes long) that it’s 2014 and we still have to be “grateful” for the few token challenges to gender stereotypes. http://www.iflscience.com/technology/lego-approves-production-female-scientist-set
And yet again, that devaluing qualifier “female” rears its ugly head when describing a job, an activity, an idea…. Sounds a lot like “not bad for a female [insert noun]”. That good ole standard complement A.K.A backhanded insult. So, let’s be clear…they are SCIENTISTS…NOT LADY SCIENTISTS or GIRLY SCIENTISTS……They aren’t smart or clever for a girl or….anything despite being a girl!!! They aren’t female musicians, female politicians, or even actresses (actor please!). When do you hear men given the same labels? Male musician? Male politician? As we know, it is implied that the people in these roles are male….unless you are a male nurse of course. Test yourself: what gender is the image of a doctor in your mind’s eye? C’mon, bet it was a male and not a lady doctor.

As Candice Chung from Daily Life argues in her article on the female (nice one Playboy) musician Neko Case: “it sucks to be defined by a single facet of you identity” particularly when it serves as a putdown. http://www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/work-and-money/are-you-peggy-olsoning-me-20140605-39k99.html

Thus as Case so eloquently put it “DONT PEGGY OLSON ME”…..


Cold War Femme: Lesbianism, National Identity, and Hollywood Cinema

A review of:
Cold War Femme: Lesbianism, National Identity, and Hollywood Cinema.

by Robert J. Corber, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2011,

ISBN 978-0-8223-4947-1

TL;DR summary: highly recommended for anyone interested in American cinema history, the paranoia of Cold War culture, the treatment of female film characters and discovering a whole new coded subtext within some classic Hollywood films! Read it, it’s great! Or just read this review and then use your second-hand knowledge to leap into vitriolic internet debates…

With his 9780822349280third book Cold War Femme, Robert Corber expands upon his previous scholarship on the intersection of homophobia, Hollywood and American Cold War identity by exploring the film industry discourse on the femme lesbian. Corber aims to understand the femme both as a queer figure distinct from the butch lesbian, and as an allegedly anti-American outgrowth of women’s demands for equality. Through close readings of films in Part One, and a star studies approach in Part Two, Corber persuasively argues that the coded representations of femme lesbian characters reflected their construction as a direct challenge to heterosexuality, thereby destabilising the traditional family structure which insulated the American identity against Communism. Through the trajectory of Hollywood’s lesbian discourse, the book explores not only sexual presentation and gender performance in film, but also how concepts such as frigidity, homosociality, motherhood, domesticity and career ambition were deployed to pathologise lesbianism and bolster the Cold War sexual agenda.

Corber’s 23 page introduction includes a 19 page tour of the dominant trends in psychoanalytical and sociological opinion of female sexuality in the twentieth century. As scholarship developed awareness of the femme lesbian, her feminised gender performance made her an object of censure and paranoia due to the camouflaged threat she supposedly posed to the perpetuation of America’s normative family life. A provocative and absorbing read, this tour also provides essential theoretical underpinning to Corber’s subsequent film analysis, and lends authority to his interpretation of Hollywood’s susceptibility to, and manipulation of, the Cold War culture of sexual paranoia.

Part Two effectively complements Part One’s film readings with detailed explorations of how homophobia affected the production and promotion of female stars, and how their personas influenced the presentation of gender and sexual norms within films.  Corber also highlights the contradictions within the discourse, such as the contrast between Bette Davis, whose sexual illegibility was subsequently pathologised as lesbian, and the wholesome Doris Day, whose tomboyish masculinity resisted construction as lesbian because her characters ultimately assimilated into heterosexual lives.

The validity of Corber’s analysis relies strongly on the introduction’s literature review, which is persuasive, however his avoidance of chronological arrangement of information can produce unnecessary confusion. This would arguably have been a more lucid structure for his analysis, given that the material correlates directly to sequenced events such as trends in thought, career trajectories and backlashes against earlier discourses. Nonetheless, Corber’s obvious passion for the combined study of film, gender and sexuality is well-suited to reveal the fascinating intersections in the field and he offers richly detailed evidence without sermonising. Not only solidly argued, the book is also nearly as much fun to read as the referenced films are to watch.  Cold War Femme offers valuable insights for any reader interested in filmic representations of female sexuality. With this book, Corber redresses his admitted previous neglect of lesbian history as non-distinct from gay men’s history, and he triumphs in his goal of bringing analysis of Hollywood’s femme lesbian into the broader picture of American women’s history.

Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s

two wheeler strumpets!!!!

via Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s.

Aspiring to Acquiesce or: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Boobs”

Excellent piece by Clem Bastow on why the new trend of “aspirational toplessness” in fashion mags is just a new spin on the old rubbish.

“Media ideals tell us that her body is not “acceptable”, thus the baring of it is considered brave.” …Clever trick indeed, you crafty bastards!


It’s your choice to be a feminist or not – but that doesn’t mean feminism is about choice.

Oh, those magic, debate-ending words: “feminism is about choice”. If I never hear them again I’ll consider it a victory but I seem to hear them more and more these days. Being a woman does not automatically make you a feminist – so why should feminists endorse the choices of all women, as a feminist act? I am mostly baffled by this expectation.

Feminism is an ideology that seeks to enable the equality of the sexes by addressing gender-based limitations and degradation – which is an endeavour far more complex and nuanced than those words. Of course free choice is a vital feature of that, but advocating purely for free choices without a vision of the society you wish to achieve seems like getting a license in order to drive around aimlessly. Where are our choices taking us? At most, “freedom of choice” is a mechanism through which we can actually achieve some of our feminist goals. It is both an indication of freedom and a means of exercising it. But at its least, it is a philosophically thin but basic requirement of a life not lived as chattel. Surely we can aim for more than that? It seems unwise to stop analysing the context in which our options are incubating, and it begs more questions than it answers: What kinds of choices are we limited to by our society? How do my choices affect others? How do we go about making changes if we are unhappy with our society? The “feminism = choice” distillation cannot meaningfully address these.

What’s worse, this choice-adoration smacks suspiciously of pro-consumerist cheer leading. And what a distraction! We are loudly assured by companies competing for our (supposedly) almighty consumer dollar that we have power as consumers and that the way to wield it is to make a choice. The winning object is the anointed Chosen-One… Cue choirs of angels and warm glows of satisfaction all round (except for The Non-Chosen – those losers!). By this process, the mere act of choosing anything has become exalted in our consumerist culture, entirely equated with an act of self-determination. Unfortunately, this thinking has also bled into the spaces where our hearts and minds ought to be evaluating ideology and creating vision. The cultural world in which gender issues exist is not akin to a free-market economy. Whichever way you slice it, feminism is unavoidably about gender-based repression, not purely about free choice.

The current pressure on feminists to refrain from analysing the choices any woman makes, based entirely on the fact that she’s a woman, just seems counter-productive. And if you think something is unjustly tagged as “non-feminist” then argue the point and try to convince. How else do we learn if not by thoughtfully challenging, listening and engaging in debate? But the idea that every choice a woman makes must never be remarked upon or analysed is just a form of self-gagging that is ultimately self-defeating: “Ssshh, lady! Women are making choices here!” It reduces feminist debate to an exercise in nonjudgemental peer-endorsement.

If you need unconditional acceptance of your life choices, perhaps join a support circle. If you crave the thrill of the choice, try your local Smorgasbord every night. But if you envision a world in which women and men challenge and subvert the gender-based expectations and limitations of today (even if you’re not sure how!) then feminism is for you.

“What a beautiful life I’ve had”.


These were reported to be Sidonie Gabrielle Colette’s last words.

Colette (French novelist and playwright 1873-1954) was a glorious strumpet. She was raised in a little village before being swept off her feet and taken to Paris by Henri Gauthier-Villiers, a man about town known as “Willy”, a famous writer of potboilers. Her husband discovered she could write so he got her to write her stories and published them under his own name. He became very wealthy from the ‘Claudine’ series of novels Colette penned. Willy was in the habit of keeping Colette locked in her room to produce new works. This went on for 13 years before Colette packed her bags and left.

Without Willy’s publishing connections Colette struggled to make a living, becoming a drama critic, political writer, fashion critic and cooking columnist. This was not enough to pay the bills so she also became a music hall dancer, which gave her a rich new source for her stories. One night she appeared on stage and brazenly exposed her breast (see pic. above) with shameless strumpet pride. She was announcing to the world that femininity was no longer something that could be confined, she had let an alternative version of femininity free. It created an international scandal. She liked to cross-dress in men’s clothing when it suited her too, which caused a stir. She cared not a fig for what people thought.

She married a news editor and had a daughter, but kept on writing her stories, which were thinly disguised autobiographies such as ‘Renee’, a story about a divorcee turned actress. One of her first stories after the end of her first marriage was ‘Dialogue des Betes’ a conversation between a cat and a dog. Her books centred on the themes of nature, passion, sexuality, sensuality and human relations. After that came more books, the ‘Caroline’ series, Gigi, Cheri, L’Ingenue Libertine’, The Ripening and ‘La Vagabonde’. La Vagabonde was declared by critics to be one of the dozen best French novels of the times. She divorced her second husband in 1924, had a scandalous affair with her step-son and kept writing. She also flaunted her numerous lesbian affairs which did nothing to quell views that she was most definitely a strumpet. In 1927 Paul Claudel called her “the greatest living writer in France”. She lived next door to Jean Cocteau and they shared ideas about poetry, art and life. Colette married the 16 years younger Maurice Goudeket in 1935, a Jewish man she supported and hid during the German occupation of France. In 1935 Colette became an Officer of The Grand Legion of Honour. Colette was a strumpet of the highest order.

“I love my past. I love my present. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve had, and I’m not sad because I have it no longer”~ Colette.