Wednesday, August 30, 2006

feminist theatre......

in North Staffordshire.

The Vagina Monologues and Oleanna are coming to town.

The Vagina Monologues is for one night only, the Oleanna is on for 2 weeks.

I have posted about both on froomblog.

The Vagina Monologues is very populist theatre and can fairly easily be seen as light entertainment, rather than feminist theatre. I saw it last year at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent - the acting was rather poor on the whole. Although there are serious moments when the women on stage are telling stories of other women's experiences of rape, sexual violence and oppression, it's the comedy that stands out, and turns it into a "show". I think that's where the message is lost along the way. We need light relief, of course, but, for example, the section of the show where one woman talks about her cunt, was played just for laughs and missed the point.

Oleanna is totally serious playwriting and is challenging for the audience. When I saw it a few years ago it really made me think about gender roles, power, politics, education and other things too. It's being put on at the New Victoria Theatre, a repertory theatre-in-the-round, which is great as they hardly ever stage straight political drama. This season marks the change over from one director to another at the theatre - both women, so I hope this is the start of a new, more political era for them, more like it was when the theatre was the Old Vic in it's old venue.

where did it all start?

Anonymous thinks it was with an advert for razor blades.

"It began with the May,1915 edition of Harper’s Bazaar magazine that featured a model sporting the latest fashion. She wore a sleeveless evening gown that exposed, for the first time in fashion, her bare shoulders, and her (shaved) armpits. Shocking at first, this soon caught on. At the same time a marketing executive with the Wilkinson Sword Company, which made razor blades for men, designed a campaign to convince women that underarm hair was unfeminine. By 1917 the sales of razor blades doubled as women conformed to this feminine stereotype of shaving under their arms."

This certianly is an interesting advert that must have come shortly afterwards, for depilatory powder......

Thanks to anon for this research. Can anyone tell us any more?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

they're like buses....

they all come at once!

Since the sad demise of Everywoman (I loved that magazine) there have been no feminist alternative women's magazines except Diva (which is great) which is specifically written by and for lesbians.

So I was really pleased when I read in Travelling Punk's blog that she was keen to start a magazine and wanted others to join her. I got involved a bit, in the early stages, and the result was published a few weeks ago - Subtext.

I was then really suprised to read alongside the review of Subtext on the F-word blog, a review for Uplift! Magazine and another for Vagina Magazine.

Three in one go - that's fantastic as it shows the strength of feeling about the need for something other than the usual "women's lifestyle" mags as they are labelled in supermarkets.

However, I can't help feeling concerned that they may not be sustainable - is there a big enough market for 3? Will they all have enough support to actually produce them?
I hope so, but I am not confident.

I have ordered and now received my copies of all 3. They look very different at first glance. On first impressions Vagina Mag appeals to me the most. I will read them well and get back to you. It'd be great if you would buy them too, and then we can compare opinions...........

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I have been thinking about my body and that of others quite a lot recently, hence my post about "how to look good naked" and an earlier one about whether to de-hair my armpits for my sister's wedding.

I also found this site recently about the real bodies of women after childbirth - the shape of a mother.

It prompted me to take a picture of my own body, complete with it's hair. I thought for a long time before posting one, but I dared, so here is one of my armpits.

I find it quite ugly, yet if this was a man's body, I wouldn't give it a second thought and that is a real challenge. I also struggle to see it the same way I do facial hair, I react postively to moustaches on women in general.

I have done a web search to find blogs or articles about women's body hair. Many that come up are links to advice about removing "unwanted excess" hair. The majority are porn sites for hairy women. That is unsuprising but depressing - if so many people find hairy women attractive and sexy, why is it so taboo?

Polly Vernon in the Observer in January this year stated that "depilatory demands have risen in step with women's position in society. This reminds me of a post I wrote about the link between "beauty" work and women's empowerment.

She reminisces about her own experiences of hair removal as a child. My experience is similar. I started with my eyebrows y mother plucked them for me at first, and progressed to my full leg including toes!

Polly also comments that the "UK hair-removal market is worth £280 million a year, and is growing staggeringly fast" - which will partly explain why we are expected to do it, and it will increase as hair will always grow back!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

petition - brothel sitcom

Eaves housing have put together this petition against Channel 5's screening of their new sit com set in a brothel. Sign the petition:

According to a national press article the show, 'Respectable', features women who sell sex to pay for shoe collections and 'beautiful things'. Click here for more information about the sitcom
Eaves Housing have already written a letter (attached) of complaint and Women's Aid intend to write to Channel 5 too. They are collecting signatures to show that this is not the kind of viewing audiences want.

how to look good naked......

two weeks ago I watched this show for the first time (Channel 4).
It started off quite well - there are some really good ideas about helping women have a more positive self image. However it soon descended into the usual stereotyping about what is "right" about "beauty".
The presenter did a voice over whilst the woman featured had an almost full body wax and he said "you have to do this if you are going to look good naked".
She went for an underwear fitting and the woman who measured her up said she "had to have a good bra". She was also given figure-shaping support tights/ pants to give her "the waist she had not got".
The other big problem I had with the show is that whilst the presenter was talking about the sort of clothes she should be wearing to "give her a waist" the screen showed images of hyper-skinny models on a catwalk with totally unrealistic body shapes.
Then the photo shoot at the end featured the woman in extremely high heels.
I watched it again to see if that was an abberation but it wasn't. It's the standard for the series.
What a disappointment.

I don't deny it's a significant improvement on the usual plastic surgery filled "look good" shows, but there's still a way to go before bodies like mine are reflected on TV. I have difficulty seeing myself as beautiful and I know it's partly because there are no role models for me in the mainstream media.

There's an interesting discussion about the series here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

clothes - do you look all right in them?

"'Being skinny doesn't mean you've automatically got a good body, not at all,' confides one wafer-thin friend. 'Thin definitely doesn't give you good legs, just thinner legs. But it does, by and large, mean you'll look all right in clothes." Mimi Spencer writing about super-thin celebrity women in the Observer makes a direct link with the fashion industry.

I find this statement ridiculous. We are legally obliged to wear clothes in public in our society. So how come there is an unwritten rule about "looking all right in clothes"? Surely we should not have to worry about looking all right, we should just cover up....

This makes me think about whether it matters if we look all right without clothes.... I know I think heavier, fatter people look better naked than super-thin people, and of course when I say people we are actually talking about women here.

So that's the other question - it's not about whether people look all right in clothes - it's about whether women look all right in clothes. Why is that?

Women buy a lot of clothes, compared to men. That is obvious when you look at what men tend to wear at work in office/ professional jobs - a suit, shirt and tie - the same suit every day, with a few shirts and a couple of ties. When they go out what do they wear - a pair of trousers and a shirt or t-shirt. They are excused from the pressure to dress to show off the clothes.

So women are made to believe they don't look all right in anything, so they have to keep buying to find the right clothes for their shape. They will never find the right clothes for their shape, as clothes are not made to look all right on their shape unless they are super-thin.

I was in a small clothes shop yesterday, my friend wanted to look in there. He buys from them regularly. I looked at the women's clothes. There was only one of each item on the rail, and they were all labelled either S or XS - small or extra-small. There was one top labelled large but it was no bigger than the rest. The tiny t-shirts were around £40 each. I left the shop - I cannot support a retailer who so clearly only wants to sell to thin women. I detest the way that women are supposed to be tiny and men to be large.

Of course we are under pressure to conform to certain stated norms and how we look is one of those. How did it happen that we now believe that we only look all right in clothes if we are thin?
One of the ideas for an answer Mimi proposes is "perverse, but a reverse snobbery now informs our relationship with weight; being thin in an overeating society is a sign of control. It takes enormous will to stay so thin. Nationally, we're getting fatter by a percentage point each year - so people who are trying to lose weight, which means most of us, are in awe of the high achievers in the field." So it's about feeling like we have some control in a society that still does not value women. I can relate to that.

I could use some of my time to challenge the fashion industry but overall it's not about fashion, celebrity or food alone - it's the patriarchy-peddled belief that women are second class citizens and the impact that has on us - we interalise the oppression and it perpetuates the myth. We have to find a way to empower ourselves.