Missed: Mrs America?

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Wednesday night saw the TV series Mrs America hit our screen in the UK. The series dramatises, more than documents the path of second-wave feminism in the United States.

The initial episode centres around Phyllis Schlafly, played by the Hollywood great: Cate Blanchette. Schlafly, a staunch anti-feminist who lead the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Many hold Schlafly accountable for the bill never being passed and eventually abandoned in the early eighties.

Schlafly, the women who Betty Friedan, mother of seventies women’s movement, insisted should be burned at the stake. The Republican who led a league of housewives, home-makers and churchgoers against the progressive feminists of the day.

Growing up during the great depression, Schlafly had a modest upbringing, her father of long term unemployment. Motherly support of her education steered her towards a scholarship place at the now named Maryland University. In tangent to her studies she worked as a model, but she also ‘Test fired machine guns’ for the largest munitions factory in the US, World War Two raging across the Globe. Eventually studying post-grad at Harvard, then becoming a researcher for the Republican Party.

Marrying a wealthy lawyer, fifteen years her senior, resulting in six children. Author of many publications the most notable: ‘A choice, not an ego,’ selling over 3.5 million copies, highlighting matters in opposition to National defence strategies.

After another unsuccessful run for Congress in the early seventies, she turned her attention to women’s politics and battled successfully against the ERA. The main policies were in favour of women remaining exempt from the Draft, Vietnam was at war and American troops were being sent East. Other motions looked to protect social security benefits for dependent wives. Although her eldest son was openly gay she stood by conservative policies against single-sex marriage and anti-immigration.

The dramatisation brings the seventies to our post lock-down TV screens. Brown patterned floral prints, chunky jewelry, twin sets and hand knitting. Hairnets and curlers creating the bouffant of the day. Although an anti-feminist, Cate Blanchette portrays a strong, capable woman, more than a little opposed to being assigned the role of note-taking. We see a true beauty parading the national stars and stripes in the form of a bikini.

In opposition, we encounter bad sex aesthetics not spoken about during the decade. When exhausted she submits to undesired intercourse with her demanding husband. Lying back motionless as he ploughs internally with no regard for her pleasure, indulging in merely his gratification.

What next for the series?

Although slaughtered by Gloria Steinem in person, her character was introduced and takes the limelight in the next episode.

A drama to be indulged, not a doco to be scrutinized!

Watch on BBC iPlayer

Quotes from Catherine MacKinnon

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Catherine MacKinnon, a mother of second-wave feminism, led the US movement alongside greats such as Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem. Primarily, a legal scholar, lecturing at institutions such as Harvard. Specialising in sexual harassment, pornography and prostitution. We take a look at some quotes from her acclaimed 1980’s publication, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on life and law.

”One of the advantages of male supremacy, along with money and speech and education and respectability, is sexual access to women, of which pornography is one form.”

”Marriage is women’s destiny, she defends and seeks to extend. Now, three out of five marriages end in divorce after about five years, leaving the woman with approximately one child, approximately no income, and a standard of living drastically below that of her former husband.”

”A recent study shows that the only difference between hookers and other women with similar class backgrounds is that prostitutes earn twice as much.”

”We resent being blamed for what men do to us, being told we provoked it when we are raped or sexually harassed, living in constant fear.”

”Men see rape ass intercourse: feminists say much intercourse is rape.”

”Sex blindness”

”The rule said that if Native American women married outside the tribe, the children of that union were not full tribe members: if Native American men married out, there were no such consequences.”

”Neo-Victorian prudery’

”What is not considered to be a hierarchy is women and men – men on top and women on the bottom.”

”Reproductive freedom”

”The problem is, the State has never in fact protected women’s dignity or bodily integrity.’

”Most rapes are intra-racial and committed by men the women know.”

”The purported plot of Deep Throat (Linda Lovelace) is premised upon rearranging the woman by putting a clitoris in her throat, so she gets sexual pleasure out of giving oral sex to men.”

”A critique of pornography is to feminism what defence  is to male supremacy.”


”This is what it means when feminists say that maleness is a form of power and femaleness is a form of powerlessness.”

”Women’s desire to be fucked by men is equal to men’s desire to fuck women.”

 

Quite simply, a great feminist icon here to inspire and move humanity forward.

 

 

Catherine MacKinnon

Feminist Unmodified

1950’s Girls Annuals: the Homemaker

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Seventy years on from when the girls annual of the 1950’s were being read in the  pink bedrooms of the post-second world war generation we look back at there content. Where they looking to inspire the girls who would grow up to lead second-wave feminism through the seventies, or were they looking to indoctrinate the next generation of Housewives?

Girls literature of the 1950’s painted a world of domestic bliss. The role of sewing, the adoration of flowers and the wearing of impractical clothing prevailed across the pages of mid-century girls annuals. Poems encourage the practice of cleaning, baking, being house-proud, having the most perfect hair and awaiting the kiss of a man. The role of the party planner is put forward, a caregiver role projected. However, not to be forgotten in Britain, the concept of making tea in a crisis is ever-present.

Pressures on young girls to be lady-like

The continual pressures on young girls to be lady-like. Any matters of rebellion from this notion are lame and akin to stories of naughty schoolgirls. Images of impractical sports clothing, skirts worn for tennis and golf. Dancing is in full costume and skiing is shown to be gentle and relaxing. With sports like rowing, women simple sit back as men take the oars. Similar scenes are shown with motor vehicles, males are strong and take the wheel, steering away from danger and girls watch on. Generally, the women are beautiful, appear to be sunning themselves as the men do all the work. They are gorgeous, pale-skinned, flushed cheeks with bouncy blond hair adorning their slim bodies. Looks of women pleading with men as they carry all the heavy items. Delicate women prevail as they receive kisses on the hand from admiring men. Many of the tales inscribed simply escalate to men saving the day as the women look on in awe.

Boys literature of the period was in starch contrast to that of girls. They masqueraded daring adventures, escapades and the dangers of warfare so prevalent on the minds of those growing up in the years which were the aftermath of World War Two. Presenting depictions of action sports, space exploration and tackling monsters. Many of the tales bore similarities to the ever-popular Westerns of the time, cowboys, Indians and hunting. Cops and Robbers was an ever-present theme. We were also introduced to the world of large, expensive motorcars, Bentley’s of the era. Top athletes, racing and highly competitive sports dominated the pages of the 1950’s annuals. Men were shown to be strong and capable, getting into fights and adventures took place across the globe. Incidentally, many of the representations of black people were tribal in origin. Images of women seem simply to depict a gorgeous girl who sits there as the man wins her with his actions. Cigars are also present, as a male indulgence, not something to be discouraged. Work and logic puzzles were headlined around ‘Shoot’ and ‘Hit’, evoking a strong sense of competition. Practical skills were encouraged through narrative’ around tools and making exercises were played out.

Contemporary girls literature has modified immensely from the 1950’s. Positive, empowering statements ‘I can’ and ‘You can do anything’ embrace our pages. Girls are now dressed as action figures and take on space exploration. Females from ethnic minorities are now included and girls vary greatly in their appearance. We are presented with different faith groups and the idea of unconventional family groups are put forward. Those with disabilities are shown and take on powerful roles.

Becoming a ‘Leader’ is suggested, women are no longer here simply to do as men instruct them.

Inspirational positions and occupations are presented as life choices. Becoming a ‘Leader’ is suggested, women are no longer here simply to do as men instruct them. Positive real-life role models are presented through photography and text. Girls are shown to be practical, using tools and building projects. The former male domains of math’s and science are promoted, the aesthetics of wearing goggles for experiments put in a positive light. Environmentalism is a new agenda, current affairs and politics are embarrassed. Tea parties are now of the fair trade variety and healthy pursuits of foraging for food are encouraged, taking from the male hunter, gatherer role. Making projects develop skills in science, numeracy levels and encouraging activism.

The nostalgia of the fifties is enjoyable to re-collect, the role of the mother and the home-maker not to be discredited, contemporary girls literature id clearly more inspirational. Modern-day girls Annuals promote positive female aspirations, leadership and activism, not being lady-like and waiting for a man to save the day. Female literal sources which will create a more positive power balance for women of the future.

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Gloria Steinem

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The iconic feminist, the writer, the political activist and the author of her later biography, ‘My Life on the Road’.

As a girl, she traveled across the US between Ohio and Florida for most of her informative years. The trailor upbringing came to an end when her parents divorced, she went to live and care for her depression troubled mother, now attending school regularly from
the first time at the age of eleven.

After college she was awarded a fellowship and spent two years in India. During her travels she opted for a termination of pregnancy in London ten years before they were legal.

From this she became a journalism, a groundbreaking article being ‘A Bunny’s Tale’, where she went undercover as a playboy bunny to get the dirt on Hugh Hefner and the Playboy empire. Co-founding New York Magazine and Ms Magazine, which she later became an editor for several decades later. From the late sixties she rubbed shoulders with greats like Betty Friedan as they marched for the liberation of women.

Now, at the age of eighty-five, she is technically in retirement. However, social activism work is not something you retire from, she is still penning the writings which inspire women Globally.

Her latest biography, ‘My Life on the Road’ contains so many awe-inspiring quotes, we give only a few to lay a foundation for Steinemism and the future:

Dick and Jane limitations that school put on girls.’

From her travels in India:

High caste women were sexually restricted and women at the bottom were sexually exploited.’

‘Most of us, I love graduations. They are individual and communal, an end and a beginning, more permanent than weddings, more inclusive than religions, and possibly the most moving ceremonies on earth.’

‘Needing approval is a female cultural disease, and often a sign of doing the wrong thing.’

‘I was angry about the human talent that was lost just because it was born into a female body, and the mediocrity that was awarded because it was born into a male one.’

‘A journey -whether it’s to the corner grocery or through life-is supposed to have a beginning, middle and end, right? Well the road is not like that at all. It’s the very illogical and the juxtaposed differences of the road-combined with our search for meaning-that make travel so addictive.

‘My Life on the Road’ is available from Amazon

More about Gloria Steinem

 

 

Hand-Held Destinies

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Wednesday evening saw the opening of; John Moores Painting Prize, the Rise of the Sixties in Liverpool, at the Exhibition Research Lab of John Moores University. The fresh white interior of the John Lennon Art and Design Building provided the exhibition venue, brought to life by an evening of the performance. Stimulating music, spoken word and monologues were accompanied by illuminating visual arts responses.

Hand Held Destinies is a spoken word piece written and performed by Alison Little on the evening. Created as a response to a photo exhibit from 1968 of two girls playing in the sea shores of New Brighton:

 

Hand Held Destinies

Girls hold hands in friendship.
Gleeful
Elegant in play

Eight years old
Born in 1960
The decade which changed Liverpool, Britain and the World

1960 saw the introduction of the pill
We had effective contraception
Birth Control
The Sexual Revolution
Smaller Families
We got richer

As they play in the swath they are attractive in their childhood. Swimsuits made for play, hair it’s natural colour, tresses they are not afraid to get wet. Sand grit, Sea and the salt of the shores adorn their sun-soaked bodies.

Today we have the modern day falsehood of youth. Primark churning out padded bras for pre-teens. Claire’s accessories piercing collections of hoops and studs to the lobes of innocence. Youthful visions of success; to appear on celebrity love island, becoming a WAG or to acquire a cosmetically enhanced bosom larger than Jordan’s.

An era when British beach holidays ruled the waves. Stripped deckchairs, the bucket and spade, splendour of Punch and Judy. Taken over by the package holiday: routes to the warmer destinations of Southern Europe. Made redundant for a second time by the cheap flights of the digital buyers market.

Background, we have sea vessels and the Albert Dock, it’s function then for shipping. Today, as the girls head to retirement we have shipping in its last days of decline. We have a dock surplus of its intended purpose.

Sea Faring industrialism replaced
A cultural haven
The Waterfront
The Tate
Museum of Liverpool
The Maritime
A new Future
A future of tourists
Culture Vultures
City Breakers
A cheap flight destination
The ‘Must take in’ city of Liverpool
A city revived
An end of mass unemployment
The striking city no more
The legacy of the Capital of Culture Year

Their playscape is now a Metropolis challenging globally.
But to the padded bras, the stud lined ears and fixations with celebrity culture we have the bucket.

A return to the beauty of innocence bathing in the optimism of the future.

Alison Little

 

Exhibition continues throughout April.

More about Research Exhibition Lab

Main photograph credited the Graham Smillie.

More about Graham Smillie photography

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Keys

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Keys is the latest flash Fiction work from Alison Little.

Keys

Around us we are surrounded by keys, hung from every section, floating around, spinning. Shadows brightly identified by the white surfaces which are the parameters of our encasement in this heaven -like cell. The keys float and dangle head height like angels in an outer world. The jingles and rattling almost ghost-like, jitters of evil coming to take us from the purity of our setting. Clattering faster and faster, more and more in motion together, louder and louder, machine gun like in battle, will we be taken?

Subtly they quieten down, jingle in serenity again, bell-like, the instruments of the piano, not one of the devils jailers on a dictated mission to take us to him. We are safe within the white purity of our surroundings, the playful clacking of the brass and steel instruments of secure captivity. The tags which identify their uses, the fobs which fumble and the enlarged shadows which follow their leaders every move. Sounds which surround, which inform, which provide safety but exclude us from freedom.

A dreamscape of soulfulness suspended in our vision and the recipients of the routes of sound waves. Serenity, shadows and the safety of celebration.

Alison Little

Keys was written in response to an art installation all named ‘Keys’ created by Raymon Watson for the History of Hands exhibition held at the Victoria Gallery & Museum in Liverpool. In this, a collection of keys originally from the Crumlin Road Prison were suspended and used in conjunction with a sound installation. The exhibition ran from the 10.03.18-21.04.18.

History of Hands Exhibition

Victoria Gallery & Museum

A Light from Above

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A Light for Above is a Flash fiction piece written by Alison Little, potentially to be used for the opening of a short story or Novella, the text is read by herself. All characters and events are fictitious and not based on real life. 

Reading of text by Alison Little

In the distance, she can see the tower of Ogden’s rising over the West Derby Road. The nights are beginning to get dark sooner as the winter approaches, but tonight twilight is nearing even earlier in response to the waterlogged clouds charging across the Atlantic. She is soaked again, still wet from the afternoon downpour, a quick snack had followed, now she was out again in more flood like conditions. As the traffic charges by on route to the finer suburbs, she does not bother to flinch away from the puddle water lash as there is no point. Her clothes are soaked through, her underwear is stuck to her and her hair is itching against her rain-soaked face. Trainers squelch and split out fluid from all sides as she tries to hurry forward. Equally to the rain, there is the discomfort of it being a warm evening, a second soaking from the clamminess of perspiration, bad weather clothing needed to be worn on a humid evening.

The lights are on in Ogden’s shining from the tower, the pains of the glass looking degraded from decades of road pollution from the dual carriageway. She can envisage them in there, waiting for her, conspiring their next plan. She was there to meet her Brother and his wife, she only met him when it was necessary, the last time being their Fathers funeral. They had to sort out the financial matters over the ownership of the disused factory. As she enters the code, a simple 6666, Damien plus an extra one, had been the same since the Seventies. Light beams down on her from above, she feels exposed, her clothes stuck to her, will her brother be able to see her nipples or the curves of her thighs through her fitted black trousers? She fastens her coat tightly around her to disguise her body. The light seemed to suggest it was her fault everything had been exposed, what was supposed to remain hidden was now in the open.

Riendeer versus Diesel

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The last call of the evening on my busiest evening of the year Christmas Eve, I overheard a comment about how reindeer must be soo much cheaper than diesel. Reindeer cheaper than diesel? You have to feed them and they eat loads. Harnesses have to be bought and you have to pay extra for the re-enforced ones when you have some many of the damn four-legged things. There’s re-hoofing which is bearly affordable then there are the exploitative vet’s bills. You need to provide stalls for them to sleep, a constant supply of hay is required, making sure it doesn’t get wet and there is enough to last over the winter. That’s in addition to the four-acre field which I am still paying off the mortgage on for them to graze and get exercise in the form of running around and playing silly animal chase games. Then you add in the time it takes to find them when they go missing, that Rudolf is a pain, always breaking out I think he’s getting his leg over with some girl reindeer probably thinning her antlers over on the other side of town.

Reindeer cheaper than diesel, as if!

End of the year, a year spent making toys with only the help of a number of miniature Elves. Exclusive, handmade, limited edition creations which utilise traditional manufacturing techniques. Then despite the fact I’ve travelled all around the World, over only one night, the kids aren’t interested in the toys. They want the latest Wii, hoverboard skateboards and pixel purses. It’s the North Pole, how are we supposed to churn out the latest digital technology creations on mass?

Then there the issue of everyone thinking I want to drink milk like I’m some kind of baby. I managed two brandy’s over Paris, one malt whiskey in Glasgow, then things seemed to be looking up on my first call in New York. I thought I’d been left some fancy cocktail, a long island iced tea or something, then when I went to drink it the mother snatched it from me. ‘That’s mine’ was followed by her slapping my hand like I was some kind of Street beggar.

It got worse in the Bronx, one woman was actually unconscious, the apartment stunk of the crack she had been smoking from the glass pipe which had been smashed on the floor. On waking she got me confused with some kind of oversized bat despite the fact I was dressed head to toe in Red. So not only do I have to pay taxes to support her crack habit, I am expected to provide the funds for her child as the father wasn’t there, I also am required to personally deliver presents for her offspring.

Then when I eventually get back there’s unharnessing the reindeer, feeding them, brushing them down and sorting out the stalls for them to sleep and making sure there’s something footed up again Rudolfs so he doesn’t get out. And what does my wife do while I do all this, she cooks dinner with the food I have afforded. I only got away from her whining about being menopausal a few years ago, before that she was always moaning about being pre-menstrual. Once, in the Seventies she even wanted me to pop to the shops and get some sanitary towels when I was still wearing my best Christmas Eve Santa Suit.

Next year I am cancelling Christmas, I am making no toys, there will be no more employment for blasted Elves, the Reindeer are going, the field will be sold and I am getting the latest diesel sleigh. No more milk, no more ungrateful kids and no more being expected to provide for Crack whores offspring.

Next Christmas is officially cancelled!