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Girls and guns: Brave female freedom fighters from around the world on the battlefields of war


The first female combat veteran Margaret Corbin helping to load a cannon being shot by her husband John Corbin during the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island, 1772. Though Corbin is depicted in the painting above wearing a dress she disguised herself as a man in order to contribute to the efforts on the battlefield.
 
During the Revolutionary War it was commonplace for the wife of a soldier to accompany her husband to war only to mostly perform activities such as doing laundry, preparing meals and attending to he injured. Though this is exactly what Margaret Corbin did initially when she joined her husband John as a member of the Pennsylvania military at the age of 21, four years later Corbin would disguise herself as a man to help her husband load his cannon during the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island. During the fighting John was killed leaving Margaret alone to “man” the cannon. Which she did until she nearly lost her left arm due to British army fire. Corbin would survive and for her participation in the Battle of Fort Washington she was officially recognized as the first woman “combat veteran” and subsequently became the first woman to receive a military pension.

Many other women would follow in Corbin’s pioneering footsteps including Deborah Sampson who dressed as a man in order to fight in George Washington’s army in 1782. Sampson’s heroic charade lasted for a year until she became injured and was no longer able to hide the fact that she was a woman and was honorably discharged. During the Civil War and the Spanish American War in 1898 there are several accounts of women masquerading as men in order to fight on the front lines along with their male counterparts, as well as serving their country assisting with war related activities such as espionage. Though women would participate in WWI and WWII and lose their lives as a result, it was not until 1976 that women were allowed to enlist in the military. Instances of women fighting in other wars and acting as snipers, and members of resistance efforts in places like France during WWII were common.

Speaking of snipers, the story of Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko is a compelling one. Pavlichenko was an expert female sniper from Ukraine who fought the Nazis during WWII and was credited with killing 187 Germans during her first 75 days as a member of the Soviet resistance. That number would grow to 309 with 36 of her total kills being German snipers, though it’s widely believed that her actual kill count is likely much higher as there was not always a third-party to witness them all. The German army was rightfully so terrified of Pavlichenko they took to broadcasting appeals over loudspeakers to have the 25-year-old killing machine join their troops instead of wiping them out. Pavlichenko would of course turn down the offer (which according to historians included the promise of “candy”). There were 2000 female snipers who fought with the Red Army during WWII—and Pavlichenko would be one of the 500 who walked away with their lives.

Below, I’ve included some pretty stunning images of women taking up arms. I’ve also posted the trailer for the 2015 film based on Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s brave exploits Battle for Sevastopol. Stay strong, sisters.
 

Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
 

Armenian guerilla fighters during the Hamidian massacres, 1895.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Ugly Xmas sweater with Rick from ‘The Young Ones’
11.28.2016
03:11 pm

Topics:
Feminism
Punk
Television

Tags:
The Young Ones
Rik Mayall


 
The last few years have seen an explosion in “ugly Christmas sweater” designs. On DM alone we’ve brought you designs keying off subjects like the Friday the 13th franchise, Blondie, Iron Maiden, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Motörhead, among many others.

It’s gotten so prevalent that we’ve actually started passing on some of them. If we showed you all of them, this would turn into a ugly holiday sweater blog, and who wants that? But every now and then, one stands out from the pack, and those we’re more than happy to show you.

The design for today isn’t actually a sweater, it’s a sweatshirt done to resemble a sweater. Not only does it feature the “People’s Poet” Rick from The Young Ones, it actually references a specific scene from “Bambi,” unquestionably one of the better episodes of the series, which only ran for 12 episodes. It premiered on the BBC on May 8, 1984, and on MTV a year or two later. That episode featured perhaps the best musical performance of the series, with Motörhead kindly obliterating “Ace of Spades.” It’s also the episode with the University Challenge competition that has the fantastic scene in which Neil preps Rick on a train on the way to the quiz show.

The line “Hands up who likes me?” is something only the desperately disliked and needy Rick would ever say, and it immediately conjures an image of the rest of the flatmates thrusting their hands down as far as possible while Rick alone pointlessly flings both of his hands above his head. The scene is exquisitely played by the entire foursome but especially Rik Mayall, also one of the main writers of the series, who sadly passed on in 2013.

Here’s the scene in dialogue form; the episode was written by Mayall, Ben Elton, and Lise Mayer with “additional material by Alexei Sayle”:
 

Rick: [stands up abruptly] Why don’t you like me?
Vyvyan: Because you’re a complete bastard.
Rick: Vyvyan, I’m being serious!
Vyvyan: So am I. You’re a complete bastard and we all hate you.
Rick: [shaking his head] I find that rather difficult to believe.
Vyvyan: Do you want to bet on it? I’ll put down a fiver.
Neil: Yeah, me too.
Mike: You can count me in as well.
[Vyv, Neil, and Mike put their money on the table]
Rick: Yes, eh, I…I don’t bet.
Vyvyan: Coward!
Neil: Yeah, yellow chicken!
Rick: Alright, I’m not scared!
Vyvyan: Right, then, a fiver!
Rick: Oh, I haven’t got any money.
Neil: What about that tenner I lent you this morning? For your sister’s operation?
Vyvyan: You haven’t got a sister, Rick! You’re the classic example of an only child.
Rick: Alright, alright, are we going to bet or are we going to piffle around all night? [slaps money on the table] There’s a tenner!
Vyvyan: Quiet, everybody, the bet’s on!
Rick: Right. Hands up, who likes me! [Rick throws both arms into the air, while the other three guys drop their hands to the floor] DAMN! Right, that’s it, I’m going to kill myself. [He removes his belt] Then you’ll be sorry!
Vyvyan: No, we won’t. [Rips the tenner in half and gives one half to Mike]

 
After this Rick becomes temporarily despondent and tries to kill himself and if you know the episode at all well you know exactly where that leads.

TeeChip is selling the sweatshirt for just $31, but you can also get the design on a shirt or mug or smartphone case if you prefer, those options are all a little less expensive. Note that you can only get them in the next two days, then the sale is over.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘A Pig is a Pig’: Wendy O. Williams on sexism and female objectification in 1981


The Plasmatics at The Rathskeller in Boston. Photo generously provided by Mike Mayhan.

 

You Can Dress Up In Disguises
You Can Try To Mesmerize ‘em
You Can Surround
Yourself With Friends
Who Tell You What You Want To Hear
But In The End No Matter What You Do
You Will Come Shining Through

 
A few lyrics from the Plasmatics 1981 song “A Pig is a Pig”
 
I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate Plasmatics vocalist and heavy metal crusader Wendy O. Williams during her punk-era heyday. But by the time I figured out who I wanted to be sometime in the late 80s I was fully in awe of her.

Williams was an inspiration for me back when I had become brave enough to put myself out into the world—writing about music, weirdness and other lowbrow pursuits. She was confident, strong and never ever took a backseat to anyone. Not the press who hounded her, people who flat out didn’t understand her and chose to label her as “obscene,” or the cops who sent her to the hospital when she defied them. Last week was a challenge to me as a human. I know I wasn’t the only one who laid in bed a lot because the contemplation of what our future looks like was too much for me to handle while standing up. I’m now past my “mourning” period and have moved on to being very fucking angry.

Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behaviour patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!—W.O.W.

As a woman, forward thinker—and a mother—I want you to listen to Wendy share her feelings spoken some 35 years ago about sexism and female objectification—two negative attitudes that have become even more magnified (as well as seemingly completely acceptable to half of the residents of the U.S.) of late. They echo the spirit of lyrics of the Plasmatics powerful (and timely) song, “Pig is a Pig” (from the band’s second release Beyond the Valley of 1984) which Williams’ references during the short interview with Jeanne Beker on the Toronto-based The Music Show back in 1981. While trying to sort through all the madness that has been the past week, like many of you I relied on music to get me through as nothing else made any fucking sense. When I came across the footage of Wendy O’s interview I felt a distinct wave of reassurance thanks to her powerful words and point-blank fuck-this-bullshit attitude which are very much reflective of the many emotions I’ve been rollercoastering through myself.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘The Love Witch’: Sex magick meets pussy power in occult movie mindbender
11.11.2016
02:07 pm

Topics:
Feminism
Movies
Occult
Pop Culture

Tags:
Anna Biller


 
On its beautiful 35mm Technicolor surface, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch appears to be a spot-on replication of horror and sexploitation movies of the 1960s and 70s. Imagine a Hammer film directed by Radley Metzger or Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls featuring witches instead of an all-girl rock band. Biller’s film also recalls devilish delights like Juan López Moctezuma’s Alucarda, Jimmy Sangster’s Lust For A Vampire and just about anything directed by Jean Rollin. But Biller’s cinematographer M. David Mullen eschews shooting in the ocher and crimson hues of the Hammer films or soft focus of Rollin and goes for a luminescent style that evokes Frank Tashlin’s use of primary colors with their cartoon clarity, or one of Aleister Crowley’s paintings. Though Biller herself would tell you she wasn’t influenced by the movies that The Love Witch seems to be paying homage to there is an undeniable aesthetic connection between The Love Witch and dozens of Italian giallos as well as the films and directors I’ve already mentioned. If Biller hasn’t seen those films or is reluctant to spend time discussing her influences in interviews it’s because, in my opinion, she doesn’t want The Love Witch to be classified as some kind of camp artifact but seen as a very modern take on pussy power. In her movie, no one grabs these witches by the pussy and lives to joke about it.
 

 
The Love Witch is a perfect film for these times. As we’ve seen women rising to political power and female artists dominating the music charts and directing major films, we’ve also seen a sexist backlash that hasn’t been this virulent in decades. Our culture still demonizes women who are unafraid to assert themselves through their politics, art, bodies and minds. Strong women are called loud, shrill, bitches. The perception on the part of many men (and some women) is that these successful women got to where they are because they’re good at manipulation, skilled in using their female powers, their cunning. That their success isn’t earned. That they fucked their way to the top, using their feminine wiles to get what they wanted. The classic depictions of women in film noirs of the forties and fifties are back in the form of modern day femme fatales who scheme like Hillary Clinton and beguile like Beyoncé. [For some bone-chilling sexism and racism check out the ‘net response to Beyoncé‘s appearance on the Country Music Awards.]
 

 
The Love Witch is feminist fairy tale that uses the past to reflect on the moment. Within its B-movie trappings, it poetically probes the backlash that occurred when women broke free from sexual oppression during the go-go sixties and how that freedom resulted in a whole new set of problems. Every gesture of openness and sexuality could be misread as a come-on, a seduction, an unspoken “yes.” The Love Witch takes place in 1971 and I remember well when women started going bra-less and wore mini-skirts and let their hair grow long and free. Sexual liberation was fine in theory. But in practice women who expressed their new-found freedom by wearing what they wanted, walked and talked like they wanted, sent a message to men that was misread. Suddenly liberated women were perceived as easy targets. Outside of communities of young, intelligent and sensitive people, free sex wasn’t free. It often carried a high price. The Love Witch is not a horror movie in the conventional sense. But it is horrifying to be reminded of how women have been persecuted since Biblical days right up until now for enjoying their bodies and sexuality. They’re dangerous, they’re from Hell, they’re witches and must be burned on the stake of religion, fear and cultural oppression. A free woman is a threat to the fragile male sense of superiority. Men have done everything they can to keep women under control. Even demonizing them to the point that executing them was acceptable. Male strength is predicated on the subjugation of women. And when women rise up, men become desperate and in desperation they reveal their weakness. The woman who resists male dominance is evil, possessed, a witch.
 

 
Now I realize that I’m making The Love Witch sound like a diatribe against men. It isn’t. It’s a very sly comedy that uses the idea of witchery as a metaphor for pussy power unleashed. The whole movie is as nutty and fruity as a bag of Freudian trail mix. Interpretation is more than welcome, it’s almost obligatory.  Magic potions are created by combining female urine with used tampons—Trump’s worse menstruating Megyn Kelly nightmare. Smoking beakers filled with witches brews of day-glo chemicals could be the bubbling components for birth control concoctions, abortifacients and hallucinogenics. Keys to open the castle doors. After all, wasn’t it the pill and psychedelics that helped free our bodies and minds? Wouldn’t a love witch want to spread the good vibes? Oh, those devilish witches with their magic elixirs.

New age homilies and hippie dippy black magic circle jerks are wonderfully skewered on Biller’s sardonic pitchfork. Scenes have the drug panic of a Dragnet episode. And at times the movie’s like what you’d get if The Wicker Man was a Wicker Woman and lived in Topanga Canyon next door to the Mod Squad. But that’s just part of it. Imagine Hitchcock’s Marnie starring Anton LaVey and The Shangri-Las as Marnie’s multiple personalities. No, that’s not it either. Maybe if Hogtied magazine had sex with an Archie comic and gave birth to a slew of demonic Barbie Dolls dressed in leather and latex? Or maybe just a frugging Anaïs Nin bobblehead?
 

 
What happens when the power between yin and yang shifts and sugartits pulls a metaphoric gun on the guy with his hands on the steering wheel? Biller is both playful and deadly serious in scenes where burlesque dancers bring howling men helplessly to their knees with a mere thrust of the pelvis and witches with Bobby Gentry bouffants reduce men to sobbing little boys who quiver in the wake of the all powerful energy of the sorceress. In these moments of masculine meltdowns I can hear the pathetic voice of Frank Booth sobbing the word “mommy” between each inhalation of his witch’s brew. And off in the distance where the sun bleeds into the desert, Tura Satana is going Jackie Chan on a truck driver with a porn ‘stache.

The film is deep and deeply twisted. There’s a renaissance fair in The Love Witch that looks like the commune scene in Easy Rider directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky while tripping on Orange Sunshine. It’s fucking out of this world wacky. I think there’s even a Unicorn. Or was I hallucinating?
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Super hot German movie poster & lobby cards for ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’


A German movie poster for the 1965 film ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’
 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains… sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy, it creates and molds as well. Let’s examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don’t drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist… or a dancer in a go-go club!

Russ Meyer’s 1965 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! features a rogue gang of go-go dancers who decide to set off into the desert in search of mayhem, money and men to mercilessly mess with… and as the title suggests kill. While the best thing about this movie is clearly its karate chopping star Tura Satana, a close runner up would be the German movie posters and lobby cards for the film. The German marketing materials are about as far-out as the film itself.

When I ran the words “Die Satansweiber von Tittfield” through Google Translate it didn’t exactly make sense. And sadly the strange but appropriate sounding word “Tittfield” seems to be there solely for our amusement, like “Boobsville” or something.  I love seeing powerful women beating the crap out any man who gets in the way of them having a good time, don’t you? It’s a sentiment echoed by Meyer himself in an interview from 1998. The then 76-year-old director was touring around the world in support of a re-release of FPKK when he was asked for his opinion regarding the film’s remarkable ability to keep attracting audiences 30-plus years after its initial release:

It’s a little puzzling. Most of my films have women who have large breasts. It’s not that the girls are completely lacking in accouterments there, but… I suppose they like the idea of the women kicking the shit out of the men. More than anything else, I think that’s the reason it’s done very, very well.

It might also have something to do with the snappy and highly quotable dialogue. With lines like “Easy baby! You’re almost a fire hazard!” or “I never try anything, I just do it” or “Women! They let ‘em vote, smoke and drive - even put ‘em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!” how can you go wrong?

Much like the film itself (and everything else in Meyer’s long shapely body of work) some of the images in this post are NSFW. I’ve also included a few U.S. lobby cards for the film that contained images from the movie that were too great not to share.
 

A German lobby card for the 1965 film ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’
 

 

 
More ‘Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Factory Girls: The heroic Home Front efforts of British women during World War I

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The idea British women suddenly started working during the First World War is an absolute myth. Most working class women had always been part of the British workforce—mainly in textile manufacturing, farming, education and the service industries. With the commencement of war, an estimated two million women replaced men in the workplace leading to a considerable rise in the proportion of working women—from 24% in 1914 to 37% in 1918. As a result:

...the number of women employed increased from 3,224,600 in July, 1914 to 4,814,600 in January 1918. Nearly 200,000 women were employed in government departments. Half a million became clerical workers in private offices. Women worked as conductors on trams and buses. A quarter of a million worked on the land. The greatest increase of women workers was in engineering. Over 700,000 of these women worked in the highly dangerous munitions industry. Industries that had previously excluded women now welcomed them. There was a particular demand for women to do heavy work such as unloading coal, stoking furnaces and building ships.

The war gave women greater opportunities—a wider range of occupations and an alternative to traditional roles—which led most notably to a decline in domestic service. From the 1700s to 1911, around 12% of the female population in England and Wales worked in domestic service as cooks, maids, nannies, cleaners, etc. This dropped to less than 8% by 1931—mainly due to job opportunities available for women in the workplace. Half of the women who applied to work at London omnibuses in 1916 came from domestic service. An interesting side effect of all this was the increase in labor saving devices—vacuum cleaners, automatic washing machines and domestic refrigerators.

The influx of women into the job market gave rise to trade unions. In 1914, 375,000 women were members of a trade union. This had risen to over one million by 1918. The only problem here was the fact women were still paid far less than their male counterparts for doing the same job….plus ca change…

More women in work meant more childcare services. Around 100 nurseries were established for women working in munition factories during the war. However, the government of the day did not provide similar services for women working in any other industries.

The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU)—the suffragette movement—which had campaigned for women’s suffrage was split by the war. Originally formed in 1903 by Christabel Pankhurst and her mother Emmeline Pankhurst, the WSPU divided between Christabel and Emmeline who supported the war and Sylvia Pankhurst who was against it. The WSPU was not in favor of universal women suffrage but rather suffrage for a small (upper) class section of the female population—”Votes for ladies” rather than “votes for women.”

The war led to changes in suffrage as those males allowed to vote had to be resident in the UK for twelve months prior to any election. As most of the electorate had been overseas fighting in France—this meant there was only a small percentage of men eligible to vote. The Representation of the People Act in 1918 gave votes to men over the age of 21 and all women over the age of 30 who were occupiers of property or married occupiers of property. This was in small part an acknowledgement of the essential work carried out by women during the war—but also in large part due to tireless political campaigning for the right to vote. For if the women’s right to vote had been inspired solely by their actions during the war then surely women under thirty would have also been given the vote. Most women who worked in munition factories or in essential war work were single, in their late teens and early twenties. These young women were actually pointedly denied the right to vote by the Representation of the People Act. Apparently the war effort—as some historians hold—did not really merit a “thank you” to the women who worked on the home front. That would take another ten years before women over the age of 21 had the right to vote, just like men.

As part of the propaganda for the war effort, photographers were sent out to document women at work in factories across Britain. These photographs of women laborers at the Parsons’ Works on Shields Road, Newcastle, were taken between 1914 and 1918, and are held by the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums:

The factory was founded by engineer Charles Parsons, best known for his invention of the steam turbine. In 1914, with the outbreak of war, Parsons’ daughter Rachel, one of the first three women to study engineering at Cambridge, replaced her brother on the board of directors, and took on a role in the training department of the Ministry of Munitions, supporting the increasing amount of women taking on jobs in industry to support the war effort.

These pictures are not stylized as later photographs were during the Second World War for far more overt propaganda purposes. These women are intensely focussed in getting on with their job. Some seem camera shy—but it must have seemed strange to be photographed at work when it was such an ordinary yet essential thing to be doing.
 
002womenww1.jpg
 
003womenww1.jpg
 
More factory girls on the home front, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Stray Cat Beat Girl: Meet the electrifying ‘Aretha Franklin’ of Japan, Akiko Wada
10.25.2016
10:40 am

Topics:
Feminism
Movies
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Japan
Akiko Wada


Akiko Wada.
 
The arrival of the “beat girl” archetype in Japanese culture back in the 60s came with numerous girl rockers taking the helm of bands, cranking out garage rock sounds and pop-inspired hits some of which would go on to sell more than a million copies (such as the 1965 smash sung in English by Emy Jackson “Crying in a Storm”). Of the many that were a part of this movement, one of the most notable was a woman often referred to as the “Japanese Aretha Franklin,” Akiko Wada.

Born Akiko Iizuka (according to her website) to Korean parents, she soon adopted her maternal uncle’s name (Wada) and started skipping school (before dropping out of high school entierly) to enjoy the nightlife of Osaka. At the age of seventeen she had added “runaway” to her growing rebellious teenage resume after a trip to Tokyo. Wada’s “look” was perceived as “unconventional” even during her childhood. In elementary school Wada was already over five-feet tall and by the time she stopped growing she stood approximately 5’9. Not only did Wada sound more like a man she was also taller than most of her male counterparts on the hit parade. Due to her unique looks and vocal style she was often referred to as being “butch.

It’s important to note here that being labeled as “butch” is a distinct inference of homosexuality. And being gay in Japan isn’t merely frowned upon, it is also considered an “unacceptable” lifestyle (though there has been some progress over the last two decades). Despite assumptions regarding her sexuality Wada has been married to a man (photographer Koji Iizuka) for the past 35 years.

Wada would embark on her recording career in 1968, singing on an astronomical number of records (somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 singles) since the release of her first single “Hoshizora no Kodoku” (“The Solitude of the Starry Sky”). Fast-forward to 2016 and the unstoppable Wada shows no signs of slowing down. Her latest release “All Right!!!” came out in July of this year—three months after her 66th birthday.

Wada also appeared in a few memorable films, a few which audiences outside of Japan may be familiar with such as the 1970 Japanese chick biker-flick (the first of the long-running franchise) Alleycat Rock: Female Boss where Akiko gets to play the cycle-riding biker girl “Ako.” Wada would reprise the role of “Ako” in the follow-up film, Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo. Wada has also hosted her own TV show, Akko ni Omakase (“Leave It To Akko”), as well as a radio show DJ Akko No Panic Studio. I’ve included a number of cool tracks from Wada’s vast catalog for you to listen to below and the groovy trailer for Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (which was lovingly remastered back in 2014 by Arrow Films) that features Wada looking larger than life, rocking out in a sweet brown pantsuit.
 

The trailer for the 1970 film ‘Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo’ featuring Akiko Wada.
 
More Akiko Wada after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Mata Hari: Sexy photographs of the original femme fatale

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James Bond would never have made a great spy because too many of his enemies knew his identity. Great spies are anonymous—as any fule kno. They carry out their work covertly. Only their handlers know of their existence and their stealthy actions.

At her trial for espionage in 1917, the dancer and courtesan Mata Hari was described by her accusers as “perhaps the greatest woman spy of the century.”

She was charged by the French of spying for the Germans during First World War. It was alleged her cunning double-dealing had been responsible for the deaths of at least some 50,000 soldiers. Her actions were denounced as unmitigated evil. Her liberated sexuality deemed a cover for her career as a spy and worse—a threat to the moral substance of the honorable French people.

In truth, the French were shitting themselves. Their country had been invaded by Germany. They were dependent on the Allies to defend their homeland and defeat the might of the invading German army. If this weren’t humiliating enough—after the failure of the Nivelle offensive in 1917, there was widespread mutiny among the French troops. It looked as though France was about to capitulate under the strain and surrender to the Germans. The country needed a scapegoat to distract attention. They needed someone who could be blamed for undermining morale and destroying the fantasy of French military superiority.

Step forward Mata Hari. A woman who was not so much a spy but rather the victim of weak duplicitous men determined to sacrifice her life for their government’s failings.
 
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Mata Hari was the stage name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle who was born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands on August 7th, 1876. Margaretha’s biography is as much the story of a strong independent woman as it is about a woman dealing with the failure, stupidity and brutality of the men in her life.

Raised in an affluent household, Margaretha moved to the Dutch East Indies and married Captain Rudolf MacLeod when she was eighteen. MacLeod was a brutish drunk who regularly beat Margaretha. He kept a concubine and was riddled with syphilis.

Margaretha had two children with MacLeod. A son Norman-John who died at the age of two from complications relating to treatment for his inherited syphilis. A daughter Louise-Jeanne died at 21—again from complications from her inherited syphilis. To escape her husband’s drunken brutality, Margaretha studied traditional Indonesian dance. She adopted the name Mata Hari—meaning “eye of the day” or “sun.”

The couple separated in 1902. Mata Hari moved to Paris with her daughter where she supported herself as an artist’s model. She also worked in a circus and more importantly started performing as an exotic dancer.

Mata Hari adapted the traditional dance she had learnt in Indonesia to choreograph her own risque routines—a modern Salome discarding her veils. Mata Hari was a pioneer of modern dance—along with that other leading light Isadora Duncan—her exotic dances broke the rigid formality of ballet or even the can-can.

By 1905, Mata Hari was a dance star performing all over Europe. She sent audiences into paroxysms of ecstasy with her “feline, extremely feminine,” “thousand curves and movements,” a graceful wild animal with “blue-black” hair. Her dances almost revealed her naked form—only her breasts remained hidden as she was self-conscious about their size.

Mata Hari was courted by rich eligible men—as well as by many two-timing cads. She became a courtesan—which is a posh word for a high class hooker. It would be this access to upper echelons of politicians, high-ranking soldiers and wealthy industrialists that later led French and British authorities to think Mata Hari was a spy.

By 1915, Mata Hari felt too old to continue with her erotic dance routines and retired from performance. She was in love with a Russian pilot named Captain Vadim Maslov. When Maslov was shot down and blinded in a dogfight over the Western Front, Mata Hari asked for permission to visit him in hospital. As a Dutch national living in neutral Netherlands during the First World War, Mata Hari had to seek permission to travel to and from countries involved in the conflict. As Mata Hari had been continuing her relationships with some of her wealthy admirers in France, she had come under suspicion by British authorities due to the number of trips she made to and from the Netherlands. When she applied to the French authorities for a visa to visit her young beau, Mata Hari was coerced to become a spy for the French.

The deal went something like this—If you want to see your hot young BF then we want you to fuck some information out of a few German colonels. We especially want you to fuck the German Crown Prince Wilhelm and get all his secrets. Mata Hari was also offered a bagful of cash. It may have been the cash incentive that made her say “Okay, sure. When do I start?”

The problem with the devious French plan was that Crown Prince Wilhelm knew nothing. He was an idiot. A wastrel who liked whoring, drinking, playing soldiers and pulling his pork. How the French military intelligence (the Deuxième Bureau) thought they could learn anything useful from Clown Prince Wilhelm is utterly baffling. However, Mata Hari went off to Germany in a bid to get the inside skinny.

Unfortunately the Germans knew Mata Hari was a spy and gave her bogus information. They also exposed her as a double agent—letting the Deuxième Bureau know Mata Hari was actually their agent. Of course, she wasn’t. Mata Hari was just a useful pawn in a terrible game.

The French were suspicious. In December 1916, they gave Mata Hari some information about six agents in the field—five of whom were double agents working for the Germans. The sixth was a double agent working for the French. When the sixth agent was arrested and executed by the Germans—the French firmly beleved that Mata Hari was a spy.

On February 13th, Mata Hari was arrested and charged with espionage. She was quickly put on a show trial. It was a deeply one-sided affair—Mata Hari had literally been found guilty before questioning even began.

Captain Georges Ladoux—the man who coerced Mata Hari into working as a French spy—prepared the case against her. It was a win-win situation for Ladoux. Either Mata Hari seduced the Crown Prince and found out useful information or she took the fall as a double agent and raised the country’s morale. Hoorah! Ladoux himself was later arrested and charged as double agent, but he was eventually acquitted over a lack of evidence.

The trial of Mata Hari was given front page coverage across France. The press worked in cahoots with the French authorities to tell the accepted—or rather authorized—version of events. Maslov could have saved her—but he was embittered by his blindness and refused to testify in her defence.

Though there was never any real evidence against Mata Hari—her final script was now written. Mata Hari the world’s greatest and most evil spy was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death. Mata Hari was executed on October 15th, 1917. She refused to be blindfolded or tied to the stake. She blew kisses at the firing squad. She was just 41.
 
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More photographs of Mata Hari, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Trading cards of some dangerous minds, deep thinkers & radical intellectuals

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For those with an interest in big ideas, these trading cards from Theory.org should fire up your neurotransmitters.

Between 2000-2001, a set of twelve trading cards was released monthly via David Gauntlett’s website Theory.org. This original set of cards featured theorists (and their concepts) from the world of social and cultural theory, gender and identity, and media studies. The first out of the pack was British social theorist Anthony Giddens who devised the theory of structuration and wrote the book on The Third Way. This was followed by theorist Judith Butler whose book Gender Trouble argued that “biological” sexes were just as much as a social construct as gender. Then came the great controversial French thinker Michel Foucault with his ideas about sexuality, gender and power structures. The deck included some interesting choices like artists Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George and concepts like Postmodernity and Psychoanalysis.

This official set of twelve trading cards was thought by some to lack a few key players and its release inspired various academics, students and alike to produce their own cards. These additions included Karl Marx, Carl Jung, Simone de Beauvoir, Edward Said, Germaine Greer, Walter Benjamin and Marcel Duchamp.

Described as “Creative knowledge you can put your pocket™” these cards can be used to play a game of trumps—in which players can match strengths, weaknesses and special skills. For example, Foucault’s special skill of happily rejecting old models and creating new ones, might not quite beat Duchamp’s ability to confuse the hell out of everyone.

The full set is below—but if you want to own a set of these super brainy trading cards (and who wouldn’t?) then deal yourself in by clicking here.
 
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#1 Anthony Giddens—British social theorist.
 
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#2 Judith Butler—American philosopher and gender theorist.
 
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#3 Michel Foucault—French philosopher, theorist, philologist and literary critic.
 
More thinkers and some big ideas, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Radical feminist home design from 100 years ago had no kitchens?!?
09.13.2016
09:49 am

Topics:
Feminism
Food

Tags:
Alice Constance Austin


Alice Constance Austin showing her designs for the Llano del Rio community, 1916
 
If you say, “We’re going to build homes without kitchens, as a way of helping women break free of their socially inscribed roles,” most people today are going to react with wonderment or disbelief. But a century ago, the idea of removing kitchens from homes was a commonplace idea among feminist thinkers.

In the years just before the First World War, attorney Job Harriman invited white, union-affiliated, and socialist residents (yes, whites only) to join a utopian society he was planning for the Llano Del Rio socialist commune in what is today Llano, California, in Los Angeles County. A year later he asked feminist architect Alice Constance Austin to create living quarters for 900 new residents—in an effort to dream up a community without domestic labor, Austin came up with a radial design for the community in which none of the single-family homes had kitchens. Her dwellings placed a living room at one end and bedrooms at the other separated by a large “dining patio.” Her plans also included built-in furniture to reduce time wasted on dusting and sweeping.
 

This plan depicts Austin’s radial design for Llano Del Rio
 
The idea was that, in the words of Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, “kitchens would become centralized (as would laundry), and treated as part of the larger infrastructure of the community.” According to “Another Look at the Llano Del Rio Colony” (PDF) by John M. Foster and Alex Kirkish, “Llano del Rio planned single-family houses without kitchens. Members dined communally, balancing the privacy of bedroom and parlor against the required sociability of the dining room.”

The notion of homes without kitchens had been kicking around for quite a while. In 1888 Edward Bellamy’s socialist utopian novel Looking Backward, America in the year 2000 was to be a paradise with communal kitchens. Ten years later, in 1898, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the following words in her treatise Women and Economics:
 

Take the kitchens out of the houses, and you leave rooms which are open to any form of arrangement and extension; and the occupancy of them does not mean “housekeeping.” In such living, personal character and taste would flower as never before. … The individual will learn to feel himself an integral part of the social structure, in close, direct, permanent connection with the needs and uses of society.

 
In her socialist city, Austin anticipated labor-saving devices in the home and an underground central laundry and kitchens where hired chefs and workers would relieve women “of the thankless and unending drudgery of an inconceivably stupid and inefficient system, by which her labors are confiscated.”

In her book The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities, Dolores Hayden wrote:
 

Each kitchenless house was to be connected to the central kitchen through a complex underground network of tunnels. Railway cars from the center of the city would bring cooked food, laundry, and other deliveries to connection points, or “hubs,” from which small electric cars could be dispatched to the basement of each house.

 
Note that in addition to banishing the household of drudgery, Austin was also trying to make the town center a more tranquil place by eliminating both individual automobile traffic and frequent retail purchases (not needed with frequent food and laundry deliveries).

Unfortunately, Austin’s visions were never constructed. The First World War came along, gobbling up resources, and by 1918 the Llano Del Rio commune was a dead letter. Too bad we never got to see these ideas in action.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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