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‘The Last of the Teddy Girls’: Ken Russell’s nearly lost photographs of London’s teenage girl gangs
02.13.2015
08:53 am

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Feminism
Pop Culture

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Though Ken Russell wanted to be a ballet dancer, his father wouldn’t hear of it—no son of his would ever be seen in tights—so the young Russell turned his attention to photography, a craft he thought he could make his name with. He attended Walthamstow Technical College in London, where he was taught all about lighting and composition. Russell would later claim that everything he did as a trainee photographer broke the rules—a trend he continued throughout his career as a film director when producing such acclaimed movies as Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Devils, Tommy, Altered States and Crimes of Passion.

Russell became a photographer for Picture Post and the Illustrated Magazine, and during his time with these publications took some of the most evocative photos of post-war London during the 1950s. He spent his days photographing street scenes and his nights printing his pictures on the kitchen table of his rented one-bed apartment in Notting Hill.
 
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For fifty years, it was believed Russell’s photos had been lost, but in 2005 a box marked “Ken Russell” was discovered in the archives of a photo library. Inside was over 3,000 of Ken’s negatives.

Among his most famous work from this period is “The Last of the Teddy Girls”—a series of photos documenting London’s girl gang subculture and their male counterparts. Russell was attracted to these young women for their sense of independence and style—dressing in suits, land army clothes—while rejecting society’s expectations of more traditional, feminine roles. (Teddy kids of either sex were known for fights breaking out wherever they congregated.) The images show Russell’s innate talent for composition and offer a fascinating look into a rarely documented female subculture.
 
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More of Unkle Ken’s beautiful photos, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Don’t mess with these hot mamas: Vintage photos of badass Roller Derby Girls
02.12.2015
01:25 pm

Topics:
Feminism
History
Pop Culture
Sports

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1950
 
Here are some vintage photos ranging from the early 1940s to 1970s of women’s roller derby competitions. As you can see by the images, these women ain’t takin’ no shit while they’re on their skates. It’s hardcore stuff.

I tried to add captions to photos I could find information on. I also included a movie trailer at the bottom of this post for the 1972 film Kansas City Bomber starring Raquel Welch. Because RAQUEL WELCH ON ROLLER SKATES! Honestly, what more could you want?
 

 

Chicago, IL. 1948
 

 

Midge Brasuhn of the Brooklynites
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Bring back the feminists of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell)!
02.06.2015
07:16 am

Topics:
Class War
Feminism

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1969 WITCH protest in front of Chicago Federal Building.
 
Of all the second wave feminists who exploded into action over the 1960s and 70s, no group seems to have had quite as much fun as WITCH—the fabulous acronym for Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. Like so many other groups, WITCH was formed from a split, this one from New York Radical Women. Their counterpart, Redstockings, became the more famous “intellectual” feminist group, producing such visionary minds as Ellen Willis and Shulamith Firestone (who, among many other far out things, argued for the option of robotic wombs to liberate women from childbirth). WITCH on the other hand was the wild and wooly protest group, easily identifiable by their Halloween get-ups.
 

Protesting beauty pageant circa 1969.
 
The group specialized in disruption of the sensational bent, shrieking and chanting in black clothing and white face paint, and “throwing hexes” at enemies of the people. Among their many targets were beauty pageants, Wall Street, bridal fairs, Chase Bank, the presidential inauguration, and even sexists in the politically left anti-war movement. Some of the more famous work was actually quite modest in its goals (hey, all politics are local politics), including protesting public transportation fare hikes with this little hex:

Witches round the circle go
to hex the causes of our woe,
We the witches now conspire
To burn CTA in freedoms’ fire.

Bankers gall, politicians guile,
Daley’s jowl, lackey’s smile,
Trustee’s toe, bondholder’s liar
These we cast into our fire.

Meetings held, messages sealed
When the fare hike is revealed
We, the people, are the prey
Of the demon, CTA….

 
WITCH were one of many radical feminist groups of the second wave (1960s and 70s), and one of many that is sadly understudied and overlooked. Luckily women like director Mary Dore work on projects like She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a new documentary that chronicles the feminist lay of the land in the days of the counterculture revolution. It’s baffling to think that explicitly socialist groups like WITCH and the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union started out on the same footing as Hillary Clinton boosters like the National Organization for Women, but we all know that even in the feminist movement, the game is rigged towards Wellesley girls.
 

 
You can find a screening of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry here, and I say it should be mandatory viewing for all girls under the age of eightteen. Where else are we going to get the next chapter of WITCH from?
 

 
Via Mother Jones

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Even in death women are not free of sexist idiots
01.30.2015
01:02 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Books
Feminism
R.I.P.
The wrong side of history

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Yesterday, the best-selling author and neuroscientist Colleen McCullough died at the age of seventy-seven. McCullough was one of Australia’s best-known and most popular novelists, whose success was firmly established with the publication of her second novel The Thorn Birds in 1977. It was later made into a highly successful TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain. McCullough followed on her success with a string of bestsellers including An Indecent Obsession (1981), The Ladies of Missalonghi (1987), The Touch (2003) and her Masters of Rome series of historical novels. McCullough’s books have sold in excess of 30 million copies.

But McCullough had originally studied medicine before successfully moving into neuroscience and becoming a respected teacher at the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, CT.

By any standard, most people would be content with just one of McCullough’s incredible careers, and one would think that a national newspaper like The Australian might write a glowing obituary, eulogizing this talented and brilliant Australian woman. Well, most of us would, but that’s not what The Australian decided to focus on when writing her obituary, instead they considered her most relevant attributes as being “plain of feature, and certainly overweight,” though she was also “a charmer.”
 

 
It’s dispiriting to think how this ever got past the paper’s sub editor’s desk—unless of course the paper is completely staffed by sexist idiots—which, who knows, perhaps it is? What is more disturbing and inexcusable is how a woman of such great achievement should be so casually demeaned and undervalued.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom as the stupidity of the Australian’s obituary has seen an amusing response from the Twittersphere, where people (including writers Caitlin Moran, Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris and comedians Katy Brand and Craig Ferguson) have been tweeting their own mock obituaries (#myozobituary), which you can read below.
 

 

 

 

 

 
H/T Metro.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
That time when Shelley Winters dumped whisky on Oliver Reed’s head for being a sexist ass, 1975
01.23.2015
08:29 am

Topics:
Feminism
Television

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When two of the best and most unpredictable talk show guests in all of television history—boisterous Oscar-winning actress Shelley Winters and alcoholic Brit leading man, Oliver Reed—ended up as consecutive bookings on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on September 25, 1975, it seemed like an occasion where sparks might fly. And they did. At least something flew. It was a clash of the talkshow titans.

Winters was there because, well, because she was always on 70s talk shows (and gave good value as a guest, you can see how she makes Johnny’s job easy during her segment) while Reed, his first time on the program, was there to promote his role in Ken Russell’s Tommy. Winters comes out first and makes some cougar-ish observations about younger men. She’s her normal charming self. Then Reed is introduced, who declares that he’s “Quite extraordinary”—and I think it’s also fairly safe to assume completely drunk out of his fucking gourd—before going off on an offensive tangent against women’s liberation and feminism causing an incensed Winters to dump her drink squarely on his head.

While she’s still on the couch, Winters gets in a LOL adlib at Reed’s expense that demonstrates why she was such a popular fixture on talk shows. Watch for it.
 

 
via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘How to Undress in Front of Your Husband’: The exact opposite of a feminist film
01.19.2015
07:10 am

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Feminism
Movies
Sex

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How to Undress in Front of Your Husband
 
The short film you’re about to take a look at is more than just a cheap, extraordinarily sexist exploitation film from 1937. Indeed, How to Undress in Front of Your Husband is most certainly that, but if you can put the stupidity of the attitudes expressed in the film aside momentarily, you’ll notice that it also happens to be surrounded by a bunch of weird, perhaps even interesting facts. Case it point: It involves the huckster distributer of Reefer Madness and his salacious screen writing wife, the film bears a mysterious similarity to a LIFE magazine article featuring photos of ex-burlesque stripper, June St. Clair made in the same year, one of the lead characters (such as there are characters) is the fourth wife of John Barrymore and the other lead character was an ahead-of-her-time suffragette.

I’m not a big fan of Internet lists, but I’m presenting the following one as a matter of expediency. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to cover here for a smutty little fourteen minute film.

1. How to Undress in Front of Your Husband is an exploitation film: To cut right to the chase, this movie is about a lecherous, camera-wielding Peeping Tom and two different women taking their clothes off in preparation for bed. According to the film’s male narrator, there is a right way and a wrong way for a woman to do this if she wants to properly entice her husband, and each woman demonstrates her pre-bed ritual as the narrator looks on through a key-hole. It’s really an awful flick, but notable if you’re interested in this particular fringe nook of filmmaking, truly the bottom of the creative barrel.
 
Reefer Madness Poster
A reproduction of an original Reefer Madness poster.
 
2. The Reefer Madness connection: How to Undress in Front of Your Husband was directed by Dwain Esper, the same fiendish mind who brought us everybody’s favorite joint-sploitation film, Reefer Madness along with Maniac, Sex Madness and Marihuana. Esper was a sleazy but fascinating persona. A serious snake-oil-salesman-type, he traveled around the country “four walling” his racy films in rented tents and theaters in order to work his way around the 1934 Production Code that wouldn’t allow his work to be distributed through conventional channels. In fact, the very title of the film may very well have been part of what was a typical strategy for Esper to get around movie censorship. By billing his screenings as “educational,” as in WE’RE HERE TO EDUCATE YOU ABOUT THE HORRORS OF OPIUM!!!!, he and others like him could attempt to pass off their salacious materials as important public service announcements. After taunting entire towns with tantalizing “Adults Only” promotions, Esper would screen whatever piece of smut he was pitching for a few days, count his money, pack up his gear and get himself the hell out of Dodge, preferably before the town’s morality police could do it for him.

Esper’s wife Hildegarde Stadie, herself an ex-carnival performer who in her younger years often posed nude with a python around her neck to entice people into buying her Uncle’s cure-all tonics, wrote How to Undress in Front of Your Husband as she did many others in the Esper repertoire. Neither of them actually wrote Reefer Madness, by the way. Esper simply bought the film, originally funded by a church group with the intention of legitimately steering people away from the deadly smoke. Esper realized how much of exploitative payday would come from screening the very bad but very “shocking” movie. You can read three Esper screenplays in Marihuana, Motherhood & Madness from 1998.
 
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Cinemaniac Dwain Esper
 
3. The LIFE article: Interestingly, an article, also from 1937, appeared in the February 17th issue of LIFE magazine depicting almost the exact scenario of the Dwain Esper film and pictures from the article have circulated around the internet over the past few years. Promoting one Allen Gilbert who was ostensibly trying to get the word out about his “Manhattan School of Undressing,” the article shows two different women in the act of preparing for bed, one clumsily, the other, ex-burlesque stripper June St. Clair, gracefully. The conceit of the article is that because of rising divorce rates, women needed to place to go where they could learn to be more sensual when getting ready to slip into bed with their husbands. No mention is made of the husband’s role in the pre-bed ritual, although, due to reader demand and, in some cases, outrage, a subsequent issue of LIFE included an article with men in the same scenario. It seems almost impossible to imagine that the article and the film below weren’t somehow related, although I can find no evidence to substantiate that claim.
 
How to Undress
The right way for a woman to undress in front of her husband according to a 1937 article in LIFE magazine.
 
How not to undress
The wrong way for a woman to undress in front of her husband according to a 1937 article in LIFE magazine.
 
4. John Barrymore’s fourth wife: Yes, the lead role the film went to Elaine Barrie, alcoholic actor John Barrymore’s fourth wife at the time. Famously, a youthful Barrie (she had the last name of Jacobs at this point) kindled her relationship with Barrymore through a letter asking for an interview with the aging Svengali actor who was in the hospital attempting to dry up at the age of 53. Barrie continued to “interview” Barrymore, and the two eventually married in 1936. Their relationship was a press free-for-all (Barrie was 30 years younger than Barrymore and their relationship began when Barrymore was still married to his third wife) and the Espers were almost certainly capitalizing on her new-found national attention when they cast Barrie in the roll of the ideal wife in How to Undress in Front of Your Husband. The film’s narrator vocally ogles and hubba-hubbas his way through Barrie’s downright scandalous-for-1937 appearances in the film as she sensually quaffs her hair, applies pre-bed perfume, rolls down her stockings and shimmies out of her clothing while strategically never becoming completely nude. The purveyor of the pervy voiceover is of course pleased. “She not only knows how to get a husband, but how to keep him,” he says.

5. The suffragette: Last but not least, one of the most interesting things about this weird little piece is the appearance of former stage and vaudeville actress, Trixie Friganza. She plays the role of the not-so-sensual clothes remover; the representative of “how not to undress in front of your husband,” and the narrator says some truly vile things about her while she goes through her supposed pre-bed ritual. Really, it’s cringe–inducing and mean-spirited. Friganza, a large woman, seems to have made career out of poking fun at her own size, but she was also an outspoken women’s rights activist often using her public notoriety to speak about the arts and for economically downtrodden. She was progressive for the time, even keeping her maiden name and continuing to work after marrying in her early life, a fairly bold statement in the early 1900’s. Friganza’s on screen appearance in How to Undress in Front of Your Husband was one of her last, as she ended her film career in 1940 due to complications with arthritis. After a long career she died in relative obscurity in 1955.

So there you have it, everything I know about the oddball film. For better or for worse, here’s How to Undress in Front of Your Husband in all its schlocky glory.  It skips just a tad at the beginning, but extensive Internet searching yielded this as the best copy. 
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
Psychedelic sex education video for kids
12.23.2014
07:06 am

Topics:
Drugs
Feminism
Sex

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I’m staunchly supportive of early sex education, I’m certainly all for childhood body positivity—especially in these days of surgical and Photoshop fantasy—and I also don’t think the efficacy or value of children’s programming should me measured by its appeal to adults—sometimes kids shows are visually and aurally lurid to compete with a clamorous world (also, a lot of kids just have bad taste at that age). However, the body positive kids’ sex education web show “Baby! Love Your Body!really challenges my allegiance to a carefree and liberated vision of childhood. It’s intended for children as young as three, but maybe it shouldn’t be?

Borne of energetic French feminists “Fannie Sosa” and “Poussy Draama” (who—shocker—both belong to an art collective called School of No Big Deal), “Baby! Love Your Body!” is what happens when the impetus for cultural liberalism—apparently at all costs—supersedes all instinct for appealing to a popular audience. It starts with a value-neutral tour of vaginal slang, with all your favorites included. Then it makes a quick left turn with two people dressed up as raver vaginas. From there we see some confusingly metaphorical portrayals of sex and masturbation interpreted with erratic dancing, and then it just completely abandons narrative with a “Through the Looking Glass” love canal adventure. Yes… someone enters a vagina and a psychedelic journey ensures.

There is only one episode so far, but it’s been done in English and in French—I’ve blessed you all with the disorientingly English-dubbed version below. The tone is manic with the sort of exhausting, heavy-handed enthusiasm and good cheer that afflicts so much children’s programming these days, but I could see kids responding well to it even if I didn’t. I give Fannie and Poussy a hard time, but in spite of some some absurdly prudish backlash, I think the show could actually be useful—if parents can handle the acid-trip presentation. For those of you who might prefer a more sedate teaching tool—may I suggest a nice, sterile anatomy textbook, preferably in Danish.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Indian comic book heroine is a rape survivor who fights violence against women and rides a tiger
12.17.2014
12:21 pm

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:


 
Two years ago, a fatal New Delhi gang rape inspired mass protests all over in India, but the the legal reforms (which include things like the banning of acid sales) have done very little to protect women, and most of the more programmatic promises (tracking public transportation, more women cops, better lighting in urban areas, etc) have gone largely unimplemented. Feeling discouraged by the purely legalistic approach to rape, New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni decided to fight violence against women on the cultural front—starting from childhood education.

Devineni has produced Priya’s Shakti, a graphic novel available online and in print, featuring a rape survivor protagonist who is aided by a goddess and her faithful tiger steed. The book is currently available in Hindi, English and Marathi, but will be translated into other languages to better serve India’s diverse population. The concept is a masterful utility of traditional values to further humane ends, and I’d argue something aimed at younger readers is going to have the greatest long term effect on culture at-large. 
 

 

The storyline focuses on Priya, a human woman and ardent devotee of the Goddess Parvati who has experienced a brutal rape and the social stigma and isolation resulting from it. The Goddess Parvati is horrified to learn about the sexual violence that women on Earth face on a daily basis and is determined to change this disturbing reality. Inspired by the Goddess, Priya breaks her silence. She sings a message of women’s empowerment that enraptures thousands and moves them to take action against [gender-based violence] around the world. This project highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged.

 
The discussion of sexual assault in far-away lands often results in a lot of projection and avoidance of more home-grown violence, but I think we in the US could learn a lot from this project. The anti-rape movement here has only just begun to move beyond telling women “how to not get raped,” but I’ve yet to see a childhood sex education project that instills ideas of bodily autonomy and consent. Then again, I suppose our growing commitment to Abstinence-Only Education kind of precludes talking to kids about how to have mutually agreed upon sex.
 

 
Via NPR

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Inked ladies: Vintage photos of women with full body tattoos
12.15.2014
08:08 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism
History

Tags:

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The 1991 discovery of the well-preserved body of a 3,000-year-old corpse revealed (amongst many other things) that ancient humans tattooed their bodies. The mummified body was called “Ötzi the Iceman” after the Ötztal Alps where his remains were found. Ötzi had 50-odd tattoos across his body, which some scientists have suggested may be evidence of an early form of acupuncture—which if true, would put this form of treatment 2,000 years before its first documented appearance in China.

Tattoos have a long and culturally significant history—being used as a sign of initiation, association, clan, tribe, ownership, or sexual and personal liberty.

In Victorian times, upper class women had their bodies tattooed as a symbol of their independence. In her book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoos, Margot Mifflin believes this was a “feminist gesture” with these women “taking control of their bodies when they had little power elsewhere.” Winston Churchill’s mother Jennie had a serpent tattoo around her wrist as a symbol of her feisty independence. However, not all Victorian women who sported tattoos did so willingly. Mifflin reports how some poor women were forcibly tattooed and exhibited in freak shows and carnivals.

The first recorded woman tattooist was Maud Wagner, who was said to have traded a date with her future husband to learn the craft of tattooing. In the 1920s, full body tattoos were popular, but their charm was lost during the 1930’s Depression, only to re-emerge during the late 1940s to 1960s, when they were seen as a symbol of outsider status.

These vintage photographs show tattooed women from early in the 1900s to 1960s.
 
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More tattooed ladies, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Suffragette City: Propaganda posters reveal the horrors of women’s rights!
12.11.2014
06:25 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism
History

Tags:


A lotta guys would pay good money for that.
 
The panic surrounding women’s suffrage managed to exacerbate masculine anxieties to such a perverse degree that you have to wonder just how terrified of women men actually were. They seemed to believe that all it took to upset the apple cart was access to bourgeois politics, then, we’d wreak havoc! Soon enough, reactionaries predicted, womenkind would be enslaving their husbands, abandoning their children and domestic duties, assaulting men on the street, invading political institutions and… wearing pants! Clearly, this made for amazing propaganda.

More insidious than the fear of masculine ladies and feminized men is a single depiction of a huger-striking suffragette being force-fed. There is a gleeful look in the eyes of the posh man pouring soup down her throat, and a menacing one in the eyes of the cop holding down her legs. Force-feeding is a torture that was administered to suffragettes like Alice Paul, much to the glee of misogynistic sadists. One would hope that such a barbaric practice would be abandoned by now—especially considering how ineffective torture actually is—but it appears the US remains reluctant to give up on the tradition.
 

 

Detail from above image.
 

 

 
More of the horror of women thinking for themselves after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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