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‘Born in Flames’: Feminist terrorism in a post-capitalist dystopia
04.04.2014
07:57 am

Topics:
Feminism
Movies
Queer
Race

Tags:
Adele Bertei
Born In Flames


 
It’s been a hot minute since I watched a movie that really blew me away with its concept and vision, and I I have no idea how I only just discovered 1983’s Born in Flames. Everything about it is in my wheelhouse. Set in an alternative New York City, Born in Flames is a feminist telling of the injustices plaguing society after a socialist revolution. It goes without saying that a theoretical “post-capitalist patriarchy” is the subject of much debate among socialist feminists—the more “vulgar Marxist” of us believe that capitalism is the very foundation of oppression, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a socialist feminist proclaiming that the abolition of capitalism will be a silver bullet to end all sexism.

Of course, in Born in Flames, the “revolution” has actually changed very little in regards to the state or social order. Police still exercise an absurd amount of power, often wielding it violently, communities are still reliant on mutual aid for essential services like childcare, ghettos remain dilapidated, and meaningful work is scarce. A workfare program has been instituted to alleviate unemployment, but this triggers a macho backlash. Now, exacerbating the sexism and misogyny that pervaded pre-revolution, men are rioting, under the impression that women and minorities are taking all the “good jobs.” It’s by no means an unheard of scenario—phony revolution fails to placate the people, and the reactionary tendency is to blame the marginalized for social and economic woes.

The plot of the film centers on two factions of women, each with their own pirate feminist radio station. Radio Ragazza is run by a white lesbian named Isabel, played by Adele Bertei, a prominent figure in New York’s “No Wave” scene—she played organ and guitar in James Chance and the Contortions, and fronted The Bloods, rock’s first openly lesbian group. A black woman named Honey (played by an actress plucked from obscurity by director Lizzie Borden, and billed only as “Honey”) runs Phoenix Radio. When a famous feminist activist is arrested and dies in police custody, foul play is rightfully suspected, and unrest in the women’s movements grows. A vigilante Women’s Army appears, intervening on assaults against women in a stampede of bicycles—the media labels them terrorists, but Honey and Isabel, who once perceived these sorts of renegade tactics as a bridge too far, begin to see the need for escalation. The ideological leader of the Women’s Army is Zella, played by Florynce Kennedy, a real-life civil rights lawyer and feminist. (In the movie, Zella likens violence to urination—saying there is a time and a place. In real life, Florynce led a mass urination on Harvard’s campus to protest the lack of women’s bathrooms.)

Eventually, both radio stations are burned to the ground, but Isabel and Honey combine forces to create “Phoenix Ragazza Radio” from stolen equipment. “Ragazza” means “female friend, and “Phoenix” is the mythical bird that rises from the ashes; some may find the metaphor a bit heavy-handed, but the anti-obscurantist in me loves it. The pair join the Women’s Army, who are now moving to take over TV stations. Large-scale armed struggle appears inevitable. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but climax is astonishing, especially now, in a post 9-11 America.

Shot partially with a documentary-style narrative, the storytelling of Born in Flames is ambitious but expertly executed. Director Lizzie Borden, who also directed the 1986 classic, Working Girls, a feminist flick on the lives of high-end escorts, manages to masterfully weave FBI reports, news broadcasts, and radio transmissions with a traditional dramatic movie. Though it’s a fast-paced and brutal, much of the plot is centered around women’s negotiations and strategies—it’s a cinematic exploration of the old political question, “what is to be done,” and it directly addresses the question of necessary violence. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Eric Bogosian (in his first onscreen role), future Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow and Ron Vawter, one of the founders of the avant garde Wooster Group.
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Adele Bertei: ‘Adventures in the Town of Empty’

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Camille Paglia’s advice to the lovelorn
04.02.2014
06:46 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism
Media
Sex

Tags:
Camille Paglia
Spy


 
In the late 1980s, Spy magazine pioneered a dark, snarky take on political and celebrity reporting that in many ways paved the way—for better and worse—for that strain of disdainful irony that grew deep roots into American culture in the early to mid ‘90s. Rather than lionize tycoons, socialites and celebrities, Spy mercilessly and unrelentingly assailed them for their smugness, stupidity, and venality—their writers often played audacious pranks on political officeholders, Hollywood moguls and powerful people in media for the sole purpose of embarrassing such figures with their own greed and arrogance. They regularly ran the amazing cartoon work of Drew Friedman, and the concept behind their famed “Separated At Birth” feature still lives today online as TotallyLooksLike.

At its best, Spy was absolutely GLORIOUS.

In 1993, the magazine gave an advice-for-the-lovelorn column to Camille Paglia (born April 2, 1947, so happy birthday, ma’am), the controversial, oft-dissenting, sometimes narcissitic feminist academic author of Sexual Personae and Sex, Art, and American Culture. Paglia espouses an unabashed love of trash culture, and is the well known feminist most likely to be rebuked as not-even-a-feminist by other well known feminists (like every time she says something jaw-droppingly rapey). So giving a love and sex advice column to a contrarian bigmouth like her at the height of the P.C. era was, pardon the expression, kind of a huge balls move.
 

 

Dear Camille:I’ve been severely disappointed by my lady friends, who come across as intelligent women with common sense but end up making bad choices when it comes to men. Jolted Joe from Brooklyn

Dear Joe: You are puzzled by the irrational perversity of sexual attraction. Dionysus is a maelstrom. Love will never be tidy or safe. Jump in the boat and row for your life.

Dear Camille:I’ve been with a woman for ten years. Should I propose marriage? My concerns are (1) her loathsome, self-pitying complaints and (2) my suspicion that I could not remain faithful. Despondent in Oregon

Dear Despondent: The crystal ball shows a tacky picture of a nag and a philanderer hurling crockery around the kitchen. Misery has enough company already. In fact, they’re parking on my lawn.

Dear Camille: I’m a 60-year-old man who has been married five times. I’m currently courting a 53-year-old Catholic missionary nun. How do I ask her to give up her vows and marry me? Amorous in Sarasota

Dear Amorous: Hot dang! Violate them taboos, baby! You’re Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the toils of that old devil Church. You may need a can opener, but it’s worth a tumble.

Dear Camille: I know that consumerism is the modern pagan religion and that the media is the altar upon which we offer up flesh sacrifices. I do enjoy watching the succession of heroes and heroines devoured by television. But I have lingering feelings of guilt, as if I am worshipping Satan. Yes, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night shouting “Consumerism is the Beast 666!” How can I loosen up, become more modern and enjoy life? Anguished in Oregon

Dear Anguished: I prescribe a daily dose of my favorite soap, The Young and the Restless. What metaphysical anxiety could survive the soothing presence of plucky Nikki, trampy Jill and teen queen Christine? Television is our Circe, and she’s a date rapist. Just lay back, relax, and spread your sense organs.

Dear Camille: I supplement my unemployment checks by selling phone-sex scripts. I’d rather sell short stories, but nobody’s buying. I seem to have a knack for cranking the stuff out. But I don’t know whether to think of myself as a cheap media whore or a valuable public servant. Nothing gobs up the creative flow more than the image of a fat, lonely, middle-aged insurance salesman lying on his bed and pulling on his weenie while he listens to my words coming over the line. He and millions of other schmucks may need the help of a prosthetic imagination. Perhaps I am helping to release potentially dangerous sexual energy in a quick, tidy gush at the end of the day. Pondering in Portland

Dear Pondering: Though it might seem like a drainage ditch, you too labor in the vineyards of art. Apollo and Aphrodite bless all makers of erotic images.

There’s a ton more like this. The column ran for much of 1993, and since ALL the issues of Spy are now archived on Google Books, you can peruse them at your leisure. Also, many of the letters and responses were published in Paglia’s book Vamps & Tramps. She also did an advice column in Salon for a short spell, but quickly transitioned to a standard essay/opinion format.

Here’s a great thing that’s nowhere near widely-enough known: in 1995, Paglia was the lone guest on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher for two consecutive episodes of rapid-fire repartee. It’s pretty amazing. There was, somewhat bafflingly, a VHS release of the episodes, but you can watch it right here.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Fascinating document of a 1996 Portland Riot Grrrl convention, with a very young Miranda July


Little girl interacting with a piece from Miranda July’s outdoor exhibit, Eleven Heavy Things
 
Despite an early interest in both feminism and punk rock, Riot Grrrl never really appealed to me. I was in elementary school in the mid-90s—during the height of the Riot Grrrl zeitgeist—and while the aesthetic and mission statement certainly captured my snarling little heart, music was always my primary interest, and I just never found a Riot Grrrl band that really blew me away. My young ears suffered no dearth of chanteuses, of course. I just got my girl power from Joan Jett, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, and those goddesses of mid-90s top 40 radio,TLC.

Still, I owe a debt to those women, and I can’t deny the legacy, especially when I come across great artifacts like this DIY documentary from a 1996 Riot Grrrl convention in Portland, Oregon. Organized by a smiling mohawked young woman named Geneva, the event was intended to foster a women’s community, make friends, and, she coyly admits, “I also needed a girlfriend.” (Let’s be honest, the prospect of romance has always been half the appeal of a good show.)

Though it boasts the production values of a decomposing home movie, the documentary is artfully edited, recording a wide array of performances, workshops, and interactions. It’s far more than a dredge of amateur bands, and the music line-up is surprisingly diverse—a two-girl group with an upright bass and a cello really stand out. The workshops were not only instructive, they encouraged women to create “out loud.” During a writing class, the teacher self-effacingly admits to a passion for the work of noted misogynist Charles Bukowski—there was clearly little to no pressure to maintain a “feminist cultural purity.” During a “basics” course on starting a band, a woman demonstrates all the instruments and identifies their parts. She even gives some sound advice on how not to get ripped off by music shops who might try and overcharge a woman. There’s poetry and avant garde performance and the introduction of the now legendary Free to Fight, the ambitious double LP concept album themed on violence against women. The record included a 75 page illustrated booklet with poetry, stories and advice—socialist feminist writer bell hooks even contributed.

I think the most impressive part of the event is how much fun everyone is having. Bands joke and banter onstage, making politically incorrect jokes about sexual orientation and gender. There’s self-defense demonstrations where nervous giggles from the audience grow into raucous laughter. The mood feels decidedly warm and easy-going throughout, with none of the humorless gravity one might associate with such serious subjects.

Those familiar with the Riot Grrrl scene might recognize a few of the musicians, but for me, the real Easter Egg is a very young Miranda July, doing a strange short performance piece, and using some of her own interview structure to contribute to the documentary. To be honest, not a lot of July’s work resonates with me—I think on some level I also avoid connecting with it, feeling foolish at the prospect of enjoying something so “dear.” For me, distorted guitars and screaming “fuck you” into a microphone has always been the accessible part of the Riot Grrrl arsenal.

But once in a while I see a Miranda July piece like the sculpture above and I’m floored by such honest vulnerability. And I remember there’s a less bombastic dimension to the Riot Grrrl legacy—something brave, but subtle. And I’m so grateful it happened.

And if that’s too dear for you, well… fuck you.
 

 
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Hand-embroidered: Artist sews intricate designs into her own hand
03.19.2014
09:35 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:
Embroidery


 
Artist Eliza Bennett has created one of the more intense feminist art projects I’ve seen. For her piece, “A woman’s work is never done,” Bennett actually embroidered crude (but strangely lovely) stitches into the skin of her own hand.  While the points of entry for the thread are tiny and superficial, they occur in such high density that her hand is left swollen and irritated, most likely from the more sensitive layer of skin attempting to reject the foreign material. The work unflinchingly examines traditionally feminine labor, and the usual matronly sweetness of embroidery is suddenly stark, biological and jarring. Her statement:

Using my own hand as a base material, I considered it a canvas upon which I stitched into the top layer of skin using thread to create the appearance of an incredibly work worn hand. By using the technique of embroidery, traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of it’s opposite, I hope to challenge the preconceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid ancillary jobs such as cleaning, caring, and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’.

The final picture below is of a video projection of Bennett’s stitched hand on fabric and wall. The image becomes gauzy though the light of the projector and that jarring photograph is suddenly rendered soft and pretty.
 

 

 

 

 
Via Beautiful Decay

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Trust The Witch: Lydia Lunch, this week on ‘The Pharmacy’
02.27.2014
07:06 am

Topics:
Feminism
Music

Tags:
Lydia Lunch
The Pharmacy
Gregg Foreman


 
Gregg Foreman’s radio program, The Pharmacy, is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

This week’s Gregg’s guest is singer, artist, writer, performer and all around dangerous mind, Lydia Lunch, who discusses her work with The Birthday Party’s Rowland S Howard and Nick Cave; her first performance (age 14) at an acid party in upstate NY doing spoken word in front of a psychedelic backdrop; running away to NYC (age 16) to hang out with Suicide and Mink DeVille; how she got her name, which filmmaker Russ Meyer told her is “the best name in show biz” and why she considers herself a journalist above all else.
 

 
Mr. Pharmacy is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since 2012 Gregg Foreman has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.
 
Setlist

Mr. Pharmacist - The Fall
The Clapping Song - Shirley Ellis
Help You Ann - The Lyres
Intro 1 / I Can’t Stand Myself - Rx / James Chance and the Contortions
Lydia Lunch Conversation Part One
Liars Beware - Richard Hell and the Voidoids
Dance With Me - Lords of the New Church
Memorabilia - Soft Cell
Girl - Suicide
J’aime Regarder les Filles - Patrick Coutin
Last Time - The Anchors
Intro 2/Scientist at His Best - Rx/Scientist
Lydia Lunch Conversation Part Two
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Thoughts by Sterling Morrison - Sterling Morrison/ Sun Ra
Temptation Inside Your Heart - The Velvet Underground
Contort Yourself - James White and the Blacks
Low Life - Public Image Limited
Intro 3 / Too Many Creeps - Rx / Bush Tetras
Lydia Lunch Conversation Part Three
Solar Hex - Lydia Lunch / Rowland S. Howard
Sonny’s Burning - The Birthday Party
Intro 4
Lydia Lunch Conversation Part Four
Intro 5 / Father Yod & The Spirit Of ‘76 - Rx / Ya Ho Wha 13
Open Up and Bleed - James Williamson and the Stooges
Mr. Pharmacist - The Fall

 
You can download the entire show here.

Below, Lydia fucking Lunch in NSFW action…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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What if we lived in a female-dominated society where women acted just like men?
02.12.2014
11:12 am

Topics:
Feminism

Tags:
sexism
Eleonoré Pourriat


 
French actress, writer, and director Eleonoré Pourriat made a short satirical film, Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority), in 2010 about what life would be like for a man if he had to live in a female-dominated society where women acted like condescending, dismissive, violent, raging dickheads. It finally made its way to YouTube with English subtitles recently and has been lauded by many women who live in similar urban areas for being pretty spot-on. Pourriat told The Independent this week, “Obviously, I have touched a nerve. Women in France, but not just in France, feel that everyday sexism has been allowed to go on for too long.”
 
french film stroller
 
It’s an interesting companion piece to the recent experience of the guy who posed as a woman on OKCupid and was so disturbed by the harassing messages he received from dudes that he quit a mere two hours into the experiment.

(Trigger warning!) NSFW “Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority),” below:

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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The badass girl motorcyclists of Morocco
02.11.2014
12:34 pm

Topics:
Feminism

Tags:
Bikers
Morocco

Kesh Angels
Rider
 
I don’t know a lot about these pictures of colorfully dressed Moroccan women posing with their motorcycles, but I sure do love them to bits. They’re the work of Moroccan-born photographer Hassan Hajjaj, and you couldn’t really ask for a better presentation of this material, from the cheeky poses to the arresting frames with colorful food products I can’t identify. The name of the exhibition is Kesh Angels, which runs through March 7 at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in Manhattan.

All the polka dots! It’s as if Yayoi Kusama did the costumes for a Gaspar Noé-directed remake of Al Adamson’s 1972 biker movie Angels’ Wild Women.

Here’s a small gallery of the awesome pics; there’s plenty more at this website.
 
Kesh Angels
LV Posse
 
Kesh Angels
Kesh Angels
 
Kesh Angels
Khadija
 
Kesh Angels
Nisrin
 
Kesh Angels
Nikee Rider
 
Kesh Angels
Kick Start
 
Kesh Angels
Odd 1 Out
 
Kesh Angels
M.
 
Kesh Angels
Romancia
 
via Nerdcore

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Bill Ray’s photos of biker women 1965

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Hilariously WRONG sexist ad from the 1970s
02.05.2014
11:28 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism
Food
History

Tags:
BALLS


 
Balls, huh? They give you courage? What the fuck was in them?

Here are a few choice quotes from this 1978 ad:

“You need BALLS to conquer the world.”

“Just pop a few BALLS in your mouth and you’ll be ready for anything.”

And my personal favorite:

“Brown-bag your BALLS to work, so you don’t run out of steam.”

Click here to read a larger image.


Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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What a twat: Extremely awkward Pussy Riot interview is extremely awkward
02.04.2014
09:10 am

Topics:
Feminism
Punk
Television

Tags:
Pussy Riot


That is one impressive ‘death stare’ she’s flinging at Provincial Paddy there, ain’t it?

In their first European television appearance since they were released from Russian prison, Irish talkshow host Brendan O’Connor interviewed Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, managing to make himself look like—this is so, so easy—a complete twat. They can’t even—indeed they do not tryto —hide their exasperation at his astonishingly witless questions.

To begin with the Saturday Night Show presenter repeatedly refers to the formerly imprisoned feminist activists as “girls.” It goes (rapidly) downhill from there and ends when he asks them what they think about Madonna and if she is a “freedom fighter, like them”!

They so clearly think O’Conner is an asshole. Even Graham Norton would have been a better choice to interview them!

The “girls” will be in New York this week for an Amnesty International event.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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It didn’t always suck to be a woman in Afghanistan

afghanminiskirtskabul
 

Women in Afghanistan were not always under house arrest and forbidden by law to leave their homes unchaperoned by a male relative. Once upon a time in pre-Taliban days Afghan women had access to professional careers, university-level education, shops selling non-traditional clothing, public transportation, and public spaces, all of which they happily navigated freely and without supervision.

According to a State Department report from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 2001:

Prior to the rise of the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were protected under law and increasingly afforded rights in Afghan society. Women received the right to vote in the 1920s; and as early as the 1960s, the Afghan constitution provided for equality for women. There was a mood of tolerance and openness as the country began moving toward democracy. Women were making important contributions to national development. In 1977, women comprised over 15% of Afghanistan’s highest legislative body. It is estimated that by the early 1990s, 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of government workers and university students, and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women. Afghan women had been active in humanitarian relief organizations until the Taliban imposed severe restrictions on their ability to work. These professional women provide a pool of talent and expertise that will be needed in the reconstruction of post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Even under Hamid Karzai’s government, with the recently approved Code of Conduct for women, all of the women shown in these photographs, taken in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s, could still can be faulted with improper behavior, according to clerics and government officials. 

record store in kabul
 
A record store in Kabul

bioclasskabul
 
A co-ed biology class at Kabul University

girlsatuni1967
 
Afghan university students, 1967. Photo credit: Dr. Bill Podlich, Retronaut

afghanbus
 
Public transporation in Kabul

afghancollegegirls
 
University students, early 1970s

afghanlab
 
Women working in one of the labs at the Vaccine Research Center

afghan mom kids
 
Mothers and children playing at a city park—without male chaperones

afghanqueen
Queen Soraya reigned in Afghanistan with her husband King Amanullah Khan from 1919 to 1929. She would be slut-shamed or worse for wearing this dress in modern Afghanistan.

Compilation of vintage amateur footage of Afghanistan:

Via Retronaut and Zilla of the Resistance.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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