Edited ByThe Feminist Review Collective
Edition 1st Edition
First Published 1990
eBook Published 29 June 2005
Pub. location London
Pages 156 pages
eBook ISBN 9780203985823
SubjectsArea Studies, Humanities
The Feminist Review Collective (Ed.). (1990). Feminist Review. London: Routledge, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203985823
This issue includes articles on the current differences and debates between feminists on the questions around pornography and censorship.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
more than twice the national average, and three times as many Black families as white were living in sub-standard privately furnished accommodation. Because of the discriminatory policies of local authorities growing numbers of Black women were being housed in high rise blocks of problem estates—particularly if they were single parents. (Bryan, Dadzie and Scafe, 1985:160)
The squat we lived in was falling down but, like Patience and Sarah, we tackled our problems with a pioneering spirit. We saw it as an opportunity to demystify the male world of plumbing, electricity and carpentry. We read and experimented until we could stride into a builders’ suppliers and ask for one-way cistern inlet valves, 1.5 mm triple-core insulated or three-inch steel angle brackets, just as though we were born knowing all about it like men! (Dixon, 1988:79)
London has lost £777 million in capital in the last eight years; 1,000,000 homes have been sold under the Right To Buy scheme; council housing stock is under new pressure through the Housing Act—from Housing Action Trusts and transfers to new landlords—and many local authorities have no money for new building (CHAR, 1988:9).
fat cat. A tourist’s cry of ‘Follow that train’, another’s ‘Darling train’, as in ‘Darling buds of May’. Well over eighty, in the last shop in the square, Gwlithyn closes at four, the same time as water-lilies in the village pond. I trail my fingers along a sage hedge, its fragrance on my finger-tips mixing with picked clovers. Ynyr’s tortoise returns with anemones on its shell. Autumn: In Ffairfach churchyard, apples fall on a grave. If it had been Blodwen ’s she would have liked that. An eight-year-old boy carries through the village a small duck in his arms, gently stroking its beak. Children pick whimberries on the mountains of Llangorse Lake, Brychan, long ago, saying to Blodwen he would pick her a pint of whimberries for a kiss. Winter: Heard said The weather’s a fox’. Poor fox. Two milk bottles delivered on a farm wall. Her own name flowerless,
the flower-shop owner depleted after I mentioned my family names of Heather, Fflur (Welsh for Flowers) Blodwen (Welsh for Beautiful Flower), and in Blodwen’s Llanfihangel-Talyllyn Primary, by a legendary lake, Poppy, Violet, Daisy, Lily, Ivy, Iris, Holly, Rose, Eirlys (Welsh for Snowdrop), and Timothy. I write in the snow covering Blodwen’s grave.
makeup, which hairstyle, which snare. We reinforce each other with gossip about all of our experiences with men, we sit and try to figure it all out and develop a strategy…we spin a psychological web and cunningly try to lower it over our poor, guileless, wandering hero, main character, and better half. It usually does work, at that (Holgersen, et. al. 1970:4)
We are liberated. We are finally free from feigning chastity and preciousness; finally we dare to confess that we want sex. Indeed, we dare not confess that, on some rare occasions, we don’t want sex. Say, for example, we would rather talk with him than have anything to do with his prick. However, we would rather do anything than be misunderstood and thought of as straitlaced, unfree, and (the left’s most contemptful label) ‘frustrated’. We stake everything on being the left’s wonderful, liberated ladies, and the boys on the panel love us, because we will when they can. (Holgersen, et al. 1970:4).
Dear Feminist Review, In February 1988 I attended a Women’s The Feminist Review Special Issue No. 31, Foundation Course at the Polytechnic of 1989 was for me, a working-class activist, North London. This was my first leap into very informative. Particularly in further education. I learnt much from the highlighting how little say working-class lecturers and other students. I also learned people have when political comment on that, although fate had forced me to live a women’s status in relation to social/ life on the frontline of oppression very economic/ education/living lives, is early in life, my life experience on the sought. ground floor, as it were, was invaluable, It does highlight how easy it is for not only in terms of my own identity and women to get into print: when they are class politics, but also in terms of what I politically left of centre. It seems to me could give to those women whose lives and that their view is: the only view. The one experiences were totally different to mine. that gets into print that is! Many working-But I also learned how impractical many of class women do not have the chance for the feminists ideologies were in relation to open debate. They are taught that getting the struggles and isolation working-class into print is an activity their class cannot women face, without much help from achieve. There are few examples to make those feminists whose lives have not been them think otherwise! Tell me, how often grossly marginalized. Getting into print for have the people that produce Feminist many working women is rare. How can the Review gone out of their way to seek the views expressed in books like Feminist views of women like myself. Working Review be considered balanced, nonélitist, class? I am a 49-year-old working-class when so many women’s views never get woman who has struggled to educate aired. Most views expressed are from herself after a lifetime in repetitive low-individuals who are politically motivated. paid boring jobs that dull the brain. The Why not ask women living on the frontline isolation that I, along with many other their opinions? They are rarely sought! Are working-class women, suffer, is brought you trying to say; You don’t speak our home to us when we read books like language, you express yourselves Feminist Review. Educated women have differently, therefore you have nothing to many advantages over working-class say? Tell me, how do we validate our lives? women. Control over publishing too. They There are other women who inhabit this articulate their views logically, with planet you know! Or are you so biased, practice!, due to a good education. Their fixed, élitist, you don’t know. views are constantly sought, enabling them Patricia Bright to form a clique of highly opinionated London monopolists. PS. By the way: I did enjoy Issue 31! Women like myself are learning much, but are silenced by silence re: our struggles and isolation. How little chance we have of Dear Feminist Review, debating issues with women different from The discussion about butch and femme ourselves in print! (Ardill and O’Sullivan, FR 34, 1990) still
seems to pass me by. What kind of We could not ‘act heterosexual’ even if we phenomenon are we talking about when wanted to, and I think most lesbians— we have a conversation about it? How we however much some of them might wish express ourselves on the streets? What they had been heterosexual—don’t want turns us on? What we do in bed? to, finding lesbianism as seductive as Unfortunately, I observe no simple women. relationship between these three aspects of So in the broadest sense, the discussion our lives, and suspect that trying to cluster about our sexual styles and actions must be them is like playing yin and yang, or signs of about how we interact with prevailing the zodiac—looking for simple patterns heterosexism, in which ways we accept and that will tell us who we ‘really’ are. I don’t which we rebel against it. Let she who is believe that is sensible as a quest, but in any without, etc. However, it is too broad a actual manifestation it certainly leaves question to yield many interesting answers, many of us out. However, I do accept that since it is true of all of us, heterosexual and talking about the relationship between our lesbian alike. styles, our fancies and our sex lives is a lot In a much narrower sense, I wonder how more interesting than the influence of the much the discussion on butch and femme stars. boils down to two things: the different One aspect of the debate is pretty attractions of playing ‘active’ and ‘passive’ straightforward: if we consider the three in bed, and about what I have to call mild possibilities that lesbians who believe in fetishism, there being no other useful word butch and femme are acting heterosexual, for it. It is hard to say in the absence of are influenced by heterosexism or are thorough hands-on experience of different entirely free of its influences, the second kinds of sex, but I sometimes think lesbians has got to be true. It is true of all lesbians. are particularly characterized by the way For readers of Feminist Review there is no we appreciate both ‘roles’—another not need to spell out why the third is not very helpful word—in bed. (Or does that possible. And for anyone who accepts that show I’ve always had sex with a particular there is no personal behaviour that is kind of lesbian?) I’m interested in how we entirely untouched by the political take these turns, how much they are structures around us, the first is also not physical and how much psychological, but possible. I have known women who I’m not sure it is usefully discussed only wanted very badly to be men but, even as under the heading of butch and femme (or transsexuals, found them hard to mimic. sado-masochism, even more uselessly). I’ve never known a lesbian couple who The fetishism thing I find complicated— resembled a heterosexual couple except in the finding it sexy to wear, or to have your the most superficial ways, and the classic lover wear, some particular kind of thing, fifties and sixties butch/femme culture be it lipstick or ties or checked shirts. I seems different from classic fifties and suspect you can develop a fetish from small sixties heterosexual culture in almost any beginnings, if your friends encourage you, way you can think of. The distribution of and that what gets perceived as a sexually power—that essential ingredient in all interesting item of clothing or material or relationships—just could not be the same. movement or make-up in our communities
is just what is not so common: women who the discussion into more meaningful like to wear ties are interesting, women questions. who fall for men in ties not so. (Blue jeans, Ruth Wallsgrove for example, are surely symbolic of London sexiness for huge swathes of the population including myself, but it’s much too References ubiquitous to be worth mentioning.) One other aspect of the discussion is interesting. What makes one woman find
Margaret’s, but I still contend that both period. In fact it was not dualism that was writers are guilty of simplifying and being advocated but, along with many distorting these feminists’ ideas on feminists who were closer to a ‘sexual sexuality, thereby missing what it is about libertarian’ than a moral purity position, a them that is both contradictory and call for unity of mind (or spirit) and body, fascinating. with the latter subordinate to the former and Reading Sheila’s book and Margaret’s not necessarily denied. These feminists article in the light of my study of the were reacting to what they felt to be their feminists they mention makes me rush to reduction to mere physicality; they were these feminists’ defence at being wrongly demanding that men change, that women lumped together into one camp: should be able to have sexual relations on revolutionary feminists’ foremothers to their own terms, that love not ‘lust’ should Sheila, coercive moralists to Margaret. be the basis of a relationship be tween the Ellice Hopkins was undoubtedly involved sexes. To dismiss this, as does Margaret in certain coercive actions, such as the Hunt, as some quirky, reactionary position regulation of prostitutes’ behaviour; of a few nutty social-purity feminists is Margaret is right in thinking that Sheila has both to misunderstand the context in which ‘whitewashed’ her image. However, as far demands were made, and to fail to realize as I am aware, neither Frances Swiney nor that such ideas were current currency across Lucy Re-Bartlett, and Elizabeth different kinds of feminism. Wolstenholme Elmy least of all, were I agree with Margaret Hunt that there is involved in any remotely comparable indeed a problem with a position which activities. Indeed Elizabeth Wolstenholme over-emphasizes the victimization of Elmy was very critical of any kind of moral women by men at the expense of policing of other women. recognizing women’s power to act. Margaret mockingly quotes Frances However, many social-purity feminists did Swiney’s advocacy of ‘raising sex relations encourage women to act: to stand up to from the physical to the spiritual plane’. men, armed with knowledge of sex and the Unless we know more about the context in workings of their bodies. Feeling able to which such ideas developed, they probably say ‘no’ to undesired sex is surely a crucial strike us as fairly extraordinary. But this prerequisite to being able to say ‘yes’ to quote represents not only a classic sex that is truly desired. If my concern with theosophical position, (and large numbers representation and distortion sounds like of feminists, from Charlotte Despard to petty quibbling, it is worth remembering Annie Besant, were followers of that writing a history of feminism of the theosophy), but also a vision held to by past is not 100 miles away from writing a many non-theosophical feminists at the history of feminism of the present. At least time. As for misreadings of these feminist’s feminists in the present can answer back. ideas, one example is Margaret’s accusation Lucy Bland of there being a ‘remarkable revival of London mind/body dualism enshrined in the concept of “psychic love”’, a concept developed by several feminists in this