11 Aug 2011

Please make your way to the exit

I should have wrapped things up a while ago...thanks to everyone who has read this blog since it was launched. It's been fun.

Everything you crave can now be found on OhDearism.

Style Cramp xxx

27 Apr 2011

Poly Styrene - a life in punk

Poly Styrene
"I know I'll probably be remembered for 'Oh Bondage, Up Yours!'. I'd like to remembered for something a bit more spiritual." - Poly Styrene

If not for the spiritual, then Poly Styrene will certainly be remembered for her spirit. Poly Styrene, born Marian Joan Elliott-Said, was the original riot girl. Growing up in Brixton and mixed-race (her father was allegedly a Somalian aristocrat), Marian ran away from home at 15 to live a bare-foot existence, moving from hippie-pad to music festival.

After seeing The Sex Pistols play Hastings Pier on her 18th birthday in 1975, she placed a newspaper ad looking for "young punx who want to stick it together", and X-Ray Spex were formed. They were a band to rival the Pistols; exciting, assertive and topical. As a punk, if you had any two albums in 1977, you had Never Mind the Bollocks and Germ Free Adolescents.

At the height of X-Ray Spex's fame, Poly Styrene shaved her head. "I'd read that girls in concentration camps did that after being raped by the Nazis, to get cleansed." No man was going to stand in the way of her liberation, not even Sid Vicious, who once threatened her with a scythe.

She certainly didn't care whether people thought she was cool or not. She wasn't interested in being a pin-up, in fact she was determined not to be one. "There's nothing wrong with beauty," she said, "but whether it's actually helping the female cause of being equal to men, you have to judge for yourself."

Entering the scene that levelled the playing field for women in music, she was an icon to my mother Jackie, a fellow young punk, because she was an outsider; a dark-skinned woman with huge dental braces who loved her body. "With punk, you weren't required to be beautiful," says Jackie. "Poly Styrene wasn't pretty, she had a mouth full of metal, and a result, she was perfect. We could all relate to her. The 'real girls' were united."

Poly Styrene continues to be a heroine for girls, even after death. 30 years later Heather, who is in her early twenties, thanks her for the inspiration. "She had a hugely positive influence on me growing up," says Heather, "even though it was long after she gave up music. I loved her with all my heart! She was a goddess to my teenage self."

Poly Styrene didn't want to live in a world where everything was "made of plastic"; when punk became the mainstream, it was time to move on and by 1979 she wanted a new sound. She quit the band in 1979 after being pelted with tomatoes during a gig in Paris. "We'd tried to change our sound," she explained. "They didn't like that, the anarchists in their black leather jackets. They thought it was the French revolution all over again." She recorded her first solo album, Translucence, the next year.

Marian, having survived being hit by a fire engine in 1995 and being sectioned in the 80s, with misdiagnosed schizophrenia, lived up to the Poly Styrene legacy: "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but i think....OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS!!"

Poly Styrene (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), musician, born 3 July 1957; died 25 April 2011

[This post is also on OhDearism.com]

[Poly Styrene quotes are taken from The Guardian and NME]

11 Apr 2011

Where Did The Night Go?

Long ago the clock washed midnight away

Bringing the dawn

Oh God, I must be dreaming

Time to get up again

And time to start up again

Pulling on my socks again

Should have been asleep

When I was sitting there drinking beer

And trying to start another letter to you

Don't know how many times I dreamed to write again last night

Should've been asleep when I turned the stack of records over and over

So I wouldn't be up by myself

Where did the night go?

Should go to sleep now

And say fuck a job and money

Because I spend it all on unlined paper and can't get past

"Dear baby, how are you?"

Brush my teeth and shave

Look outside, sky is dark

Think it may rain

Where did

Where did

Where did

[Gil Scott-Heron]

23 Mar 2011

Porn for girls, what's your position?

Fem-porn director Erika Lust

Now i've got your attention...

You may remember Anna Arrowsmith if you followed last year's elections. She was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Gravesham. Nick Clegg supported her, but said her previous occupation was not his "cup of tea". That's because before that she was known as Anna Span, the UK's first female porn director. She made independant porn for women. This year she has been nominated for a Feminist Porn Award, for Sex Experiments: Bisexual Scenes and Sex Interviews.

Recently, Jacqui Smith reopened the debate on the impact of the porn industry on society when she made "Porn Again", a BBC Radio 5 documentary about pornography. Arguably her agenda is PR-led, given the embarrassing leak about her MP expenses and the dirty movie she claimed for in 2009. She also claimed to have been "shocked" by the amount of sexual content to be found on the internet. As a spokesperson for modern women, she doesn't ring true for me.

Anna Arrowsmith says she used to be anti-porn until she realised her anger was jealousy. "I was envious of men having their sexuality catered for. I realised the best thing I could do was to work towards women learning their own sexual identity."

In mainstream porn, the woman plays one part, an object. She is a hole to enter and a tool for male pleasure. Every mainstream hetro porn film culminates in the 'glory shot'; the man ejaculating, usually on to a compliant woman. Her orgasm has no part to play, and even if she is supposed to have come, it's hard to tell for all the moaning.

Whenever i've seen porn, i've found it impossible to move past critiquing the women, from bad hair extentions, hideous red talons or botched boobs jobs. Women want to see, like in the real thing, credible performances. And real bodies, that looks like ours, with women really enjoying themselves. Having seen pornography where the woman looks less than happy to be there, it's disturbing.

So why does the porn industry refuse to budge? Research suggests that it may be bowing to change. Patrick Kwasniewski specialised in gender and queer studies at the University of Klagenfurt and is currently researching his thesis on feminist porn. He says: "The mainstream industry faces loss of profits through not changing their traditional ways of production or distribution and producing very repetitive films that have more and more troubles on the market". Even men are getting bored of the same old positions, in the same old order. Art-core director Petra Joy says that people want more variety, more authenticity.

But the pornographers (middle-aged men nearly all) don't feel the same. Fem-porn director Erika Lust says that the men who's porn she criticises says their movies are for everyone and she's the "tight" one for offering an alternative.

If you asked your female friends, how many would admit to liking porn? Not many, probably. Some might be embarrassed to admit they do, or have strong feelings about the objectification of women. Some might not feel that strongly about it and think it's generally quite funny to watch, with stale plots, and less than erotic. In women there is a potential audience being overlooked not because of our lack of interest, but because our interests are not being catered for.

Most of us don't want to fight the women in the sex industry. But we do want to fight the industry that leaves female performers with nothing to show but their bodies. We want to opt-in.

Quotes are taken from The Guardian.

[The article is also on Ohdearism.com]

13 Mar 2011

The Sapphires

After selling it to my flatmate with the premise "it's about Motown. Or something", I felt duty-bound to explain myself in that I hadn't actually read too much about play The Sapphires, at The Barbican, before going to see it. It was free, thanks to FreeB, the Barbican ticket service for under 26s, so she could hardly complain.

It turns out The Sapphires is to Motown what boyband Blue is to Stevie Wonder. A poor rendition of the real deal but, sort of entertaining in a 'we didn't pay for it' kind of way.

The Sapphires tells the story of four Aboriginal soul 'sisters' (i'll get to that part) from the outback of Australia. Discovered singing in a club by manager Lovelace Dave, he takes them on a whistlestop tour of Vietnam to entertain the US troops. Hilarity ensues (except when someone gets blown up by a landmine, but to be fair I did laugh).

When the band finished playing the opening song, I couldn't help but feel a sort of sympathetic encouragement, like you might feel watching your young nephew's school play, so I really wanted to like it. Once i'd laid my preoccupation with issues of characterisation aside, I did enjoy singing along to the Motown classics, though none but one of the girls had a voice strong or velvety enough to do them justice.

I found myself entirely confused by the race issue. While they were portrayed to be black, I saw no clues that they were Aboriginal. All in all, the whole show was pretty shambolic; one curtain was stuck in the middle of the stage through two songs and no-one seemed too bothered. The performances lacked energy and the outfits fell short.

The Sapphires: Wednesday 2 – Saturday 12 March 2011 at The Barbican Theatre

[This post is also on OhDearism.com]