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Women of the Revolution - Kira Cochrane compiled the archives from the Guardian's vault.
Published by Guardian Books in 2010
Format: Paperback 5.99 GBP (2012)
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I've managed to muster a smidgeon of enthusiasm in the subject area of feminism especially as we've just had another revival, according to the archives at the Guardian. Feminism has had around three since the 1970s'; apparently - the recent revival captured the scalp of writer Martin Amis. Whose diligence in approaching wordage that'll please the hyper-sensitive feminist; when it came to writing about women and their characters, has got to be admired. For him to do so - he had to think like one, be as sensitive as one, and view the text from the eyes of a man-hater. He systematically checked-over the script on his feminist book called 'Money' pondering if he's been too robust - deciphering on quaint tones; more importantly making it balanced without sounding condescending. An art-form is required to tamper down the temerity. Kira Cochrane is no exception. Her heels scratch the polished floors at the Guardian head-quarters where she is a competent journalist. Having studied at Sussex University and the US she brought rotund feminine gusto at the Sunday Times and progressed to the Guardian Group. Nine years ago she achieved her first publication; 'The Naked Season'. Now she writes predominantly about women's issues in the Guardian - 'Women of the Revolution', published in 2010 was made for a young lady editor / feminist, whose early life was shaped by male tragedies - the result is a profoundly strong, independent woman. In words of Martin Amis: "I think it's our great hope, but I think men have got to realise that they're not giving away anything by ceding to women coming to power." The term 'revolution' is mild flirting, when it comes to Cochrane.
In the world of Cochrane men are disposable or seen as play-things whenever she needs to research for an article - then she drops them, her jowls wobbling in the process. I guess I have a head-start due to being an avid Guardian reader and supporter of the Newsgroup which entails the works of Cochrane. Several years ago, the readership circa suffered and the Newsgroup threatened to close and so the Guardian team delved into their archives and pandered to Cochrane's favourite subject: women and feminism; contributions from the early 1970s, stipulates feminism in the modern era. From the charming to the grotesque, from hilarity to the distorted, there are indeed 400 pages of a women's aspirations and dreams - although the heavy duty feminists warped vision calls the movement a revolution on a similar scale to, 'Storming the Bastille' in 1789. I guess I must've slept through it. Of course, that's assuming Cochrane knows it. After reading her odious; 'Why sex could be history'; piece earlier last month I licked my lips with glee. Only a woman could write with conviction that sex was no longer required to procreate, and deliver a convincing case. Not that enjoyment was part of the parcel - and there was I thinking that women enjoyed sex; please forgive my naivety. Cochrane's broad-shoulders are no doubt sturdy enough to relish the criticisms in response to writing such absurd articles - of course; it'll only be the heterosexual men who would be complaining. Obviously those whom only think with their appendage and naturally view females as sex objects according to Cochrane. Not that I would be complaining if the roles were reversed - but then again, if I was unfortunate enough to witness Cochrane giving me the sexy eye, I would cradle my face and mutter; 'Praying Mantis, Praying Mantis, Praying Mantis', repetitively for two minutes - until Cochrane got the message. I'm a believer you should 'try before you buy' - though somehow the rule book is thrown out of the window when it comes to Cochrane; she is no ordinary 'fruit cake'. Her attractiveness is nutritionally based; her intelligence is her notable weapon. If, feminism requires a Boris Johnson figure-head look no further to Cochrane she has all the attributes.
"Lesbianism is a central issue. It is an option all women need to know about and think about" - Polly Toynbee
The seventy plus articles is a testimony to some credible journalists, who've penned poignant grace when it came to women issues. To name a few: Mary Stott, Polly Toynbee, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Naomi Wolf, Jill Tweedie and accomplished views from Michael Behr who beefed up Friedan's feminine traits as she was the Founder of the National Organisation of Women - Betty Friedan (1921 - 2006) had a curt Jewish American upbringing; in-turn it grated against the liberal man and her relationship with them, this resulted in a string of failed love affairs that even changed her writing profession. Behr highlights this as if he is a doctor identifying a diagnosis to her feminism. Needless maybe, but his perusing pen conveys the stance of the era than anything else. Friedan was a compulsive talker, and half the time off the point, the other half on the money and doing something right. Seizing an opportunity at the correct time during TV programs that could've simply broke her or made her; her luck was in and fortune favoured the brave - it liked Betty. Other women liberation members lacked humanity compared to Friedan - their hatred of men consumed their pores - An occurrence that did not happen to Friedan. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper stimulated a military styled response from the women's liberation front in North Yorkshire, and understandably so. The likes of the archaic Mary Whitehouses' and Stotts' were no longer single voices standing out from the crowd; they were joined by perky young women fronts sparked off from the despicable Ripper acts against women and humanity. Women Liberation fronts unanimously pointed at pornographies role in society, the easy accessibility of the medium, it was warping man's impression of women; this was the reason for Sutcliffe's ill brain. The concept that Sutcliffe's brain was likely to have been ill since birth never entered the Women Liberation argument. Pornography was to blame, and that was it. Inadvertently the Sun daily sales shot up and since then 4,500 young women have aspired to become a page three model. The publication portrays a forty plus year history of women, an anthology in its own right. Today, Women Liberation front's continue their fight stating the institution views young women as 'objects' or 'pieces of meat'. On the contrary, News International claims it is celebrating beauty - the argument continues...
The next decade (1990's) filters into political agendas - Maggie Thatcher was fading from public interest, her iron-lady image slowly corroding into the term of 'has been' and yet women gradually were occupying the commons like a slow drip, drip gender mechanism. To survive in a male environment you have to succumb your feminine looks, dampen down beauty features just so you belonged / or to be taken seriously. When it came to the archaic cloth and traditions the holy men seemed immune from gender critique, this did change in this era as well as the comprehension of protecting women's rights in the workplace. New Labour energized women (s) purpose by introducing women equality legislation - Caroline Flint and Harriet Harman were the fresh faces of an emerging administration whom took women seriously. American writer (s) enrolled into the term feminism and wrote predominantly alongside Germaine Greer and Catherine Bennett of the Guardian. What was acceptable in the 1980s' filtered into a toxic term in the 1990s. Misogyny labels sprung up everywhere - in my view journalism changed - the English word was stringently sieved through from a home front of Women Liberators. The Monika Lewinski fan base erupted when the infamous words of William Clinton looked into the camera of the Western world and said: 'he did not have sex with that woman'. The lies found him out but it never did him any harm - apart from losing trust from the nation. Today, Clinton in a poll came up as the third best American President ever. What's the point of history when the people forget so easily?
The cleverly named 'Spare Rib' depicts a profound imagination and is worthy of a 'google' - the concept could've derived from Betty Friedan's wayward tongue - her outbursts were legendary, it made the term feminism palatable - she would scream: 'orgasm!' if too many men swarmed near her or in her American Jewish term: 'getting fresh!' - On the parapet waiting for an indication to jump off. Her likes are far between. Instead the 2000's without much cause for reason has created a Machiavellian role for women, whom exist because Metro-man has evolved, and due to the equal rights bill that has the political connotations that you will be held up and accounted for. Society has accommodated efficiently for new gender trends to occur - the gender pay gap has diminished considerably - and as a new wave of alleged Women Liberators descend into the market-places ascetically pleasing to the eye, brazenly using their sexuality on a daily basis, the male working population has a lot on his lap to deal with. Firstly where he should direct his eyes and secondly be wary of his body language and thirdly, make sense; that is three things simultaneously. Who says men can't multitask? This is propaganda from the Women Liberation front that's who.
Highly recommended if you're a Guardian reader and find feminism fascinating - Forty years on, we'll be still talking about it, guaranteed. So, you can miss this edition and read the next one, you wouldn't have missed much - two stars.
Women of the Revolution is an anthology of feminist writing selected from Guardian archives by journalist Kira Cochrane. The resulting book is a guide to feminism as written about in the Guardian. It would be understandable to expect it to be a largely white educated middle class discussion of the women's movement, and this is true to a degree, but voices and opinions of minority groups within the movement are also represented. Alongside regular Guardian contributors such as Polly Toynbee and noted feminist luminaries like Germaine Greer and Bell Hooks, Raekha Prasad interviews Sampat Devi Pal of India's 'Gulabi Gang,' there are interviews with working class women in the UK, rape survivors in Congo and Rwandan politicians, but the majority of viewpoints come from Guardian journalists or women whose voices are heard in the mainstream. Altogether there are 72 articles.
The first piece from 1971 is by Mary Stott, a long serving women's page editor. In it she attempts to answer the question; "What is the Women's Liberation fuss about?" Some of the language in the early articles is almost quaint. Michael Behr's patronising if well intentioned assessment of Betty Friedan back in 1971; "How to be Voluble, Sexy and Liberated," may seem cringeworthy now, but even old fashioned sexism such as that from the union executive who calls a journalist 'sweetheart' and refuses to answer her question about union rules because they're too complex for her, is mild in comparison to the sexually explicit abuse openly directed at women online today, as discussed in 2007's 'How the Web Became a Sexists' Paradise', by Jessica Valenti.
The linear nature of the articles makes it possible to trace the changing shape of the women's movement over the years, and often makes disheartening reading. Issues facing women today are acute as old gains in areas such as equal pay, education and abortion are being eroded, while the technological age has brought new concerns such as the explosion of misogynistic sadistic pornography. Many of the later articles discuss the effects of the sexual saturation of our society, sexual violence against women having reached epidemic proportions. Emine Saner's interview with a sex worker quotes her as saying, "I believe there is a conspiracy to turn women into readily accessible semen receptacles," this was one of the first articles I read and I raised a sceptical eyebrow, but after reading through the rest of the book it doesn't seem such an outlandish statement. Ariel Levy's critique of raunch culture makes more salient points. On a positive note the internet provides many women with a space to discuss and organise. In the penultimate article Libby Brooks calls for a debate on what feminism means today and also makes the point that young feminists can find answers to present day issues in the history of the movement. Much current discussion goes over old ground, and marginalises older women in the process.
Women of the Revolution makes a good starting point for people interested in feminism. Whilst it could never be a comprehensive guide, readers will discover voices that speak to them and can choose to read further, (although it does lack a further reading list). As a collection of short pieces, there is little room to go into feminist theory, but this is not an academic book, it acts as both an interesting period piece and a springboard for ideas. The range of styles and content means articles may be interesting, amusing, offensive, contradictory, or utterly harrowing, such as Emily Wax's 2003 report on sexual violence during the war in Congo. Whilst 'Forty Years' may seem the kind of book to dip in and out of, it's interesting to see follow up pieces and notice recurring themes, which means it is best read in date order, and every article is worth a read. Although at times depressing, 'forty years' is ultimately inspirational.
I read a hardcopy of this book from the library, it is due out in paperback in March this year. Paperback Details: 400 pages, publisher: Guardian Books (1 Mar 2012).