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The 1790’s – a Fascination

28 May

As a history buff I am interested in particular eras and periods in history, more specifically society, culture, politics, and fashion from these different eras. I am rather fascinated by the 1790’s, primarily the years between 1790 and 1795, but also reaching to 1799 and to the early 1800’s.

Events / philosophies / fashions / socio-cultural aspects

The French Revolution
– The politics
– The concept of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality
– The concept of a republic
– Revolutionary and Republic symbolism – red, white and blue tricolor flag & cockade, Phrygian cap, Liberty, nature etc
– Removing the importance of the church and Christian beliefs and replacing these with more classical and nature based beliefs and forms of worship
– The role of women in the revolution including female revolutionaries advocating the rights of women and women actively fighting in the revolution
– The revolutionary calendar
– Revolutionary fashion, including the use of red, white and blue ribbons (showing support for the revolution / republic) and the rejection of symbols of the ancien regime such as elaborate dress and hairstyles and emphasis on more classical and natural lines and hairstyles,

Feminism / Feminist Thought / Advocacy of the Rights of Women

Cross Dressing Women / Female Soldiers

Lesbian Sexuality / Romantic Friendships

Female Novelists
I am interested in the female novelists of the time, and the fact that writing and publishing novels was an accepted (if marginally) pursuit for women
– Female Writers & Novelists – Mary Wollenstencraft, Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Anne Radcliffe
– Gothic novels and the gothic / horror / heroines that characterised this gene – almost contrasting to the image of gentility and domestic worlds written about by Jane Austen (except in Northanger Abbey which is a sort of parody of gothic novels)

European Women in India

Dana Scully and Olivia Benson

2 May

I am currently brainstorming an article about how Dana Scully from the X-Files was an inspiration for me (to be a scientist and a strong, intelligent woman). I have been doing some background reading of blog posts, webpages and a thesis on Scully, what she represented and how she inspired countless young female X-Files fans. Scully and the X-Files were big topics for online fan forums.

I too am a great fan of Detective Olivia Benson from Law and Order – Special Victims Unit. This strong female character also had a great influence on me (although it was less career focused and more a realisation of my sexuality (my fascination with Olivia set me on a path to discovering my lesbian sexuality)). There are many blog posts, websites and fanfic stories discussing Olivia being an inspiration for women and also a subject of lesbian desire.

I find it interesting that these two women that were a huge influence on me, were / are also so inspirational for other women and that there is so much online discussion of these two women. I am not alone in my admiration and discussion.

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Dana Scully and Olivia Benson

2 May

I am currently brainstorming an article about how Dana Scully from the X-Files was an inspiration for me (to be a scientist and a strong, intelligent woman). I have been doing some background reading of blog posts, webpages and a thesis on Scully, what she represented and how she inspired countless young female X-Files fans. Scully and the X-Files were big topics for online fan forums.

I too am a great fan of Detective Olivia Benson from Law and Order – Special Victims Unit. This strong female character also had a great influence on me (although it was less career focused and more a realisation of my sexuality (my fascination with Olivia set me on a path to discovering my lesbian sexuality)). There are many blog posts, websites and fanfic stories discussing Olivia being an inspiration for women and also a subject of lesbian desire.

I find it interesting that these two women that were a huge influence on me, were / are also so inspirational for other women and that there is so much online discussion of these two women. I am not alone in my admiration and discussion.

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Some Swashbuckling Adventure

30 Apr

Over the last few days my girl and I have enjoyed watching some swashbuckling adventures on DVD – the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and a few episodes of the British-American co-production, Hornblower (the adventures of a young Englishman in the British Navy during the Revolutionary war between Britain, the French Republic and other European nations. Oh I do love a bit of swashbuckling adventure! Sword fighting, naval battles, period uniforms and fashion, tough women prepared to fight or involve themselves politically.

I do find the character of Elizabeth Swan in the Pirates of the Caribbean series quiet fascinating. I like her transformation from meek and mild (yet intrigued by stories of pirates and the like) Englishwoman in a colonial setting into a cross dressing, sword wielding, strong woman (and pirate). And interestingly, along with her new found toughness, she retains a more typical feminine trait of romantic and devotional love for Will Turner. In the second and third movies, Elizabeth transforms further and takes on an even more tougher and empowered persona. Plus I love her costumes, particularly her long nightgown and the men’s clothes she wears disguised as a young man – breaches, shirt and waistcoat.

I really like Hornblower the first time I watched the mini-series on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) TV. As mentioned before, I am fascinated with the French Revolution, so that part of the series intrigued me. I also really enjoyed the naval battles and the relationship between Hornblower and his captain, Captain Pellew. And yes there are some tough women in the series, and I thought them particularly intriguing and inspiring.

Links –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_of_the_Caribbean_(film_series)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornblower_(TV_series)

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Chrissy Amphlett – Sassy Woman of Rock

23 Apr

I was saddened to find out last night that Chrissy Amphlett, the lead singer for the Australian rock band, Divinyls, had passed away. My girl mentioned it to me as soon as I walked in the door.

She was such a sassy lady, a woman with a certain toughness and female sexuality, who stood her own amongst the Australian rock scene in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I loved her look – long bright red hair and provocative (and subversive) short dress (i.e. school uniform) with suspenders and high heels, her distinctive gutsy voice and her wild performance style.

I’ve never actually owned any of the band’s albums, but I had songs such as ‘Pleasure and Pain’ and ‘I Touch Myself’ on cassette tape which I had taped off the radio. In 1991, as twelve year old girl I heard ‘I Touch Myself.’ I loved the song, not specifically because it was a song about masturbation, it just seemed like a cool song, and Chrissy’s voice sounded so cool. But I was no fool, I did know what it was about, it is was kind of naughty and yet empowering. Now days I actually like ‘Pleasure and Pain’ and ‘Science Fiction’ are my favourite songs.

Reading some of the articles and statements from people who knew Chrissy reinforces her presence, female toughness, rock and roll swagger, outspokenness, originality and being a true performer. She was a great Australian rock performer, female role model and an inspiration to me (and I am sure many more Australian women growing up in the early 1990’s).

Links & References –
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-22/divinyls-singer-chrissy-amphlett-dies/4644172

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Women in the French Revolution, Cross Dressing Women, Female Soldiers and 18th Century Feminists

15 Apr

I am currently in the planning stages of a lesbian romance novel set in the 18th century. One of the two main female characters is a soldier and a republican that had fought for the French Revolutionary forces and had championed the rights of women during the revolution. My character pretends to be a male soldier to remain in the army and a few years later while employed as a guard instructor she wears male attire (breeches and riding boots). She wears a tight fitting jacket that does not hide her bosom and wears her hair long. In doing so she presents herself as a woman wearing male attire in a male profession.

During the research for my novel / story, I have read about women actively involved in the French Revolution, campaigners for the rights of women (in addition to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a key Revolutionary document), female writers who wrote about the Revolution (including English women writers such as Mary Wollenstencraft) and female soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary forces in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and also on the Royalist side against the Revolutionary government.

From early in the Revolution, women were involved in various activities protesting regarding essential items such as food, storming the Bastille, supporting the Revolutionary cause through writings, revolutionary clubs and subtle ways such as incorporating symbols and colours of the Revolution in their dress (such as Tri-colour cockades and ribbons). More radical Revolutionary women advocated for the rights of women in conjunction with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the ability of women to bear arms and fight for the Republic.

I was also inspired by the stories I have read of women over the centuries cross dressing as men to enter the armed forces and experience a life of freedom and adventure not able to be experienced by women from pervious centuries. What an inspiration. I wonder what young women in the 18th century, with an enlightened mind / sense of adventure / feminist leanings thought of these women? Through my reading I discovered that there were some novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries with female revolutionaries and / or soldiers who wear male attire. These include Ormond / The Secret Witness written by the American author Charles Brockden Brown and published in 1799, and The Wanderer by Fanny Burney, published in 1814. I find it hugely fascinating that novels in this period included such inspirational and unconventional female characters. I have a real interest in this period, and am using this period (late 1700’s to early 1800’s) as a setting for my novel, so I am so inspired and reassured of the existence (even if in fiction) of such women during this time.

For me Mary Wollstonecraft is also a great source of inspiration. Her writings and belief in the rights of women, especially to education, equality, her passionate friendship / speculated love for her female friend Fanny Blood, her desire to set up house and share a life with another woman (even if this was in the context of a romantic friendship), her unconventional relationships with men and baring children out of wedlock fascinate me. Such a powerful image and symbol of a woman advocating equality and choice in one’s own love affairs and life in a time when a woman’s role was perceived and “enforced” as being a wife, mother and daughter with little rights (including legal rights) over their lives.

I also must admit that some elements (determination, Republican sympathies, gorgeous gowns, active involvement in adventures) of the character of Marguerite St. Just / Lady Marguerite Blakeney from the Scarlet Pimpernel novels by Baroness Orcy were influential. When I first saw the Scarlet Pimpernel (one of my favourite period / adventure series) I was struck by this strong, French, revolutionary woman. She sets off on adventures, confronts Revolutionary officials, holds to her political beliefs and loves her husband passionately. What a woman! And consequently I also really like the actress Elizabeth McGovern who played Marguerite.

I was inspired by these strong, tough, fighting, revolutionary and feminist women when creating my character.

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Margaret Thatcher’s Death and a bit of Punk music

10 Apr

Following on from my post Margaret Thatcher from yesterday, I have been contemplating the diverse reactions to her death, my seemingly disparate views regarding her impact as a woman in politics,as a scientist and her conservative politics and the philosophy behind the Punk movement (partially in reaction to Thatcherism). The Clash songs, “The Guns of Brixton” and “Know Your Rights” have been playing in my head.

Margaret Thatcher’s death is certainly a very contentious matter in the UK and the world. And for myself. I was raised in a liberal, left wing family with an English father. I heard of the impact of Margaret Thatcher, her policies and the Tory party on the UK from a young age. I am a big fan of British Punk band The Clash (and the Sex Pistols but to a lesser extent) and their political views. I am fascinated by the Punk Movement and its philosophy and the large role that the opposition to the Tory Party conservative politics, Margaret Thatcher and policies implemented by her government played in creating and maintaining the Punk Movement. There are a number of The Clash songs (great favourites of mine) that (I think) evoke the struggles that young people and minority groups encountered during Margaret Thatcher’s leadership and left wing political views –

– Know Your Rights
– The Guns of Brixton
– The Call Up

There are probably many other more politically charged and anti-Thatcher songs, but I have simply mentioned the songs that I like.

I am fundamentally opposed to so many of the policies and changes she implemented in The UK (and which influenced many other governments, whether right wing or left wing (including the Australian Labor Party) around the world). Privatisation and economic rationalisation are two legacies I particularly detest. I am also fundamentally opposed to the policies implemented against minority groups and disadvantaged areas, along with the UK’s involvement in the war in the Falklands (although I do have a keen interest in the military history of this conflict).

For me she is a symbol of women being able to achieve the ultimate in politics – leading a nation, leading a political party, leading a country at war and have power and influence. But the fact that she held little sympathy for feminists, female colleagues and ordinary woman, does sour the praise for her achievements as a woman. Rhian Jones in her article Was Margaret Thatcher the first Spice Girl? on the Guardian website mentions that “Thatcher’s impact on popular culture and as a role model for women, then, remains as contested an issue as her political and economic legacy.”

I never lived in the UK when she was in power (and also haven’t lived there in the aftermath) so I don’t know first hand the impact of her policies and politics. I discuss this based on my own political beliefs and my feminist beliefs. I find it a bit distasteful that people are celebrating her death. I acknowledge that she did do many “evil” things, but I don’t agree with celebrating the death of another human being. This is something that doesn’t fit well with me. I particularly found the celebration in the USA (and patriotic displays) of the death of Osama Bin Laden disturbing. But as I said above, I did not live in the UK and was not personally effected by her policies.

It will be interesting to see the reactions and sentiments when Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is held next week in the UK.

Links
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-first-spice-girl?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/video/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-death-celebrated-brixton-video
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-no-feminist?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-pop-rock-music
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/27/1040511176546.html

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