I wrote a thesis on the representations of female sexuality in Germany, exploring feminist Art History and the history of LGBTQ citizens in Weimar and Nazi era Germany, so the editors suggested that I write this blog, in the hopes I might have something useful to contribute. Here's my 10 pence on the subject and some of the ways feminism matters to and has influenced me. Enjoy!
In my masters thesis I investigated the work of Hannah Höch. Höch was an incredible woman, a formidable creative force and an advocate for freedom from social constrictions and limitations that told women how to look and how to love.
Höch's provocative artworks created eerie harmonies between brash political imagery - she critiqued the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regimes - and the human (mostly female) body. She did this by cutting up figures from women's magazines, and collaging them with images of sculpture, with animals and with male body parts to question expression and how women were butchered and commodified in the fledgling women's pictorial weeklies; the early versions of Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan.
What drew me to Höch as a subject were not only her 'gender bending', highly political artworks (I'm a sucker for anything feisty and boisterous when it comes to my fave artists - Jenny Holzer, the Guerilla Girls and Tracey Emin are all up there), but the way she pushed through a largely male art scene in early twentieth century Berlin to become a peer rather than a footnote, the fact she had an unapologetic and very public lesbian relationship throughout the late twenties and during the rise of the Nazis (lesbianism was never specifically legislated against but was frowned upon) and the fact that unlike most of the men she had made work with in the 1910's and 1920's she stayed in Berlin and endured fascism and continued to make work.
She never bowed to social or political difficulty, and even though it could of cost her life she was resolute. Bad ass!
I am so glad that I had the chance to study her work and (shameless plug alert!) I couldn't and wouldn't have done it without the support of my supervisor Dr Jody Patterson and Plymouth University and I continue to be so so glad I came here to study.
Academic success is something that has always seemed within my grasp, with hard work and some library time I could train, condition and nourish my brain and do well at University. The tutors were supportive and the Uni always pushed us forward.
But I used to be really scared of doing 'sporty' things, because I was worried about not being able to compete with or 'measure up' to the boys and didn't want to slow anyone down. On reflection, the terminology we used around sports and about strength are very often detrimental - both to women and men and held me back from achieving or even having a go for a long time. The really silly thing is that the only way that I would ever improve was by doing and I was too scared to even take the first step!
I started by hiking on my own, utilising the proximity of Plymouth to Dartmoor I would head out for the day and navigate in rain, sun and through the mists that so often coat the moors. It was scary at first, but it made me braver, made me trust my judgement and has made me so much more independent. From hiking came coasteering, mountain climbing, climbing rocks and road running. I'm in the best shape and the most confident I've ever been in my life, and it's because I stopped competing and started doing things at my own pace.
Even if you are a woman who achieves the ultimate and becomes like a man, you will still always be like a woman. And as long as womanhood is thought of as something to escape from, something less than manhood, you will be thought less of, too.”
― Ariel Levy
My best friend Corah is: loud, hilarious, loving, considerate, open, sparkling, joyous, serious, clever, silly, grumpy, vocal, considered, spontaneous, fun, encouraging, bold, supportive, so so special, so so wholly herself and so so wonderful to know.
But she said to me once that she had gotten annoyed about the way people spoke about her (or the way they didn't rather).
"Georgia, how would you describe me?"
"Well, you're wild, hilarious, gorgeous and brill- why?"
She had been at a party and had gotten quite annoyed because a group of men there had complained because she was loud and wanted to be involved in the conversation - as you do at a party...
"They always describe the other girls as 'nice', no one ever describes me as 'nice'. They were like "why can't you just be normal and nice like so and so"
I thought, and responded:
"Quite often nice is the word we use to describe someone when there isn't words to describe them, nice isn't distinct. You're wonderfully nice, I love you and wouldn't love you if you weren't nice, but you're so much more than just nice. You're like nice extra, if you were ingredients nice would be in there but it's not all you are, you're so much more."
Corah went really quiet, I'd apparently managed to be quite profound (this may or may not have been a conversation in a beer garden...)
So, on International Women's Day why not take the time to speak to the other rad ladies, or anyone else in the LGBTQ community and tell them about how big, brave, bold and brilliant they are.