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Uncompromising bridal ink

THE WOMEN anthology is launched as part of the Danes' centenary for women's suffrage in 2015. The path to ideological criticism and authority rebellion may well go via the vagina, we should believe the Danish red-stocking movement's magazine.


WOMEN'S 1975-1984 magazine (anthology). Times Change, 2015.

"The female body is a battlefield." I heard this no less than three times last week, in three completely different contexts:
On Monday, I got a tip about a new book by the name Women's Bodies as Battlefield – the women's body as a battlefield – which deals with sexual violence against women as weapons of war. This is not the first time a book title makes use of this metaphor, and the theme is gradually well known – systematic rape as a war strategy has been reported in both Myanmar, Darfur, Bosnia, Berlin, Congo and many other places.
On Wednesday, I flipped through a celebrity magazine from last year, where movie star Keira Knightley spoke out after posing topless with unruly breasts on a magazine cover. The pose was a protest against the media's tendency to beautify and manipulate her body in pictures. "The female body is a battlefield," Knightley said.
On Saturday I listened to the radio. The program was about American politics and how the battle for women's reproductive and sexual rights tends to end up as a fiery battle theme in US top politics. Also in the US Congress, the female body is a battlefield.
It is an easy sport to point out worn-out metaphors, and even easier to shake your head when they are used tirelessly on such diverse themes as cruel war heroes in the Congo and Keira Knightley's Screen Shot at 2015 10-14-14.56.31Screen Shot at 2015 10-14-14.56.46topless pose. But these coincidences, of course, show us, first and foremost, that women's bodies and sexuality still serve as an arena for value and cultural struggles in several areas: in American big politics, in the entertainment industry and in war. Not to forget in the world's religions, in our domestic government negotiations and in the foreign fear of the commentary field. The female body is still a symbol of both the maintenance of the good and the danger of slipping into evil.

Menstrual red battle flag. The common denominator that repeats in all these battles is a desire for control over the woman's body and sexuality. This, of course, knew the Danish red stocking movement very well when in 1975 – on an idealistic basis with flat structure – created the magazine WOMEN. The publisher Tidesne Skifter also knows it well when the 40 years later choose the cover image for the extensive Danish anthology Sheet WOMEN 1975 – 1984, which reproduces a vast array of texts, analyzes, illustrations, poems, and artistic expressions from the magazine's nine-year life.
The image that adorns the cover was in its time front for the theme number on menstruation, showing an almost explosively powerful and erect naked figure with both arms high raised and a large, bright red sheet partly unfolding and fluttering across the body. An aesthetic juxtaposition of left-wing actionism and women's life-giving menstrual blood. The text below says: "It's red. That's good. It gives new energy. ”If there is any battlefield here, at least it is not the female body – on the other hand, it dances atop the whale with the flag raised high. The year is 1979, the magazine WOMEN is already in its fourth year, and the editors are by no means controversial or particularly fresh in their expression with this menstruating flurry leader. This is well within the WOMEN's usual framework: The article about orgasm with close-ups of lots of different clitoris I have to scroll back to 1976 to find, while the front of the issue of breast cancer in 1977 shows a naked woman's body with one breast, sitting relaxed in a tailor position with a huge sun hat on his head. The sex tips for pregnant women, the article on men's contraception and the expert discussion on women's pelvic floor are also duly and beautifully illustrated.

The siren's noisy sister. When the WOMEN editorial board was founded, the left-wing radical women's radical movement was well established in Denmark – the Danes were quick to pick up the action and social criticism from thehe redstockings in the United States. Moreover, compared to their Scandinavian sisters in the north, the Danish red stockings were noticeably more grass-rooted and anti-authoritarian, which can certainly be seen in this anthology. The visual expression is rude and energetic, the production strictly collectivistic (in the first years the writers did not even sign their own texts), and street-level actions and cries are as thematic throughout as bodies and sexuality.

Side by side with family politics, the fishing industry and the struggle of the Palestinian people describe vagina, orgasm and menstruation.

Screen Shot at 2015 10-14-14.57.18At the same time, of course, the anthology is also a representation of the common Nordic equality movement in the 1970 century as we know it from Norway. The magazine also had many commonalities with its Norwegian, contemporary sister Sirene, and reflects the same concrete requirements: equal pay, six hours work day, day care, gender quota for decision-making assemblies and maternity leave for both sexes. They share the notion that the private – not to say intimate – is political and that the family sphere should be politicized, and the bright red barbed thread that links all the pieces together is in both demands for women's right to own body and sexuality. The body should be defined on the premises of women and not patriarchal society.
Obvious similarities though – there is something quite peculiar and direct in the relationship between body and politics that seems to come out of the pages as you scroll through Kvindelige-antologien. Well, Sirene was pioneering in Norway when they mentioned sexuality and genitalia – they were criticized by many fellow ministers for being too concerned about sex – but nonetheless the Norwegian magazine appears as KVINDER's beautiful big sister. Although in Norway we quickly adopted the classic of the Danes Woman, know your body, is the Danish magazine no nonsenseapproach to the body an exotic element of something else quite recognizable. Side by side with labor rights, family politics, the fishing industry and the struggle of the Palestinian people, sheath, orgasm and men are described almost reliably, with both seriousness, humor and political connections. These are not separate things: Body consciousness is closely intertwined with social consciousness, a waking intellect, and a critical sense.

Ideology and body consciousness. This is perhaps most evident in the article "Self-help" from 1976: The text is illustrated with a photograph of a naked woman squatting, deeply concentrated on her own abdomen. Self-help, the editorial says, is purely a "self-examination of the vagina with the help of speculum, mirror and a flashlight", where the mirror keeps the vagina walls apart for viewing. The text encourages readers to form self-help groups – "we can help you as much as we can with ideas and experiences" – to learn self-help in fellowship with other women, and are also encouraged to feel for knots in the breasts. But self-help does not have a purely medical purpose, the editorial emphasizes, on the contrary: The idea of ​​self-help is that women should take responsibility for their own lives, develop their knowledge and self-confidence, and in this way be equipped to "cope with the authorities and with our own faith in authority ». Only then will we be able to act and change, they write.
In his time, Horkheimer and Adorno warned about how the cultural industry and consumer culture make people dull, stunned and less resilient to dictators and demagogues manipulation, because both imagination and rebelliousness are blunted. It could be interesting to show them how ideological criticism can actually begin in the vagina.

Reclaiming. KvindeligeThe anthology is launched as part of the Danes' centenary of women's suffrage in 2015, as well as the magazine's own fortieth anniversary. In this connection, one almost has to ask: What happened afterwards? The fight for equality in Denmark is said to lag behind both Norway and Sweden. How can the Danes be the least feminist country in Scandinavia when they can simultaneously sum up their 70s with this uncompromising, self-conscious and reflective bridal oil ink? One of the answers lies precisely in the Danes' anti-authoritarian and grassroots-oriented orientering, we should believe more: Researchers have pointed out that the Danish red stockings were powerful and created a lot of debate, but organized themselves outside the political corridors, and that feminism thus never became mainstream in the same way as in neighboring countries.
In any case, this is not a basis for stripping WOMEN's feminist project – both through content and form, the magazine represents a type of bold recapture we could need more of. The female body is by no means a passive battlefield, but an actor with a blood-red flag. And important: It is not the body that is going to be recaptured, as many of us seem to believe today when we throw our clothes in front of the camera lenses and pose on the premises we wish we were away. You have the body, you do not have to recapture it, and the WOMEN'S EDITORIAL shows us very clearly that women's bodies are nothing but exactly what they are, namely, a plethora of physical, acting individuals. What needs to be recaptured is the power to define what the body should be allowed to mean. "It is not our biology that has suppressed us, but the social institutions that decide how we should perceive our biology," states the editorial board of 1976. Almost 40 years later, we constantly need to be reminded of this distinction.

Mesna is the editor-in-chief of Ny Tid.

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