On 24 October 1975, the women of Iceland refused to show up for work. They refused to cook, clean or look after their children. Basically, they went on strike. And that day, the shops in Iceland ran out of the only convenience food available at the time: sausages.
Call it symbolism, but by going on strike the women of Iceland were calling for men to respect their work and demanding equal pay.
This week Iceland became the first country in the world to make companies prove they are not paying women less than men for the same work. Employers are rushing to comply with the new rules to avoid fines.
Companies and government agencies with more than 25 staff must obtain government certification of their equal pay policies.
On the ‘women’s day off’, as it’s known, 90% of women stopped work and refused to do any household chores
Iceland has long been deemed the best place in the world to be a woman.
For the past nine years, the country has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index; the UK comes in at 15th.
In Iceland men get at least three months’ paternity leave, and 90% of them take it. This gives them time to become comfortable with child-rearing, encouraging them to share the workload with their partners.
Women in Iceland are highly educated, a high percentage hold managerial positions and they don’t give up their careers to have children: they do both.
The objective of corsets was to improve on the body type of every woman. Emphasis was on the waist.
By the 1880s the corset had become an elegant and desirable object in a woman’s wardrobe with much attention paid to its design and execution. Corset makers and manufacturers took great pride in promoting excellent fit in ready-to-wear garments.
The 1890s saw a change in woman from the pampered Victorian Lady to a more adventuresome woman, seen doing things only men had done in the past. Women were riding bicycles, driving automobiles and playing active sports.
Fashions began to change to accommodate new activities. To that end women’s foundation garments began evolving as well. The Victorian hourglass bone corset was taking on a new shape with the drop waist and slight hip sway; more about comfort and flexibility.
The 1900s brought Royal Worcester and Bon- Ton Corsets promoting “Princess Hip”.The Style Book for American Beauty Corsets proclaiming “A right fitted corset becomes an unconscious part of a woman” and assuring that “boning materials, corset clamps, hose supporters, trimmings are carefully selected”.
At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, aNemo Corsets ticket depicts two statuesque women flanking a Nemo sign with a caption “Bones and Steels cannot cut through” The reverse promotes Nemo Court – a beautiful exhibit of Nemo Corset Specialties and a lecture series.
A British company, Hahns Corsets presented a music series of various national anthems with promotion for their corsets on the reverse—”Made in England by British Labour—The Elite Corset of Great Britain”.
In the 1910s corsets became a “serious” business. The Ferris Bros Co in New York had a billhead putting corsets in the fore with an image from a photograph of woman dressed in a corset or waist. It also brought the advent of the Corset Hygienist certified in the Anatomy and Hygiene of Corsetry and in individual and surgical fittings—awarded by the Nemo Hygienic-Fashion Institute.
There were also regional and state specific Corset Clubs comprised of traveling corset salesman as evidenced in the Empire State Corset Club Banquet in Rochester, 1916. In 1917, Warner introduced its Rust Proof corset as seen in the lady’s pocket calendar catalog.
In Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Eva Green, the French actress (see above) is treacherous, deadly and alluring enough to turn a polar ice cap into a cloud of steam.
Her character has a name – Ava Lord – but she might as well be called simply Femme Fatale. She is just the latest in a long line of cinematic devil women who beguile viewers as surely as they beguile their weak-willed prey.
But the femme fatale doesn’t just give audiences a delectable taste of forbidden fruit. Dr Catherine O’Rawe of Bristol University is the editor of an academic survey of the subject, Femme Fatale: Images, Histories, Contexts, and she argues that such fictional seductresses reflect society’s mixed feelings towards independent women.
“The figure of the female temptress is as old as Eve,” says O’Rawe.
“But the femme fatale as we understand it emerged in the late 19th Century, when the term was applied to a range of fin-de-siècle figures such as Salome, Rider Haggard’s She and Bram Stoker’s female vampires.
What’s striking is that these figures arose at the same time as concerns about emancipated women occupying the public sphere.”
There were similar concerns in the air during the femme fatale’s big-screen heyday. The movies have always featured wicked women: in 1915, Hollywood’s original ‘vamp’, Theda Bara, ensnared and destroyed a respectable Wall Street lawyer in A Fool There Was.
Photo: Rita Hayworth.
But it was in the 1940s that such film noir classics as Gilda, The Killers, Murder, My Sweet and Double Indemnity brought us the definitive femmes fatales: Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner and Barbara Stanwyck at their most hazardously alluring.
Photo: Veronica Lake
Sometimes evil, sometimes in thrall to a villainous male, the vamp in these films used her hypnotic eroticism to get what she wanted – up to and including murder.
She may have been a fantasy, says Dr Ellen Wright, a film noir specialist at the University of East Anglia, but she personified real issues.
A mesmeric physician taking advantage of his female patient. Colour lithograph, 1852. Printed: British College of Health, London.
The word mesmerism took its root from the name of FranzAntonMesmer, who wasaGermanphysicianandastrologist,whodiscoveredwhathecalledmagnétismeanimal ( animal magnetism) and which othersoftencalledmesmerism.
Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorised that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism, sometimes later referred to as mesmerism.
The theory attracted a wide following between about 1780 and 1850, and continued to have some influence until the end of the century.
In 1843 the Scottish physician James Braid proposed the term hypnosis for a technique derived from animal magnetism; today this is the usual meaning of mesmerism.
As a child, she was called Mnesarete (Greek for “virtue”), but because she was born with sallow skin, she was called Phryne (Greek for “toad”).
Still, Phryne became the most successful and sought-after courtesan in ancient Greece, commanding 100 times the going rate.
Supposedly, she was even the model for the sculpture called Aphrodite of Cnidus, one of the most famous works of Greek art.
Lust Rewards: Phryne became incredibly rich thanks to her liaisons with powerful men in Athens.
According to legend, she even offered to pay to rebuild the city walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC, but there was a condition: the new wall had to contain the inscription
“Destroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the courtesan.” Her offer was declined.
Around 340 BC, Phryne was accused of affronting the gods by appearing nude during a religious ceremony.
At her trial, the orator Hyyperides -her defender and also one of her lovers- ripped open Phryne’s robe and exposed her to the court. Why?
He considered it a legitimate defense. She was, after all, the most beautiful woman in Athens, and someone that gorgeous must be on good terms with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, no matter what codes of conduct she appeared to have broken.
British-born Gertrude Bell, also referred to as the female Lawrence of Arabia, was an adventurer, spy, archaeologist and powerful political force who travelled into the uncharted Arabian desert and was recruited by British Military Intelligence to help reshape the Middle East after World War I.
She drew the borders of Iraq, helped install its first king and established the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities which was infamously looted during the 2003 American invasion.
A true visionary, she advocated for Iraqi self-rule and openly criticized colonial policy.
Gertrude Bell images, courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Archives, Newcastle University
Gertrude Bell was astonishingly accomplished.
She was one of the most powerful women in the British Empire in the early twentieth century, yet she has been overlooked in much of the history written about this period.
As the first female British intelligence Officer and adviser on Arabian affairs to the British government,
Bell helped shape the geopolitical map of the world as it changed dramatically after World War I.
She was the only woman with a diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the only woman invited by Winston Churchill to the Cairo Conference in 1921.
In 1964, a woman who couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance and couldn’t act was nonetheless deemed qualified to host and perform in an Australian television variety program because she was, well, British.
A black-and-white clip of season one, episode one of Channel Seven’s satirical The Mavis Bramston Show features the eponymous Mavis, all bouffant hair and a song at the ready, being asked by an interviewer if she is looking forward to visiting Australia.
“Oh rather,” she exclaims, all plummy, “I hear it’s absolutely dinky. I simply adore that wide-open thing.
Of course, they have such lovely warm audiences.”
Playing this dried-up, obsequious British personality feted via Australia’s cultural cringe was comic actor Noeline Brown, who had actually grown up in working-class Stanmore in Sydney’s inner west.
The daughter of a staunch unionist who was absent for much of her childhood – he was away riding trains, delivering sacks of mail for Australia’s travelling post office – Brown and her two brothers were raised by a mother stricken with tuberculosis.
Brown would soon take off briefly, herself, to try her luck on the UK stage, being the only cast member not contracted to The Mavis Bramston Show, despite playing its namesake.
But she would find the attitude and the lack of good theatre roles no less sexist in Britain – one London dinner party luvvie claimed she was only pretending to be Australian.
So she returned, resuming a regular place in the Bramston hit, which presaged a healthy turnover of home-grown television comedies that thumbed noses at the cultural colonisers.
It was on a radio show called Chuck Chunder of the Space Patrol that she met the impressively moustachioed “double- and triple-denim” clad writer Tony Sattler, who was moved to reminisce years later:
“I first realised I was reasonably attracted to Noeline by a swelling in the pants, actually. And that’s generally a pretty good barometer of human feeling, I find.”
They married, and teamed up for the mid-1970s comedy sketch hit The Naked Vicar Show, and formed a lifelong friendship with Melbourne’s TV king the late Graham Kennedy, with Brown a permanent fixture on panel show Blankety Blanks, hosted by the anarchic Kennedy.
What Ajjawi wants to articulate with her artwork is the idea that women are not objects to gaze at but rather full-fledged human beings with intellectual depth.
If this seems like a banal point to make, consider that an estimated 80 percent of Jordanian women have experienced street harassment, according to Asma Khader, secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women.
Elsewhere in the world, the numbers are just as dire: In the United States, 65 percent of women report being sexually harassed in the streets; in Brazil, 99.6 percent of women said they were victims of street harassment; and in Egypt, 99.3 percent of women reported being sexually harassed.
This is why, when asked to choose a topic in line with this year’s Women on Walls festival theme, “Stories from Fear to Freedom,”Ajjawi chose street harassment. Street art, she says, is particularly useful for tackling this type of issue.
Because the artwork is located outdoors, it addresses a much wider audience than those typically motivated to attend a feminist art show. Instead, it challenges harassers in their domain: the streets.
This kind of art doesn’t just decorate cement walls; it forces a conversation. “It catches the eye,” says Ajjawi. “But it’s not confrontational.”
Allegorical paintings and female portraiture from art history that have been layered and manipulated to show the different archetypes used to define women.
The images presented for this series attempt to break their attachments to provenance and represent themselves anew.
The images are constructed from scanned segments of female portraits and allegorical painting from art history.
They are layered and manipulated, only traces of the original scan can be seen.
Female portraiture has been appropriated to show the archetypes used to define women: the visionary, the scribe, the mother, the femme fatale, and the maiden to name a few.
The final prints represent the variety of archetypes of women and subverts the context of the original portrait. The sitter of the portrait is no longer tied to their authorship, originality or ownership.
Jayaben Desai, one of the mostly British-Asian women out on strike at the Grunwick factory in 1977, pictured on the picket line.
Image Credt: Photograph by Getty Images.
It was in 1857, that on 8 March in New York City, garments workers went on strike. Suffering horrific conditions, endless hours and low pay, they took to the streets demanding better money and working conditions.
Dispersed after being attacked by police, the women continued to fight and from their movement the first women’s labour unions were established.
In the early 20th century, their movement blossomed. New York City’s streets again saw women march demanding shorter hours, better pay, an end to child labour and the right to vote in 1908. Leading labour organisers sought to strengthen the movement internationally.
At the Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin asked over 100 women from 17 countries – representing unions, socialist parties and women’s working clubs – to pass a motion for an International Working Women’s Day.
They did so, unanimously, and so International Women’s Day was born.
Zetkin, in conjunction with other well-known women from the movement including Rosa Luxembourg and Theresa Malkiel focussed on the conditions that dictated women’s lives.
They organised with women working in inhumane conditions for long hours and no pay.
Women who also went home to complete their “second shift” – cleaning, cooking, childrearing and household managing; women who were the engine keeping families, communities, companies and countries running, but whose work received little pay and even less recognition.