Tag Archives: politics

Punk Women

A punk writes in Spare Rib, number 97, August, 1980.

Punk Women

Dear Spare Rib
I am deeply shocked by Vivien Pixner’s letter ‘Punks are Nasty (SR 96). I am a punk, 24, experience of life – married six years, two children, just taken A levels, heavy experience with my parents… I don’t know why I should have to prove my validity as a woman. I’m stopping.
My “way of dressing”, and painting my face and hair is a visual expression of my rejection of how society (male dominated) dictates how women should look. So I am a visual joke, shocking others sometimes, though not purposely wanting to offend.
Punk women have a lot in common with the women’s movement. We (though I can’t speak for all) refuse to support a society that oppresses women, and we wish to give back to the people, those “ordinary women, leading ordinary lives”, the chance to live their lives as they choose.
I feel so angry. I feel like gobbing and cursing, but I won’t offend Vivian’s delicate sensibilities by using “gratuitous bad language”. Don’t “ordinary women” swear? Besides who are all these women? It seems that Vivian’s ‘ordinary’ is interchangeable with ‘normal’. Who’s ordinary, who’s normal? I find her assumptions offensive. Am I the only one?
My own husband is loving, liberal, ‘lets’ me do what I want, but…can’t rid himself of feeling that my freedom is a concession from him. I love him dearly, but he is a part of the male world and its values.
I would hate to see Spare Rib concede to a viewpoint which in Vivian’s words would include more “common sense” just in order to get a wider readership. It is quality not quantity of readership that would count. I don’t want to see you conform.
In defiance and sisterhood,
Edgware, Middlesex.


Muhammad Ali

The Greatest interviewed by Nikki Giovanni. Ali was no slouch at spoken word himself.
This is most likely from 1972 as his son, whose birth is mentioned as being 4 months away, was born in that year.
Nikki Giovanni reads from her book, Gemini.

More Heat Than Light

Colin MacInnes in Anarchy, number 59, January, 1966 reviews an anti-racist anthology. This issue of the magazine stated it focused on ‘the white problem’. He makes the excellent point that we all know what the far-right think, we should be watching what they do.

More heat than light
Colin MacInnes

Victims Of Our Fear edited by Tina Morris (Screeches Publications 2s. 6d.)

It gives such a warm glow to write against racialism that often your words have more heat than light. What’s nice about this anthology is that it’s muti-racial, international, and its authors young. What’s disappointing is its banality.
To begin with the quotes. Those from libertarian prophets of the past are too familiar; while of those from the present, even a fine speech like Nelson Mandela’s, is too well known. As for the racialist snippets, they’re too silly to be worth repeating. (We all know what Colin Jordan ‘thinks’: we should much more be watching what he does)
Of the essays, the longest, on Malcom X, comes from Arthur Moyse. This wraps up poor Malcom who becomes in it a sort of coloured jordan. Well, I agree with Arthur Moyse’s critique of Malcom’s ideas, yet how is it every coloured militant I know of speaks of him with respect? It wasn’t all destructive, was it? Incidentally, what Moyse calls “the hysterical prose” of James Baldwin, I see as passionate rhetoric. Are those three collections of essays, with their measured, painful analysis, really just hysteria? And by the way, the Negro intellectuals are far from being, as Moyse suppose, “spear-headed” by Baldwin’s prose (hysterical or otherwise), since many of them regard him as one who writes too exclusively for whites.
The poems are rather better – though usually, I fear, when emotional, wallowing in self-indulgence. When they’re satirical they’re sharper, as Mari Evans’ celebration of her being given, as a symbol of her being the New Negro, the “key to the White Locked JOHN”.
So I’m sorry to be disparaging, but this number, in general, seems impeccable in sentiment, but woefully lacking attack. having taken up a positive position on racialism, it is fine to shout in slogans, but even better to think and feel more deeply as to how it can be combated. Otherwise this anthology is like those hymns which are resounding in themselves, but are sung only by the faithful, play to empty churches, and win few human souls.

Colin MacInnes

Rock Against Sexism Gig

Spare Rib, number 86, September, 1979, reviews the first large gig for Rock Against Sexism.

Spoilsports, Delta Five and the Gang of Four played at Rock Against Sexism’s first big gig at London’s Electric Ballroom at the end of July. Punks were out in force for Gang of Four, an all-boy band from Leeds who’d approached RAS about doing the gig – “RAS is close to our hearts really cos a lot of our songs criticise the way love and romance are put across in songs”. Not only their lyrics are critical, but their sound, their stance – anti-romantic, tense, frenetic. I don’t think that driving energy has to be macho; it’s not like Mick Jagger’s undulating cockrock. The music is minimal, honed down with no messing around the edges.
From Delta Five the punky delivery is even more interesting as the singers are women. Their eyes stare, they don’t caress the audience. Their voices are unyielding – they yelp, leap, chant, then exploit the higher parts only women can reach. I also liked the way the members of the band swapped guitars and changed parts, though I couldn’t make out why one of the men kept prowling round the stage – feeling left out? The Gang of Four by contrast used the stage like a squash court, speeding from side to side.
But the big contrast of the night was between them and Spoilsports, six women playing funky music with a sax and full percussion – congas, tambourine. it’s an interesting idea to mix styles of music, but for me their slower, more laid-back sound jarred after the first two bands. A lof of the feminists who’d much prefer Spoilsports’ kind of music wouldn’t choose to go to a mixed event, and a lot of the punk supporters started drifting homewards, missing out on the jamboree jam at the the end – all three bands with Tom Robinson in the background and a Mekon or two. The gig cleared £500, split five ways between the bands, RAS and the National Abortion Campaign. Another big benefit for NAC is planned for the night before the TUC’s abortion demo – October 27. For details contact RAS, 121 Grandison Rd, London SW11 (01-272 7866)

Jill Nicholls

After The Election

This poem is from Different Drums, a Second Trade Union Annual which came out in 1984 and was published by the Lancashire Association of Trades Councils and was ‘an anthology of working class art and literature.’

After the Election

Fat miner brings out his bird in a cage
stands braced for heat with sleeves rolled.
Enraged bird sings up at the sun;
man mows his patch of grass.
Bird’s wings redundant;
man on dole.

Around a cricket field,
three times a day,
a sad man walks his dogs.
Crows heckle his loneliness.
Without whistling,
he takes a seat and reads his daily.
Half-naked lady half-yawns from cage 3.
Man removes a new shirt and scratches an old tattoo.
Sun burns a red bird onto his white skin.
Pits close.
Fists fly.

Keith Armstrong

Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes was Hungarian poet. She moved to Palestine in 1939 aged 17. When the British recruited Jewish fighters in Palestine for the Special Operations Executive, she joined up. She was one of 37 Jews from Mandatory Palestine parachuted by the British Army into Yugoslavia during the Second World War to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported to Auschwitz.
She was captured on in Hungary. She was tortured and executed by firing squad on 7 November, 1944. She was 23.

This poem was written in 1944 in her cell, not long after being captured in Hungary.

One, Two, Three

One – two – three… eight feet long
Two strides across, the rest is dark…
Life is a fleeting question mark
One – two – three… maybe another week.
Or the next month may still find me here,
But death, I feel is very near.
I could have been 23 next July
I gambled on what mattered most, the dice were cast. I lost.

Hannah Szenes

The People’s Co-Op

Another poem from the 1974 anthology Love Orange Love Green – Poems of Living, Loving and Dying in Working-Class Ulster. The poems are from both sides of the divide.

The People’s Co-Op

When the cashier hands you your docket
You take your money from your pocket
It does not matter, Mace or Spar
Your money doesn’t go too far
When you see how much your pound can buy
You can sit and have a damn good cry
For while you fought the English soldier
You forgot the rogue who was far more bolder
He needs no tank or armoured car
He owns the Mace or else the Spar
An Army strength is in divisions
This rogue has strength in his provisions
If we work together we can make him stop
Our strength is in the PEOPLE’S CO-OP….

Liam Malloy