Friday, 26 August 2016

Teenage Feminism

Too young to make an ally of menstruation and nearly done with sixteen I had a ticket to see We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It. I wanted to be something but didn't know what so seeing those four girls from the Midlands I got a glimpse of the sea of possibilities.

Fuzzbox were tarted up and opinionated; the first time I saw their picture in a magazine I caught hold of a bubble-gum punk ribbon hanging from a star. Just like looking in the mirror I saw four different colouring book versions of me looking back.

I'd been waiting to hear a song like Rules And Regulations since my O-level term. The lyrics were the sort of challenges going round my head. In my first six months at Southend Tech I dyed my hair pillar-box red, alpine green and marine blue and I'd been sacked from two part-time jobs because of my appearance. But it was their song X X Sex that echoed words a seething fairy hissed in my ears whenever she landed on my shoulder. A mini alter ego or imaginary dressing up doll I based my attitude and look on. I remember what I wore that night in 1986 when Fuzzbox played the Chancellor Hall in Chelmsford - 3'' stiletto ankle boots, ripped acid green tights with black fishnets over the top, a black leather mini-skirt, a junk shop tatty black velvet top, a belt and necklace I'd made from hardware store chains, panda-eye make-up and at the time my hair was frizzed-out black and green. The place was packed and sweaty and once I stopped dancing my feet refused to walk.

In working class Essex in the 80s everyone I knew who bought a newspaper read The Sun. And at sixteen 'know your place' was a brick wall I had no hope of climbing over but I could charge at it laced into my gothic armour whilst singing X X Sex until someone noticed me even though the wall didn't feel a thing.

Sam Fox was the queen of page 3 girls and page 3 stood for everything I objected to. I was her skinny opposite, decorative to my own designs and getting various angles of femininity out of my system before I got serious about androgyny.

I didn't have a problem with being around men at home, in college or on trains who chose to look at page 3. I'd been brought up with a healthy and relaxed attitude towards nudity; my problem was with the expression on Sam Fox's face. I read that look as, 'I am better than you, I am what a young woman should look like'.

There were a couple of girls at college who were goth-punk goddesses; one had hair the colour of dusty cornflowers, the other had the healthiest- tanned even- skin, unclogged by all the make-up I used as a mask. It was obvious they knew how to look after themselves and earnt enough money to get their hair dyed so cleverly, not just from a tub of Directions and help from their Mum. I admired these girls as style icons, and wanted to find out how. It wasn't a secret they worked as glamour models.

By my late teens I discovered the Women Against Censorship movement, which nurtured opinions I still run with, and my feelings towards Sam Fox's fuck-you work mask changed. The audience she must have imagined while she modelled for page 3 were men, not a teenage female searching for what to think, who to be and what she wanted.

I don't know much more about Sam Fox other than her as the most famous page 3 girl of the 1980s, then she became a pop star and that she's gay. When I found out she was gay an almost conspiratorial smile touched my face. How that must feel to by choice have pictures of your tits become mainstream everyday culture, but you are sexually immune to your audience, but they don't know it. How powerful a concept is that!

We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It + Sam Fox
= Feminist Icons to this 1980s Essex Teenage Girl!


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