Plastic Doll Heads
“I am doll eyes
Doll mouth, doll legs
I am doll arms…”
Doll Parts, Hole
So here is my blog: Plastic Doll Heads. I am a complete technophobe, and not a gifted flowery writer. This may take a while. I am unsure who will read this, but I have at least 4 of my closest friends who have taken an oath of allegiance, and many more who I am sure will be cajoled, coerced and /or bribed to take a look. That’s what friends are for, right?!
I am mostly using this for my own postgraduate study. To be able to express ideas, improve my writing, receive feedback, and learn more about others’ work. Twitter has proved invaluable for this, from meeting people in ‘real life’ who I have found online, to simply exchanging ideas and having debates. It has been a great space for me to have bite-size-chunk info.
Am I a feminist?… Well, I have actively identified as one since 14 years of age, when I tried to launch the ill-fated ‘Trepidation’ magazine in my secondary school. Yes, I was one of those annoying teenagers. I am also one of those annoying adults to be fair. It was in my mosher stage (to you whippersnappers, that’s kind of an ’emo lite’) where I cut all my waist length hair off, thought make-up was the devil, Greer was an icon, and was an angry little ‘rad fem’ I guess. A wannabe punk. I was a pretentious little ****. Fun times for all. My wonderful English teachers (the only subject I liked at school) also unleashed my inner feminist, I am forever indebted to them. Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath; Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. I was spoiled. They also indulged my teen-angst flood of poetry, especially the coyly named ‘Women Have Been F*cked’, which no, I was sadly not allowed to read at award’s evening. (I always imagined I would study English Literature or Language at university, but damn my History A Level thwarting my dreams).
Fast-forward a couple of years, and from 17 onwards I certainly was not identifying as such, and was living a life many ‘feminists’ would disagree with. I still self-identified as a feminist, and have fiercely defended my right to my own body my entire life. It’s mine: back off! Of course this comes with slurs and generally being regarded (especially in the medical system) as a bit of a pain-in-the-bum (charge accepted). I am opinionated highly-strung, and get too passionate, but I am still trying to learn to speak less and listen more.
I completely understand why so many women do not identify with ‘feminism’, why would they? The connotations are so negative, and the in-fighting so repulsive, that for many rational-thinking people, feminism just doesn’t seem relevant or necessary. I have felt many times recently (since beginning my studies) that I myself do not want to be called a feminist, and have openly searched for alternatives… twitter gave me ‘equalist’, ‘Femme’, … none seems to sum up how I feel. I am also aware that many of my thoughts on feminism and women perpetuate gender binary and serve to exclude various people, if I ever do that, please let me know, as that is something I am trying to be conscious to avoid.
So why am I a feminist? Well, the driving force is anger and frustration. Anger is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a driving force, a flame scolds you into action. I am angry about the hetero-normative nature of society, and I am angry that the medical profession assumes things about my body and sexual activity. That smear tests are (well, they tried, but not anymore!) are thrust upon me as if I MUST be engaging in penetrative sex); that contraceptive pills are pushed upon my friends and I (and most women!) as if they were nothing more than candy, regardless of the side-effects; that it is presumed in society that I SHOULD cook; I SHOULD have children (or at the very least want them); I SHOULD do the majority of housework; that I should generally be quiet and compliant. I hate the fact domestic abuse is so rife. I hate the fact rape is so rife. I hate the fact sex workers are demonised. I hate how the LGBT are marginalised and excluded. I hate the fact my life choices as a woman are questioned so much. I hate the fact that as teenagers our friends were the centre of our lives, whereas society tries to sabotage this friend-love and power by segregating us. I am a woman's woman, I love my friends so much with every beat of my heart. No. I will not do or be these things. And the happiest moments of my life are when I meet new idols, usually in the form of women in their seventies, their eighties, who have stuck 2 fingers up to convention, to the 'rules', and are happy creatures in charge of themselves. I don't like authority very much at the best of times, especially when it's telling me to be quiet. The older I get, ( a lady never reveals her age, but pushing 30) these things become more glaringly apparent.
I hate the fact we are still having discussions about what women wear, do, say. If you want to be covered from head-to-toe, do it. If you want to be naked, do it. I support you. I hate the current tirade about vajazzles and revealing clothes, I hate the policing of women by women. Since when did we become so compliant in our oppression? The Daily Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Heatworld, are particular sources of fascination and material for me. Aintree Races Ladies’ Day and the subsequent racist/ classist and misogynistic press coverage is a great framework for further research.
Why is my blog called Plastic Doll Heads? Well, there will be much of a common theme running through it. Hole were one of my favourite bands when I first identified as a feminist aged 14, and their song 'Doll Parts' has stuck with me. I won't quote Dines often (promise!) but she said women have been reduced to "merely a collection of interchangeable body parts" (2003, p.44), doll parts. There is Walter's Living Dolls. Dolls are coming up a lot. I will be exploring WHO exactly has reduced (and is continuing to reduce) women to doll parts. I am interested in the idea of plastification, and why sexualisation, pornification, objectification and exploitation have become catch-all terms and buzzwords that saturate and arguably thwart our understanding. I am interested in women becoming ‘dolls’ as a form of resistance; commodified, performing, glamourised, modified bodies as sites of resistance. I don’t wish to talk about the male gaze ( I find Winch’s The Girlfriend Gaze more apt for my research). And I like dolls. I like Barbie. I like pink. I like plastic.
I also use Plastic Doll Heads as a title to pay some small homage to Sylvia Plath who was an avid fan of paper dolls; a collection of Plath’s work was collected and exhibited under the name Paper Doll. Her later work was explained as: “embodies Plath’s response to oppressive modern society and her “dual consciousness of self as both subject and object”.(Annas, 1980). Rather apt. In Getting There features a line, “A hospital of dolls”. I like that. I love that. In The Applicant, Plath concludes:
“But in twenty-five years she’ll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk , talk.
It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it’s a poultice.
You have an eye, it’s an image.
My boy, it’s your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it”.
I shall leave this ramble there in the shadow of Plath’s despair.
I always like receiving feedback/ comments/ advice/ suggested readings, so please do feel free. Thank you for reading.