EDITORIAL: Welcome to Femme&Oddities, a onetime collaboration contributed to by international students, ex-pats and Dutch locals living in Amsterdam in 2013. Firstly, the oddities. Whether doodling inanities, explicating Kurt Klick’s images of the unsettling domestic spaces of the Gaza strip, being a teenage witch, or the feathered, quaffed lotharios of the Japanese host club world, it’s a space to engage in the outlandishness and ultimate existential weirdness of it all, enjoy the multifarious oddities life has to offer and (sometimes) still laugh. Secondly, femme – used here in referring to feminism, or the feminine, a controversial subject at the best of times – cryptic, ostensibly ‘unnecessary’, or simply too loaded to deal with. Actually, if we can put aside reactionary emotion and rhetoric for a moment, taking feminism as a given is about understanding power, privilege and history. Racerelated problems for African Americans didn’t cease to exist simply because of the Civil Rights Movement. These embedded disparities which have occurred for hundreds if not thousands of years take a lot longer to dissipate, they can be subtle as well as systemic, and all the more insidious for it. During this time men have had the kind of agency women could never dream of and the vestiges of this still remain in our collective consciousness, in the way men and women are represented, in how we experience ourselves and each other. Power exists, inequality exists, in terms of both race, sexuality, class or gender. The fact that I have felt the debilitating effects of this (and probably will again in the future), and that so many other women do all the time, necessitates the existence of feminism.
And this perspective is essential, whether you’re a woman who feels she doesn’t need feminism, or a man. It’s being conscious that people have experiences different from your own and that that exists within a context of inherited norms and power dynamics that have real psychological and material impacts on others. And this is especially so when coupled with other factors of class, race and sexuality e.g. being a woman or man of colour, being queer or trans, or being lower class.
“But it’s also about being inventive, fucking with and jamming the system…” So I am a feminist and will remain as such, for as long as men are paid more than women, as long as women continue to be so overtly and overwhelmingly objectified (watch the Dreamworlds/read the Beauty Myth/ watch Missrepresentation if you don’t understand what I’m talking about), as long as women I know are sexually assaulted/raped/afraid to walk home at night, as long as consent isn’t an affirmative ‘yes’ but just getting a woman not to say ‘no’, as long as a male lecturer/ pilot/doctor/whatever has instantly more legitimacy than his female equivalent, as long as my female friends feel they have to work twice as hard to feel legitimate in their work place, as long as women (and I’ve known a lot) suffer from eating disorders and hate their bodies, as long as slut-shaming is a thing, as long as the work of female artists throughout time remains unrecognised relative to men and so on. And that’s not even to mention the kind of systemic abuse women face in the developing world.
But it’s also about being inventive – fucking with and jamming the system, providing alternatives, laughing in the face of the BS that is produced by the modern capitalist industrial complex. So you have a photo shoot which notes and subverts representations of ‘beauty’, exhibiting a throwing off of ego and bodily neuroses. A case study on feminist art practices which have questioned, critiqued and resisted the patriarchal status quo. An analysis on ostensibly ‘gender-reversing’ institutions such as the Japanese host club. Make a tumblr/zine, address the supposedly taboo, treat feminism as a new normal, have an openminded conversation. And if you’re struggling with this or feeling uncomfortable just ask yourself - who’s telling you not to? And why?
K Femme.email@example.com Femmeandoddities.tumblr.com
LIFE’S A WITCH By Bryce Celestan So, you want to be a teenage witch? It’s actually not that hard. With an open mind, dedication to the craft, and an incessant need to piss off your Catholic relatives, you too can become Wiccan. It all began for me at the age of sixteen. As a recovering Catholic, a blossoming homosexual, and a lonely teenager, it seemed natural that I would be drawn to something that was the antithesis of my former life. First off, I do not want to trivialize Wicca. It is a truly beautiful earth-based religion. For me however, it served multiple purposes. It was a way to feel unbound to the chains of my former religion, to announce that I was a new person, and finally, to piss people off. Although this, I know, is not the main purpose of Wicca, I thank it for allowing me to evolve. I was inspired by a foster boy I met at my Catholic middle school who kept a book of spells with him at all times that he would share with me at recess. As we sat on the swings and kicked mulch beneath our feet, Dillon would tell me how enlightening and powerful it was to be a witch. Although it seemed dangerous and ungodly to me at that age, I always felt a strange pull towards Wicca and magic. One day when I was driving back from high school to my house in Brandon, Florida, I passed by a tiny store I had never noticed with flowers wrapped around the door. I quickly swerved my wheel towards the store and came to an abrupt stop outside the door, the name “Under the Crescent Moon” etched into a wood panel. Looking at the various books, candles, cauldrons, and spell books, I instantly flashbacked to my afternoons with Dillon. Fondling bottles of oils and silver pendants in my Catholic school uniform, I knew that this was where I was meant to be. The next day I bought “Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation” by Silver RavenWolf. As I poured over the history of Wicca, and the
ways to incorporate white magic into my life, I knew that I was becoming a better person. I lit my candles, called upon the five elements (air, fire, water, earth, spirit), and purified myself of who I was. On every full moon I would have moon ceremonies with my closest friends and learn all of their darkest secrets. These ceremonies became a safe space away from the overbearing feelings of guilt, morality, and piety pushed upon us everyday at school. They were especially important as we were all struggling with our gayness. However, soon these ceremonies took on a strong negative energy. As the secrets became darker, and love triangles began to form, I sunk into a terrible place. Soon, Wicca was not something that filled me with light; it began to feel like a burden. I stopped practicing magic, I withdrew into myself, and I hurt myself in ways that ended with me in a cold emergency room at 1am. It may seem that Wicca took me down a dark road. In reality, it was completely the opposite. Being a teenage witch saved me from a life of repression and Catholic guilt. Although I hit a point of strong negativity, I also felt a happiness and light I had never known before. Although I am no longer a teenager, nor a witch, I look upon every full moon as a chance for a new beginning.
BEEP! BEEP! Road Runner could walk on thin air
SO LONG ! a s h i s i l l u s i o n s u s t a i n e d HIM.
- Francesca Ohlert
THE FRO By Adam Gorowitz Subtle, yet eloquent the voluminous masterpiece has become ill faded after years of perfect form. There seems to be little use for its style as the prim, straight, fine cut has taken over the societal whole. But not so many years ago the fro was far more quotidian. Flaunted by the likes of Albert Einstein, Starsky and Hutch, the entire 69’ NBA basketball league; the fro is a vivacious temperament of history. The first ubiquitous sightings of the “fro” were in the early 60s represented, for instance, by the group the Black Panthers! Such movements marked a transition from pre 1960s attitudes where the naturally curly hair of the Afro-American was perceived as an anathema to white society, this prejudice against the curl being a vestige of slavery in the United States. Now, instead of braiding or straightening the hair with dangerous chemicals, the afro was embraced as a rebellious vindication of youth and ethnicity, sported by many famous entertainers from Angela Davis, Pam Grier, Jimi Hendrix and the fabulous Jackson 5. The verdict was clear - the Afro was growing to become the trend of the late 60s and early 70s. We also see the emergence of the ‘Jew Fro’, in part inspired by the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement of the 1960s. The Jew fro has its own unique and vivacious qualities, with notably more golden curls. Not needing
to be stretched out, it clumps together on its own. There are some qualms as to the political correctness of such a term. Jewish history has often involved the both subtle and overt categorization of this people via physical traits, whether via the pseudoscience of phrenology, the Jewish nose or a generally ‘darker’ appearance. Hence, it is unsurprising a tension exists in this term that originally started off as a positive affirmation of Jewish-ness, but which we also and inevitably associate with a darker history of aesthetic stereotyping and prejudice. The Jew-fro is a complex entity. It is deserved of understanding yes, but also celebration. Difficult as it is to escape the prejudice-laden history of Western frameworks which seem to impose themselves on all things, individuals such as Bob Dylan and Art Garfunkel are a few examples of this embrace of individuality that the Jew Fro represents. The best and final example of a fro is made magnificent by the lady Aevin Dugas, a 36 year-old social worker from New Orleans, USA. Bigger than a disco ball in a roller derby, measuring a mere 4ft. 4in. in diameter, it has taken her over 12 years to grow. The Afro is one of the greatest of God’s forms. Free expression without formal action. Lawyers and businessmen wearing the same expensive suit is grey on the pavement. The fro is what gives the navy blue pin striped suit, with a purple bow-tie new importance. It is the ugly duckling that everyone wishes they were. Fro life.
PHOTO SERIES Photography: Christopher Brown Concept: Christopher Brown & Kari Schmidt The Femme&Oddities photo series encompasses a number of themes. Beginning with the space of one individual and the treasured posessesions which comprise her private, internal life. We become party to the intimate rituals of femininity and the embrace and ownership of these practices, whether its putting on make-up, or enjoying kinky 1980s photo books. This first section encourages us to empathise, to see a woman as an individual human being, rather than stereotype or soundbite, complex and unapologetic in her desires and tastes. From the individual we arrive at the collective. A naked group photoshoot in the Amsterdamse Bos which exhibits a throwing off of
neuroses and ego, a de-commodification of the body (through stripping it of clothing and placing it in nature) as well as an embrace of the being state (a state of being in and embracing the present, including being in and embracing the body). The placing of so many bodies together highights their banality in a really refreshing way â€”it is all flesh, the same matter. Yet the shoot also celebrates diversity, eliminating heirarchies between body types by placing them together so indiscriminately. Despite some anxiety around the shoot, it felt completely natural and normal to be naked in this way. Suddenly the ego/identity espoused via clothing was abandoned and a collective empathy and play manifested itself organically.
HOST CLUBS: What are Women Buying Into? By Sophia Seawell
You’re walking down the street in the Minami district of Osaka, Japan and a stylish, young guy with bleached and/or feathered hair, wearing an abundance of accessories calls out to you. “Where are you going? You look like you could use a drink. Come inside, just for an hour.” If it’s raining, he will most likely have an umbrella. This is called ‘catching,’ a duty reserved for the newer employees of host clubs. Since the 1960s clients, often older, wealthier men, have visited hostess clubs for drinks, small talk and flirtation with the female employees. Predictably, attempts to purchase more carnal services are not uncommon (depending on the hostess, it may be possible, but it’s not the norm). Switch the sexes, and you have a host club, the less common counterpart of this 20th century phenomenon. Once inside, clients are presented with a host menu, and once you choose a host, you’re stuck with him. While hosts receive a very low hourly wage, the majority of their income is commission-based, meaning they get a percentage of what their clients spend on drinks—and they spend a lot. Women interviewed in the 2006 documentary ‘The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief,’ reported spending anywhere from the equivalent of a few hundred dollars to $7,000 a night. Hosts can even make from $10,000-$50,000 a month.
Some clubs cater to older women, but the host club culture is becoming increasingly oriented to the younger generation — and many of these younger clients tend to themselves work in nightlife, categorized in two ways in Japan. Mizushōbai, or ‘water trade,’ is a euphemism for the (theoretically) sex-free night-time industry; it includes hosting as well as cabaret clubs, which are less exclusive, less expensive hostess clubs. Fūzoku is the more physical counterpart of the water trade, made up of pink salons (specializing in oral
sex), soaplands (where clients are lubed up and massaged with the body of the masseuse) and the like. Yoko Tajima, a professor of women's studies at Hosei University in Tokyo, hypothesized that the reason older housewives and hostesses/sex workers make up the majority of host club clientele is because both groups spend the majority of their time pleasing men. “Being catered to by a man is a rare treat for a Japanese woman,” she told the New York Times in a 1996 interview. “Men, married or not, in our culture do not listen to their female partners' problems carefully… Men don't consider women equal partners.'' This same article begins by claiming that host clubs “reverse the traditional gender roles.” This is a tempting conclusion to draw, but it assumes, to begin with, that the traditional gender roles are based solely on financial capital and power, and thus if
women are the purchasers of services from men, they can appropriate this power and reverse the roles. This is not an unfounded premise: particularly with the rise of capitalism, heterosexuality as an institution has tended to allocate power in relationships to the moneyholder and thus, traditionally, the male. Gender in Japan But let’s talk about Japan specifically. In 1875, Japanese scholar Nakamura Masano coined the term “roysai kenbo,” meaning “good wife, wise mother,” to illustrate Japanese gender relations and expectations. Though in 1947 a new constitution—imposed upon Japan by American occupational forces—extended property, inheritance, divorce, custody and voting rights to women, the societal forces regulating gender remained relatively intact: post-WWII, Japanese women were expected to play the role of the ‘sengyo shufu’ (‘professional housewife’) or ‘kyoiku mama’ (‘education mother’), who works outside of the home while also dedicating themselves to the well-being and education of their children. When it comes to gender, of course, nothing is static. The percentage of single women in Japan has risen from 30.6% in 1985 to 54% is 2004, reported USA Today. Tokyo Gakugei University sociologist Masahiro Yamada named a portion of this demographic as ‘parasite singles’: young Japanese women who live with their parents to maintain a privileged lifestyle, focusing on friends, travelling and entertainment. This term has been adopted by some as a source of empowerment, they print ‘parasite single’ on their business cards—a defiant rejection of the gender standards of previous generations.
But despite the wealth that ‘parasite singles’ display, their privilege does not reflect the economic situation for Japanese women in general—which is bleak. Japan ranks 101 out of 135 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which looks at how nations distribute resources and opportunities between men and women. Women’s participation in the workforce is at a high of 60.1% (compared to 80% for men), but on average, they earn two-thirds of what men do.
Im) possibilities for Agency
Without dismissing the legitimacy of possibilities for agency within patriarchal environments, to what extent can the manifestation of increased personal freedom, access to public spaces and financial capital embodied by host club clients reverse traditional gender roles? This question both is and isn’t answered in ‘The Great Happiness Space.’ Some hosts described feeling objectified or used: “For girls, we are products,” said Issei, a top-selling host. But the dominant discourse throughout the documentary put the hosts, not their female clients, in a position of power. “Girls come here hoping they have a chance with me,” a host bragged, and Issei described his clients’ “[financial] worship” of him. Here, the patriarchal structure is so resilient that even when women possess financial capital, the power they gain from it is still confined to established notions of femininity and masculinity. They may be disrupting the system, but they are not subverting it. How could they, given the premises on which host clubs exit? Host clubs operate on traditional notions of what women want and need—which good hosts have an “instinctual understanding of,” Issei explained. “Girls who do these types of [sexual service-oriented] jobs, really want to be mentally and emotionally… healed.” The working assumption is that women at these clubs may want sex, but what they really need is advice, chivalry, compliments and company. Though it should be noted that several of the female clients mentioned the ulterior i.e. physical motives of some hostclubbers, until the hosts’ perception of women as having emotional rather than physical desires changes, that is the framework within which their clients will be forced to interact.
One host even named scolding women as a host’s duty: “When the relationship starts to become more than acquaintances… we scold her… we provide good advice that will be helpful in her life. One year after girls start seeing me they grow up to be much better women.” Rather than feeling ‘emasculated’ by being at the financial mercy of their clients, then, hosts find ways of expressing their masculinity and superiority over the women.
Turning to Prostitution
A Step Forward?
There’s another twist: as the Guardian reported in 2004, “tales abound of young women lured into host clubs, running up huge bills… forced to turn to prostitution to pay them.” Both hosts and clients interviewed in ‘The Great Happiness Space’ confirmed that there are women who either turn to or stay in the Fūzoku industry to support their host-club habit. “Had I never met [the hosts], I would not be doing my job,” said one client who worked in a Fūzoku job.
A few decades ago, it would have been quite the task to find a space where Japanese women publicly paid men to drink, flirt and— sometimes—have sex with them. It’s a change; but is it necessarily a step forward? Perhaps eventually, but at this moment, I do not sense that host clubs causing a radical shift in the way in which women and relations between men and women are conceptualized.
This view of host club clientele as desperate extends beyond the hosts themselves: “The customers spend thousands and thousands on these guys everyday and idolize them to the point of resorting to more shameful (in my opinion) methods of earning money,” wrote ‘Mr Admin’ on thatanimeblog.com in a review of ‘The Great Happiness Space.’ And it isn’t just host-clubbers who are shamed for their activities, but Japanese women in general. “Men in this society can openly have a night life, but that of women is always secretive and not accepted socially,'' a married, middle-aged woman told the New York Times.
To change who is playing the game does not change the rules; that is, men’s privileged access to public spaces, the market, employment and wealth has been translated into paying for various sexual or sexualized services from women for centuries. Host clubs and their clients in themselves are not enough to thoroughly dismantle their society’s system. In fact, I would argue quite the contrary: that the rules are being adapted to continue upholding gendered norms and male privilege. Issei described his occupation as “a business of selling dreams to people,” and indeed, host clubs sell the illusion of equality and of change—but do not facilitate their actualization.
FEMME ART Explicating a few examples of feminist or feminine/female related art throughout time! Guerrilla Girls Established in 1985 the Guerrilla Girls aimed to address gender discrepancies, both historical and contemporary, in the otherwise ostensibly liberal art world. Such as the fact that ‘Less than 4% of artists in the Modern art sections are women, but 76% of the nudes are female’ (2012). Donning gorilla masks and pseudonyms to hide their identities, they culture jam via poster runs, graffiti billboards and stickers, as well as publishing books and instigating protest actions. It’s all about exposing the sub-text, the unseen, and what we take for granted, but in an inventive and humorous way. One such example is a poster detailing ‘The Advantages of Being a Women Artist’,
including ‘Working without the pressure of success’, ‘Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labelled feminine’, ‘Seeing your ideas live on in the work of others’ and ‘Having an escape from the art world in your 4 freelance jobs’. The Guerrilla Girls Guide to Behaving Badly includes such sage advice as ‘Be a loser’, ‘Be impatient’ and ‘Be Crazy’ and their website has a fantastic 90s luridness to it, a DIY cut and paste zine aesthetic. I think feminist action can be original and humorous, but you have to be careful not to concede too much. There should be some anger there, and I don’t think you should have to apologise for that. And the Guerrilla Girls are very good at this. While being very explicit about what needs addressing in the art world (i.e. the patent lack of respect for and representation of women artists throughout history and today) they are also inventive, and empowered. The Scratch - 7 Year Bitch This song by Seattle based all-female band 7 Year Bitch doesn’t exactly come under
the moniker of visual art but I had to include it. Meant to be as loud as you can possibly get it, an absolute example of raw female energy. The Scratch was recorded for the album Viva Zapata and dedicated to their guitarist Stefanie Sargent and Mia Zapata of the Gits. The former died of asphyxiation, the latter was raped and murdered on her way home one night. Drummer Valarie Agnew subsequently started Home Alive, the self-defence and anti-violence organisation. Yet the album has an anger and energy as infectious as it is empowering. Basically just womyn doing whatever the fuck they want. I WILL HAVE MY CAKE AND I WILL EAT IT TOO JUST LIKE YOU.
postions, rules.” Benefit’s Supervisor Sleeping is so effective because it subverts the representations we’ve seen and accepted for so long, thus enabling us to see them in a new light – as a form of invasion, of ownership over the female body. But it also suggests that this concept of beauty and these modes of representation exist within a system that we don’t have to unquestioningly accept.
Lucien Freud’s Benefit’s Supervisor Sleeping In this work Freud plays on the history of the reclining nude tradition in Western art, where the idealised female body would lie prostrated, an unresisting receptacle for the male gaze. Usually bathed in a soft light, perhaps with their eyes closed, the arm placed so as to draw attention to the vagina, their image was to be consumed by the viewer i.e. the voyeur, who is not made to feel discomfort over this act of consumption. Examples include Giorgione’s The Sleeping Venus, Titan’s Venus of Urbino and Valazquez’s Venus at her Mirror. Manet’s Olympia was the first reclining nude to challenge this dynamic. A prostitute, the women stars back at the viewer, confronting their attempt at visual possession. Lucien Freud, by contrast, utilises the abject in order to disrupt this tradition. His model is obese, uncontained. A far cry from the luscious young Venuses previously encountered. Yet, contrary to popular assumption, I would argue there is nothing intrinsically or innately ‘disgusting’ about this model of obesity. As Kristeva states, “It is… not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection [rather it is] what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders,
These are just a few examples of how individuals have approached the question of feminism and the experience/reality of being female in contemporary art and culture. Whether through bringing traditional practices into question, using humour or just yelling their guts out with wild abandon, all bring us to question the world around us as it is and as it could or should be. They show us preconceived notions can be brought into question, that there is space for both anger and humour around these issues and finally, that there are alternative ways of thinking and behaving. By Kari Schmidt
I AM HERE A brief discussion of Judith Butler’s keynote lecture Fragments of Lost Life: Kent Kilch’s Visual Images after the Bombings of Gaza 2009 by Francesca Ohlert. Amsterdam, April 18 2013. This is a picture of a bed; in what once was a bedroom, in what once was a home, in what (arguably) still is Gaza. This is also a picture of so much more. Discussing conflict, especially the death and dispossession that rocked Gaza during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in the winter of 2008-9, is never a straightforward or painless exercise. However, when it comes to analyzing destruction and its implications for space and time as well as life, there are few surgeons better than Judith Butler. In her recent Amsterdam lecture, Butler examined the effects of violence and death in terms of the self, structures, time and agency through the lens of the unmoving object that, like this bed, becomes an eerie monument to the lives it once supported. Klich’s photos are a far cry from the images of war that we are used to: armed soldiers, crying mothers and yet we find ourselves moved. Light pierces a still
frame in an act Butler considers both beautiful and violating. She goes on to explain that the broken furniture stands in for broken bodies and seemingly speaks “I am here” on behalf of their (ex?) owners. Yet there is a difficulty in locating the relationship between the object and the subject-that-is-nomore. Who is this post-war ‘I’? Is the material object now the subject? If these questions aren’t enough to get your head spinning, the same strange legacy of the object is continued in Kilch’s sort film Killing Time, which records Gazan people via their own mobile phones, in the limbo period between bombings. . They wait, (though Butler points out the inaccuracy of this term as ‘waiting’ implies a hope, which does not exist). Or rather these ghost figures simply ‘kill time’. A man sits smoking in his living room, a baby girl gurgles and reaches for the camera until eventually all the images fade to black. It’s not hard to imagine what happened next. We later learn that the majority of people featured are now dead. Their phones then have become an odd obituary; again the materials outlive the lives they supported.
CREDITS Editor// Design // Cover Page…………………………….Kari Schmidt Sub-Editor………………………………………………………….Francesca Ohlert Words………………………………………………………………..Bryce Celestan, Kari Schmidt, Franesca Ohlert Adam Gorowitz, Sophia Seawell Photography……………………………………………………….Christopher Brown Frame illustrations……………………………………………...Kate Pleydell, Hatty Staniforth, Isobel Irwin, Reece Wykes Back cover Art…………………………………………………….Adam Marx Models……………………………………………………………….Emanuelle Christel, Adam Gorowitz, Don Hoang, Daniel Duke, Kari Schmidt, Mel Holmes, Gael Genco, Imogen Sadler, Florent Plateau , Hannah Schneider, Amanda Rubio Tumblr……………………………………………………………….Mel Holmes, Bryce Celestan, Marcus Brandford, Don Hoang, Emanuelle Christel, Sophiea Seawell, Candice Navi Misc…………………………………………………………………..De Slang, Zsa Zsa Zine Collective, Anja Sommers, Leslie Phung, Gael Genco, Maya Young-Zaleski, Emma Mark Co-Curators (exhibition)……………………………………..Kari Schmidt & Kate Pleydell Music (exhibition)……………………………………………….Caetano Carvalho, Native Eloquence, Emery Lanae Dieckmeyer, Stereocure Art (exhibition)…………………………………………………..Adam Marx, Jordan Alper & Ashley Ray, The Life Drawing Sessions, Poetry/performance (exhibition)……………………….Francesca Ohlert, Mel Holmes, Rajesh Hukam, Shanica Richardson