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Girl Power? What a shower!

Alice Nutter (of the band Chumbawamba) takes on the New Lasses

GIRL POWER has strutted into our living rooms and waggled its tits and arse at us as a political statement. We're supposed to be looking at cheeky 'new lass' feminism nineties style; we're gazing at a sea of supposedly streetwise tits. I love looking at tits but I don't kid myself that getting a higher breast quota heralds a new era for either me or the girl-next-door.

The Girlie Show is stuffed with Wonderbras; it looks like a satisfying squeeze but it's a shop-front with nothing worth grabbing. The Girlie Show, Katy Pukric's Pyjamas Party and the Spice Girls are all meant to be the lasses' equivalent of Loaded. The success of flogging 'lad' culture Baddiel and Skinner style meant that 'girl' culture was inevitable.

But the 'girl culture' being served up has nothing to do with the girls. 'Loaded' can at least claim to be written by the same sort of self-conscious 'lads' it's aimed at. It deals with lads' interests and obsessions. The Girlie Show, on the other hand, is the product of one of Channel 4's commissioning editor's (David Stevenson's) imagination. David doesn't take women seriously enough to credit us with interests and obsessions, so the Girlie Show is full of women SHOUTING banal SHITE just WHEN it's INAPPROPRIATE. YEAH!

David must be a very sad character. Everything on the Girlie Show misses the mark. It's OBSESSED with men. Segments 'Natural Born Gorillas' and 'Men Behaving Sadly' aren't just lazy rip-off titles, they say that David and his Media Mates think its funny to publicly humiliate fat, ugly blokes. Slagging off fat women is a national sport so why not get our own back? Because we were never fighting for equal opportunity cruelty.

The Girlie Show is on a crusade against ugliness, never realising that taunting the fat kid isn't an attractive way to behave. Girlie Show presenters Sarah Cox, Sarah Cawood and Rachel Williams are Stepford Wives with better thighs.

I've never worked out which Sarah is Cawood and which is Cox. One's little, one's large and they both nod eagerly at minor celebs. The 'new lass' is meant to be an irreverent wise cracker. Faced with the 'IT' girl, Tara Plonker-Tomkinson, Sarah Lancashire-Accent didn't let a little thing like class divisions stand in the way of admiring her 3,000 handbag. Sisterhood 'new lass' style is a night out in a wine bar... and fuck the woman who comes in the morning after to clean the bogs and the ashtrays.

The Spice Girls and The Pyjamas Party are based on the same premise: pull your tongue out but never use it to upset the status quo. The new lass is seen as the feminist antidote to the political correctness that supposedly blighted eighties and early nineties feminism... the irony is that a lot of the gains that feminism made are nowhere to be seen this in wave of Barbie mania. Amnesia has become a part of the national psyche, and worse, the reactionary right has succeeded in changing history.

Eighties feminism is now looked back on as legions of anti-sex Andrea Dworkins bullying and guilt-tripping timid men and women into behaving like neutered mice. A lot of us 'eighties feminists' were arguing against a culture that was steeped in domestic violence and drudgery AND against Andrea Dworkin style anti-sex campaigns. The media attacked real feminism because it threatened the shape of things to come. The new lass is a media darling because she's a return to the fun loving sixties stereotype; she Go-Go dances against sexism.

The Spice Girls are the epitome of the 'new lass'. Pan's People with pierced navels and army keks. A manufactured group put together by a bloke, with a footnote in there saying that they met at a bubblegum audition: "but formed their own group." We all jumped up and down because five, cocky, cute girls were storming up the charts and then came the Spectator interview. The new lass turned out to be a happy product of Thatcher's Britain, describing Thatcher as 'the original Spice Girl'. Geri's tits turned out to be not only pert but Tory, and for most of us, they became less fanciable.

The new feminist rebellion was just more formation dancing. Realising that the Spectator interview would alienate a huge portion of their audience, the Spice Girls' spin doctors made a couple of the girls 'come out' as Labour voters, revealing that not a man nor dog amongst them had a clue about real rebellion.

The Pyjamas Party's stated aim was to show what a huge wheeze it was if us chicks got together in our nighties. A great deal was made about the threatening kind of fun that girl-only gatherings generated; then they snuck a couple of blokes in through the back entrance. Girl talk couldn't fill a FULL half hour, bring in the experts... the men.

And that's the problem with the 'new lass', she's a bloke's idea of the perfect feminist. She's pretty, she's exuberant, she's lippy... but she doesn't say anything uncomfortable. She doesn't take herself seriously so why should anybody else? She has no interests apart from celeb-spotting and fashion. She's even got an appropriately cute giggle.

She's the perfect Frankenstein's monster.

And she's as empty-headed as a blow-up doll...

Burn that Witch!, or Anna Livia Gets a Clitoridectomy

By Donna Hoffman

'Not Your Girl', a women's radio programme was taken off the air at Anna Livia FM by an all-male Board of Directors just before Christmas. Listeners phoned to complain about a programme on "Female Sexuality" after 'Not Your Girl gave away a book (Sue Lee's Sugar and Spice: Sexuality and Adolescent Girls) to the first caller with the correct spelling of "clitoris". The Directors wanted the team to apologize and concede that the quiz question was in "bad taste". The team would not agree upon this wording and the programme was suspended.

The Directors of Anna Livia decided the programme could recommence but that the producer was banned from further participation. Without discussion, they refused the team's request for representation at the meeting in which they decided this. Ultimately, the women on the 'Not Your Girl' team voted not to continue unless the Board took the group as a whole.

The Programming Head gave a reason for banning the producer. It was the "whole slant" of the series. He mentioned "Amnesty International announcements", specifically, something about "Chile". The week of the banning, 'Not Your Girl' did read an Amnesty call for support for an El Salvadoran woman journalist who has been disappeared by the death squads operating in that country. 'Not Your Girl' also regularly included the Women's Information Network phone number for non-directive pregnancy counselling [679-4700].

This was not the first time the Anna Livia Board of Directors cancelled 'Not Your Girl'. The first censoring followed commentary and debate about abortion during Spring of '93. With support from women's groups and colleagues within the station including a woman previously serving on the Board, 'Not Your Girl' won back its broadcast time. This Winter, the Board of Directors would locate the problem in one individual, when it really comes down to intolerance for political difference and an absence of democratic structures or practices at what's supposed to be Dublin's model community radio.

In the row when the programme was suspended, the Programming Head commented that they could not have everyone saying whatever they wanted all the time; that would be anarchism! Hmmmm. Sounds better than a clitoridectomy. Anyday.

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