[CTS] Fast Fashion

The fashion capitals are Paris, Milan, London and New York. While there are other cities that also have their own fashion weeks, these cities are the most important and they promote brands and designers and dictate the latest trends. Notably these cities are all found in the ‘global north’. By contrast clothes worn by most are made in countries like morocco and other ‘global south’ countries.

The way countries on maps are presented is very important as it can create bias and misrepresent countries (by making some countries smaller or bigger than what they actually are you are giving them a level of importance). Maps are highly political and it is important that they be changed to represent all countries correctly to stop the spread of misinformation which then breeds ignorance. Unfortunately portraying a globe on a 2d surface does make it difficult to portray accurate information as in the case of the widely used and very distorted Mercator projection map, however there is a map type that comes very close and that is the Gall–Peters projection map.
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These distortions in maps show the north as bigger and therefore appearing more important than the south which in turn creates a racial bias. These biases become very obvious in the world of fashion which is split in north (fashion capitals) and south (fast fashion industry).

Fast fashion sees trends designed and manufactured quickly and inexpensively to allow the general public consumer to buy current clothing styles at a lower price. Of course it is only available to us at a lower price because of how little those actually making the clothes are payed.
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Not only is fast fashion terrible for the countries making it but also for the world in general; the fast fashion sector of the fashion industry is polluting the planet at a continuous and alarming rate. We must start changing the way that the fast fashion industry works, with focus on workers rights and sustainability, to really strive to achieve equality in a very divided world.

[CTS] Music and Fashion

In class today we looked at the relationship between music and fashion, specifically how music plays a part in promoting fashion. Both music and fashion are ways to identify yourself within society. In our consumerist society, using musicians to promote fashion has become a popular method of advertising, here are various examples of these collaborations between musicians and brands:
David Bowie & Louis Vuitton


Rihanna & Dior

Kanye & Balmain

Lana Del Rey & H&M

Patrizia Calefato, a professor of sociology  says, “Fashion and music are two intimately connected forms of worldliness, two social practices that go hand in hand, sustaining one another in the medium of mass communication and drawing on a common sensibility which translates into taste.”

We also looked at the formation of ‘The Cult of Youth’ and the creation of ‘the teenager’,a cultural phenomenon invented in the 20th century post-war. The teenager did not exist before this time, back in the day you were essentially considered a child until you were ready to marry.
The ‘teenager’ was the response to the 1950s post-war economic boom, where young adults suddenly found themselves in a good financial position (having disposable income) but nowhere to spend it. Mass produced fashion and musical records filled this space and suddenly there was a distinct difference between young and old. Now the elderly have become invisible as youth has become linked to consumption. An example of someone who subverts the idea of elderly as invisible is internet sensation BaddieWinkle:
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BaddieWinkle (born Helen Ruth Elam Van Winkle) became an internet sensation after getting help from her great granddaughter, Kennedy Lewis, to upload an image to Twitter, while wearing her great-granddaughter’s clothes. She now has millions of followers and views on social media, where she posts photos and videos of herself wearing eccentric clothing. She now works on collaborations with well-known brands and celebrities. Having appropriated ‘youth’ with how she dresses she is no longer invisible.

The main thing that stood out to me during this lesson was this “cult of youth” created by the defiance of young people and later appropriated by brands to be sold as a commodity therefore taking away most if not all of the meaning behind the styles stolen.

[CTS] TOPSHOP vs TRAID

I hate the Topshop in Oxford Street, there, I said it! Between the unnecessarily loud music and overpriced items of clothing there is much to say about this particular shop.
Lets start with the layout of this over-sized monstrosity: ground floor is accessories, bags, hats and jewelry as far as the eye can see with a small corner just for makeup and beauty products, they have also kindly added a seating area for tired parents and boyfriends.
Among the endless sea of fashionable backpacks and choker necklaces are a bubble tea kiosk and a cupcake cart. Were you thinking of leaving the shop because you wanted to get a drink or have a bite to eat? Don’t even think about it, Topshop has you covered, buy yourself a cupcake, shut up and keep shopping. As per my boyfriends’ request, we visited the mens floors first only to quickly re-descend to the women’s shopping floors because we actually died of boredom. I don’t know who designs the mens clothes at Topshop/Topman but I have a feeling they might be colorblind because every item of clothing there was various depressing neutral shades of conformity, a huge contrast from the woman’s section that feels more like rave than a high street shop. Considering Topman like to market the style of their clothes as unique and individual they don’t really have enough diversity in what they create for that to ring true, I mean it feels like they’re not even trying?? The styles of clothes they sell barely range from the preppy-guy style to that-guy-who-wont-stop-hitting-on-you-at-the-club style. Topman, more like Flopman am I right?? After our retreat from the mens section was completed we began our descent into hell (possibly one of the levels in Dante’s Inferno) : The woman’s section. This section is further split into Shoes and Brands. The way the store is styled feels like you’re walking inside of a teen magazine editorial; posters of models everywhere, neon lights, the latest hits blaring over the speakers and young girls in large groups trying to find something affordable and cute to wear on their next night out..
Despite the ridiculous prices they try to swindle you with at Topshop, I have to admit that the fact they have different size sections for petite and tall people is pretty great as a lot of stores don’t have that and it comes in handy when shopping for finding a good fit. HOWEVER I did not see a plus-size/curvy section so perhaps not all body types are catered to. So far it probably sounds like I hate the clothes sold at Topshop, and yes, you would be correct, but the reality is that I hate them because I love them so much but cannot purchase them which is why I get angry with the pricing. Having quite a bit of knowledge on fabrics and garment construction thanks to my time studying fashion design, I take a lot more care to analyze clothes when shopping, so the reason I get upset at the pricing in Topshop is because most of their garments are not worth what they are being sold as, most seeming to be cheaply made. It all seems to be an excuse to have a wider profit margin.

Traid, a charity shop found in Brixton, on the other hand is possibly the complete opposite of Topshop. Being a very modestly sized shop selling second hand and vintage items makes it quite a calm environment to be in despite the cluttered look of the items on sale inside the store. The window display at Traid is very popular as it changes every two weeks and showcases creative designs put together from repurposed items of clothing from the shop (they then are available to be sold as soon as a new display is ready). The staff is friendly and very helpful, very different from Topshop where (understandably) they seem stressed and unapproachable. I really enjoyed the selection of clothes being sold at Traid and I felt the prices were reasonable and reflected the quality of the garments. I really don’t have much to say about Traid as the experience I had there was relaxed and the clothes interesting, overall a really pleasant experience!

[CTS] Drapery & The Social Body

What is Drapery?
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In class we created our own “drapery” by repurposing items of clothing and finding a new use for them (for example, using a tote bag as a hat, a jacket as a scarf and a baseball hat combined with a keychain for a purse). This launched us into a discussion about aesthetics versus modernism (aesthetic over function) and we looked at an example of a shop, Traid Charity shop in Brixton, which changes displays every 2 weeks. The window displays in Traid are a great example of repurposing and completely changing the function of an item of clothing to create a new aesthetic.
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We looked at Michel Foucault (1926-1984), a french social theorist, philosopher and historian who argued that by regulating the organization of space (architecture), time (time tables), activity (posture and movement) enforced by surveillance, you would be able to regulate the behavior of individuals in the social body and that was what disciplinary institutions are for (schools, military, prisons, factories etc). Institutions control us and subsequently they dictate our behavior.
He also examined the situation of people existing on the margins of society. His analysis focuses on the “negative structures” of society or excluded groups. He said that people were grouped into  two categories, you were either ‘normal’ or ‘deviant’. Being ‘deviant’ meant you did not fit into was considered socially normal and you would be sent to a disciplinary institution to be observed and turned into a normal person (‘fixed’).

How clothes are worn (or ‘draped’) on the body is very important as clothes are a social tool, they tell others around you who you are (or who you are trying to be). Fashion and clothes are in fact, a social identity. You are saying something about yourself to society when you get dressed and go outside.

[CTS] Fashion as Communication

Really interesting start to CTS this year. I’m really glad that we got to choose what subjects we were interested in as last years CTS classes didn’t really feel relevant to the course (just my opinion sorry)
I chose Fashion Cultures because I’ve always been very interested in the social aspect of fashion. I also used to study Fashion Design before I came here and my favorite class was Fashion History.

We started off the lesson by having a look at a clip from 1950’s tv show based on  The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. In the clip Crusoe wants to civilize his slave, Friday by having him wear trousers (for Crusoe, wearing trousers is the symbol of a civilized man) and teaching him english. He does this as he is lonely and misses civilization. Crusoe and wants to show his superiority to Friday, you can see it in the way he treats him AND by the way they are both dressed: though they are both wearing trousers, Crusoe’s are more “tailored” in comparison to Friday and he also wears a “shirt”.
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After watching this clip we entered into a discussion on WHY we wear clothes. Malinowski (1884-1942), an anthropologist, claims that clothes were invented in response to primary human needs : shelter and protection (although you could argue that some clothes are not worn for protection but merely for decoration).
Utility is another reason we wear clothes, a great example of clothes used for utilitarian reasons is a space suit!
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We also wear clothes out of modesty, swimsuits are a perfect example of human modesty, a quote by Rudofsky says it best, “The bathing suit is irrelevant to any activity in and underwater. It keeps us neither dry or warm”.
Clothes can also be a way to seduce, sexuality is expressed through dress quite prominently in an almost animalistic kind of way (birds showing off their feathers, “peacocking”) while also creating a divide in gender : male or female.
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but also most importantly clothes convey social status/class and wether you conform to your place in society or not.

CATALYST …um ok?

So a pattern I’ve noticed when getting new projects is that I struggle to get into it and be interested with part 1 of the brief and as soon as I get the second part I’m like OOOOOOH OKAY YES I GOT IT and finally get inspired. I’m not totally sure why..I think maybe the vagueness of part 1 always gets me down and doesn’t really motivate me but as soon as part 2 is given I’m more excited and interested in the project. Unfortunately that means that I’m always further behind in the project than I’m meant to be which can be a bit daunting but I found this great post to inspire and keep me going:
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I think working at your own pace is important, you can’t force inspiration and ideas.
ANYWAY
This is the article I chose:
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Public urged to report witches’ marks on buildings

The marks on historic buildings were made during a time when witchcraft and the supernatural were popular.

The public is being asked to report strange carvings known as “witches’ marks” to create an England-wide record.

The marks – also called apotropaic marks, from the Greek word for avoiding evil – are ritual protection symbols from a time when witchcraft and the supernatural were popular.

They are most often found in medieval buildings, such as houses and churches from around 1550 to 1750.

Several markings are carved near the cellar in the house where William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, for example.

There are others in the Tower of London, Tithe Barn in Bradford-on-Avon and the caves of Witches’ Chimney in Somerset.

The patterns range from the common daisy wheel, which looks like a flower with a compass, to pentangles and Solomon’s knots.

They can all be recorded on Historic England’s website.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Witches’ marks are a physical reminder of how our ancestors saw the world.

“They really fire the imagination and can teach us about previously held beliefs and common rituals.

“Ritual marks were cut, scratched or carved into our ancestors’ homes and churches in the hope of making the world a safer, less hostile place.

“They were such a common part of everyday life that they were unremarkable and because they are easy to overlook, the recorded evidence we hold about where they appear and what form they take is thin.

“We now need the public’s help to create a fuller record of them and better understand them.”
♦

SO when I first read this article I completely misunderstood it, I thought the markings that they where asking to categorize were left by witches to bless a place but actually these marks where made to keep witches and evil spirits at away. Not even joking it took me a week to notice that (my bad) so after that realization I had to scrap any ideas I had for the story we needed to write and here I am, falling behind once again.
Okay so lets ‘deconstruct’ this article :

  • THEME : Apotropaic magic/magic
  • CHARACTERS : The people who left the marks, Who the marks are meant to keep away (witches) & the people categorizing the marks
  • SETTING : England (1550 to 1750 and 2016)
  • PLOT : How our ancestors saw the world (??)

I have some ideas floating around my head for a new narrative but personally before I write something I’d like to do some more research into the subject of witches, witches marks and witch trials as they are essential to understanding the mindset of the time in which belief in the supernatural was part of everyday life.

Want to look more into these “witches’ marks” so when researching I noted that “witches’ marks” can refer to either marks people etched into various parts of their homes or other important locations like churches to keep evil and witches away OR it can refer to a mark found on the body that would mean said person was a witch,
[A person accused of witchcraft was brought to trial and carefully scrutinized. The entire body was suspect as a canvas for a mark, an indicator of a pact with Satan. Witches’ marks were commonly believed to include moles, scars, birthmarks, skin tags, supernumerary nipples, natural blemishes and insensitive patches of skin] [Authorities in the witch trials routinely stripped an accused witch of clothing and shaved all body hair so that no potential mark could be hidden. Pins were driven into scars, calluses and thickened areas of skin: the practice of “pricking a witch”. Customarily, this routine was performed in front of a large crowd.  If after stripping and shaving, the accused witch was found to have no likely blemishes, pins were simply driven into her body until an insensitive area was found.]
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The witches’ mark found on the body was sometimes refered to as “witches’ teat” as it was believed that it would feed the witches’ imps or familiars; the witch’s familiar supposedly aided the witch in her magic in exchange for nourishment (blood) from sacrificial animals or from the witch’s teat. It is also where the devil supposedly suckles when he comes at night to bed his faithful servants..♦

I’m currently reading The Penguin Book of Witches
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“From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.” (Back cover description)

Going to keep note of some of the interesting things I read here (ongoing updates as I continue reading) :

  • “Witchcraft is less a set of defined practices than a representation of the oppositional, as the intentional thwarting of the machinery of power”
  • “Witches served as both literal and figurative scapegoats for frontier communities under profound economic, religious, and political pressure.”
  • “The figure of the witch, the idea of the witch and the need to flush her out of her hiding place and into the light served as a binding agent among fragile communities”
  • For common people, belief in witchcraft explained away quotidian unfairness and misfortune.”
  • “The first witchcraft act in England was passed in 1542, and the last antiwitchcraft statute was not officially repealed until 1736”
  • “Another contributing factor to suspicions of witchcraft in the early modern period was the inexplicable sudden onset of ailments in both persons and cattle”
  • “Deaths were easier to bear if they could be blamed on someone else.”
  • “He [Reginald Scot] looked at the sort of woman typically accused of witchcraft and recognized them for what they were: often poor or mentally ill, uneducated, objects of fear and disgust within their communities, and unable to defend themselves.
  • “certain old women here on earth, called witches, must needs be the contrivers of all men’s calamities, and as though they themselves were innocents, and had deserved no such punishments” [Reginald Scot]

Also watched this documentary to refresh my memory on the Salem Witch Trials. I have actually been to Salem before and visited the museums there but that was 2 or 3 years ago.
(I chose to research more on Salem as it is a setting I am more familiar with than the UK. I lived in the US for 4 years and have been back often to visit family, many of whom live near Salem)


It was interesting as it laid out the events that led up to the massive witch hunt that exploded in Salem, explaining how society in the colonies was at the times and how the puritan religion followed at the time caused a lot of pressure to build up in the people of Salem. The treatment of women was also touched upon as puritanism was very misogynistic, women where supposed to be submissive and quiet, they also believed that women were more easily lured to the devil as they were believed to have a stronger sexual appetite and were always trying to gain some hidden knowledge (like Eve in the garden of eden). So when women did not fit into the image of ‘the puritan woman’ is was badly looked upon and they were assumed to be witches. One of the first women brought to a court specifically put together to process all of the accused, was called Bridget Bishop, she was a property owner, married several times, prominent business woman and independent thinker. She was immediately found guilty and hanged. Other woman that had been accused were women of lower status and disliked by the community. Basically anyone who didn’t fit in was likely to be accused. The trials in Salem got increasingly out of hand, accusations escalated incredibly fast to the point where a 4 year old child was also accused and sent to prison. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft with 20 being executed.

I was interested in looking into why mostly women were accused of witchcraft and found an interesting piece called The Vulnerability of Women to Witchcraft Accusations by Christian Day, 1992. Here are some parts of the text that were very interesting:

“In the earliest European societies, dating back prior to four thousand B.C.E., people were grouped into tribes. Life was organized around survival. A male’s ability to hunt was integral to the societal system, but far more important was the power of women to give birth, thereby sustaining the continuity of the tribe. Women were also the healers of these early European societies. It was primarily the women who tended to the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of their people. Often, women were the religious leaders of their tribes, guiding people through the different stages of their lives. The diverse abilities of women were thought to be sacred. These sacred female powers became personified into the figure of a goddess, a deity thought to be the mother of all life. It has been established by scholars that a goddess was probably Europe’s primary deity until as recently as three thousand B.C.E. (Eisler 1-7).

With the beginnings of the warrior classes that arose circa four thousand B.C.E. in Europe and the Middle East, a new ethic regarding women began to take shape. The diverse roles of women became limited to a few. The family line was converted, region by region, from a matrilineal to a patrilineal one. This was done because it made sense to the establishment of the time that the wealth amassed by male warriors should be passed on to future warriors: their sons. To keep pure a patriarchal blood line, women had to be controlled by their husbands in order to prevent extramarital sex, thereby inventing the concept of sexual monogamy. A wife’s infidelity would threaten the legitimacy of a son’s paternity, now so important to a society increasingly focused on war, wealth, and inheritance (Stone 161).

Myths were written and rewritten to explain women’s basic nature as inherently evil. In the Western civilization this is most explicit in the story of Adam and Eve. Layered over far older Middle Eastern legends, in which Eve appears before Adam, the newer myth portrays Eve as born from Adam’s rib; consequently, she is subject to him. Even more sexist is the idea that because of Eve’s surrender to the temptation of the serpent, she is somehow responsible for all evil in the world; that “The pangs of childbirth and the subjection of women to man are among the penalties for. . .[her] crime” (Cavendish 3057). According to one witch hunter’s guidebook, “. . . the [biblical] scriptures have much that is evil to say about women, and this is because of the first temptress; Eve, and her imitators” (qtd. In Williams 41). The serpent was certainly a powerful symbol in stories about the fall, and in some of the paintings of this event, including Michelangelo’s within the Sistine Chapel, the face of the serpent is female (Cavendish 3057).”
“Female leaders in religion became increasingly rare in the centuries leading up to the witch persecutions. They were labeled various terms ranging from “poisoner” and “hag” to “sorceress” and “witch.” These women continued to represent feminine authority. They were the sibyls of Greece, the Witches and Druidesses of Celtic Ireland and Britain, women who were now separated from society, but still sought out as well as feared. To the male dominated establishment, these women were now a threat. In a society where God is male, women become devalued.

Witchcraft was (and is) the survival of fragmented pagan belief systems mainly collected from the folklore of Celtic Britain and Ireland. Among the groups labeled witches, most practitioners were women, and women were the primary leaders. European Archeologist Marija Gimbutas notes that the women called witches “were greatly feared since they continued to represent the power of a formidable Goddess on Earth” (20). When the Catholic hierarchy absorbed Britain and Ireland, it encountered the Celtic people, whose religion and way of life was still contrary to the ideal that women should be obedient to men. The church henceforth set out to eliminate these belief systems, as they had tried to do to the continental pagan religions who were also matrifocal in origin, and they accused these other religious groups of devil worship. Carol Christ, theologian and professor of religion at Harvard Divinity School, states that “after the forced closing of their temples and the suppression of their priesthoods and priestesshoods, European pagan traditions survived only in folk customs and in secret societies and were communicated orally”(43). Not only did these remnants of goddess worship create, for the Church, the threat of rival religions, but also the threat to their ideal that men should conquer and dominate women. Christ notes that “it is not difficult to see why she [the suspected witch] was persecuted by an insecure and misogynist church that could not tolerate rival power, especially the power of women”(46).

The word pagan comes from the Latin ‘paganus,’ meaning ‘country dweller.’ In the rural areas of Europe, folk religion survived, and women were still the primary vessels for this folk knowledge. It was in these rural areas that the strength of the Church had to be concentrated. The inquisition, a Catholic group that was set up to enforce the laws of the church, realized that the witch persecutions would provide an effective mechanism for ridding Europe of rival religious powers, as well as force women into total submission to the male establishment. Christ notes that: “often portrayed as resulting from peasant hysteria, the witch persecutions were in fact instigated by an educated elite who saw themselves as defenders of canonical tradition” (44).

The most harmful work of propaganda ever directed at women was the Malleus Malificarum, or Witches’ Hammer. This book set a standard of misogyny so great that Western civilization is still influenced by its hateful ideas. Written by Dominicans Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer and released in 1486 (with an official endorsement from Pope Innocent VIII), The ‘Malleus’ organized the many techniques used by the witch hunters into handbook form. The handbook was then widely distributed and relied upon by a great majority of the witch hunters. Historian Selma Williams examined the “Malleus” for its sexist content and found statements such as: “A greater number of witches is found in the fragile feminine sex than among men” (qtd. in Williams 38); “There are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft . . . blessed be the highest who has preserved the male sex from so great a crime” (qtd. in Williams 38); “A woman is by her nature more quicker to waver in her faith and consequently quicker to abjure the faith, which is the root of witchcraft” (qtd. in Williams 39).

As time progressed, any women who held leadership roles in religion were persecuted, and the settlers of early New England continued this process. These colonial settlers carried over much of Europe’s witch lore, instilling it into the emerging Puritan culture. Though certainly horrible, the Puritan witch persecutions were less brutal than those of Europe. However, it is apparent that the persecution of female religious leaders was high on the witch hunters’ agendas (Karlson 160).”

“It was not the economic class of women that mattered to the witch hunters; it was their economic independence. Contrary to popular belief, it was not always women in poverty who were accused of witchcraft; many wealthy women were also accused, but they usually had some measure of independence. Women in medieval Europe were not thought to be able to handle their own affairs. The Malleus Malificarum states that “Women are intellectually like children” (qtd. in Williams 39). Karlson surmises that “Like midwives, healers, and female religious leaders, women who turned their traditional skills to profit placed themselves in competition with men – and in positions of vulnerability to witchcraft accusations” (Williams 146).”

“The sexuality of women was probably the most significant issue involved during the witch persecutions. During those times, in an era when sex was viewed as sinful, women could not hide their obviously sexual natures: they became pregnant; they gave birth; they menstruated. Negative attitudes about sex were translated into negative attitudes about women, and reflected themselves strongly in witch trial procedures. The idea of female temptresses has been found in many of the world’s myths, especially those within Judeo-Christian beliefs. In Hebrew mythology, there is Eve, whose sexuality, some scholars argue, was the actual “forbidden fruit” offered to Adam. In the Christian religion, we are often reminded of the temptation of sex; however, in the times of the Witch Persecutions, the church often mentioned sexual temptation as being inherent in women, therefore making her an obstacle on the path from man to God (Cavendish 3057).

In Medieval Europe, the Church of Rome tried incessantly to suppress sexual desire among the people; they even instituted a celibate male priesthood. During these times, Mary Condren tells us, “Women, who formerly had been revered, now became sources of temptation”(153). Also, while the emerging male priesthood continued to aspire to the high heaven of their male god, “Women became signs of the depths to which holy men could fall” (153). The Malleus Malificarum was very specific in its references to women’s sexuality as an evil force. A woman was said to be impure “during her monthly periods”(qtd. in Williams 39). Kraemer and Sprenger believed that “All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable”(qtd. in Williams 39). Perhaps the worst fear associated with female witches was that, according to the Malleus Malificarum, “[some] men are made impotent by Witchcraft” (qtd. in Williams 43).”

“Ultimately, the issue of female sexuality was one of control. Women could have sex but only if it was according to the strict rules of both her husband and the male establishment in general. Women could give birth, but only to establish the continuity of a husband’s name (female children were often unwanted). Women could menstruate, but only in secret, where no one could witness the supposedly abominable act.”
♦