Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When Rebels Have Girls Who Rebel

Jazz Mellor is the daughter of Clash vocalist, Joe Strummer (the gritty, tough one who sang "London's Burning" and stuff, not the other one), but she is the president and founder of the Shoreditch Sisters, a branch of what in Britain is known as the Women's Institute, a 93 year old organization made up largely of little old ladies who spend their time making crafts.

Have Jazz and the gals invaded this organization with piercing, tattooing and unspeakable entertainments? No. It seems that they like the knitting and crafts.

The Telegraph reports:

"I'm really into knitting, sewing and embroidery," says Jazz Mellor, the 24-year-old president and founder. "We need to look at older crafts and reclaim some of those traditionally female pastimes." Others around the table nod in agreement. If they weren't so earnest I'd assume they were making some kind of arch, post-modernist statement (this is Hoxton, after all), but they seem to mean it. "We genuinely enjoy these things," says Shiona Tregaskis, 24, the treasurer. "It's important to set aside time to do them in a space where we can just be around other women."
Well, blow me down.

"I had a fairly chaotic childhood," admits Mellor. "My parents were part of the counter-culture, so I suppose this is my way of rebelling."

But of course it is not a rejection of feminism, but an indication of its movement into a stage of relaxed security in its accomplishments.
"I definitely class myself as a feminist," says Mellor. "But feminism has changed. For so long women have tried to show that they're equal to men by trying to prove they're the same as them, culminating in the ladette culture." This, she says, ''damaged women's self-respect".
I have noticed this. There isn't the sensitivity and outrage over little lapses in speech, and you no longer get kicked in the shins for holding the door open for what you thought was a lady. Perhaps at Yale you do, but apart for that.
When the first British WI meeting took place in 1915 at Llanfairpwll on Anglesey in North Wales, its aim was to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to help produce food during the First World War. Later, it campaigned for improvements in women's education, and lobbied governments on issues ranging from free access to family-planning facilities, to equal pay. "We really like being part of a greater body of women," says Tregaskis. "In modern life there can be a sense of detachment from community and history. But with the WI everything goes on record so we're part of a shared past."
Now if only we can convince Yale University's Aliza Shvarts to drop her nihilist ideological guard long enough to realize that she is a human being, and in particular one of the feminine kind.

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