Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Wartime Feminine Spirit

During the same time of finding the image of the movie theatre showing Gone With the Wind (see the post below) Life magazine has a mass of images recording wartime London. Through my own visual interests and research exploring representations of femininties within contemporary images, I'm often drawn to comparisons historically and across societies. While most often subservient and passive to the control and power of the masculine body, it is often the feminine body which maintains and holds together the backbone of society, continuing norms and practices, this can most especially be seen and considered during WWII.

With many of the working aged male population fighting the terror of Hitler and Nazism, women became the working hands and labour in maintaining British ways of life, of working the fields, nursing, driving ambulances, working in the factories through to serving as Wrens.

These images captured by B. Scherman in September 1941, offer a femininity in touch with serving the nation but of maintaining both Britishness and their own pleasure and femininity of being a women even within a war.

Sat peacefully reading a magazine in a deserted space in London, this women wearing her Women's Auxiliary Air Force uniform sits alongside her gas mask marking the constant threat of possible German raids even when trying to catch a quiet five minutes.

The limited number of delivery boys is most overtly shown within this image of a young women her tricycle parked up as she delivers towels. Her femininity is redressed into an all in one playsuit, the surrounding streets edge in V for Victory signs and war time advertisements - even one for a theatre.

In Trafalgar Square, War Time love still has time to blossom with an English girl sitting and relaxing alongside her lover - a solider for the Canadian Army. For the moment the fear of the war is forgotten as they relax against the edge of the monument. Who knows the ending of their story? Did he return home safe?

In what seems a world and a situation far from the horrors of fighting or the bombed out homes which littered London probably only streets away from this Soho Restaurant. The waitress offering the male his food, another looking out onto the street.

Only the 'S' sign for an available air raid shelter demarks this street and even era as something abnormal. Figures slowly walk in an everyday manner along this what looks like a residential London street, the smartly dressed women, her coat fitted and her hand gasping her black handbag sauntering along this street. Her pale coat echoing the whiteness of the pole - marking the lost innocence of the period.

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