The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Women's History Month "X": Xochiquetzal,Xi Wang-mu, and X-Ray Spex


Xochiquetzal, from the Codex Rios, 16th century

Xochiquetzal was an Aztec Goddess associated with fertility and female sexuality as well as vegetation and maize. She was also revered as a protector of young mothers, including pregnancy and childbirth. Xochiquetzal was, apparently, always depicted as an alluring and youthful woman and so, associations with prostitution, human desire and pleasure are also related to her.

Her story relates how she was kidnapped and forced to marry Tezcatlipoca--a central deity in the Aztec worship. There is also a reference to her being taken by Xolotl, the god of death and lightning.  She is surrounded by butterflies and flowers (hinting at her sexuality) and censored versions will have her as the Aztec Goddess of Love and Beauty.


Queen Mother of the West, earthenware, 2nd century, Han Dynasty

Xi Wang-Mu, or the Goddess of the West, is a Chinese Goddess and one of the oldest known deities in the Chinese pantheon. Also known as the Queen Mother, she holds an important position.  She is associated with immortality, and before being adapted by the Taoists, she was seen as a plague carrying tiger-woman.  She has a palace where she grows the peach of immortality.  This palace is seen to be beautiful and perfect.  Her role as mother and as a characteristically strong woman led to her particular association with women. 


I have many skills.
~Xena, Warrior Princess (character played by Lucy Lawless)

It was trying to break down the stereotypes and it was the kind of thing where, for the first time, women were on a par and not seen as just objects. Though girls were objectified still.
~Siouxsie Sioux, Punk Musician

Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard --well I think, oh bondage, up yours!
~X-Ray Spex, Punk Band


X-Ray Spex were founded in 1976 and possessed a female lead whose powerful voice ensured X-Ray Spex’s legacy,  despite only having a modest output of songs.  Poly Styrene, born Marion Joan Elliot-Reid to a British mother and Somali father, is sometimes referenced as a proto riot girrl 15 years too early.  Her habit of not conforming to the punk uniform (itself an anti-conformity) and wearing bright colours and braces ensured her place among those female icons.

One of the themes in the music of X-Ray Spex is anti-consumerism and the band is considered to be one of the most inventive and original punk bands.  Poly Styrene was not only a female leader but a mixed race punk singer at a time when there were increasing racial tensions, mainly due to the growing power of the BNP (British National Party). She was not the only female punk of course; part of the ethos was equality and other frontwomen included Siouxie Sioux and Ari Up, as well as those who played instruments in other bands or were involved in the art side of Punk, as Vivienne Westwood was.  Poly Styrene is important because she didn’t conform to the ideal of punk and despite increasing mental health issues continued to sing about what was important to her.

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