Growing up now, girls can see women footballers and cricketers, heads of state, business owners and media stars. It’s not equality, but there’s more to see than in the years running up to punk.
For a 1970s girl like me, the future seemed to hold motherhood and housewifery, maybe combined with some secretarial work or nursing. Women weren’t yet newsreaders or bishops, but if you wanted to be something out of the ordinary, there was little to choose from until punk happened.
If you read best-selling girl’s magazine Jackie, there was also a possible future as some guy’s muse – The Melancholic Dream Girl. This long-haired doe-eyed beauty could be found strolling along a beach, pacing through dark woodland or maybe sitting on a rock staring out to sea. A David Essex look-alike would view the melancholic dream girl and fall in love with her. Despite the MDG’s troubled and seemingly unattainable personality, the good guy would triumph.
It’s a theme that played out in 1970s rock and pop music too as the great (male) songwriters sang of beautiful mysterious ladies, or described their lovers as having ‘mercury mouth … eyes like smoke’ and all the rest of it that Bob Dylan et al do so well – unless you’re a 15-year old girl wondering how your life of bike riding, making dens and doing funny impressions of people could ever transform into being this man’s fantasy of a passive body and not much else.
The melancholic dream girl was kicked out for me by pre-punkers Suzi Quatro, and TV series Rock Follies but boosted by the images portrayed by Siouxsie, Poly Styrene and Toyah – all of these down-to-earth, active women in punk are partly responsible for waking me up and portraying an alternative way of being a woman.
You can be smart, you can have short spiky hair, you can shout and scream down a microphone or hit a guitar and call it music, you don’t have to be feminine or fashion conscious or look like the male gaze version of a woman. And you can build a life around that idea….
Thankfully, many punk guys played their part in helping to create a new way to be for women. Salutes go yet again to Eddie and the HotRods and the Top of the Pops appearance that shook up a nation of girls. Do Anything You Wanna Do – Take that, Dylan!