Remembering United Nations’ “Women’s Year” – 1975
Today is International Women’s Day. Yay. Which, in turn, reminds me of my earliest memory of any kind of internationally sanctioned feminist organisation – United Nation’s Women’s Year – 1975. Growing up where I did, the main way that this global event impacted upon our neighbourhood is that a feminist craft shop called No Man’s Hand opened up in the middle of Ealing. Now things that happen in Ealing get to be on TV, particularly if they happen in Ealing in the 1970s. The old Ealing Studios were under BBC control and when the BBC wanted to film suburban life without wasting petrol, they tended to film it in Ealing. So it was, that No Man’s Land appeared on Nationwide that year and provoked much discussion.
The shop itself was right next to my school. It was half underground and reached by a narrow staircase down into a basement from street level. It was subterranean and inyerface at one and the same time. Its exterior was decorated, in very 1970s feminist fashion, with maenads and gorgons and swirly patterns framing defiant faces. It was a very beautiful and scary place. And I haven’t been able to find a single photo of it. The shop didn’t last long. Few arts and craft shops do it seems, but it at least lasted long enough to lodge in the memory.
I was really a very small boy. And being a very small boy I was in the habit of asking very direct, inappropriate and relevant questions.
Looking at this extraordinary looking shop, I said to my mother
“Does this mean they’ll have International Men’s Year some time?”
Her features hardened.
“Every year is men’s year” she said. And I sensed our conversation was over.
But not my memory of the conversation, which is about as clear and chiselled a childhood memory as I still possess. It will take a very advanced and terminal phase of dementia to ever smudge it.