Spare Rib Attacked or When the Communicating Stopped

02-197206XX 6Gay Liberation Front has always consisted of numerous small groups, each in its own way expanding and experimenting with new possibilities to develop gay pride and gay awareness. Also in their actions and in communication Gay Lib has attempted, often successfully, to alter societies ill-informed knowledge of homosexuals and to end the discrimination against gays which appears in many ways in this country, as well as, of course all the countries of this planet. But in the last few months, G’.L.F. – to many – has been stagnating or going off at tangents which totally fail to communicate anything to anyone.

On Monday 19th July, the Gay News collective had been invited to attend the Spare Rib party. This was being held to celebrate the coming out of this new monthly magazine for women, run by women. Spare Rib is intended to communicate women’s lib ideas, but without the dogma that so many fall foul of; as well as providing a magazine that truly is a women’s paper, instead of the existing mags that are run by men who think they know what women want. In other words, Spare Rib is attempting to communicate news and ideas to all women.

The Gay News collective and I arrived at the party, being held at The Place in North London, just before 9.30pm. The party had been in progress for just over two hours. As we were climbing the stairs to where the event was being held, we noticed a fair number of people leaving. When we were at the bottom of the final flight we met a few members of the self-styled Radical Feminist faction of Gay Lib. They warned us that the party was a waste of time; that it was nothing more than a middle-class trendy cocktail party. I tried to get the most agitated member of this group to explain but with little success. We said that as we hadn’t even gone into the party yet, we thought we would have a look around (and a drink) ourselves before passing judgement. This was greeted by hysterical screams of “Don’t go up there!”, and “Where’s your head at man?”. The screams continued as we ascended the final flight.

The room when the many was being held was pretty crowded, and what was immediately noticable was the lack of smiles. And the whole room, to us, had a general aura of uptightness. Gay News people melted into the chilly throng to speak with friends and acquaintances, many from other papers such as Time Out, IT and OZ. I had a chat with Rosie Boycott, one of the editors of Spare Rib, after which the reason for the apparent bad scene became cleaner. The Radical Feminists had arrived (no-one still has any idea who invited them) in a flurry of crumpled silk, grumbly cotton dresses, fur wraps, stilettoes and large amounts of makeup. (One of the women present later joked with me that the makeup looked more like warpaint.) The Rad. Femmes had taken exception, so it seems, to the fact that many of the women’s husbands. boyfriends and male friends went also invited (the gravest sin being that Spare Rib’s accountant was a man) and that the magazine wasn’t a more extremist periodical. They were accused of selling out, and. as is obvious now, must have completely misunderstood the intentions of Spare Rib. Which, to me, is to communicate to as many women as possible; through information, news and less rigid explanation of women’s lib ideas., but without the preaching.

I have been informed by members of the Rad Femmes faction that I should not be writing this piece, as I didn’t get to the party till just before 9.30pm. This I take (and this is a personal opinion) to be an attempt at censorship; maybe they have at last realised what a grave and stupid mistake it was to create such a exhibition of themselves at the party. But although I was not there from the commencement of the party, I did, for the rest of the evening, talk to as many of the women and men who had been present throughout the evening. This is what I heard; at least thirty copies of Spare Rib had been torn up by the Rad. Femmes (they haven’t got round to burning words yet), someone called someone else a “cunt”, but from which ‘side’ this abuse came is still unclear as I have heard so many different versions. A guy who is completely out of the game of sexual role playing was abused for being a mere bisexual; one women endured being shouted at for two hours, so she could try to understand the grievances of the Rad Femmes, she was unfortunately none the wiser after her attempted indoctrination. Chris Rowley, of OZ infamy, thought at the time the best way of showing he had no antagonism towards gays, tried to kiss one of the dragged-up radicals, only to be bitten for his more physical attempt at communication. And I could go on and on.

After we had been at the party for just over 15 minutes the real trouble started. This was heralded by some really frightening screaming. What exactly happened is still not clear, but someone, either from the Spare Rib people or the Rad. Femmes, had had enough and a running fist fight started. This skirmish descended down from the party to the front door of the building, where a two sided screaming match took place. After a while Spare Rib people and friends began to reappear, some with cuts and grazes, others with blood running down their faces. Some people said that some of the women had had violence tableaus enacted out upon them, by members of the Rad. Femmes, but this I haven’t been able to verify to my complete satisfaction. Whilst in retreat the Rad. Femmes had managed to take with them the remaining eight bottles of wine, a truly revolutionary protest.

So what does it all mean? To me it doesn’t matter who is in the wrong or the right, for if communication breaks down completely, especially into senseless violence, then no one wins, everybody is a loser. But one point it does raise is what exactly are these warriors in dresses on about? Are they into ending sexism and the exploitation of women? I don’t think so, their actions showed them to be no more than exploiters of the women’s situation and in the words they so often use themselves on people, they left many at that many thinking of them as ‘male chauvinist pigs’. They accuse others of telling women what to do, what then are they doing?

Do the Radical Feminists represent the general direction that Gay Lib is going in? No, they don’t. Except for a wobbly unity amongst themselves they seem very much on their own. G.L.F. as a whole cannot comprehend the delight they seemingly have for the type of alienation and hostility they create. Unforunately, Gay Lib as a whole will suffer because of these people, because as we all know, it’s those who shout the loudest who get the attention. I have spoken to many G.L.F. people since the event, and find that my opinions are shared by many within that movement. Even amonst the Rad. Femmes, there are those who really are trying to communicate and find the action of the others, like so many, mindless and damaging.

One interesting point this incident does raise, is why weren’t the Radical Feminists present at the coming out parties of Cosmopolitan and Plexus, two magazines that truely exploit women and help continue the dangerous myths about sexuality. Why

Gay Liberation Front has done many important things in the past, but unfort unately their continuing fault has been their failure to communicate, usually, to all gays. Of course there is always a need for a spearhead of people to always be attempt ing to change the many misguided and harmful parts of our society, but what good is this if at no times does anyone under stand them.

G.L.F. will suffer from the mindlessness, selfishness and intolerance of these few people. Wake up Gay Lib! As Warren Hague said at the door of The Place, “these few people are just looking for a label to exhibit their neuroses”.

Another Opinion

02-197206XX 6The confusion of repainting the GLF office was broken by an announcement “Does anyone want to go to the Spare Rib party”, “Yes” we chorussed; so we did: we being most of the people who were in the office that Sunday; wouldn’t it be lovely to have a chat with the people who were getting out a new womens lib magazine – even if we did think the editorial line up from Friendz, Oz, Vogue, etc. rather trendy. So off we went in our paint stained frocks.

When we got there (there being The Place, just off the Euston Road) we found we were in the midst of a full launching ceremony; friends, journalists and the stars all jostled at the bar; it was like being at a fifties celebrity occasion; the chat centred around nothing in particular – the magazine was being given away, but most people preferred to pocket it and read it later, rather than talk about it there.

We all had a quick look read bits in more detail and talked about it amongst ourselves; but weren’t we there as allies of the womens movement – if not more. So we broached the topic with some of the women in the room.

“What did they think of the glossy format -ooh and the only names on the cover were those of G.Best and R.Neville – and wasn’t that an ad for Woolies slap on the back cover”.

“Well you’ve got to sell your first issue haven’t you”.

“I mean, how do you get through to the women in the street if you don’t give her something familiar to hang on to”.

“Its really on attempt to bridge the gap between Vogue and all that womens lib sectarian dogma”.

Our reactions were that it was a sell out – and what a price 17½p; only a liberated middle class mum could afford that – not yer Enids at Dagenham working a full mans week and still having to cook the dinner.

It was admitted to be a compromise venture; and looking at the product, it was brought home to us that a compromise in the face of male dominated capitalist society will always be a cop out. We don’t object to make up – right on Mary Q – but to the way it’s sold with women being used as sex symbols, as inferior beings, as masks not people – as was happening right here in this magazine. How an you compromise on that.

For a womens paper, there seemed to be a fair sprinkling of men – well why not. The IT brigade was there in denims and sunglasses, other undy mags and more respectable rags were present; DJ’s and columnists mixed well here; we thought that a bit more honesty would help the situation.

“Trendy party isn’t it my dear”, “Yes I suppose it is really – plenty of booze though”. “What do you think of the magazine”, “Great effort isn’t it”. “Have you read it yet”, “No – just a peep”.

What sort of liberal shitty nonsense was this; were we here for a womens paper for womens liberation, or a glossy rag as a sop to the system? Rosie wouldn’t tolerate criticism as she’d spent six months living off a friend, borrowing money, and scrounging food. She’d worked bloody hard, and now all we could do was pull it to pieces – which a few people did later on.

It was obvious that this was not an attempt to bridge the gap between working women and the politicised minority; it was an attempt to salvage a conscience; little attempt was being made to find new ways of communicating with the mass of women who aren’t in the movement; rather than politicising them it was letting them know that womens lib was part of the system now folks – so lets all cash in.

In the midst of all the chatter, suddenly some dancing started – charlstons all round, and wasn’t that Alan Brien lifting his skirts up. This seemed to relieve some of the tension that resulted from a honest expression of our views.

In the midst of the jollity, some shouts arose from a gaggle of IT men and some GLF people; tempers had flamed when one man from IT, who said he was bisexual, showed his love for gay people by calling a brother “a fucking queer, you pansy, you filthy fairy” and to a sister “you fucking cunt”; they came to blows and spilled down the stairs and onto the street. This is what happens when male egos oppose each other. Hadn’t we learnt our lesson before – well not in such a plain way – no.

This incident held the key to the whole evening; here at last, in words, and unfortunately in blows, was confrontation. The magazine was fighting the chauvinist aggression of the system on their own terms – how could they win. We have realised that violence is their terms – and we aren’t doing things on their terms; we’ve realised the futility of that; their terms are the product of a male dominated uptight aggressive neurotic society; through staying to liberate ourselves, we have realised that we mustn’t get into that scene again; when we did we realised our mistake; can’t the sisters on Spare Rib see their mistakes as well. They sold out, we won’t.

This article was collectively written by The Radical Feminist faction within G’.L.F. They were also the people representing Gay Lib at the Spare Rib party.