Christmas Eve

To our very great surprise, Vienna doesn’t totally shut down during the Christmas holidays. So, even though it was Christmas Eve we were still able to get in some sightseeing. Our first stop of the day was Stephansdom, or St. Steven’s Cathedral.

IMG_6632  IMG_6635  IMG_6660IMG_6646  IMG_6649  IMG_6648 IMG_6650  IMG_6669 IMG_6759According to their website, Stephansdom is the number one attraction in the city and attracts just under 3 million people every year. It is clearly the star church in the city and is something that can be seen from most places within central Vienna. I really wanted to take an English tour of the church, since after a certain point European churches all tend to blur together, but the only English tour the church offered was an English audioguide that only addressed the inside of the church. My dad and I decided to pass on this in favor of buying all inclusive tickets. These tickets gave us access to the South Tower, North Tower, church, catacombs, and treasury (which was closed for the day).

We quickly wandered through the main cathedral before heading to the North Tower. The thing that struck me the most about the interior was the almost complete lack of stain glass windows. My initial guess was that the church had been bombed. Sure enough, we spotted some pictures of the church and the work that had to be done on it after World War II. We could see that the roof had completely collapsed so it was hardly a surprise that the windows hadn’t lasted either.

IMG_6641  IMG_6642  IMG_6645Afterwards, we made our way to the North Tower. Thankfully the tower had an elevator that we could ride up. Once at the top it provided us with a truly wonderful view of Vienna and the church’s unique roof.

IMG_6683  IMG_6701  IMG_6711IMG_6714  IMG_6688  IMG_6716After that we made our way down to the catacombs. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take pictures there so you’ll have to either use Google or your imagination. The catacombs contain some Hapsburg remains and those of senior clergy and cardinals, but they weren’t solely reserved for the upper class. Mass burials occurred in the catacombs, especially when it came to burying victims of the Black Death, and you can still see the bones in the pits that they used for these burials. Additionally, prisoners were once forced to clean and stack some of the bones in the catacombs so there are literally hundreds of bones on display underneath the church.

Once we had finished there, we made our way to the South Tower. You can’t actually get to the very top of the South Tower, but you can get to about the halfway point (67 meters up). Once you climb the requisite 343 steps you get an even better view of Vienna than at the North Tower. Because there are so many steps however they do tell you that you shouldn’t drink beforehand. So no glühwein (mulled wine) for us.

IMG_6768  IMG_6770  IMG_6788IMG_6780  IMG_6783  IMG_6786When we finished, we stopped for coffee and lunch at the famous café Demel and then crossed the city to go to the Prater Ferris Wheel. Now for those of you who are:

  • From my parent’s generation
  • Into old movies
  • Watched post-World War II movies for class

you may recognize the ferris wheel from The Third Man. I of course recognized the ferris wheel from James Bond but sooner or later hazy memories from the class “The European Postwar: Literature, Film, Politics” reminded me that I had also watched The Third Man my senior year in college. Clearly I considered pursuing all things James Bond related (allegedly for my senior thesis) more interesting that paying attention to my postwar class. Oh well.

Because we went to the ferris wheel on Christmas Eve, the amusement park that houses it was pretty deserted (in fact it was very similar to the ferris wheel scene in the Third Man), but that also meant that the lines were short. Without too much of a delay my Dad and I were able to get on board and enjoy the view from the top.

IMG_6826  IMG_6845  IMG_6849IMG_6867  IMG_6869  IMG_6878IMG_6919  IMG_6928  IMG_6920The ferris wheel only takes about 20 minutes so before we knew it we were back on the ground. While things had been open towards the beginning of the day, things started closing soon after we got off the ferris wheel. Our attempts to go to the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien and the Hofburg Palace were in vain so we ended up settling with the Christmas market in the Museum Quarter and drinking Christmas punch. I decided to try something that roughly translated to “Mozart’s punch,” and I have to say that if Mozart was drinking that I have no idea how he managed to get anything done since it had a very generous amount of alcohol poured in.

IMG_6957  IMG_6950  IMG_6966Everything more or less shut down at 3 pm, so after that my Dad and I just relaxed around the hotel until our Christmas dinner reservations. Thanks to a random recommendation from Travel and Leisure we decided to try our luck at a restaurant called At Eight. Even though the restaurant started out pretty sparsely populated, it filled up towards 7 pm and for good reason. The food was some of the best that I’ve ever had. Not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve at all.

Nudity, Sex Education, and Sex

Everyone’s favorite topics! And no this is not about my love life. I’m talking mostly academics and culture.

To be honest my first encounter with any of these three things in Norway happened when I was planning my James Bond lesson. The plan was for the class to watch Moonraker (1979) and I realized a few days before we were scheduled to watch the movie that I should double check and make sure the movie wouldn’t be considered inappropriate. My main concern: the sex scenes.* Keep in mind that the movie was made in the 70’s so the scenes were hardly graphic. I was also working with 18 and 19 year olds and figured they would find the scenes unremarkable. But I thought it’d be in my best interests to double check with my co-teacher. To my immense relief, Maria immediately shrugged off my concerns, telling me that the students could care less about sex and nudity but that they would find violence upsetting. Again, Moonraker was made in the 70’s so I wasn’t worried about the corny combat scenes.

One of the things that did stick with me from this conversation was the blasé attitude Norwegians have towards sex and nudity. It’s not uncommon to see uncensored pictures of naked people, and to even find them on the front page of newspapers. It’s not necessarily done it a sexual way; from my outsider perspective, it seems as though people are simply accepting of what the human body looks like. What a great and novel concept in today’s society. No Photoshop for anyone! Saggy body parts galore!

My curiosity officially sparked on these three topics, I was talking with an American friend and her Norwegian boyfriend when I asked what sex education is like in Norway. He told me that sex education is taught in schools as are various methods of contraception. He was a bit stunned when I described a few of the more extreme sex education classes that I’ve heard of in the US. (I’m looking at you Texas). I did however hastened to reassure him that not all schools have abstinence only programs.

After a bit of cajoling from his girlfriend, my Norwegian friend told me that once he reached the age of consent (16) his parents didn’t mind if his girlfriend spent the night at his house. This of course led to a flurry of questions: In your room? (Yes) Could you sleep over at her house? (Yes) Doesn’t that make breakfast with everyone awkward? (Sorta). I went to a fairly liberal high school, but when I tried to imagine people from my high school doing the same thing a picture failed to compute. Then again maybe my high school was just weird.

Thoroughly intrigued as to whether or not this was a universal experience, I increased my sample size to include two more Norwegians. Based on my ridiculously small sample size, it appears that this is the norm. Although I was told that this does not hold true in Norway’s Bible belt. Yes, Norway has a Bible belt.

The last Norwegian opinion I got on this topic happened to come from a Norwegian doctor. I figured that there probably wasn’t going to be a much better authority on attitudes toward sex in Norway. What I was not expecting to hear in this conversation was this bombshell: 18% of Norwegian men have chlamydia. No you didn’t read that number incorrectly. EIGHTEEN PERCENT. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Me: But, but why?
Doctor: Well, most Norwegians have unprotected sex.
Me: Sooo do people just rely on female birth control?
Doctor: Yup!
Me: But, I still don’t understand the popularity of unprotected sex. I mean you guys have a comprehensive sex education system, right?
Doctor: Well yes…but…um…you know the sensation…it…ah…feels better
(Note that by this point I had a pretty shocked expression on my face since I was expecting a more compelling answer)
Me: But…I mean sure…but 18%???
Doctor: Well HIV isn’t really a thing in Norway so people prefer to take their chances.
Me: Oh…Well…In the US condoms and safe sex are pretty heavily promoted. Then again that’s not everywhere. There are places in the United States that don’t teach comprehensive sex education.
Doctor: Oh well we don’t really have that problem in Norway. And our teen pregnancy rates are quite low. Here the government will provide women with the Pill for free from 14-18. No parental consent required.

While I applaud Norway on the availability of the Pill and their overall liberal attitude, I still think their arguments regarding unprotected sex, especially considering their STI rate, could use a bit of work.

On a related note: for those of you who have been asking me if everyone looks like Marvel’s Thor, aka Chris Hemsworth:

Well the answer is obviously no. My life would be infinitely more enjoyable if it were, but sadly it is not the case. I would also like to add that there is nothing that kills off the relative attractiveness of your population like giving them a high STI rate.

*The reason my epiphany was so delayed was because I assumed that my American co-teacher would automatically know that every Bond movie has a sex scene or four.

#HeForShe

I love the above video for a number of reasons, but right now it’s because I think it highlights something that I didn’t talk about in my last post. What is the role of men when it comes to gender equality? You may not have noticed this, but I only mentioned one man in Britain’s feminist movement, John Stuart Mill. One. That is not to say that there weren’t other men who promoted women’s rights, but it is important to note that there was only one man who prominently featured in it. I think it’s time that that changed, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign.

I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up to news that Emma Watson had launched a campaign at the UN called #HeForShe. Now I admit, I wasn’t crazy about the hashtag grammar, but I decided that it was probably something worth looking into. I’m so glad I did. If you haven’t seen the speech, I’ve included it below and you can find the full transcript at the end of this article.

Watson’s speech resonated with me in a lot of ways. Similar to Watson, I have always identified as a feminist, and this has never seemed like a complicated decision for me. Why shouldn’t I want to be treated as an equal to my male friends and counterparts? And while a desire for equal rights has always seemed like a no-brainer to me, I can’t emphasize enough how isolating both the idea of equal rights and the term feminist can be. Watson is absolutely right, many of the men I have met consider gender equality as “synonymous with man-hating.” I don’t think that feminism, or a push for equal rights, has to be viewed in that light. For me, asking for equal rights does not mean that I hate men. It means that I support women. It means that I want to level the playing field. It means that I think that women should be paid the same as men. It means that not only do I want a seat at the table, but I also want my voice to be encouraged and heard with the same weight as any man’s voice. In short, when Judi Dench ends the above video, I want a world in which those statistics are a thing of the past and Daniel Craig can honestly answer “Yes, we are equal.”

I think Emma Watson has started a great campaign. I also think that the most important thing she has done is aim the messaging at men. I hope that it encourages men to speak up for their female friends, mothers, sisters, and wives. I hope that when people make sexist comments that it encourages them to take a stand. That it encourages them to support the women in their lives. To be active and to refuse to silently let things continue the way they are.

Although Watson does focus the campaign on women’s rights, I also think it’s significant that she looks at male inequality. To quote Watson directly:

Men, I would like to give this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and heart disease. I’ve seen men fragile and insecure by what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.

Watson is right. Gender inequality works both ways.

I know that having conversations on gender equality is often a hard thing to do. The conversations can be awkward, difficult, and complex. More often than not, it’s easier to let a comment slide than it is to pause and having a meaningful discussion on equality. But I think it’s more important that we take the time to struggle through these hard conversations. That we take the time to acknowledge that gender inequality is a global and a pervasive problem, rather than pretending that gender inequality does not exist. Ultimately I hope that #HeForShe helps promote a stronger dialogue on this issue, and that it helps both men and women stand up and support each other.

James Bond

Holly Goodhead: “Good afternoon. Can I help you?”
James Bond: “My names is Bond. James Bond. I’m looking for Dr Goodhead.”
Holly Goodhead: “You just found her.”
James Bond: “…A woman.”
Holly Goodhead: “Your powers of observation do you credit Mr Bond.”

This is a quote taken from Ian Fleming’s 1979 film Moonraker, and if you’d like to see the actual scene you can watch it here (I promise it’s pretty sassy).

As far back as I can remember, I have always been a James Bond fan. I loved watching the Bond movies as a kid, and was drawn to how exciting and formulaic the movies were. Bond was always attractive, always manage to survive seemingly impossible scenarios, and would always have the best cars, gadgets, and yes, women. Growing up I didn’t really mind how women were portrayed in the Bond movies. Their lack of depth and speaking parts never bothered me, but then again it was never too far off the Disney movies I’d graduated from in the 90s. While I loved watching movies like The Little MermaidCinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, similar to the Bond girls, most of these standard Disney princesses lacked complex personalities and were almost always rescued by their prince charmings. This is not to say that all Disney princesses or Bond girls are two dimensional, you only need to watch Frozen or Casino Royale to know that is not the case, but it did mean that seeing a fiesty and strong Bond girl, such as Holly Goodhead above, was a wonderful thing for me as a teen. This also means that when I had the chance to teach a British history lesson at Byåsen, I leapt at the opportunity to teach my students about James Bond and its relationship to the feminist movement in Britain.

First things first, I was actually shocked by by how difficult it was to prepare for this lesson. Very early on in my lesson planning I realized that there are pretty much no good resources available on the feminist movement in Britain. While some websites do a great overview of women’s suffrage, I have yet to see a well written article that covers feminism’s historical presence in Britain. It was saddening to realize that the history of the women’s movement in Britain is so poorly documented. Trust me, even the YouTube videos on it were soporific.

So dear reader, in an effort to change this, you now get to read through a brief history of feminism in Britain:

18th Century

Around the start of the Industrial Revolution (1760s) working class women began to work full time. This gave women their first opportunities to regularly meet and discuss political and social issues.

Early 1900s

While women had been meeting informally since the 18th century, it isn’t until 1866 that organized women’s suffrage starts to appear. At this point in time women’s suffrage had not gained much traction with the public, so when MP John Stuart Mill proposed an amendment to give women the same voting rights as men in 1867, it was voted down 194 to 73 in Parliament.

The first major suffragist organization, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS),was organized in 1897 under Milicent Fawcett. The NUWSS was committed to using peaceful tactics, such as non-violent demonstrations. Originally it only wanted the vote for middle class property-owning women, but it quickly realized that it needed to expand to include the vote for working class women.

The suffragettes (notice the spelling change) emerged in 1903 with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). It was led by Emmeline Pankhurst and was an active organization whose members mostly consisted of young working class women. In contrast to the NUWSS, they were not a law abiding organization. Their slogan was “Deeds Not Words” and they were known to use violent tactics such as arson. When many suffragettes were arrested, they would often go on hunger strikes to keep up the attention on women’s suffrage. One of the WSPU’s most famous members is Emily Davison. Davison famously wore the WSPU colors before running in front of the King’s horse when it was racing at Epsom. It was previously believed that it was a deliberate act of suicide, although now it is believed that she was trying to attach a WSPU scarf to the horse’s bridle. She died from injuries suffered in the collision, and when she was buried the words on her tombstone were “Deeds Not Words.”

World War I

When Britain decided to enter World War I, women’s groups decided to suspend their suffrage activities (which also helped make them seem more reasonable). Although women did not actively campaign for suffrage, that does not mean that they were not a driving force in Britain’s domestic landscape. Because so many men were sent to the front, women were called upon to take up jobs that were previously dominated by men. While this may seem like a big step for women, it was mostly a change for middle and upper class women (working class women had been working since the 19th century). If you watch Downton Abbey, this is why Sybil’s decision to become a nurse was considered a big deal.

The Interwar Years

After World War I, women’s contributions to the war could not be ignored and in 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed. This gave women over the age of 30 the right to vote. In contrast to this, men could vote at the age of 21. You might be wondering why there was a nine year difference in voting ages, and the answer is that it would ensure that men were still the majority vote. Because so many men had been killed during World War I, the voting difference was made to guarantee that men would not be overrun by the women’s vote.

Things do improve, and in 1928 women are finally given the same voting rights as men in the Equal Franchise Act of 1928. This concludes what is called first wave feminism, or women’s campaign for equal voting rights.

World War II & the Postwar

After women won equal voting rights, women’s membership in feminist groups declined. Overall not too much happens, but in 1944 the Education Act is passed and establishes free education for all primary and secondary students, male and female. However, there is a catch. Once students reached age 11 many schools installed quotas on the number of female students that they would accept. During this time period studies showed that female students frequently outperformed their male counterparts and schools did not want to be overrun with girls. These quotas remained legal until the 1980s. 

1960s

The Swinging Sixties helped welcome in the sexual revolution. The Pill arrived in Britain in 1961, but it wasn’t widely available to all women until 1974. The 60s also see the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act.

One of the most important events in the 1960s was the 1968 Ford plant strike. Women who worked at Ford’s Dagenham factory asked their managers to raise their wages to that of some of their male counterparts. The managers turned them down and the women went on strike until their wages were raised. The strike helped highlight workplace inequality and The Observer noted that “at least four million women [were] used virtually as slave labour.” Documents also show us that half of Britain’s working women were earning less than five shillings an hour (which pretty much meant they were working for pennies/pence).

1970s

The Ford strike helped galvanize efforts to grant women equal pay, and in 1970 the Equal Pay Act was passed. In reality, the law didn’t do much to actually help women, and their wages were still 54.8% of men’s. Women struggled to get paid the same as men and also struggled to get equal treatment from banks. If a woman wanted to get higher credit from a bank she would often need a signature from her father or husband.

In 1970 the Miss World was famously protested against, mostly by the Women’s Liberation Movement. At the time, Miss World was an event that was widely watched in Britain and protesters interrupted proceedings with whistles, flour bombs, and stink bombs. They famously shouted “We’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry.” Most of the protesters were not angry at the contestants, rather they were angry at the ways in which these women were objectified and portrayed. They also had issues with statements made by the host, Bob Hope. Hope frequently made derogatory remarks towards women and referred to the competition as a cattle market.

The 1970s also saw a resurgence in feminist groups. In 1975, The Times reported that there were more than 1,500 groups of women around the country meeting fairly regularly.

Lastly, in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister of Britain. Although Thatcher was not an active participant in the feminist movement, her appointment was considered a huge step for women.

Overall it is important to note that women’s movements in Britain were grassroots movements. Because there weren’t many women in positions of power (even in the 1970s only 4.6% of the members of Parliament were female) any sort of push for change needed to come from below.

 So how does James Bond fit into all of this? Well, Ian Fleming started to write the Bond books in the 1950s, and by looking at how Fleming changes his portrayal of women we can see how much of an impact feminism had. When Fleming first started to write in the 1950s, he was constantly critiqued for his portrayal of women. One news article in The Times was so outraged with Fleming that it bitingly said “The woman is not really a woman at all. She is just a rather pleasantly scented plaything to be used for an hour or two in a context of violence that borders on sadism. And that is accepted. There, in my judgment, is the measure of our contemporary standard of morality.”

To be frank the critique of Fleming’s books is largely spot on, especially for his early work. Women do not play a central role in the Bond books, in fact Bond famously says “These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to the men.” The Times was also accurate when it said that Bond often uses the women who waltz through the pages as though they were “pleasantly scented plaything[s].”

But things are forced to change. As Fleming began to reach a broader audience, and his books began to spawn a multi-million dollar movie franchise, Fleming’s portrayal of women had to adapt. In the books, Bond eventually marries. His wife is a relatively strong woman, whose death provides a devastating blow to Bond. In fact, you could argue that it is one that he never fully recovers from.

The movies also start to change. You can see this with characters like Moonraker‘s Holly Goodhead. Holly Goodhead is more than just a pretty face, as Bond himself points out. She’s a fully qualified NASA scientist, astronaut, and a CIA agent. I wouldn’t say that representations of women in the Bond films is perfect, it is still far from so, but I hoped that by showing my students Moonraker they would be able to remember at least a small portion of my lecture, as well as have a greater understanding of how much women had to fight to even get a character like Dr Goodhead on the silver screen.