“SEXISM” IN IDEOLOGICAL DISCOURSE, AND THE NEW FEMALE IDENTITY OF THE 1980’s: POST-“SEXIST” ETHICS

[Work in progress – The text below constitutes the final sub-section of our study entitled Amalia Eleftheriadou, and the question of advertizing, 1950’s-1970’s > The “adjustive” type of advertizing discourse: the issue of “eros” and work. It follows the sub-section: Greek advertizing discourse related to “eros”. It may also be read as an independent text].

 

The tensions and contradictions within advertizing discourse directed especially to women (and most often with respect to issues of “eros”) would not always be resolved. In fact, there were categories of advertizing that would further “provoke” such tensions and contradictions. Alternatively, one could argue that there were categories of advertisements which “intervened” to create an ideological smokescreen whereby the “lifeworld” and the “everydayness” of the “Amalia-type” would be seriously distorted.

“Sexist” discourse would be a major feature of such specifically “provocative-interventionist” type of advertizing discourse. “Sexism” would be reproduced by such type of discourse precisely because this was both “provocative” and “interventionist” in its promotional techniques. But the issue of “sexism” in advertizing discourse is much more complex than it has been made out to be, especially by “Marxist” commentators at the time. We may very briefly point here to a couple of caveats that need to be kept in mind. To begin with, one could be both critical of “sexism” from a retrospective perspective and at the same time try to understand the “sexist” semantics of an ideological conjuncture by examining the “conjunctural normality” of such semantics within that conjuncture. It may be argued, in other words, that “sexism” could be seen as being accurately expressive of the value-systems of categories of a population, and which could include both males and females. This approach would mean that the reality of whatever value-system stands to be recorded by historians and explained by sociologists as an objective phenomenon in itself. Further, and depending on the empirical evidence at hand, one may go on to show that various traces of “sexism” in advertizing discourse (and/or traces of “sexism” in people’s attitude and behaviour) would gradually fade or be co-opted by a new female self-identity that would emerge by the 1980’s. The overall implication of such observations is rather obvious: even the “provocative-interventionist” type of advertizing discourse would at times be merely “adjusting” to the whims, tastes or whatever “perversions” of civil society.

We may here consider a text, entitled “Women in advertisements and body image”, and which refers to “sexist” advertizing discourse of the 1950’s in the USA – part of it reads as follows:

 

“Sexism towards women in advertising has
always been an issue in the history of American
society. Women have always been expected
to fill specific gender roles as the cleaning,
cooking, or child-bearing sex machine… During
the 1950’s… sexism against women was something
that was normal and expected by both men and
women. Regardless of how insulting or chauvinistic
ads were toward women, people were socialized
to tolerate and accept the female house-wife
stereotype”
(cf. womeninads.weebly.com/history.html).

 

There is no need for us to critically assess the implications of this rather superficial text – all it does is to simply record the fact of “sexism” in US advertizing, as also that such “sexism” was “normal” and “expected” in the 1950’s. It further presents us with some idea as to the content of such “sexism” – viz. the specifically delineated “gender roles”, the idea of women as “sex machines”, and the “provocative” nature of the discourse (“insulting”). Interestingly, the text also goes on to provide us with some characteristic samples of such “sexist” advertisements in the 1950’s. We may quote the following two cases:

 

In the first sample, the husband tells his wife:

 

“Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn
the beer!”

 

The second sample reads as follows:

 

“Christmas morning: she’ll be happier
with a Hoover!”
(ibid.).

 

Thus, apart from presenting a female “body image” that related to that of a “sex machine”, such discourse would also map out the various “roles” that would be expected of a female to enact. The philosophy of such type of advertizing discourse – which was but one dimension of advertizing discourse as-a-whole, and which may be seen as expressive of a certain “conjunctural normality” – is of course also apparent in numerous cases of Greek advertizing. We do not intend discussing this type of advertizing discourse here – instead, we shall simply present cases of Greek “intellectuals” who clearly expressed traces of “sexism” and which must have been expressive of the specifically Greek “normality” both in the pre- and post-war years.

Rudiments of “sexism” are evident in the work of Petros Haris with respect to the 1930’s-1940’s period. In his collection of short stories entitled Δρόμος 100 μέτρων (Εκδόσεις Γαλαξία), published in 1962 but written in the interwar period, we come across passages which express at least some tinge of “sexism”.

Consider the following sample:

 

«… μια και μόνη ασχολία μπορεί να ‘χει
κάθε βραδάκι…: να θαυμάζει με πόσο
λίγους δισταγμούς βγαίνουν από δυο
σειρές κάτασπρα και καλοσχεδιασμένα
γυναικεία δόντια οι πιο γνήσιες ανοησίες…»
(ibid., p. 24).

 

Here, the writer wishes to create a contrast between, on the one hand, a female’s perfect set of teeth and, on the other, the idiocies that so unfalteringly and as naturally emanate from that set of teeth.

Yet another sample taken from this collection of short stories perhaps more clearly approximates the idea of a female as a “sex machine” – we read:

 

«Σας το ξαναλέω: δεν αγαπώ, αλλά παίζω,
κάνω τη ζωή μου πιο ευχάριστη και της
εξασφαλίζω το πιο πολύτιμο αγαθό: την
ατελείωτη, τη θαυμαστή, την ασύλληπτη
ποικιλία που προσφέρει η γυναίκα από τα
δεκαπέντε της χρόνια ως τα σαρανταπέντε
κι ακόμα πιο πέρα, όταν είναι όμορφη, όταν
είναι κοκέτα,… προπάντων όταν μένει στο
φύλο της»
(ibid., p. 26).

 

But it is the Karagatsis novel (Ο κίτρινος φάκελλος, op. cit.) that provides us with one of the most representative samples of Greek male-female relations coloured by a strong tinge of “sexism”. The rather longish extract we shall quote is of special interest because it portrays the relationship between a “Clerk-typist/stenographer” of the 1950’s and her employer. The latter seduces the young lady while both are supposedly working, but the young lady is rather thirsty for such a seduction – the passage, which allows us to take a peep at what is happening in an office in the 1950’s – reads as follows:

 

«Μόλις ο βοηθός έφυγε, ο Μάνος φώναξε
τη στενοδαχτυλογράφο:
̶  Δεσποινίς Σόνια, ελάτε να σας υπαγορεύσω
κάτι γράμματα.
Η δεσποινίς Σόνια κάθησε σε μια καρέκλα,
απέναντι απ’ το γραφείο του, σταύρωσε τις
θαυμάσιες γάμπες της, απόθεσε το μπλοκ
στα σμιλευτά της γόνατα, στριφογύρισε το
στυλό επιχαρίτως στα κοντυλένια δαχτυλάκια
της, τον κοίταξε με ματιά γαλανή κι αθώα, κι
είπε μέσα σε γλυκύτατο αναστεναγμό:
̶  Έτοιμη…
Καθώς ο Μάνος της υπαγόρευε, την εξέταζε
συγχρόνως, με μάτι έμπειρο και κάπως στοχαστικό.
Ήταν νιόφερτη στο γραφείο κι ήταν όμορφη.
Είχε εκείνο το επίπλαστο ύφος βρεφικής
αθωότητας, που συνήθως το υιοθετούν οι
πιο παμπόνηρες παλιοβρώμες. Από την πρώτη
κιόλας μέρα άφησε να εννοηθή, πολύ περίτεχνα,
ότι ο αφεντικός της έκανε μεγάλη εντύπωση.
Τον κοιτούσε με μάτια απλανή, συνεπαρμένα…
του αποκρίνονταν με μονολεχτικούς αναστεναγμούς…
και δεν έχανε ευκαιρία να του επιδείξη τις
καλοφτιαγμένες γάμπες της. Η πεποίθηση του
Μάνου σχηματίστηκε, καθώς κι η απόφασή του να
της βάλη χέρι. Έκρινε όμως σκόπιμο να προσποιηθή
για κάμποσο καιρό τον αδιάφορο, προκαλώντας
έτσι το πείσμα του ανόητου θηλυκού. Όσο για το
σύνδεσμό του με την Νίνα, δεν τον θεωρούσε
εμπόδιο οποιασδήποτε παράλληλης γενετήσιας
περιπέτειας. “Επειδή μια γυναίκα μου αρέσει
περισσότερο απ’ τις άλλες, συνήθιζε να λέη, δεν
σημαίνει πως δεν θα χαϊδεύω και τις άλλες.”… Καθώς
λοιπόν υπαγόρευε τα γράμματα, χάιδευε οπτικώς
τις γάμπες της Σόνιας, εξέταζε τις αρμονικές καμπύλες
των μηρών, επέμενε στον ελαφρό κυματισμό της
κοιλιάς, διεπίστωσε πως η προκλητική προεξοχή του
τζάμπερ γινόταν χωρίς τη βοήθεια σουτιέν, θαύμασε
τη δροσερή σάρκα των μπράτσων… κι όταν επείσθη
πως η τούφα της μασχάλης ήταν πυρόξανθη, κατάλαβε
πως το πράμα δεν έπαιρνε αναβολή… Σηκώθηκε και
συνέχισε την υπαγόρευση βολτάροντας, σε τρόπο που
κάθε τόσο να περνάη δίπλα της και να ρίχνη ματιές
ελέγχου στα γραφόμενά της, αδιάφορο αν δεν είχε ιδέα
από στενογραφία. Κατόπι, πολύ θαρρετά, κάθησε δίπλα
της, στο πλαϊνό στήριγμα της πολυθρόνας, και συνέχισε
από κει την υπαγόρευση. Η Σόνια ταράχτηκε ευχάριστα
και του ‘ριξε ματιά γεμάτη τρυφερές υποσχέσεις. Για
ν’ αποσαφηνίση την κατάσταση, ο Μάνος ακούμπησε το
χέρι του στον ώμο της, και άρχισε να της χαϊδεύη την άκρη
του αυτιού. Καμιά αντίρρηση. Απεναντίας, η κοπέλα
έγειρε το κορμί της αριστερά και το ακούμπησε, τρυφερά
και θετικά, στο μηρό του Μάνου… Εν τάξει, είπε μέσα του.
Πού να της βάλω χέρι; Εδώ; Ή να την πάω σπίτι μου;…»
(op. cit., pp. 148-149).

 

Finally, it is the social commentary of Theofilaktos Papakonstandinou (cf. his Προβλήματα της εποχής μας, op. cit.) that best captures the de facto “sexism” which characterized Greek civil society of the 1950’s and 1960’s. While he points to the objective “normality” of “sexist” attitudes during this period, he is highly critical of such a reality (and is so despite his so-called “conservative” leanings). Nonetheless, it would be such de facto “sexism”, rooted in the socio-cultural practices of Greek society, which certain elements of “provocative” advertizing discourse would be latching onto. This is what Papakonstandinou has to say (he was writing in 1960):

 

«Δεν περνά σχεδόν ημέρα χωρίς ν’ αναγγελθή
η σφαγή μιας τουλάχιστον γυναικός εις την
χώραν μας. Δεν περνά ημέρα χωρίς ν’ ανακαλυφθή
μία προαγωγή εις πορνείαν κάποιας φτωχής
κοπέλλας. Δεν περνά ημέρα χωρίς αναρίθμητες
χυδαιότητες εις βάρος του γυναικείου φύλου.
Η γυναίκα εις την Ελλάδα απέκτησε θεωρητικώς
όλα τα δικαιώματα. Ψηφίζει, ψηφίζεται, ημπορεί
ν’ ασκήση όλα σχεδόν τα επαγγέλματα. Το δικαίωμα
όμως να ζή σαν άνθρωπος και να τυγχάνη σεβασμού
σαν αυτόνομη προσωπικότης δεν το κατέκτησε
ακόμη… Η ελληνική κοινωνία εξακολουθεί να διατηρή
έντονα τα χαρακτηριστικά μιας ασφυκτικώς
ανδροκρατικής κοινωνίας. Η ισότης των δύο φύλων
είναι εντελώς επιφανειακή δια το μεγαλύτερον μέρος
του πληθυσμού της χώρας. Είναι αφάνταστα υψηλός
ο αριθμός των ανδρών που εις το βάθος της ψυχής
των επιμένουν να θεωρούν την γυναίκα κατώτερον
όν, περίπου “πράγμα”, ενώ δεν είναι ούτε κατώτερον
ούτε ανώτερον, αλλά διάφορον. Και αυτό αποτελεί
πραγματικόν όνειδος δια τον τόπον μας»
(op. cit., p. 35).

 

***

 

Now, it may be argued that by the decade of the 1980’s an altogether new female identity had been established which, having acquired a new relationship to “sexuality” as such, would come to override most of the ethically-based – as also politically-based – objections to “sexism”. This is not to suggest that Greek male chauvinism had completely faded away. But what had definitely faded away was the manner in which both males and females would come to see the female body. Literally speaking, the change that had ensued may be put in a few simple words: henceforth, all and sundry could now openly/publicly see the female body in all of its physical dimensions bar its private parts. This was to become a new “normality” and a new sensual aesthetics that no longer bothered itself with the old objections to the supposedly “sexist”-instigated idea of the “sex machine”. In fact, the latter would be co-opted and adjusted to the new “normalities” of a new cultural conjuncture. Both the conjuncture and the new post-“sexist” ethics had not sprung out of the blue. The idea and practice of “nudity” was already being discussed in the decade of the 1960’s – it being that period of time which would mother (from a “distance”, as it were) the ethical standards and aesthetic tastes of the rest of the 20th century.

By way of an example, we may cite an article published in 1966 in the daily newspaper, Μεσημβρινή, which clearly dwells on the issue of “nudity” although we know that such practice was not, at the time, a socio-cultural practice amongst Greeks of whatever social standing. In some way, it could foresee that what was gradually appearing as a proclivity in the Western world would finally crystallize as a “movement” for “nudism”, and which could also manifest itself amongst segments of the Greek population. This front page article begins as follows:

 

«ΑΝΟΙΞΙΣ 1966…

Περισσότερη σημασία έχει το τι δεν φοράει
η γυναίκα από το τι φοράει…»
(cf. Μεσημβρινή, 29.1.1966, p. 1, my emph.).

 

And it goes on to refer to such proclivity towards female bareness as a “revolution” that was taking place in the world of fashion. It speaks of –

 

«… τις τελευταίες τάσεις της νέας –
επαναστατικής – μόδας…»
(ibid.).

 

This was a new phenomenon that was raising its head in Europe. Although it had yet to reach the socio-cultural practices of the Greek popular masses in the 1960’s, it was nonetheless manifesting itself via tourism. Given this latter reality, but also given that at least the average Greek had yet to adopt such foreign-based habits, it was the opportune time to try and evaluate this phenomenon as “objectively” as possible. Certain Greek “intellectuals” tried to do just that – their purpose, presumably, was to “educate” the Greek public as to the real (or “deeper”) nature of what it meant to bare one’s flesh in public. It was Papakonstandinou (Προβλήματα της εποχής μας, op. cit. pp. 101-104) that would attempt such an “objective” analysis of the matter. In an important article entitled «Γυμνισμός και γυμνισταί», written as early as 1959, Papakonstandinou makes, inter alia, the following observations:

 

  1. Greece was bound to soon have its own “colony” of “nudists”, these being of German origin: «Ίσως κατά το προσεχές μέλλον ν’ αποκτήση η Ελλάς αποικίαν αυθεντικών γυμνιστών, αν γίνη δεκτή πρόσφατος αίτησις γερμανικών γυμνιστικών οργανώσεων…».
  2. Such “nudists” could not simply be rejected as “decadent” – they belonged to an “ideological movement” dating back to the period following the Great War, and with roots in important centers of the Western world: «Ως “ιδεολογικόν” φυσιολατρικόν κίνημα μεταξύ των πολιτισμένων κοινωνιών, ο γυμνισμός αριθμεί βίον τεσσάρων δεκαετηρίδων περίπου… Ενεφανίσθη αμέσως μετά τον πρώτον παγκόσμιον πόλεμον και έλαβε σημαντικήν εξάπλωσιν κυρίως εις Μ. Βρεταννίαν, Ην. Πολιτείας και Γερμανίαν».
  3. Although the “nudist movement” cannot be rejected out of hand, it nonetheless raises two questions that trouble public opinion – viz. whether it is “ethical”; and whether it leads to promiscuous sexual behaviour: «Δύο είναι τα βασικά ερωτήματα που γεννά εις την κοινήν γνώμην το γυμνιστικόν κίνημα: Είναι η γυμνότης, αυτή καθ’ εαυτήν, ανήθικος; Και αν δεν είναι, μήπως η συμμετοχή εις μίαν γυμνιστικήν ομάδα προκαλεί περισσότερους ερεθισμούς ή παρέχει αφθονωτέρας ευκαιρίας σεξουαλικής πολυμειξίας;…».
  4. Rather surprisingly, Papakonstandinou’s response to such questions is not “dogmatically” conservative – his approach is subtle: «Το πιθανώτερον, πάντως, είναι ότι μεταξύ των μελών μιας γυμνιστικής οργανώσεως λειτουργούν μεικτά ελατήρια. Μερικά πιστεύουν εντίμως ότι η πρακτική των φονεύει την νοσηράν σεξουαλικήν περιέργειαν… Ασφαλώς όμως θα υπάρχουν και μέλη των γυμνιστικών αποικιών, τα οποία κατέχονται από συνειδητοποιημένας ή υποσυνειδήτους τάσεις “επιδεικτισμού”, “ερωτοσκοπισμού”, κλπ.».
  5. His openness to the issue of “nudism” allows him to identify three different forms of thinking amongst those who practice it, and he tries to deal with each in turn. He writes: «Αι αντιλήψεις και η συμπεριφορά των γυμνιστών αποκαλύπτουν τρεις μορφάς σκέψεως. Η πρώτη, η φυσική, είναι η πλέον κατανοητή. Ποίος ημπορεί ν’ αμφισβητήση, κατ’ αρχήν, την ωφέλειαν της εκθέσεως ολοκλήρου του σώματος εις το φώς και τον ήλιον…;» But Papakonstandinou critically responds to such logical “common sense” by offering his readers even more “common sense” – as he puts it: «Είναι δύσκολον όμως να πεισθή οιοσδήποτε λογικός άνθρωπος ότι όσα πλεονεκτήματα προσφέρει η φύσις εξαφανίζονται, ως διά μαγείας, αν συμβή να μείνη κεκαλυμμένον το τμήμα εκείνο του σώματος, όπου ευρίσκονται τα όργανα του φύλου…».
  6. The second form of thinking, as Papakonstandinou sees it, reveals that “nudist” practices are in fact a response to psychologically repressive attitudes on the part of religious puritans that tend to “suffocate” their victims. He explains: «Δευτέρα πλευρά είναι η ψυχολογική. Πολλοί άνθρωποι αισθάνονται την ανάγκην ν’ αντιδράσουν εις την ασφυκτικήν θρησκευτικήν διδασκαλίαν, κατά την οποίαν η έκθεσις του σώματος, εκ μέρους των παιδιών ακόμη, και δι’ ένα κολύμβημα αποτελεί αμάρτημα έναντι του Θεού, καθώς και εις την νοοτροπίαν ωρισμένων γονέων που υποχρεώνουν, ιδία τα κορίτσια των, να ενδύωνται βαρειά και άγαρμπα. Αναφέρονται όχι ολίγαι περιπτώσεις αγοριών και κοριτσιών, που έζησαν υπό παρομοίας ψυχολογικάς καταπιέσεις και που, όταν τους δίδεται η ευκαιρία, επιδίδονται εις λαθραίας ομαδικάς απογυμνώσεις». In this case, then, “nudist” practices are a mere form of reaction to unwholesome practices on the part of, and especially so, puritan parents. “Nudism” as such is here denied whatever value in itself.
  7. As in the case of the second form of thinking, so also in the third, the practice of “nudism” can be logically explained in terms of specific conditions that give birth to it. While in the second case it was the religiously-inspired repression that provoked “nudism”, in the third case it was what was happening in the workplace that caused people to resort to such practice. Papakonstandinou explains: «Υπάρχει, τέλος, και η “κοινωνική” πλευρά, δηλαδή αι παρούσαι συνθήκαι διαβιώσεως και εργασίας ωρισμένων εκ των θιασωτών του γυμνισμού, δια τους οποίους η επιθυμία της απογυμνώσεως είναι απολύτως λογική. Αυτό ισχύει δι’ όλους εκείνους που ασκούν εργασίας καταθλιπτικάς, εις χώρους κλειστούς και περιωρισμένους, μακράν από το φώς της ημέρας…».
  8. Papakonstandinou’s analysis of the phenomenon of “nudism” ends by pointing to a generalized “unethicality” apparent in society, implying that “nudism” in itself was neither absolutely offensive – it being explainable – nor the one and only symptom of unethical behaviour in society at large. This is how, inter alia, he puts it: «Από την άποψιν… του υλικού που προσελκύεται υπό της γυμνιστικής “ιδεολογίας”, πρέπει να θεωρήται βέβαιον ότι μεταξύ αυτών υπάρχουν ασφαλώς άνθρωποι ηθικώτεροι από πολλούς μη γυμνιστάς, αλλά και πολλοί τύποι με καθόλου αγίας προθέσεις».

 

Although Papakonstandinou was writing even before the advent of the 1960’s, it is quite obvious that his own “ethicalist essentialism” was not in any way being rocked by the “nudist ideology” that he could see raising its head in Greece, if only amongst foreign tourists. He feels confident enough in his attempt to contain the problem, simply by explaining it away. And he tries to do this by placing the phenomenon of “nudism” in its historical and logically explainable dimensions – he is willing to examine the practice as “objectively” as possible, and thus tries to explain its pros and cons. But what Papakonstandinou really wishes to do is place “nudism” within the limited confines of a very specific “ideological movement” triggered by as specific conditions. Were such conditions to be avoided, this “movement” would not even have to at all exist. Such an approach to the phenomenon of “nudism” would be perfectly understandable in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Greece.

What Papakonstandinou could not have possibly imagined at the time was that, at least by the late 1970’s and especially the 1980’s, certain cultural elements of that “ideological” grouping called “nudists” would ultimately come to be adopted by the popular masses as a whole. Exposing sensitive and sexually provocative parts of one’s body, especially on the part of females, would become an everyday phenomenon. This new “ethics” celebrating the feminine leg, breast, back, etc., would of course be fully reflected in the new advertizing discourse.

By mid 1979, the periodical Επίκαιρα would publish a 2-page article indirectly promoting certain fashion houses. The article would be accompanied by a number of full-colour pictures depicting young ladies sporting the latest in fashion. In the clearly discernable background, on can see bathers stretched out on the beach, both male and female. The pictures show images such as the following:

 

● a young lady is busy taking off her bikini bottom – she is
in fact completely naked and is exhibiting her sensuous
buttocks;
● slim, sensuous females are baring their copper-coloured
breasts to the sun – the nipples are clearly discernable; all
are wearing extremely skimpy bottoms; one couple is in a
love-making position;
● a woman is exhibiting her sexually provocative legs – she
is standing over a protruding wooden pole which seems to
disappear under her mini-skirt and into the area of her
vagina.

The text accompanying these rather provocative pictures – completely unimaginable in the 1950’s and 1960’s – is entitled «Η μόδα της πολυτέλειας στις ακτές», and part of it reads as follows:

 

«Με φόντο τη γαλάζια θάλασσα εξαίσια γυναικεία
κορμιά με μονοκίνι… Από τη μια πλευρά οι γυναίκες
που διάλεξαν την απόλυτη ελευθερία στο ντύσιμο
και από την άλλη “η κυρία” που χρησιμοποιεί το ρούχο,
για να δηλώσει τη δική της διαφορετική υπόσταση… Οι
μοιραίες γυναίκες του Σαίν Λωράν και του Κάρλ
Λάγκερφελντ εκφράζουν τις τελευταίες επιταγές των
δικτατόρων της μόδας. Η πραγματικότητα όμως φαίνεται
να είναι περισσότερο “γυμνή” και ελεύθερη, μοιάζουν
ν’ αντιλέγουν τα γυμνά κορίτσια του ήλιου. Κι
υπογραμμίζουν ότι παρά τη νοσταλγία της αναδρομής
και της πολυτέλειας, έχουν αλλάξει τελικά οι κοινωνικές
δομές και δεν υπάρχει περίπτωση να γίνει στροφή προς
τα πίσω γιατί έτσι αποφάσισαν οι μεγάλοι μόδιστροι.
Τελικά, ακόμη και η Μάρλεν Ντήτριχ και η Γκρέτα
Γκάρμπο σήμερα δεν θα ήθελαν να πάρουν μέρος στο
παιχνίδι αυτό της αναδρομής. Ίσως κι αυτές οι αυθεντικές
βαμπ να ήθελαν να ντυθούν απλά και μόνο σαν
γυναίκες»
(cf. Επίκαιρα, Αρ. Τεύχ. 565, 31.5.1979, pp. 108-109).

 

The purpose of this highly revealing text is twofold – on the one hand, it certainly wishes to promote major fashion houses such as that of Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. One may say that it does this by simply naming these fashion houses and by introducing their latest styles. The styles presented here hearken back to a past fashion reminiscent of the grand “vamps” – viz. the so-called “femme fatale” character, it being the female who, while not necessarily attractive, is characterized by a certain allure or sexy glamour. The periodical presents us with pictures of just such style, and which were presumably addressed to women aspiring to present themselves as “vamp”-type “Ladies”. It goes without saying that this aspect of fashion taste would not have appealed to the “Amalia-type” and would not even have been representative of the new proclivity for “nudity”. The periodical is fully aware of that and its text points to a clear conflict between the styles of these fashion houses and the new tastes of the Greek youthful popular masses – commenting on the pictures it publishes, the text further explains: «… σε πρώτο πλάνο η βαμπ του Υβ Σαίν Λωράν ντυμένη στα μαύρα. Η αντίθεση είναι πολύ μεγάλη» (i.e. while the “vamp” style is in the foreground of the pictures, there is a stark contrast between such style and that of the wishes of youth, as is evident in what is portrayed in the background of these pictures).

This text fully encapsulates what was to constitute the new 1980’s “cultural world order” proclaiming “nudity” in its various manifestations both in the sphere of “free time” and in the world of work, and especially so amongst young “White Collar” females – and this, both in the private and the public sectors. According to the text, the Greek female “girl” («τα γυμνά κορίτσια του ήλιου» = the naked girls of the sun) has come to assert its opposition to the dictates of the dominant fashion houses. While fashion houses wish to impose or even dictate the image of the “vamp”-like “Lady” («επιταγές των δικτατόρων της μόδας»), young people would ignore such dictatorial assertiveness. Rather, they would opt for their freedom and their nudity («γυμνή» = nude; «ελεύθερη» = free). Such rejection of fashion houses on the part of youth («ν’ αντιλέγουν» = to object or be opposed to) is presented as symptomatic of the new social structures («έχουν αλλάξει τελικά οι κοινωνικές δομές» = there has, finally, been a change in social structures). In an important sense, “nudity” and “freedom” would themselves come to dominate as a cultural practice, and would do so given the initiative and resistance of grassroots taste as facilitated by the new social structures (as the text itself puts it). The new cultural practices of Greek youth would instate a relative “nudity” as a value, both in its aesthetic and in ethical dimensions – it would be just such dominant value that would forge a mien bridging “free time” and work time activities.

Naturally, all this does not mean to say that each and every Greek female in each and every job would go about baring her flesh with the advent of the 1980’s. As elsewhere in the Western world, the particular workplace – and also depending on its object of work – would delineate the dress code appropriate to its circumstances. We know that such code could vary from anything relating to the “office smart” dress code, to the “casual”, to the “traditional” (in the sense of residual-conservative), and so on. Yet still, and within such given confines, baring one’s flesh was becoming a “norm” devoid of any feelings of shame or guilt (the concrete individual would also, and in the last instance, be allowed the freedom of choice to determine his/her public image). Perhaps it would be interesting to note here that the pictures portraying the “vamp” style – as published in the 1979 Επίκαιρα periodical mentioned above – would themselves not be devoid of elements of rather provocative “nudity”. Images of “Ladies” dressed in “vamp”-style black dresses clearly reveal the female breast in a manner that outdoes whatever “nudism” as shown in the background of these pictures. That much is in itself symptomatic of the new age.

The concept of “nudity” as advertizing discourse – as also the built-in concept of an aesthetic sensuality – would, we are suggesting, become rampant by the decade of the 1980’s. We may here briefly consider just one giant billboard that towered over the heads of pedestrians in 1980 at Omonia Square. The billboard, depicting a semi-nude, lasciviously braless girl, read as follows:

 

«στον ήλιο…
“φορέστε”
Κόπερτον
Coppertone»
(cf. Γιώργος Ιωάννου, Ομόνοια 1980,
Κέδρος, 2η έκδοση, 1987, p. 71).

 

We note that the word «φορέστε» (suggesting to people what they should wear) has been placed in inverted commas. The implication is straightforward: one should not wear clothes as such to cover up one’s body – rather, young females should simply “wear” Coppertone, the well-known American sunscreen lotion. That would offer one’s body the skin tone of a highly sensuous “copper” look (or a darkish bronze skin tone). Thereby, of course, nudity and sensuality would be presented as the obvious aesthetic virtue.

Since, by now, aesthetic sensuality would be determined by what one would not wear, it would henceforth be skin pigment that would above all decide one’s degree of “sexiness” – and it would be the dark complexion that would approximate “ideal beauty”. That, at least, was what the “Coppertone” advertisement was attempting to communicate to the public. Its concept, however, was not something imposed on an unsuspecting public. In fact, the question of skin pigment amongst females across the Western world has a long and complex history all of its own, something which is well beyond the purposes of this project. We may nonetheless simply quote here a passage from the text referred to above (cf. “Women in advertisements and body image”, op. cit.), which gives us some idea of the gradual mutations in female aesthetics regarding complexion through the years. This is what the passage has to say on the matter:

 

“… in the early to mid-twentieth century, women
were considered beautiful if they had fair skin and
a full, curvy figure. Having tan skin simply meant
that you spent too much time outside, which was
further associated with the working class… As the
years passed by, women gradually became slimmer
and darker skinned”
(cf. op. cit.).

 

The period commencing with the 1980’s, we have argued, was to be characterized by a post-“sexist” ethics. Such new values would come to place an emphasis on what one does not wear («το τι δεν φοράει»), or on the idea that one should not hide one’s body beneath the cover of clothes: the flesh – its complexion as such – would be that which determined the new female image of “beauty”. We have suggested that this constituted a new ethics precisely because such “nudity” would come to be practiced – both in one’s “free time” and (relatively speaking) in one’s work time – in a manner that was absolutely devoid of shame or guilt. We have seen how, still in the 1960’s, Papakonstandinou had tried to contain the problem of “nudism” by placing that phenomenon in its historically explainable dimensions and had thus seen it as something limited to tourists. At the time, the popular masses would themselves view foreign “nudist colonies” as something alien to their own values and therefore as something “shameless”. By the 1980’s, “nudism” was no longer something exclusively practiced by tourists, and it was no longer a practice stigmatized by whatever ignominy. We had, in fact, a real re-evaluation of all values: it would be the female who bared her flesh to the world that would reflect a certain “aesthetic superiority” vis-à-vis whichever female simply had not managed to attain such so-called audacity. Often enough, it would be the female who lacked the “natural qualities” of recognizable “beauty” that would shy away from that so-called audacity. Further, the pressure to meet such aesthetic standards – a pressure mainly stemming from within the ranks of the female population itself – would be such as to “force” even the less “endowed” females to join that almost all-consuming race for “sexiness” (and would do so with often somewhat grotesque results).

It would be the “Amalia-type” as historical subject (and given the objective socio-cultural circumstances in which she had matured) that would veritably – though not fully consciously – “mother” such new ethical values. And yet such “mother” would not be able to well digest the new order of things that had arisen by the mid 1980’s. One wonders how that “Amalia-type” would have honestly reacted to an article published in a daily newspaper in 1986 and which read as follows:

 

«Υπεύθυνη γι’ αυτό το γυμνό στιγμιότυπο
είναι σίγουρα η ζέστη που μας έζωσε το
Σαββατοκύριακο. Όμως φαίνεται ότι οι δύο…
γυμνίστριες αλλοδαπές ή δικές μας δεν
έδειξαν να ενοχλούνται ιδιαίτερα από το
φακό…»
(cf. Ελεύθερος Τύπος, 11.8.1986, p. 12, my emph.).

 

This quote is part of a caption that accompanied a picture portraying females walking along the beach: their bare breasts and private parts are fully exposed. We note that the writer of the caption cannot tell whether these nudists are foreigners or “ours” («ή δικές μας»). We further note that the nude females are fully devoid of whatever feeling of shame («δεν έδειξαν να ενοχλούνται» = did not seem to be bothered by the camera).

 

***

 

The “Amalia-type”, as that generic type that had laid the foundations for a new ethics that would place an emphasis on both feminine sexuality and on a new work ethos, has been well-recorded by what has been dubbed as the “second generation” of Greek post-war poets (these were born in the 1930’s and early 1940’s – Amalia Eleftheriadou herself, we should remember, was born in 1948). One such “second generation” writer that perhaps best reflects the “lifeworld” of an “Amalia-type” is the poetess Kiki Dimoula. We shall close this section on the question of work vis-à-vis “eros” by making a number of rough observations regarding the work of Dimoula and what this could tell us about the “Amalia-type”:

 

  1. Dimoula, born in 1931, would work as a “Clerk” from 1949 to 1973 (she would therefore be working as a “Clerk” for 25 years). Although seventeen years older than Amalia Eleftheriadou, Dimoula’s life span generally, as also her work span in particular, would more or less overlap with that of Amalia’s. Interestingly, both would commence their working lives more or less at the same age (round about the age of eighteen). Of course, there would nonetheless be a number of important differences as regards their respective work experience. Let us simply note here that Dimoula would work as a “Clerk” for The Bank of Greece, it being the central bank of the country. We therefore need to keep in mind that Dimoula, in contrast to Amalia Eleftheriadou, had been a “Clerk” in the more privileged public sector. Yet still, both Dimoula and Eleftheriadou belonged to that general category of “female Clerk” which, for the period under discussion, had fallen victim to what we have elsewhere described as the “sexual division of labour” (cf. our relative set of papers on this issue).
  2. What Dimoula has to say with respect to her work as a “Clerk” (cf., inter alia, her interview in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOEWvuU) certainly verifies much of what we have been arguing in this section examining the relationship between “eros” and work.
  3. Similarly, what Dimoula has to say with respect to “eros” again verifies much of what we have been arguing above. But apart from what she has been saying in the various interviews that she has given, her specific understanding of “eros” is also clearly evident in her poetry as such.
  4. With respect to work, Dimoula has stated that, throughout her 25-year work experience as a “Clerk”, she had always been a “protesting” employee, and had been especially so when a young “Clerk”.
  5. On the other hand, she has declared that her form of dissent was not so much caused by (or aimed at) her job or employer as such, as it was caused by the very fact of simply being young.
  6. In fact, and fully reinforcing what we have been arguing all along, Dimoula has stated that her work as a “Clerk” had constituted the most “creative” period of her life.
  7. She has further explained that such “creativity” in the course of her working life may also be put down to the fact of her youth at the time.
  8. We may therefore imagine a young working Kiki Dimoula as someone who was both a dissenting female youth but also, and at the same time, as someone who lived her working life – and therefore her life generally – “creatively”. A careful reading of her poetry written in the 1950’s records much of what she has been saying in interviews given in later years – for instance, in 1958, she would confirm her then youthful dissent as follows: «Νεότερη… κατασκεύαζα κυρίως διαμαρτυρίες». At the same time, she would be celebrating herself as the “creative ego” – «εγώ, ο λυρικός μικρός πλανήτης» (cf. Kiki Dimoula, Ποιήματα, Ίκαρος, 2007, op. cit., pp. 49; 51).
  9. We should note at this point the emphasis she places on the question of youth, and which further verifies the relative primacy of youthful age – and of the “creativity” of such age even in the sphere of work – as a socio-cultural element that was characteristic of the period.
  10. But perhaps much more importantly, Dimoula places a central emphasis on the issue of “eros” and/or that of “love”. She has done this throughout her writings as also in her interviews. In fact, one may say that Dimoula has been a poetess whose work has tried to “analyze” the issue of “eros” and of “love” – and of the relationship pertaining between them – in a manner that reflected the existential contradictions of her milieu (in some sense, one could hold that Dimoula constitutes a poetess-“philosopher” critically examining the experience of “eros” and/or “love”). Such existential themes were, in any case, to concern much of the work of the “second generation” post-war poets to which Dimoula belonged. All this certainly verifies the manner in which we have tried to approach the socio-cultural milieu of the 1960’s-1970’s and the aftereffects of such period.
  11. The work and thought of Dimoula has not only focused on youth and “eros”. It is as important to note that it has been the Greek female that has much concerned her, not to say fully consumed her. There is an important sense in which Dimoula actually wrote of and for the “Amalia-type”. It would be just such “type” – or at least the immediate offspring of such “type” – that would constitute the vast majority of Dimoula’s readers (there was, therefore, a reciprocity that defined the relationship between the poetess and the “Amalia-type” or the post-“Amalia-type” – this reciprocity was to take on such proportions as to yield Dimoula a near-cult following).

 

We have commenced this paper by pointing to the stark contrast that Bataille would draw between the world of work and the world of “eros”, “dream”, and so forth. Without wishing to enter into a discussion of the relationship between work and “eros” in the writings of Kiki Dimoula (the relationship can get rather complex and its analysis would constitute a thesis in itself for students of, inter alia, Greek literature), we may here simply present one particular poem which addresses itself to such issue. Written by Dimoula in the early 1960’s (cf. Ποιήματα, op. cit., pp. 105-106), the poem is aptly entitled «Εφτά εργάσιμες μελαγχολίες» (freely translated: “Seven work-hour melancholies”), and it attempts to delve into the relationship between the world of work and that of “eros” by merging an essentially “work discourse” with a discourse of “intoxication”, “dream”, “poeticization” and “love”. In a sense, this poem wishes to demonstrate just how a “Clerk”, while on the job and hour by hour, can engage in “dreams” (or in “dreams” suggesting “eros”). The point is that a “Clerk” can actually do that while she is at work. This poem, important at least from the point of view of sociology, reads as follows:

 

«Βάσει “των νόμων και περιορισμών”
του υπ’ αριθ. τάδε πεπρωμένου…

Οκτώ η ώρα το πρωί,
έγγραφα, αντίγραφα εις τριπλούν
και εις μάτιν.

Δέκα η ώρα το πρωί
ο ήλιος στο παράθυρο

“υπό τους όρους και λοιπά”,
τους καίει στην περιέργειά του
και στην απροσεξία του
… “κατ’ αύξοντ’ αριθμόν” οι τέφρες.

Ένδεκα η ώρα το πρωί,
ο ήλιος αλλάζει περιέργεια
και παράθυρο,
και τροποποιούνται συνεχώς
“τα ισχύοντα μέχρι της τάδε”
… τι φόρτος παρελθόντων!

Δώδεκα η ώρα,
επίφοβη ώρα,
τα αγαπηθέντα “εκκρεμούν”,
και λέω
τώρα θα μεθύσει αυτός ο νόμος
και θα γίνει στίχος,
τώρα θα επέλθει το πρόσωπό σου
… “κατά τα κεκανονισμένα” πάντοτε.

Μιάμιση η ώρα,
θαύματα δεν γίνονται πια,
μόνο αντίγραφα πολλά της προσδοκίας μας
και “υπό ειδοποίησίν μας”
… συχνά γινόμαστε αφηρημένοι…
“το βραδύτερον εντός δέκα ημερών από σήμερον”
… δαπάναις του μέλλοντός μας
και “κατά παρέκκλισιν” των ονείρων μας.

Δυόμιση η ώρα,
μετά μεσημβρίαν…
Βάσει του υπ’ αριθμ. τάδε πεπρωμένου
τα πρωινά μας
“αποσβέσαμε”…»

 

We can see here that Dimoula – at this stage as a representative poetess of the 1960’s and 1970’s – wishes to unite the experience of work with that of “eros”. But she does this in her capacity as a “protesting” employee – we can sense this knowing full well that she is in fact describing her “work-hour melancholies”. It is exactly within the “melancholically” structured experience of work, as expressed by her “work discourse”, that Dimoula can at the same time assert her creativity, indulge in daydreaming and yearn for “eros”. The implication is that Dimoula of course never romanticized the world of work as such – in fact, when asked to describe her 25-year desk job many years later, Dimoula would frankly answer, “It was prison” (cf. The New York Times, 11.1.2013 – www.nytimes.com). But it was within such “prison” (reminiscent of Amalia Eleftheriadou’s own experience of “bureaucratic despotism” at the A&M Flour Mill Company) that Dimoula would nonetheless assert herself as a female awaiting or yearning for the experience of “eros”. In a much later poem, written in 1994 (and which we have already quoted above), she would write:

 

«Φυσικά και ονειρεύομαι.
Ζει κανείς μόνο μ’ ένα ξερό μισθό;»
(cf., op. cit., p. 420).

 

We are suggesting that the world of work and that of “eros” would somehow combine and interact right within the confines of a “prison”, at least with respect to the period of the 1960’s and 1970’s in Greece. We know, further, that both the material conditions of work and the socio-cultural practices of “eros” at the time were traversing a transitional, embryonic period characterized by what may be described as a relative «στέρησης» (“deprivation”). This term, interestingly, has been used by Anestis Evaggelou to describe the post-war period in his introduction to his anthology of “second generation” poets – cf. Α. Ευαγγέλου & Γ. Αράγης, Δεύτερη μεταπολεμική ποιητική γενιά (1950-2012) – Ανθολογία, Gutenberg, 2017, p. 16. Both the reality of work as a “prison” and the “deprivations” pertaining to the socio-cultural practices of “eros” would yield what Dimoula has called the “protesting” type. We may therefore go on to assume that the “Amalia-type” was in fact that “type” of social agent that may be described as the “protesting” female White-Collar employee of the post-war period.

But, then, in what specific manner was the “Amalia-type” in fact “protesting”? This constitutes a vital question if one is to attain a lucid understanding of the “Amalia-type” as a historical subject, and which would also tell us much as to the manner in which such “type” would be responding to both the sirens of so-called “consumerism” and to the advertizing discourse that would express this. We may say that the “Amalia-type” had not been “protesting” in a manner that has been presented to us by mainstream historiography, which of course has been a myth-infatuated history of the Greek “Left”. No, the “Amalia-type” would not have taken to the streets en masse for whatever “socialist dream” and she would not be rejecting “consumerism” as an alienating process imposed on her by the so-called “mechanisms” of capitalism. Throughout, we have emphasized this reality with respect to the vast majority of the Greek popular masses. And yet, all this is not to deny that the “Amalia-type” was, by and large, a “protesting subject”. It is, again, Dimoula that presents us with an understanding of “protest” that is fully representative of the “Amalia-type”. She does this in a very well-known and highly revealing poem written in 1981 (cf. Ποιήματα, op. cit., pp. 296-298) and entitled «Φωνή σε αδειόδρομους» (freely translated: “A voice along empty streets”). Parts of this poem read as follows:

 

«Είναι η φωνή μου άγνωστη
στα μεγάλα του πλανήτη μας δράματα…
Και όλα αυτά κυβερνημένα
απ’ το παμπάλαιο, πανίσχυρο Έτσι.

Δεν είναι η φωνή μου ακουστή
στα φριχτά του πλανήτη μας δράματα.

Είναι η φωνή μου χαμηλή κι είναι παράμερη
Με τα καθημερινά και τα μικρά περιχύνεται
και αυτοπυρπολείται κάθε μέρα.

Όχι, δεν καθρεφτίζεται η φωνή μου
στα μαύρα δεινά.
Σε ηχηρά διαβήματα
μέρος δεν παίρνει, δεν συν-κραυγάζει
να γίνουν λόφοι τα βουνά.
αλλιώς βουνά οι λόφοι.
Κάθεται χαμηλή σαν λόφος.

Όχι, δεν είναι η φωνή μου
ελευθερία ή θάνατος.

Είναι η φωνή μου ένας αθόρυβος περίπατος

σε βροχερούς αδειόδρομους…»
(my emph., throughout).

 

It would be rather foolish to assume that any one poet could actually “represent” a “generation” of civil society (and, in any case, whatever civil society is never a homogeneous whole, being socially stratified). It would be as foolish to assume that any one poem carries “objective” facts reflective of a socio-cultural conjuncture – in a sense, poems only “carry” themselves and are almost fully open to subjective interpretation. And yet, there are themes recurring in this Dimoula poem which may be said to constitute common experiences or common mindsets vis-à-vis those of the “Amalia-type” qua “protesting subject” – we have chosen to emphasize such elements within this poem and may comment on these as follows:

 

  1. The “Amalia-type” did have a “voice” of her own, but such “voice” remained “unknown” («φωνή… άγνωστη»). The Greek mass media at the time would rather focus on party political conflicts and on various “celebrities” (be these political or other personages). It would be just such manufactured mainstream “truths” that the so-called cultural establishment – dominated by various currents of the “Left” especially following the fall of the Military Dictatorship – would deliberately choose to “select” in its writing of Greek history. We had, as we shall further see below, a wholesale fabrication of history that would stifle the voice of that “unknown” agent, the “Amalia-type”. Such “unknown” voice had to be ignored because it could not be easily streamlined in terms of the stereotypes of “Left” or “Right” dominant narratives.
  2. Thus, and as a confirmation of what has been said above, the voice of the “Amalia-type” was neither heard, listened to or accepted («Δεν είναι η φωνή μου ακουστή») by the mainstream cultural establishment (bar advertizing companies that had no choice but do so).
  3. As regards social issues, the voice of the “Amalia-type” was low-key («χαμηλή»). This should be contrasted to the highly vocal “Left-wingers” of the early 1960’s.
  4. Precisely because the organized mass demonstrations of the “Left” were highly vocal, the voice of the “Amalia-type” was being consistently drowned – as such, the popular sentiments of the “Amalia-type” were peripheralized (Dimoula aptly refers to such voice as «παράμερη», which may be freely translated as “peripheral”).
  5. If the “Amalia-type” were to protest, such “type” would do so around issues that were related to the “everyday” and the “small” – it was precisely these types of issues that she truly cared for and experienced («Με τα καθημερινά και τα μικρά»). While the “Amalia-type” was certainly aware of the major issues of the day (such as, for instance, the threat of nuclear war, etc.), she would consider such issues as “abstract” possibilities lying outside of her immediate experience.
  6. As such, the “Amalia-type” would adopt a non-participative stance when it came to the “grand issues” that would usually mobilize the organized “Left” («Σε ηχηρά διαβήματα… μέρος δεν παίρνει», writes Dimoula). In free translation, the phrase «ηχηρά διαβήματα» suggests making one’s demands heard in public – it points to practices adopted by political parties and other related political organizations. Such collective action would not have appealed to the essentially individualistic mindset of the “Amalia-type”. Interestingly, in his attempt to describe the mindset of the “second generation” poets, Evaggelou (op. cit., p. 27) suggests that the vast majority of such people would not participate in the so-called “major events” of Greek history («σχεδόν καμιά συμμετοχή στο ιστορικό γίγνεσθαι, σχεδόν καμιά δράση»). This generation, Evaggelou continues, acted in the historical periphery («Γενιά ουσιαστικά στο περιθώριο της ιστορίας»). Of course, we should point out here that, for us, there is no need to differentiate between “grand events” and “minor” or “peripheral events” – in fact, one may argue that the sheer act of working as a “Clerk”, or the sheer act of falling in love, etc., are actions that constitute a specific socio-cultural milieu to the extent that they take on particular historical forms. As such, these are actions that constitute a de facto history. Therein, the “Amalia-type” certainly did “participate”, and did so as a primary agent of history.
  7.  The Dimoula poem under consideration is highly consistent in its understanding of the “Amalia-type” and as to how such “type” chooses to “protest”. Adopting, as we have seen, a non-participative stance, the “Amalia-type” also refuses to “scream” her demands in unison with others. Dimoula asserts: «δεν συν-κραυγάζει» (the prefix «συν» suggesting “together with”; the word «κραυγάζει» suggesting crying out or complaining loudly). The implication is lucid: the “Amalia-type” would not participate in mass marches and collective sloganeering.
  8. Since the mindset of the “Amalia-type” would consistently focus on the “everyday” and the “small”, and as she would not participate in collective marches voicing demands over “grand issues”, this “type” was characterized by the absence of whatever fanaticism, or of whatever utopian millenarianism/messianism so characteristic of the “Left” especially at that time. Unless the “Amalia-type” was religiously inclined (something which could apply to a certain percentage of youngsters – cf. our paper on Aikaterini D., Chemist at the A&M Company Laboratory), such “type” would be devoid of any grand worldviews. Dimoula expresses this very succinctly in the poem under discussion – as she puts it: «Όχι, δεν είναι η φωνή μου… ελευθερία ή θάνατος». This verse line (which may be freely translated as follows: “No, my voice is not all about freedom or death”), fully verifies the point we are making here.
  9. Just before closing, the poem underlines the overall perspective of the “Amalia-type” which it so accurately expresses – Dimoula writes: «Είναι η φωνή μου ένας αθόρυβος περίπατος… σε… αδειόδρομους». Freely translated, these verse lines suggest that the voice of the “Amalia-type” is a silent walk (or stroll) along empty streets – we note the absence of whatever militant mass march or demonstration; we note that, for the “Amalia-type”, the streets are in fact empty.

 

Generally speaking, at least some of the work of Kiki Dimoula (as also that of some of the “second generation” poets – though definitely not all of these) has captured the quiet, non-participative, unknown voice of the “Amalia-type” – a mindset, we have been suggesting, that was well beyond whatever party political sloganeering. The “everyday” or “small” concerns of the “Amalia-type” have not been recorded in history in any serious manner and have not been analyzed objectively from some systematic sociological perspective. In fact, the dominant cultural-ideological establishment (of the Liberal-Left paradigm) has deliberately stifled the history of the “Amalia-type”, even to the point of fabricating her “alienation”, and thereby even to the point of making her vanish as a historical subject. This is no exaggeration. The exact same approach has been applied to the work and presence of the “second generation” poets themselves referred to above. We note that Evaggelou (op. cit., p. 18), in the prologue to his anthology of the “second generation” poets, writes:

 

«… αν επιχειρούσε κανείς να καταγράψει τις
περιπτώσεις που η κατεστημένη κριτική (που
ασκήθηκε κυρίως όλα αυτά τα χρόνια, όπως είναι
γνωστό, από εκπροσώπους της προηγούμενης και
της επόμενης γενιάς, στα μέσα μαζικής ενημέρωσης,
σε συνέδρια, συμπόσια, κλπ.) εσίγησε περίεργα
και εξακολουθητικά ή υποβάθμισε ανεξήγητα, με
συνοπτικές αναφορές, σημαντικότατα βιβλία των
ποιητών της γενιάς αυτής, θα έπρεπε να γράψει μια
ιδιαίτερη, πολυσέλιδη μελέτη…»

 

Evaggelou has here come up with an extremely heavy allegation, and which concerns the very history of modern Greek historiography in general. As he sees it, the intellectuals of the “establishment” («η κατεστημένη κριτική» = establishment literary critique), operating through the mass media and other public forums, had decided to silence («εσίγησε») or at least to underrate («υποβάθμισε») – and did so continuously («εξακολουθητικά») and therefore systematically – the work of such “second generation” poets. Evaggelou finds such suppression rather strange («περίεργα»), and yet we know why this had to necessarily happen (the necessity of it is evident in the fact that such suppression was persistent). It was precisely the apparently “apolitical”, non-participative stance of such generation of intellectuals – and which would of course also apply to the “Amalia-type”, though not exactly for the same reasons – that had to be peripheralized, if not silenced. Especially with respect to the cultural establishment of the post-Military Dictatorship period (what Evaggelou calls the «επόμενη γενιά» – viz. that which followed the “second generation” by the 1970’s), it was the conventional wisdom of the day that if one was not politically aligned or “progressive”, one was out of fashion, if not “reactionary”.

We observe here that the Greek cultural establishment had suppressed the very important books («σημαντικότατα βιβλία») of a variety of poets. For reasons that one may say were similar – though not necessarily exactly the same – that same cultural establishment had either ignored or distorted the history of the “Amalia-type. It would do so by literally abnegating that “type’s” right as a historical subject, and it would annihilate its historical hypostasis by very simply applying to it the stigma of “false consciousness” (the latter being that most inglorious of Marxist “sociological” concepts used to stigmatize whoever failed to align himself/herself with the “mission” of the working class). Given such “false consciousness”, the “Amalia-type” was purportedly a shamelessly submissive individual in the face of her boss and thus her work experience was the “world of profanity” (Bataille); further, and again given such “false consciousness”, that “type’s” erotic practices were cheap and debased (Bataille). That being the case, the history of the “Amalia-type” had to be silenced or underrated. Alternatively, the history of Greek working people as a whole had to be fabricated – interestingly, Evaggelou himself speaks of historical fabrication with respect to Greek literary history. He writes:

 

«… η ζημιά που γινόταν – η πλαστογράφηση της
λογοτεχνικής μας ιστορίας, με την καταδίκη μιας
ολόκληρης γενιάς ποιητών στη σιωπή και την
αφάνεια – έβλεπα πια ότι ήταν τόσο μεγάλη και
τόσο απτή, ώστε άξιζε τον κόπο να προσπαθήσει
κανείς να την εξουδετερώσει ή έστω να περιορίσει
την έκτασή της…»
(ibid., p. 24).

 

Evaggelou, observing such fabrication or falsification of literary history («πλαστογράφηση»), is prepared to nullify («εξουδετερώσει») the damage caused or at least contain («περιορίσει») the extent of such damage. He would undertake such project by compiling his Ανθολογία. Our own project, of course, has not been to re-write the history of the “Amalia-type” but to rather re-examine her case from the point of view of historical sociology and, here, with a special focus on the work-“eros” interface as expressed in advertizing discourse. Such re-examination has allowed us to pinpoint exactly which elements of the “Amalia-type” have been suppressed by the Liberal-Left intellectual establishment – and it was precisely such suppressed elements that some of the work of Kiki Dimoula has brought to light. Generally speaking, her work has focused on elements of the Greek female which we too have identified (in this paper, as elsewhere) and which may be summarized as follows:

 

  1. A “celebration” – albeit at times deeply satirical and always as deeply critical – of the quotidian element in history, it being the history of the “Amalia-type”;
  2. A similar type of “celebration” of the female in love, the working female, the housewife at home or as consumer;
  3. Thus, we see the poetess often examining the advertizing discourse of the day;
  4. Throughout her work and in all of her interviews we see a deep pessimism secreting an even deeper optimism with respect to a quotidian existence composed of work, “play” and “eros”.

 

To understand both the “Amalia-type” and her interaction with advertizing discourse related to the work-“eros” interface, one needs to interpret the quotidian element of life as the very material of real history. This suggests that the private life of the “Amalia-type” is the dominant form of the historical process in the post-war period of the Western world. Thus, when Hobsbawm – in his autobiography – comes to write of the “historical turning point” in his own life as a citizen and in that of his peers generally, he has no choice but turn to the private life of the individual in the 1960’s. We consider this approach to history – the focus on the private, quotidian element – as the quintessential nexus constituting the “lifeworld” of the period commencing in the 1960’s. This is how Hobsbawm puts it:

 

«… η ιδιωτική ζωή συνιστά μέρος ευρύτερων
ιστορικών περιστάσεων. Οι πλέον σημαντικές
από αυτές ήταν η απρόσμενα καλή εξέλιξη των
γεγονότων της εποχής. Βέβαια η γενιά μου αντιλήφθηκε
βαθμιαία αυτή την εξέλιξη, χωρίς να την
πολυσυνειδητοποιεί, και ειδικά οι σοσιαλιστές που
ήταν ανέτοιμοι στο να υποδεχτούν την εποχή του
εντυπωσιακού καπιταλιστικού θριάμβου. Στις αρχές
όμως της δεκαετίας του ’60 αυτός έγινε αντιληπτός
σε όλους…»
(cf. Eric Hobsbawm, Συναρπαστικά χρόνια – μια ζωή στον
20ο αιώνα, Θεμέλιο, 2010, p. 267).

 

For Hobsbawm, it was a set of particular historical circumstances that were to put the private individual in the forefront of history. As a sincere historian, Hobsbawm tells us that the socialists of his time had difficulty in admitting the reality of such circumstances in the 1960’s. What was such new reality? Quite simply, people would gradually come to realize that capitalism had “triumphed” and it had done so all too “impressively” («εντυπωσιακού καπιταλιστικού θριάμβου»). It was because of such “triumph” that the private individual would be able to assert his dominance as a historical subject. Henceforth, the individual – and especially the young individual – was able to exploit the new material conditions of the epoch and to pick and choose the manner in which he/she would make use of his/her free time (cf. Hobsbawm, ibid., pp. 267-269).

Having said this, we may end this paper on the work-“eros” interface by somehow stretching its central thesis to its extremes, and which would allow us to make the following radical observation as regards the post-“Amalia-type”: on the one hand, in the public sphere of work, the individual would be able to assert his “private” hypostasis (especially as a successful, independent “careerist”); on the other hand, in the private sphere of “eros”, the individual would be able to assert his “public” hypostasis (the erotic dimension would no longer be enacted “in the shadows” – as Dimoula has so often observed in discussing the 1960’s). Stretched even further, we may end here with an even more radical postulate: from a distance, the period of the 1960’s would yield a post-“Amalian-type” epoch wherein the public would become private and the private would become public. There just might be a grain of truth in such rather pompous observation. Advertizing discourse of the period could allude to such utopia.

 

APPENDIX

 

● As regards the issue of “erotic relationships” and how these could be forged within a factory shop floor in 1950’s Greece, cf. the very representative – albeit rather obscure – short story by Alekos Draganis, “Νίκη”, in Διηγήματα εργατών, Βιβλιοθήκη Εργατικής Εστίας, Athens, 1953, pp. 1-12.
● As regards the issue of the sexual revolution in Greece, and with special reference to brothels and schoolgirl prostitution in the 1950’s-1960’s period, cf. Giannis Kairofilas, Θυμήσου εκείνα τα χρόνια, Εκδόσεις Φιλιππότη, Athens, 2009, pp. 176-193.

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