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Oh Bondage, Up yours!


Poly Styrene - DAYGLO

‘Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard

But I say: Oh Bondage up yours! 🧨

1234’


At London Feminista, we’re starting the year the way we mean to shape it - with a massive patriarchy smashing injection (it’s vaccine season after all!) and none other than punk legend Poly Styrene - in this month’s Black her_story*.


Born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said in leafy Bromley, South London, to a Somali father and a British mother and raised in Brixton, to the world she is known as Poly Styrene – the stage name she adopted in 1976. She had been watching the Sex Pistols perform on Hastings Pier on her 18th birthday when she decided to form X-Ray Spex becoming the first Black woman to head a punk band.


She stood out from the pack in a male dominated scene, not only because of her alternative dayglo wardrobe and kick-ass attitude, but as a sharp, pioneering lyricist tackling important subjects, such as gender norms and feminism, climate change, junk food addiction and consumerism.


The single Germ Free Adolescents - also the name of the only X-Ray Specs album released in 1978 - is particularly evocative in 2021:


I know you're antiseptic Your deodorant smells nice I'd like to get to know you But you're deep frozen like the ice He's a germ free adolescent Cleanliness is her obsession Cleans her teeth ten times a day Scrub away scrub away scrub away The S. Are. Way.... You may get to touch her If your gloves are sterilised Rinse your mouth with listerine Blow disinfectant in her eyes Her phobia is infection She needs one to survive It's her built-in protection Without fear she'd give up and die


She took the early London punk scene by storm with her, energetic presence, trademark dental braces and fearless brand feminism which challenged the convention of the typically submissive, pretty female rock star, paving the way for many of her contemporaries - a true iconoclast.


After X-Ray Specs split, she recorded Translucence - a more jazzy solo album - before retreating from the music business to join the Hare Krishna. She released a final album, Generation Indigo, not long before her death from breast cancer, in 2011 - at only 53.


💥 Fans of Poly Styrene will be delighted to hear that documentary film Poly Styrene: I am a cliché by her daughter, Celeste Bell, will be shown at the Glasgow Film Festival next month. And if you don't know her yet - your time is now! 💥


💥 The film will be screened between 27 Feb. and 02 March and pre-order tickets today. 💥



*Black her_stories monthly is aregular London Feminista feature which seeks to move beyond the narrow timespan of Black History Month to put racialised and minoritised people from Black, Asian, Ethnic Minorities or Indigenous backgrounds front and centre of feminist writing and storytelling. London Feminista is an intersectional feminist blog and shared space – a space for recognition, celebration and appreciation of racialised, minoritised and marginalised womxn – and feminist brothers - in our everyday lives.

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