Screen Sirens Halloween Edition!

 Cornelia van Gorder
of The Bat (1959)

"I have a gun, and I know how to use it!" 

Just in time for Halloween, a kick-ass lady who battles an evil serial killer! (Spoiler alert, she really does know how to use that gun). In the Vincent Price classic, screen legend Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched anyone?) plays a crime novelist named Cornelia van Gorder who is renting out an isolated house called the Oaks. The Oaks was previously the scene of a bunch of violent murders committed by the mysterious "Bat". After a million dollars are embezzled and hidden in the Oaks, the occupants of the house are the target of attacks from both the Bat and others who know about the secret room where the money may be hidden.

Cornelia is one tough beezy in this campy film. She is childless, husband-less, and utterly self-confident. She makes friends easily, has an enormously successful career writing books, and is witty to boot. She scoffs when her assistant, Lizzie, tells her about the creepy noises she's been hearing. Even when her entire staff heads for the hills in fear, Cornelia remains unflappable. She conducts a phone call to the police in an enviably calm manner after the Bat claws his way into the house, and upon hearing from Lizzie that "his specialty seems to be killing women, my goodness, two of them in one night, all his victims died the same way, like their throats had been ripped open with steel claws," she replies, "That's charming, I'll have to try it in a book sometime." Even after she is locked in an cave-like room that is quickly losing oxygen, she keeps her shit together and manages to yell loudly enough to get Lizzie's attention.

This isn't to say that The Bat is a feminist's fantasy. All the policemen, doctors, and bankers are men. The supporting women gossip, take holidays, and appear as arm candy. The men travel, conduct business, shoot the guns, and go on hunting trips. One of the other stronger female characters in the movie is Dail (Elaine Edwards). After she and another house guest hear the Bat overhead, she insists on trying to capture him even as it puts her in great danger. That's good and fine, but it only comes after she spouts "Think of what it could mean to Vick!" (her recently incarcerated husband accused of pinching the million).

However, whatever the men have to add to the movie paled in comparison to Cornelia's immortal lines and impossibly businesslike demeanor in killing the killer. In the climax scene, the Bat has lit the garage on fire and plans on breaking into the secret room while the women run to put out the fire. Cornelia insists that they ignore the diversion and remain in the room so that they can ambush the nocturnal menace. "He'll kill again if we get in his way... we've got to be as clever as he is!" she cries. Cornelia van Gorder is most certainly that.

Ps: Happy Halloween, rebel girls!

Rebels Across History

Diana di Prima

The Beat movement of the late 1950s/early '60s was a time of social upheaval, during which a cast of writers and poets took drugs, talked philosophy, and immortalized each other in their own books. Unfortunately the radicalism of the time extended mostly to men. The Beat women were either wives of gay men or minor characters struggling to get their writings published while the men in the circle enjoyed great success with their works. One glaring exception is that of Diana di Prima.

Born in 1934 to Italian parents with an anarchist ancestry,  di Prima began writing at an early age, and by 14 was committed to becoming a poet. She dropped out of Swarthmore College in Brooklyn, and moved to Manhattan where she became a fixture on the Beat scene. Her first book of poetry was published when she was eighteen, called This Kind of Bird Flies Backward. She supported herself with nude modeling jobs. In 1961, she began editing the literary newsletter, The Floating Bear with the father of one of her children, LeRoi Jones (pictured below), and wrote some of the newsletters's most memorable poems. During this time she co-founded the New York Poets Theatre, and founded the Poets Press, which published the work of many new writers of the period.

di Prima bore several children through this time, all of different paternity. She considered the archetype of the father as an anachronistic myth. As always, she straddled the line between masculine and feminine. She wore non-sexual men's shirts and Levis and sported a red cropped haircut, yet lived a sexually promiscuous lifestyle, even penning the cult classic, Memoirs of a Beatnik. Mostly fictional, the book contains an stunning number of orgy scenes.

As the Beat's popularity dwindled, diPrima moved on to participate in Timothy Leary’s psychedelic community at Millbrook in upstate New York. She then settled in San Fransisco, where she studied Eastern philosophy and religion, taught writing classes, and wrote the remainder of her 43 published works.

Diana di Prima managed to do what few could in the Beat era. She balanced family with independence, poetry with self-indulgence. Of the many casualties of the Beats, she has also been able to keep it together and stay alive (See Jackson Pollock, Lenny Bruce, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac who all died young and wasted). All as a woman and a minority, in a movement that was made up of white men and was largely homosexual. Wrote fellow Beatnik poet, Allen Ginsberg, "[di Prima was] a great woman poet in second half of American century, she broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity."


Rebel Pic of the Day

A "Rosie the Riveter" working during World War II.

5 Ways To Become a Rebel Girl

What is a Rebel Girl? How can you become one? Read:

1. Support a Cause:
Rebel Girls are aware of what is going on in the world. They help whenever they can, however they can. Rebel Girls are active at all times, whether it be something as little as picking up litter when walking to the bus, or as hardcore as holding fundraiser to raise money for Darfur. These girls demand to be heard, because they know their voices matter regardless of gender, race, or age. They know that change can be made through them-- that by taking action, they are simultaneously helping their cause and
inspiring others.

2. Know Your Shit
Read, research, keep your eyes open. Read Laura Kipnis, read Maria Raha, read Ms. Magazine, read Bitch. Know what is going on right now regarding feminism. If you're just realizing your own potential for rebellion, this is the best place to start. You can't fight for a cause if you don't know how to back yourself up.

3. Dare To Be Different

"Rebel" comes with a slew of connotations, be they good, bad, or James Dean. But I use it in this blog to describe what I see when I look at Amanda Palmer, MIA, Katharine Hepburn, etc. I see women who are unique and unafraid. I see women who take all that is different about themselves, and exploit the hell out of it. These people are not wallflowers. These girls won't lose their V card because their best friends have all done it. These chicks are willing to shop alone, to cut their hair short, to wear something controversial even if everyone might not like it. Accept your quirks. Accept that some people won't "get" you. Because it's so so so much better to be acting the way you want to than to be watering yourself down in fear of being teased.

4. Know Your History
Get familiar with women's history. Just like Knowing Your Shit, but this one is harder. I suggest hitting the library, or a used book store, or buying this secondhand.  Women have had to fight to be heard in the history books. By researching their plight, you are doing them an honor. It's also good to have so that you can put current issues into perspective. Living in developed nations where required reading pretty much boils down to Of Mice and Men and People, it's easy to forget how much women have endured throughout history, and how much they have overcome.

5. Write About It, Sing About It, Illustrate It
No, we're not all artistically gifted, but we are all good at something. Take Kate Bingaman-Burt who started her website Obsessive Consumption as a daily blog of drawings. She draws nearly everything she buys, as a statement and examination of consumerism. This is what I want. I want every girl out there to blog about something, to write her own songs, to write a book, to make a movie, to do something that she can give to the world. Why are you here? Make yourself matter. Rebel Girls write for magazines, they use their natural charm to give speeches on something they believe in, they teach children, they design reusable coffee sleeves... you get my point. Engage yourself in the world. Since the beginning of the time, women have been thought of as "barren minds and fruitful wombs". Prove those motherfuckers wrong.

Photos: personal, Bust, personal, Siouxsie Sioux, and Obsessive Consumption.