Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class

Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class
Her hair is cut into that perfect slant
– An innovation circa ‘64 by Vidal Sassoon.
She’s wearing C&A’s best effort at Quant
Ending just below the knicker-line, daisy-strewn.
Keeping herself in tights could blow her grant
Entirely, so each precious pair is soon
Spattered with nail-varnish dots that stop each run.
She’s a girl, eighteen – just wants to have fun.

She’s not 'a chick'. Not yet. Besides, by then
She’ll find the term 'offensive'. 'Dollybird', to quote
Her favourite mags, is what she aspires to when
Her head’s still full of Honey and Petticoat.
It’s almost the last year that, quite this blithely, men
Up ladders or on building sites wolf-whistle to note
The approval they’re sure she will appreciate.
Why not? She did it for their benefit, looks great.

Nor does she object. Wouldn’t think she has the right.
Though when that lech of a lecturer comments on her tits
To a male classmate, openly, she might
Feel – quick as a run in nylon – that it’s
Not what ought to happen, is not polite,
She’ll burn, but smile, have no word that fits
The insult, can’t subject it to language’s prism.
In sixty-six there’s plenty sex, but not 'sexism'.

Soon: The Female Eunuch and enough
Will be enough. Thanks to newfound feminism and Greer,
Women’ll have the words for all this stuff,
What already rankles, but confuses her, will seem clear
And she’ll (consciously) be no one’s 'bit of fluff'
Or 'skirt' or 'crumpet'. She’ll know the rule is 'gay' not 'queer',
'Ms' not 'Miss' or 'Mrs' – she’ll happily obey it
And, sure as the Pill in her pocket, that’s how she’ll say it.

This photo’s saying nothing, is black and white, opaque.
A frozen moment, not a memory.
The boyfriend with the Pentax took it for the sake
Of taking it, a shot among many others, randomly,
To see how it would develop. Didn’t imagine it’d make
An image so typical it’d capture time so perfectly.
How does she feel? Hey, girl, did it feel strange
To be waiting for the a-changing times to change?
Liz Lochhead

From Jubilee Lines - 60 Poets for 60 Years (Faber), edited by Carol Ann Duffy. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.

Liz Lochhead

Appointed Scots Makar – the National Poet for Scotland – from 2011-16, Liz Lochhead is both transgressive and popular; as Anne Varty wrote, ‘her work is that of one woman speaking to many,  and one person speaking for many’.

 

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About Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class

To mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy asked 60 poets to write a poem marking each year of the monarch's reign for her Jubilee Lines anthology. Liz Lochhead chose 1966 and a meditation on how times, attitudes and language change.