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Sexual Politics Around Teddy Girl Identity

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Introduction

The Ted trend during the 1950s corresponds to a transitional time, when popular culture was associated with the working class. This class related understanding of taste and propriety surrounding the Teds, almost caused Teddy Girls to be written out of history because attention focused on working class male aggression. Media representation classified teds as a male movement, which provided no female role models to perpetuate the trend. The Sexual politics around Teddy Girl identity relates to how popular culture can be used and created by women, but also how academic analysis approaches this and subsequently situates women in relation to popular culture. Gender and class hierarchy can impose subject and object readings of
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Photographic evidence (Russell 1955, Mayne 1956) depicts female Teddy Girls, and Horn’s research into post-war youth culture shows similar strong female presence: “A mass observation diary from 1949 described a London dance hall […] where there was an equal split between male and female” (2010: 118). Although how widespread this was, is hard to say. The location and dates of the photos show that the women were early-to-mid-1950s London East End Teds, but Russell’s photographs were uncovered in 2006, which demonstrates how lack of resources caused disproportionate attention to Teddy Boys, further cementing the trend as male. The academic neglect of women in subcultures has been addressed by Garber and McRobbie (2000). The invisibility of women in popular culture could originate from Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy (1957), which situates interest in music and socialising outside home as a male pastime. Teddy Girls also attract less commentary because, unlike ted boys, the method of transmitting identity (clothing) did not differ from middle class young women. The violence and aggression of Teddy Boys in marking working class territory (Jefferson 2006: 68) attracted attention, because it directly conflicted with middle class behaviour. So, females were unnoticed and continued to use consumption of popular culture through clothing and music, to exert cultural identity. Mungham’s work focusses on the generational and class aspects within popular culture and acknowledges
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