The 1970s was the time of my childhood. I remember it fondly but also as a
different time, a time out of step. In my world three events cut the 1970s off
from the 1980s: the death of my father, moving from primary school to high
school, and the election of Margaret Thatcher. None of these changes
made my life happier or less complicated, and perhaps for this reason a
dreamworld of the 1970s has tended to set the scene for my flights of fancy
and imagination. In the 1980s, in England, feminism was a public activity—
one that was a visible and active participant in the various political protests
against what we now routinely call the neoliberalism of Margaret Thatch-
er’s Conservative government’s foreign and domestic policies. From the
miners’ strike in 1984, to the long encampment of the Greenham Common
antinuclear, antimilitarization women’s peace camp, which began in 1981
and lasted in some form until 2000, to the organized and widespread re-
sistance to Clause 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988, forbidding local
authorities to ‘‘promote’’ homosexuality, feminism was part of the every-
dayness of British national public life. It was in the news and on the tv: it
helped create the atmosphere—the structure of feeling—of that time. My
interest in the feminisms of the 1970s is structured through this sense of its
manifest presence in ‘‘my’’ 1980s, as well as the distinction of affect that
make the 1970s, for me, a different time from the 1980s.
This affective distinction between one decade and another—a distinc-
tion that is both personal and public—was mediated, for me, through a
longing for, and fascination with, ‘‘America.’’ The America I fell in love with
was the fictional version on British tv, and it was the aesthetics of the
American mass culture of the 1970s—the jerky, heady, campy energy of its
racial and sexual masquerade—that also set the scene for my interest in
feminism in the 1970s. For me, ‘‘women’s liberation’’ first functioned as part
of this mediated landscape—a landscape that suggested, at least on first
viewing, a playful excess of gendered, sexual, and racial genres of being.
Women’s liberation became a term that incited complex and diffuse imagin-
ings that were neither wholly ‘‘political,’’ in the strong sense of the word,
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