What is FEMALE?
The very first issue of FEMALE hit Malaysian (and Singaporean!) shelves 45 years ago in March 1974. In honour of our anniversary, we’d like to share the very first Perspective -the equivalent of today’s Editor’s Note. The piece is significant not just because it introduces the magazine and everything it stood for, but also provides a priceless snapshot into the evolving and often multifaceted identity of women in the 70’s.
Sharp and stylish, it’s a lyrical read that sums up the role FEMALE played – and has continued to play – in being the Malaysian woman’s guide to fashion, beauty, lifestyle, issues and more.
“Males, bugged and baliered, about to conk out and yet still bewildered, invariably raise the age-old nagging puzzle: what makes women, witches? Of what, more or less, is the female world made?
They are quite prepared to hoot at an answer, even if the effort costs them the last mortal gasp.
Sometime ago, some crackpot had come up with the rubbish of ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’ and girls lapped that recipe up, celebrating a delusion that made them parallel to birthday cakes. All buttered up, oh-so-very sweet indeed, and nice, but birthday cakes.
But everyone alive, says homespun wisdom, hits upon the waking hour and girls simply had to realise that birthday cakes are pleasant but they’d never get beyond birthday parties in a world of various more important parties – budgets to wrestle with, bills to settle, loves that freeze at the road’s bend, children to bear and bicker with, pregnancies to avoid, jobs to keep, a thousand errands to run. Etcetera.
The trouble is you cannot go far if you are sugar or butter or even if you are sugar and butter. Life’s howling bosses and telephone lines that seem forever engaged are most likely to melt you dead.
Today, the female knows that a great percentage of what has been said of her (her magic potions, her sexuality, her many others) is, to a large extent, myth. A female’s seeming invincibility does not spring forth from some strange brook: it has been spurred by her acceptance of their role she has, by choice and by circumstance, assumed: female, participant, present progressive.
So the world will never be the same again and things are different but if they are it is because circumstances demand that every mortal, female or otherwise, view them differently. New seasons have not been discovered; a number of things a female has to cope with are actually basics older than Great Grandmother’s earliest love (107, happily dead.) For instance: marriage remains a fulfilling goal but it comes with other fulfilling alternatives and the sacredness of marriage, registered or not, is not taken to mean the worshipping at a husband’s feet and when one’s marriage dies before one’s husband, one remembers in time – above the din of morning traffic – that no one really dies from love. Filial piety lingers but has gained a new polish and is not equated with either blindness or servility. Home remains a beautiful word in one’s idiom but there certainly must be a nook reserved therein where she who makes the home discovers that Watergate is not a pastry shop off Serangoon Road and that Trudeau is not an Indian fortune-teller.
All those old institutions washed by a fresh coat of paint are not the only things today’s woman has. She has stumbled across her own set of new discoveries – the pleasantness of identity, the joys of career, the strength of her backbone in the face of grief and error.
For all the world’s cramped rooms, all the schedules that go haywire, all letters that get waylaid, for all the so-called blue, life is just fine as far as the female is concerned. The sentiment stems from her willingness to assume a more active role in the times that contain her by and the world’s acknowledgement of the fact that it’s about time she did.
It is a happy task to keep such a female company.
This is precisely why this fortnightly namesake has been born: step, in a word, into the FEMALE parlour.”
– FEMALE, March 1974