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Pin Up! The Subculture

Negotiating Agency, Representation & Sexuality with Vintage Style

Kathleen M. Ryan

Dangerous. Sexy. All-American—or rather All-World—Girl. Pin Up! The Subculture is the first book to explore the contemporary international subculture of pin up, women (and men) who embrace vintage style, but not vintage values.

Award-winning filmmaker and author Kathleen M. Ryan spent more than five years in the subculture. It’s a world of cat eye makeup, carefully constructed hairstyles, and retro-inspired fashions. But it’s also a world that embraces the ideals of feminism. Beauty, according to the pin up, is found not in body type or skin color, but in the confidence and sexual agency of the individual. Pin ups see their subculture as a way to exert empowerment and control of their own sexual and social identities—something that is part of the pin up’s historical legacy.

This lavishly illustrated book includes interviews with more than fifty international pin ups and helps readers to understand how they use social media and personal interactions to navigate thorny issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, sizeism, and other difficult topics. Ryan demonstrates how even within subcultures, identity is far from homogeneous. Pin ups use the safety of their shared subcultural values to advocate for social and political change.

A fascinating combination of cultural history, media studies, and oral history, Pin Up! The Subculture is the story about how a subculture is subverting and reviving an historic aesthetic for the twenty-first century.

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This project would not exist without the consultations with Maria Elena Buszek, Mitzi Valenzuela, Louis K. Meisel, and Khyentse James, who helped in the initial development and production of the feature film and interactive documentary film Pin Up! The Movie. Mitzi and Khyentse specifically introduced me to women within the subculture and for that I will be forever grateful.

I also am indebted to the pin ups, photographers, and other members of the subculture who welcomed me and shared their time, insight, and images, and who allowed me to follow their interactions within the community both online and in person over a period of six years.

Thank you to the supporters on Kickstarter and Seed & Spark who helped make this project a reality.

Kathryn Harrison approached me with the idea of writing a book about the pin up subculture before I knew this project was a book. Not only did you light a spark, but you also helped me to see a way to answer the ultimate question: Is this project done yet?

Thank you also to Erika Hendrix at Peter Lang Publishing who believed in this project and shepherded it through the publishing process.

David Staton kept me sane in the year of writing this book, and stocked wine, good food, art, love and utmost surety that I would get the book done. Ditto Miranda, who was glued by my side with purrs, joined in most of the...

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