Twentieth-Century Divas

tylised blue-green photos of a monk, a pixellated dog, a close-up spore, a person on a hill, a toy robot and a banana wrapped in chains

For hundreds of years the word 'diva' (meaning 'divine') has been applied to many of the most successful women in opera. But during the twentieth century, its use was expanded to include leading figures of popular music, as well as stars of film and theatre. It is curious that this took place alongside the rise of feminism, because the word 'diva' is also understood as a stigmatising label, suggesting someone who is demanding, difficult and temperamental. How was the dual use of this word used both to amplify and stifle women's voices in a period of social change?

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