In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Monday (Not So) Random Ten

Ah, dear readers, we have come to this pass.

I have contemplated doing a Monday, or, indeed, a Friday Random Ten many times before, but then music for which you will make fun of me always comes up in my playlist. So consider this a M/FRT in which I might hurriedly skip ahead on some tracks. Trust me, it’s better for all of us this way. Although you must keep in mind my love of musical theatre and dislike of much music made during my lifetime as we do this. Also that it’s Tuesday where I am.

How does one play along? Well, get out your music player of choice and set it to shuffle, then post a list of the, um, first ten songs that come up.

1. “My Friend” – Groove Armada
2. “Truly Madly Deeply” – Savage Garden
3. “Dublin Sky” – Darren Hayes
4. “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” (Lion King soundtrack) – Jason Weaver, Rowan Atkinson and Laura Williams
5. “Rain” – The Corrs
6. “Don’t Bring Me Down” – Electric Light Orchestra
7. “Never Tear Us Apart” – INXS
8. Beethoven’s Symphony #3 In E Flat, Op. 55, “Eroica” – Scherzo: Allegro Vivace – Bela Drahos: Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia
9. “Defying Gravity” – Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth
10. “Jet Airliner” – Steve Miller Band

Your turn. There’s a bonus video below the fold.

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So, wait.

I don’t listen to the radio (I don’t own a radio, which is odd, since I am 96 years old). However: There is apparently a very popular musical act called Lady Antebellum? And to be fair, I have heard their hit song played in several delis across New York City and didn’t know who actually sang it until tonight, so it’s not totally foreign to me. But they’re winning Grammy awards? And their name is, I will remind you, LADY ANTEBELLUM?

Seriously, why is this happening? (Also, Train, really? We think this is good enough to award? The world is ending, and we all deserve it).

Also, What Tami Said.

Dreamy video clip of the day

I wanted to share a bit of music to help you along with your weekend. Here’s Australian artist Sarah Blasko.

Lyrics here. The video clip is one continuous shot of Blasko. It opens in total blackness, and a pale smudge slowly resolves into her face. The shot pulls back as the lights come up more strongly to reveal silhouettes of branches on a whitish background. Blasko is wearing a black cape over a black outfit. The shot widens further to show that the branches are bordering the inner circumference of an iris. Sarah puts on the hood of her cape and stands up from where she has been sitting at the bottom of the eye. She pulls her hands back into the folds of her clothing, and the shot turns to white.

Radical 80s Prom benefitting WAM, this Friday in NYC

This Friday, December 3rd, join WAM!NYC for a radical 80s prom to benefit the fantastic organization Women, Action and the Media. It’s at the Bowery Poetry Club and starts at 10 pm — be there in your best 80s gear, and get ready to get down. I’m one of the costume contest judges and I already have my Designing Women-inspired outfit ready to go, sequins and all, so you’ve gotta top me if you want to win (and I may or may not have purchased an eyeshadow palette called “Azure Dream” and “suntan” Leggs pantyhose from Rite Aid last night). So show up and look fly.

You can RSVP on Facebook here. All proceeds benefit WAM. And here’s a little INXS/Madonna sweetness to get you geared up.

Nicki Minaj and hip-hop misogyny

Such a great piece – just go read it. A taste:

Often praised as one of the most talented MC’s — female or otherwise — in today’s ever-evolving rap game, Nicki Minaj has an indisputably tight flow, swag for days, and the kind of business savvy that would make even Jay-Z proud.

And her unique blend of feminine hip-hop sensibility is poised to pan out: the hype surrounding this week’s release of her debut album, Pink Friday is palpable.

However, the mainstream commercial acceptance she’s already achieved with her over-the-top, multiple-personality, plasticized, black Barbie persona ought to make us all think twice.

At what point does the narrative of an aggressive female hip-hop artist with crazy sex appeal, and solid street sensibilities become just the opposite — a tale of faux-bravado, empty rhetoric, and deceptive stage gimmicks that only thinly masks a desperation to transcend the confines of one’s true identity? And what does it mean for our music and our people if mainstream black culture can’t tell the difference?

Female Music Critics Transcend Fan Culture

This is a guest post from Georgia Kral, re-posted with permission from On The Issues magazine.

Scan through the pages of a major music magazine, the arts section of The New York Times, or myriad other sources and count the number of female bylines you find on pop music criticism. Not many, right? (Or in the case of The Times, zero.) In music writing, gender disparity is a persistent feature.

One theory that has caught on about why there are so few women in pop music criticism builds on the idea that a woman is trained from a young age to be a fan and not a critic. In an article for the music-oriented Loops Journal, critic Anwyn Crawford writes that young girls are socially trained to be reactive, as opposed to considered and thoughtful, in their response to popular music. Girls absorbing this sensibility decrease the likelihood that they’ll become, or even see themselves as, critics.

“Wordless, intensely emotional and undeniably sexual — this is the state in which teenage girls are understood to connect with music, and with those performing it,” writes Crawford, an Australian journalist known for her feminist music criticism. “It is all in their bodies: they do not intellectualise; their opinions are instinctive rather than considered.”

Stereotypes and hardened historical frameworks are hard to shake. According to Crawford, if women are placed in the position of adoring fan at an early age, they are less likely to believe that they can then be critical — or harder yet — thought of as critical.

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Back from Suffragette City

You’ve got your mother in a whirl/Cause she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl -Rebel Rebel, David Bowie

And for my last trick…

I’ve written about pop and dancing and falling in love and even a few political posts. So where to go from here? Bowie, of course.

David Bowie made me a feminist, you see. Well, not entirely. Lots of other things did, too. And certainly Bowie had little to do with that ever-present subject of argument, “when I decided to call myself a feminist.”

No, Bowie was just there when I needed him, whispering in my ear about the secret powers of glitter makeup and transgressive clothing. He wasn’t political and by not being so he was more political than anything else I was listening to. While Jello Biafra and the Clash made explicit arguments, Bowie was just there, convincing millions of straight boys to buy his records while he gleefully paraded in high heels and dresses and skintight leotards.

Never drag, really. Just the accoutrements that we associated with femininity but that he wielded as tools for transformation, again and again and again. Makeup to draw symbols on your face, exaggerate one feature beyond any reality.

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Not a Fish, Not Yet A Human

So one time, Chloe at Feministing posted about Disney’s The Little Mermaid, calling it “a feminist’s worst nightmare,” because it’s literally the story of a woman who gives up her voice to get a man, which: sort of true, but also no, because in a universe where you can VERY EASILY read the moral of Beauty and the Beast as being “if you love your abusive boyfriend enough, he will change for you,” The Little Mermaid is second-worst, at best.

Then Feministe’s own Sady posted about this at her now-defunct Tumblr, but her contribution to the conversation is still up at mine; the two points she made most salient to this post were 1) Ariel’s giving up her voice is clearly framed by the movie as a bad thing, as her voice is her most desirable characteristic, the thing Eric fell in love with to begin with, the thing Ursula the sea witch uses to lure him away, and the thing she needs to regain before they can finally be together; and 2) that Ariel always wanted to go to the shore and Eric was more than anything a catalyst for that transition. A catalyst in the shape of a dude, yes, but a thing Sady and I, apparently, along with people I have met and possibly other people, also, have in common is that sometimes things just happen like that. Are dude-catalysts overrepresented in our stories, reinforcing the notion that for a girl, a dude is the bestest catalyst of them all? Yes. But it is, in fact, a story that sometimes plays out that way in the real world.

Possibly it mostly plays out in the world of the very young, which led me to the babbling over there that eventually in my head became what will hopefully be less babbling-y over here (…off to a GREAT START, I am), which is that in my reading, The Little Mermaid is fundamentally a story of childhood and adolescence.

Now: I am not interested, here, in trying to reclaim The Little Mermaid as a feminist classic, because I… am never interested, really, in trying to stamp something definitively with Feminist or Not Feminist. There are fucked-up things going on in every Disney movie ever, and The Little Mermaid is no exception. There is (as Chloe points to) the good-sweet-young-pretty-girl vs. evil-vicious-old-ugly-woman dichotomy, played out pretty blatantly, which I can recognize as fucked up even if I also delight in Ursula’s gleefully malicious machinations and that marvelous cackle. There’s Sebastian the helper crab’s accent, which to most people I’ve met reads most closely to Jamaican and is at the least pretty clearly supposed to be Of The Exotic Hot Lands Of The Caribbean, which is… gross, and kiiiinda racist. There’s the fact that Eric, who frankly has the personality of a Ken doll, saves Ariel from her distress at the end in a disappointingly mundane way (he rams a ship into Ursula. really? REALLY? She’s become this like giant ball of evil magic fury and all it takes is a little poke with some wood? …oh, I get it now). All of these things are worth discussion; I have discussed them myself in various situations in the past!

But right now, I want to focus on The Little Mermaid as a – still poignant to me – story of the painful liminal zone between childhood an adulthood.

Ariel is, to my knowledge, the only Disney heroine for whom we are ever given an explicit age; as she tells her father, defiantly, in one of the most accurate representations of teenager-parent quarreling I have ever seen, “I’m sixteen years old, I’m not a child!” He responds with the classically parental, “Don’t you take that tone of voice with me,” followed by “As long as you live under my ocean, you obey my rules.” which, FULL DISCLOSURE: that line is, by a wiiiide margin, the most frequently quoted line in my house as I was growing up, which QUITE POSSIBLY colors my own relationship to the movie, because: my teenage self was shut down many a time with it. Like, minimum once a month.

My response to hearing it from my mother was, usually, pretty much along the lines of Ariel’s: pout angrily and storm off in a huff to my cool undersea cave room to cry on my rock bed and complain to my charming animal companions friends about how unfair everything was, and also how “I just don’t see things the way [s]he does.” Then she sings one of the best things ever written about being a young girl:

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