Anger Management (A Reply)
Thank you for *getting* the point that Jude's piece was specifically about women in *rock* - and a very specific type of rock at that. You know that I am really not one to be down with these gunnysacking "women in music" type articles, but she was talking about a very specific role which has all but disappeared. It's like there was some weird loophole in the early 90s which has closed.
As a woman, and a musician who came of age in that era, it is disappointing how rock/indie music has changed, and written these women out of their important role in it and written a particular archetype of woman out of the story.
I think you've got Lucy O'Brien wrong - it's not that the Spice Girls and their music had a negative influence. (As you say, bubblegum music has always existed.) More that the way they co-opted a certain kind of slogan and linked it with imagery of the totally reversed message. It was that kind of double-speak way of taking "girl power" to mean the right to prance about in their knickers. That was really symbolic of the co-option of Feminism into female raunch culture - as Suzy Corrigan put it to succinctly on ILX - I do not believe it's possible to pole-dance your way to equality. That's not to dismiss female sexuality, but for years, given that that is the *only* role assigned to women - it seems to me that these "angry women" were in a way turning their back on that typical sexualisation of women, of saying "HEY, THERE ARE OTHER ASPECTS TO BEING A WOMAN, LET'S EXPLORE THEM."
It's not fun to be the "crazy bitch." In mine own "career" (I don't think of it as a Career, but I do have a 20 year path of making music professionally and semi-professionally) it's always a constant line one has to tread.
Show too much anger, even if it is legitimate, and you are dismissed, your points invalidated. Yet even if you are reasonable, funny, wry - the words "feminist" and "angry" are so linked together in popular culture that you will be accused of being "an angry feminist" even when you are being reasonable. (There was a great post about that on Feministing recently.)
The allotted, acceptable role that the music industry is prepared to slot non-standard women into is that of the "Ethereal Girl" - which these days has been bastardised into your dreaded "Quirky Girl." All those emotions which are so *important* to rock music - the anger, the sense of being an outsider, the *danger*, the ability to make people *uncomfortable* - these are viewed as inherently NEGATIVE when expressed by women. Ethereal Girl is the only way to evidence that "outsider" status without being *threatening* so that's why women take it up.
You can, as a woman, get trapped in an image. My band before Shimura Curves - The Lollies - had a deliberately planned image of being fun, being upbeat, being positive (about men as well as women) - after my experiences within Riot Grrrl. But the cute, cloying cutesy-indie sucks the life out of you, neutralises you, neuters you. I pretty much had a nervous breakdown, being in a touring band that was representing cute! happy! fun! onstage while going through stuff offstage that I needed to catharsise through music, but just couldn't because it just didn't fit.
In the end, the emotion won out - those songs simply *had* to be written, it was like a tidal wave coming through. But the sudden burst of emotion and anger and catharsis was not acceptable to an audience that were expecting arch, wry, ironic, funny and above all "cute."
(Those songs are lost forever - my biggest regret, musically, is that the Lollies never got to make a second album, because I felt those songs were so powerful - it saddens me that the only artifact of that band is the arch, twee shit that so does not represent who I was as a person or an artist at that time.)
Anyway, I digress, as I always do, because this is not abstract, critical stuff for me, it's real, visceral stuff that affects my life and my work every day.
I completely disagree with Kogan on the positioning of Swift and Simpson et al within this genre. Different genre, different beast. To compare a POP Star with a ROCK Star is apples and oranges. I'm tired of the girls = pop, men = rock dichotomy, and anger getting "channelled in different ways" for male and female stars. And the way that he talks about, say, Taylor Swift's "under the radar" anger is just frankly insulting. It reads to me as yet another man dictating the acceptable ways in which women MAY show anger without disturbing their male paymasters. Not having it. She has not been given a free pass - she is only "free" to work within a quite narrow and acceptable range of image, of songwriting - sure, this demeanor may work for male music journalists preconception of an acceptable, well-behaved female singer-songwriter - it does NOT work for me.
The absolute CRUX of Rock as opposed to Pop is, as Huggy Bear put it best "THIS IS HAPPENING WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION."
Women who refuse those bounds, who refuse to be styled, who refuse to be constrained by the "pop" genre or the critical ghetto, who refuse to look or act the part. Women who will not be tamed. Women who almost *scare* you, by how perfectly they have captured that side you are not *allowed* to show to the world. You know - a ROCK STAR. Where are they?