Sunday, December 6, 2009

An Open Letter to the Two Jerks Who Were Standing Next to Me the Last Time I Saw Zombie Dogs.

Hey guys,

I was the girl who was shooting death glares and huffy sighs in your direction while I was standing next to you during Zombie Dogs' set at the last Cheeky show EVER. But you probably didn't notice me because you were too busy making annoying comments and in general being seriously disrespectful to the band on stage. I mean really -- If you didn't like or didn't think you were going to like what you were hearing, couldn't you have stepped outside or something?

It's really disappointing to me that it sounds like you couldn't even give Zombie Dogs a chance. Before the band even started playing, I got to hear this exchange between the two of you:

Jerk #1: Dude, I love all-girl bands...
Jerk #2: Oh, well then you'll just LOVE this one.
Jerk #1: Really?
Jerk #2: Uhm, no.

I guess I could just say that this is your loss, but there's something deeper and more disturbing going on here. Jerk #1, maybe you mean well, but your love of all-girl bands is inherently sexist. I appreciate your support of girl bands but that support doesn't mean much if you can't look beyond their gender and focus on what these groups are doing and saying. I hope that you can, and that I've perhaps misjudged you.

Jerk #2, I'm almost certain that if someone were to confront you about this, you'd claim that your dislike of Zombie Dogs' music isn't about gender, but about the music itself. Sure, you like some girl bands, but this one isn't good, or just doesn't work for you.

The problem with this is that this argument doesn't work. Ever. Art is inextricably linked to the artists who create it. When you don't like a song or piece of music, it's at least partly because there's something about the person who made it that you don't like or respect, or maybe that you can't relate to.

Specific to the case of women and female artists: when you say that you don't like them, it isn't necessarily sexist or misogynist. But still, what you're doing is rejecting a woman's point of view. And you can't separate this rejection from the way women's voices have historically been kept out of art, which definitely is the product of institutionalized sexism. You can't separate judging women's music against a male-dominated standard of what makes music 'good', said standard also being a product of institutionalized sexism.

I know that some people don't see it this way. Some really respected female artists, like Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, have said in interviews that their identities as women or females are secondary to their identities as artists, and that the politics of being female don't affect their art. I believe Harvey even said once that she doesn't identify as a feminist because she can't allow politics to interfere with what she creates.

Regardless of their talent, Smith and Harvey are both wrong. The intersection between one's identity, art, and political orientation isn't something that evaporates just because you say so -- whether you're punk's alleged 'high priestess' or some asshole in the audience at a diy punk show. Smith and Harvey claim to be apolitical, without acknowledging that apoliticism is in itself a badge of one's political power and privilege. Smith and Harvey can make what I consider to be damaging statements about artists not having political beliefs because of the politics of color, class, and sexuality.

But, guys, I digress. Your ignorant and disappointing comments were unnecessary, and I wish that you'd kept them to yourselves, or as I said earlier, just taken them outside. The ladies in our scene can't force you to like our music or to pretend to like it. But it is time for us to demand that you respect us as members of the music industry. And, you know, as human beings.

I thrashed extra hard and sang extra loud at the show just for you two!

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