Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Twenty days late edition

Yesterday, I read over at the For the Birds blog that October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. In the post, author Jessy writes that the month is "a time to honor survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence, to raise our voices against abuse and to think about working towards prevention." She also asks us to think critically about what we think domestic violence is, and what our attitudes are towards it. As she writes, one month doesn't really seem like enough time for such a heavy topic, but it could be a good time to start.

"Domestic violence" and "intimate partner violence" make me think about a lot of things. I have a lot of opinions about these issues that have been formed mostly by personal experience, as well as by readings in feminist and postcolonial theory that I've had to do for school.

But long before I began college, I listened to the song "Icy Blue" by Seven Year Bitch. I was maybe 13 when I first heard it, and I remember listening to the words and slowly comprehending what it was about. Somehow, 15 years later, the song is still powerful and timely. Listen and learn on this hump day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Overshadowed Record Release Edition

Corin Tucker isn't the only Kill Rock Stars artist who debuted an album last Tuesday. On the very same day, New York City's own Marnie Stern released her third and self-titled album. You can get it via Kill Rock Stars on CD, as a digital download, or as an instant download with an LP order.

I myself do not yet have the album. But I have listened to the two free mp3s offered by KRS (...and perhaps a few more tracks at a certain streaming video wesbite....), and it seems like on this record Marnie continues to expand her songwriting and singing, while attempting to further develop the guitar skills that made her name. Stern has since shied away from her signature virtuosic fingertapping style, as if she is no longer willing to hide her voice and thematic content behind it.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to not one but BOTH free mp3s, and judge for yourself on this slow-going hump day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feminist Media Literacy 101: The Sexist Media Stunt and the Case for Feminist Media Literacy

Bitch Magazine Anyone searching for proof that feminist analysis of pop culture is a thriving, necessary, and useful occupation need look no further than Bitch Magazine -- especially its Target Women: The Rise of the Sexist Media Stunt piece from earlier this year. In the piece author Jessica Wakeman looks at a very specific and deliberate type of mass media misogyny and gives it a name: she calls out articles that invent negative, anti-woman, anti-feminist trends as Sexist Media Stunts (SMS).

The SMS comes in many varieties, as Wakeman demonstrates; in addition to discussing the original "Is Feminism Dead?" SMS, she cites articles that question women's leadership capabilities and attack their sexuality, and pretend to be cutting edge in their un-p.c.-ness. The articles come from all kinds of mainstream publications, from women's magazines to national newsmagazines that allegedly have some sort of journalistic credibility.

They're not the only ones, though. Publications and websites on popular music are no strangers to the SMS, as anyone who has ever read Rolling Stone's annual women in rock issue knows. Music magazine SMSs are typically subtle -- rather than outright questioning women's place in the industry, they treat female artists and fans as The Other, continually emphasizing gender over artistic output and consumption. Sometimes they Otherize by being hostile towards female artists, and sometimes they Otherize by being apathetic or negligent towards female artists and fans. Sometimes they Otherize by appearing to embrace female artists, as with the Women in Rock issue, while refusing to acknowledge women as artists regardless of their sex or gender.

Aptly described by Carrie Brownstein as 'a ghetto'.

The most dangerous aspect of these stunts is how subtle and pervasive they are. If you're exposed to nothing but articles that normalize such disrespectful treatment of women musicians, why would you ever treat female artists -- or females in general (ZING!) with any kind of respect?

But then, that's the apparent purpose of all Sexist Media Stunts: to create a climate of hostility, meant to keep women 'in line', and to scare female and female-identified individuals away from speaking up, either in public or in their own lives. It's not 'just a magazine article', or 'just a headline', or 'just a bad review' -- it's a weapon of the patriarchy, and we have to learn to recognize it if we want to find a way to break it or use it against them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Return of the Queen edition

Corin Tucker is officially back -- the much anticipated 1,000 Years was released on Kill Rock Stars just yesterday.

Never having been presumptuous or diva enough to work alone, Corin's new release is technically by The Corin Tucker Band. She's backed here, and on her upcoming tour, by collaborators and friends Sara Lund and Seth Lorinczi.

My fellow fans of Tucker's work with Heavens to Betsy and Sleater-Kinney may find 1,000 Years a bit quiet, but devotees of Corin's distinct songwriting style, of her talent for succinct, emphatic storytelling through sensuously embodied images, will not be disappointed. Oh, and yes, her voice is as thrillingly powerful as ever, even though she seems to be working hard at singing a bit differently this time around, just as she seems to have modified her vocal style with each new project she undertakes.

Corin has talked in interviews about this record's content. She's charmingly and self-deprecatingly referred to 1,000 Years as a 'middle aged-mom record', calling it "not something a young person would write". The lyrics do feature mature themes, like marriage woes and the strain of providing for a family in the current economic climate. But Corin also sings about the excitement and the uncertainty of personal transformation, and in a way that feels quite relatable, and surprisingly comforting.

The album is available on CD, for digital download, and as an LP with download. From what I understand, if you order it directly from KRS, you can get the download instantly, right after you make your payment.

But the album isn't the only thing that made it's debut yesterday -- the music video from the record's first single is out now too! So enjoy some brand new Corin on this pleasantly sunny, autumn hump day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On 733 days of making my own media.

That's right, as of this past Tuesday, Rock and the Single Girl is officially two years old! I can't believe it either. Actually, I guess what I really can't believe is how much this blog has changed in a year, and how much I've changed as a writer, critic, sometimes-musician, and cultural agent.

About a year ago I posted about Kate Wadkins' Girl Germs Scene Report, and it very unexpectedly had a major impact on my life. Posting about the Brooklyn 'scene', and the International Girl Gang Underground wound up drawing me into that very network. And having that network, that community, has changed how I understand both myself and my work. I am eternally grateful.

Since getting involved with the feminist musicians, artists, and activists working in my own city, this forum has become very community-oriented. Having a specific place, and a group of acquaintances/friends/colleagues to write about, has given me the opportunity to write about the issues that us girl, queer, non-anglo, differently-abled, differently-incomed, geographically dispersed DIY activists face on a regular basis. And I think, or hope, that this has enabled me to write in a way that is more constructive, and that helps readers to figure out strategies for dealing with discrimination in their own lives.

Writing for a year about community and space has also meant writing about the media produced by these artists. It's meant looking at that media -- records, zines, videos, websites -- as well as more mainstream media in a new way. And as a result, I've learned some things:

1. The mainstream media has more power than any of us realize, and they're not using it for good. When I posted about what l learned during my first year of blogging, I wrote that there were more female and feminist artists and musicians out there than I realized, but that there weren't enough sympathetic journalists to cover all of us. But I think that I was wrong about that. From what I've seen, read, and heard in the past year, it seems to me like the mainstream media works actively to diminish and discredit punk feminist activism, and it certainly, without doubt, works to devalue and marginalize feminist activism in general.

2. Which means that we need to start paying more attention. No one wants to read and feel marginalized, and as a result, most of my friends and I ignore mainstream media. But because of that, sometimes even the most aware and dedicated diy activists aren't entirely aware of just how powerful the media is, and how connected it is to other powerful groups in society. This troubles me; rather than ignoring the mainstream media, I think we need to work on our mainstream media literacy skills. We need to learn to read the subtle and underhanded messages that are being disseminated all around us.

3. But what we really have to do is keep making our own media. The mainstream media doesn't want us to know it, but there are tons of girls blogging, joining bands, and venturing forth into hostile territory and reporting back to us about it through zines, blogs, songs, videos, and more. These artifacts, albums, zines, etc., are more than just cultural byproducts; they are our culture. They are important in and of themselves, not just as materializations of our feelings and ideas and experiences. They are our feelings, ideas, and experiences, and they also convey information about how and why we've chosen to document certain parts of our lives. They also serve the paramount function of connecting us to each other and helping to create community.

I have to admit that I've had a good time learning all of this -- I've learned it through going to shows, hanging out with like-minded people, reading about music and listening to an untold amount of cds, tapes, 7-inches, and the occasional 12-inch. In general, despite some hardship and tragedy, I have had a good year writing this blog and dialoguing with all of you dear readers.

So, thank you. Thank you for a good year, and thank you in advance for this coming year. I hope that you'll make it a good one with me, and that you'll all be inspired to make some of your own.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hump Day Treat, "Haaave you met my friend Amy?" edition

So I was trying to think really seriously about this blog reaching its two year mark, where this blog is at, and what I've learned here in the past 365 days. But then my friend and fellow rock camp volunteer Amy, who plays in Titus Andronicus posted a kick ass and unfortunately short video of her band doing an awesome cover:

Titus Andronicus -- "Rebel Girl" (Bikini Kill) from mehan jayasuriya on Vimeo.

via Amy's fantastic blog

Readers might remember Titus Andronicus from my post on Red Hook High's Men Can Stop Rape benefit concert.. For anyone who hasn't had a chance to listen, here's a music video featuring the lovely Amy. Don't be fooled by the beards and touches of plaid or the 'critical' acclaim from places like Pitchfork on this sunny hump day. Just enjoy the great songwriting, wonderful energy, and a band that knows how to use their love of the E Street Band for good, and not evil.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Last week's show this evening edition

Though I admittedly did a lot of crying last week on my birthday, I ended up having a really good time at a fantastic show that night. Completely by coincidence friend and fellow volunteer Angie was playing that night with one of her bands, Little Lungs, and so I ended up seeing and hanging out with a lot of other volunteers, friends, and hometown diy heroines. Still feeling grateful for the entire experience on this damp hump day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Never say never, "Everyone listen to my mixtape!" edition.

Here's a fun fact about me: in the past few years, I've gotten in the habit of making a birthday mixtape for myself. They're the only mixes I ever make, mostly because making a mixtape (or mix cd, or ipod playlist for the youngins) is an art, and one that I'm not very good at. Taking other peoples' songs from their original context and using them to tell a different story has always made me feel sort of weird, and also, it's hard. Creating a narrative, with songs from all different places and genres, is really challenging.

It's especially challenging when you're crying too hard to see your computer screen. Last Friday, instead of feeling excited that it was my birthday, I was stuck to my couch and feeling overwhelmed by grief. I wanted to be in a good, festive mood, but I couldn't. I was just too sad.

I did stop crying, eventually. Not because I felt better, not because I'd solved any of my problems, not because I'd figured out how to bring any loved ones back from the dead, but because, well, I had to stop at some point. And when I did, I was somehow able to make The Perfect Mix. It's just the right length, tells the story of my tragic summer without being morbid, and somehow represents my taste, from the obnoxiously obscure to the just plain obnoxious, in a mere 13 tracks. I'm so proud of it that I'm sharing it with all of you, which I never thought I would do on this blog. So, enjoy!

Track list:

1. Little Lungs -- "Dreary"

2. Taking Back Sunday -- "Bonus Mosh Pt. II"

3. Say Anything -- "This is Fucking Ecstasy"

4. The Shondes -- "Let's Go"

5. The Gossip --"Confess"

6. Sleater-Kinney -- "My Stuff"

7. Paramore -- "Feeling Sorry"

8. Margaret Thrasher -- "The Next Best Thing"

9. Refused -- "Refused Party Program"

10. Hideaways -- "Armageddon in Retrospect"

11. Cheeky -- "Get Outta Here"

12. Passive Aggressor" -- Ouroboros"

13. Scantron -- "tappy"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Yesterday's Theme This Evening Edition

Thinking and writing about the importance of communication has made me really think about how difficult communication, of any nature, can be. Saying how you feel in a public, hostile space like a show can be scary. But sometimes trying to have a meaningful dialogue with a person you know is even scarier and more difficult than talking to a stranger who's twice your size and drunk.

Sometimes the words 'dialogue' and 'communication' are used interchangeably, but they aren't the same. Dialogue is a type of communication, but communication isn't necessarily dialogue, because dialogue implies a certain reciprocal respect, a certain bilateralism.

To put it another way: a screaming fight with someone isn't dialogue, though it might enable both participants to communicate how they feel. Dialogue, or at least amongst the womens' studies set, is about talking with someone and having both speakers get something out of it. It's supposed to be productive.

Today's video of part of a recent live set by Trophy wife opens with a song about this very topic. Enjoy, and maybe reflect on your communication skills, on this hump...night. I know that's what I'll be doing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You wanna take it, but you can't have it, revisited: DIY Shows and Safety

I spent this entire weekend thinking about the question I posed to you all last Friday. That is, how do we make ourselves feel safe enough within our communities to speak honestly about show violence? So I tried to figure out what makes me feel safe at a show. I've already written here about the first time I really felt okay at a local show; it's something I'll never forget, and so I went back to that memory.

I felt safe there because there were girls on stage, playing hard, fast, loud hardcore punk songs about being tired of feeling powerless and oppressed as women. I felt safe because I knew one of the vocalists from rock camp, and I knew that she was a cool kid and a dedicated feminist activist. I felt safe because there were lots of other volunteers in the other bands that played that night, and in the audience as well.

I didn't really think that anything dramatic would happen to me at the show, but I did feel like even if something unfortunate did happen, it would not go unnoticed. I trusted that those girls I'd volunteered with were not the types who would look the other way while anyone was getting hurt.

Those girls. Those girls who were already speaking up and demanding to be heard. Who were getting up on stage or dancing and pogoing in the crowd no matter how vulnerable it made them. Who were volunteering at rock camp and other places and encouraging other girls to do the same.

Those girls, and their bravery -- their willingness to speak up, to support those bands, hell, to just be feminist punks in a world that hates both -- was what made me feel safe. It was their willingness to act, to resist, to exist, and to do so vocally.

To say, "How we can make spaces feel safe enough so we can say when we don't feel safe?" doesn't make any sense, I get that now, after intense consideration of the issue. I get that it doesn't work that way. I get that you can't sit around waiting to feel safe, because that will never happen, or sit around trying to come up with what will make you feel that way, being silent until you figure it out. Because your silence won't protect you.

"Your silence will not protect you" is one of my favorite quotes from feminist literature of all time, and one that I say to myself frequently. I've been thinking about it a lot lately because Trophy wife sings those very words in their song "Sister Outsider", which I've been listening to on repeat for the past few weeks. Over the weekend, I managed to find the source of that quote, Audre Lorde's "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action", which is from her collection of essays called Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. I read it, and I found an even better, though less pithy quote:

"We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us."

If we want to feel safer, and if we want our friends, male and female, to feel safer at shows, and within the community at large, this is the work that we need to do. We need to learn to speak not when we are unafraid, but when we are afraid. We need to learn to speak in spite of fear, instead of waiting until whatever threat we perceive has passed.

And to whom should we speak, in spite of this fear? Most of the time, this blog is about asking questions that don't have any clear answers. But I try to provide solutions when I can, so here are some suggestions:

1. Tell all your friends. Talk to the people who care about you if you don't feel good at a show, or after a show, or about shows in general. If you have friends you hang out with at shows, tell them how you feel, and ask them if they ever feel that way. It might make you less alone, and you might come up with some strategies for dealing with show violence.

2. Get confrontational. If you're at a show and someone is doing something that bothers or scares you, just say so. If someone is blocking your view, bumping into you, or doing something else that gets in your personal space, say "Excuse me". If they start doing something that puts you and the other people in the crowd at risk -- moshing violently, crowd surfing, etc -- try to tell that person that's just not cool or right to risk injuring other people. This can be really scary, trust me, I know it is. But it's necessary.

Now when THAT fails: take some suggestions inspired by the Beastie Boys (the good stuff is at 1:20) :


3. Figure out who's running the show, literally... and talk to them about it. DIY spaces might be DIY, but they're still set up and run by someone, and that someone should be concerned with safety (if for no other reason than their own personal liability). If you don't feel safe at a show, ask the people who run the space to do something about it. If those people seem unmoved or unconcerned, don't go back to that space, and tell the people you know to avoid going to or booking shows in those spaces.

4. Reach out to the bands. I will admit that I regret not confronting the band that was onstage when my arm got bashed into last Thursday night. I saw them, talking and laughing it up together after their set, while those two redheaded girls who also got hurt sat outside, both shaking slightly. I wish I'd said, "Hey dudes, thanks for saying something when those kids started to get violent. Oh wait -- you didn't say anything. Nevermind."

...okay, so you don't have to be snarky or anything, but asking bands to speak on their audience's behalf is a good way to remind them that they do have the power and opportunity to talk about violence while onstage. Some bands will really think about it; I imagine others will dismiss your concerns or shirk their responsibility. If that happens, again, tell your friends and withdraw your support.

None of this is necessarily easy. I don't think it's easy for anyone, and I also know that some of us are introverts, and that a lot of us don't like or feel good at confrontation and public-type speaking. But this isn't about personality traits: this is about all of us learning to verbalize our needs and protect ourselves, regardless of our preferences. It's something we all need to work on, both for ourselves and our own safety, and for that of our communities.

Friday, September 10, 2010

You wanna take it, but you can't have it: or, some loser fucked up my arm at a show last night.

I was at a show last night in Brooklyn when three guys in the audience started to mosh violently, shoving each other and falling into other people in the crowd. Everyone in the room, male and female, edged back and away from the instigators.

The more space we gave them, the more space they took. Even with half the room to themselves, they managed to bang into other people. One of the moshers collided violently with a pair of red-headed girls who had been watching the band with interest, and who then left the room. Shortly after that one of them bashed into my arm, andhard, and then he fell over. When he stood back up, he stayed near me. He started to drunkenly lean on me, and in an incidence of unmitigated show rage, I shoved his body away with all the strength I could muster. I wanted to say something to him, but I admit that I was afraid of how he would react, so I didn't.

It's not like this is the first time this has ever happened to me. Recently, at a show in a different area of Brooklyn, I was tolerating a set of lackluster pop punk by some generic dude band when the guys in the audience got predictable. They started hoisting each other up and launching each other onto the audience, in an attempt to crowd surf. I watched as the girls at the show, some of whom had been singing along and clearly enjoying the band's performance, retreated from the area, moving to the back to avoid being kicked in the face. Unwilling to put up with any more douchebaggery or bad music, I walked out.

I decided to go downstairs to hang out in front of the building, and in the stairwell I ran into a music blogger acquaintance. She asked me what was going on with the show, and when I told her about the ill-advised crowd surfing, she cut me off, and said "Oh, and you started to feel uncomfortable?"

I don't remember how I responded to her, because all I remember from that moment is being nearly blind with rage.

In case you don't understand why I was enraged, allow me to interpret the subtext of her statement. Her statement, said in a flat, condescending monotone, makes me the subject through her use of "you", and if focuses on my feelings rather than the actions of the people in the room. Her use of the word 'feel' implies that my reaction was emotional, and therefore not rational, and therefore not legitimate. The word 'uncomfortable' trivializes my feelings, it reduces genuine fear for my safety to minor 'discomfort', which she apparently thought I should have just put up with.

In short, "oh, and you started to feel uncomfortable?" translates to, "Oh, you were a stupid little girl who went to a show when you couldn't handle it, and it got you upset." The comment implies that my negative experience at the show was my fault, and it implies that I'm the one who's wrong here for expecting to not have to be afraid at a show, when the jerks who made it unsafe are the ones who are really responsible.

What I should have said to this person is, "No, it didn't make me uncomfortable, it made me angry." Yes, it makes me angry that I'm scared at shows. It makes me angry that I have to watch other girls leave, or move away from the front of the room, because they seem like they're scared, too.

It makes me angry that when guys act that way, I want to ask them to stop, and to be considerate, but that I don't because I'm scared of them hurting me, and I'm scared of all the other people at the show ganging up on me, and I worry that I'll ruin the show for everyone. It makes me angry because I don't want to be that girl who worries about ruining a show when she's knows rationally that none of this is her fault.

It makes me angry that at both of these shows, the bands didn't say anything to try and calm the crowd down. They didn't ask the audience to be considerate. They just let it happen.

It makes me angry that these guys feel entitled to take up all the space at a show; that I've been socialized, as a girl, to constantly think of everyone else's comfort and safety, and that I would thusly never dream of diving into an unsuspecting crowd of singing kids because I wouldn't want to hurt them, while these guys couldn't give less of a fuck.

And it makes me angry that sexists like this blogger don't want to do anything about violence at shows, that they think it's how shows are supposed to be. It makes me angry that that blogger basically said to me, "yes, they are entitled to that dangerous behavior, and you just have to put up with it or stop going to shows."

"Oh, and you got started to feel uncomfortable?" implies that the show, and what happened there, was normal, but I was not. It implies that men's violent behavior is 'natural' -- really, she might as well have shrugged and said "Boys will be boys" -- and that I shouldn't have expected anything different. To act as if such behavior is normal and acceptable is to buy into oppressive gender stereotypes, and perpetuate the sexism that tries to keep girls out of scenes and away from shows.

Violent moshing, crowd surfing and other poor behavior is not normal, 'natural', or acceptable; it's the result of a society telling its men that they are expected to do stupid, dangerous things and let other people worry about the consequences. And if it's not natural, that means that we can change it. We can have safer shows, we can hold people accountable, and we can have a space where we aren't scared. But if we want it, we have to demand it. We have to speak up, myself included -- but in order for that to happen, we have to feel safe enough to speak honestly about these issues.

How do we make that happen? No really, I'm asking all of you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Pop Confessional Edition

It's going to decimate whatever 'indie cred' I might have, but today I present a song that I've listening to on the regular this summer as I struggle with grief, guilt, depression, and the inevitable avalanche of paperwork that accompanies death.

"Fixed at Zero" is the first single and title track off of Versaemerge's first full-length album. It was released in June by the dreaded Fueled by Ramen, a record label that I detest for various personal and professional reasons. The bandmembers themselves, while not untalented, seem completely socially and politically unaware, a trait that I usually can't put up with in artists of any genre. But I can't help it, I love this song, and often find myself singing it when I'm by myself (which is a lot lately). So enjoy some "pop-posthardcore" and my embarrassment on this hump day.

p.s. My favorite version of this song is from an impromptu, outdoor performance in Georgia that you can watch here. There's also an official video that uses the studio version of the song, in which both audio and visual are hideously over-produced and kind of ridiculous, in my humble, professional opinion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Salvador Calling!

After a summer that seemed like nothing but bad news, fall finally brings tidings of activist feminist, postcolonial joy from Brazil! Salvador's own feminist punk collective and distro, Na Lâmina da Faca, wants YOU to help them plan their upcoming feminist women's festival! Here, look at the flier they e-mailed me:

My Portuguese is limited, but from what I can tell the flier says, "You girls who: play in bands (or are learning to play an instrument), and who are zinestresses, performers, DJs, urban artists, video makers, and workshop facilitators.... Get in touch and plan an independent, counter-cultural festival for women with us!"

"Convocatória abierta de 20/08 à 20/10/2010" means "Open call from August 20 to October 20, 2010". Which means that the collective is accepting submissions right now! So diy and independent feminist artists, send your music, art work, zines, writing, links, and also your festival ideas to

No art or links to send? No worries, just send your love and support! Do your part to support your sisters in Na Lâmina da Faca by reposting the flier, reading and recommending their blog, and listening to and supporting the Brazilian punk bands they write about and the Brazilian zines they distribute. Help spread the love, and help put the international in International Girl Gang Underground!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hump Day Treat, In Keeping with Yesterday's Theme Edition

As it happens, two of the members of the panel I wrote about yesterday play in a band called Titfit, which I've been lucky enough to see live a couple times during this long, busy summer. Unsurprisingly, sexual health community activists Lee (vocals and guitar) and Kat (bass and vocals) preach what they practice in their band's songs, like in this particular song about an inconsiderate and dishonest partner.

The song might not sound positive, but as I see it, there can never be enough queer punk break up anthems. And this one is especially good because it encourages us to demand more from our relationships and from ourselves. As Lee sings, we owe it to each other to take care of one another. So feel the righteous rage and sex positivity on this miserably humid hump day!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Community and Communication: Reflections on the Consent and Interpersonal Communication panel at The Big She Bang V.

I'm just going to say it: I've had a hard time writing lately, and for a while, I was wondering what to do with this blog. For a while, sitting down at my computer and working on posts as if nothing had happened felt wrong to me. My life doesn't exactly feel real lately, and I've had trouble focusing on any one thing for too long since the funeral.

So I've been trying to keep busy in other ways. I've been trying to go out a lot, and I've been doing things that force me to be around people, like going to shows and volunteering. I've been spending time with my family and visiting old friends. I've put a lot of effort into distracting myself.

On Saturday, August 14 I gleefully distracted myself by attending The Big She Bang, where I got to spend time with many fellow rock camp volunteers, talk with some of the organizers of the event, and see some great bands and performers. I also spent a big chunk of that afternoon outside the church where the She Bang was happening, because New York City had some gorgeous weather that day.

But I wasn't outside acting like a high schooler cutting class to go smoke and talk under the bleachers the whole time. I did attend the panel on Consent and Interpersonal Communication, which featured representatives of Support New York and Fuckin' (A).

Having attended one too many sex positive workshops that didn't even start to talk about reproductive and sexual justice or rights in college, I went in to the panel a bit skeptical. But Support New York and Fuckin' (A) presented a truly positive, informative, thought-provoking, and dare I say it mature panel on physically and emotionally safer sex. Panel members shared personal stories, statistical data, and various strategies for engaging with and promoting safer sex, good health, and negotiation of responsibility with sexual partners. In the process, the panel touched on issues like normalizing consent and communication in a decidedly non-consensual and capitalist culture, and reframing personal sexual choices as political choices.

One panelist told a story that I'll never forget, because it made me think about my post-funeral behavior, thought it wasn't a story about grief. A Bay Area native, the panelist told us about his mentor, who was a young queer activist in San Francisco in the '80s. The panelist told us that one day, he asked his mentor what it was like to be be a gay health activist in that time and place. The panelist said that his mentor sighed, "Your community was literally dying around you."

The comment required no explanation; it's a reference to the AIDS crisis that shook the world in the '80s, and had a particular and devastating impact on gay communities in the US. But the panelist told us that after hearing that story, he started to think of his personal choices and his insistence on safer sex and effective communication with his partners as a matter of responsibility to his community.

The story made me think. What about effective communication regarding other issues, issues besides sexual health? What about mental health? If a failure to communicate, and a lack of critical information regarding disease can lead to massive casualties within a community, what would be the result of a failure to communicate feelings, and a lack of information about how to support people and deal with their emotional traumas?

Because of that panelist's story, I faced what I'd been doing all summer: I'd been hanging out with people and going to different stuff, but I hadn't been communicating, at all. I haven't been telling people, people who are friends, about what's been going on with me. I've been hiding, and I've been using going out to keep from having to really deal with my grief. I've been going out and pretending that everything is normal when it isn't.

I've been avoiding my feelings and keeping secrets from the people in my life. I've been self-absorbed, thinking more about my comfort level than anything else. At the same time, I've been needlessly self-sacrificing, justifying not talking about painful things by telling myself "I don't want to bum anyone else out with this, I don't want to be a downer." I've totally neglected my emotional needs, and the impact that my repressed grief could have on the other people in my community. This strikes me as the complete opposite of radical and positive, which is what I'd ideally like both myself and my community to be.

To be clear, I don't think of myself as some sort of scene fixture who has all this influence on everything around her. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm away at school most of the year, and I don't get to spend a lot of time in the actual vicinity of my community. But it doesn't matter how popular or active you are in your neighborhood and at your local events, because every single one of us has an effect on the world around us. Every single one of us is connected to everyone and everything, and we affect each other even when we don't mean to. For that reason we have to communicate with each other. Community requires communication. This might seem obvious, but I need to say it here, if only to be sure that it has been said somewhere.

Since the She Bang, I've gone out of my way to be more open about what I'm going through. I've made a point of telling people that someone I cared about deeply died last month, rather than hoping that they've read about here. I've started asking for help, both in my personal life and with work, including this blog. I am eternally grateful for the personal and professional support I've received.

Because the communication that communities require isn't just the interpersonal sort; mass communication via journalism, music, and other art forms is required as well. Blogs in particular play a specific and important role in the realm of young feminist and queer activism, and especially in the emerging international girl gang underground. As a writer and musician, I have a professional responsibility to my community, in addition to my personal responsibility to my friends and acquaintances, which I take seriously.

So, in other words: the single girl is back in the proverbial office. No more hiding, no more secrets, no more avoidance. From now on, just communication.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hump Day Treat, post-Big She Bang Edition PART TWO!

Today's video is of another band that performed at The Big She Bang, the newly local Aye Nako. What does 'newly local' mean? Well, from what I understand, two thirds of the band recently relocated to Brooklyn from the Bay area, where they went by the name Fleabag. This video is so old that it likely dates back from that era.

Age is nothing but a number though, and this wonderfully-shot video captures the band's joyfully up-tempo sound and blunt delivery. It also shows how endearing and genuine guitarist/vocalist Marilyn and bass player Joe -- whom I am volunteering with at this very moment at rock camp!!! -- both happen to be, onstage and off. So enjoy their sunny, distorted, brazen rock stylings on this hazy, dreary, unseasonably chilly hump day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hump Day Treat, post-Big She Bang Edition

Last Saturday night at The Big She Bang I fell slightly in love with Des Ark. I couldn't have possibly been the only one; vocalist and guitarist Aimee Argote played her solo acoustic set with an expected mix of warmth, aggression, and candor. The performance was disarmingly informal, and Aimee's easy interaction with her audience was truly a thing of beauty.

You can't see it in this particular video, but Aimee is a talented solo performer whose banter is witty, vulgar, and also gracious. She's so funny and so endearing that she more than gets away with habitually stopping a few bars (or even a few choruses) into her songs in order to tell her stories. Oh, and her songs are kind of miserably beautiful. So fall in love with her for yourself here, on this hump day, and also while Des Ark is on tour in the U.S. and Europe this autumn!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Leos Love Gossip edition

As it happens, I have not one, but two close friends celebrating birthdays today. And in further coincidence, both of these friends are fans of The Gossip. Isn't that totally crazy?! Okay, it isn't really. But still: happy hump-day birthday to my favorite fire signed ladies, Stephanie and Jen!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Events Calendar: The Big She-Bang V!

This coming Saturday, Rock and the Single Girl will be at The Big She-Bang V in a completely unofficial capacity. An annual event organized by NYC's For the Birds collective, The Big She-Bang is a day of discussions, art, music, and groups by and for diy feminists. Check out the flier:

I know, I know: it seems too good to be true. So if you're in the NYC/tri-state area, come check it out! Need more info? Try the For the Birds website, facebook, and/or myspace.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bereavement and the Single Girl.

I owe my readers an apology, assuming I have any left. While I don't believe that my month-long absence from the blogosphere broke any hearts or destroyed any lives, I still take this forum, and the dialogues begun with other bloggers and readers seriously, and thusly do not feel it was okay to just cut out like that with no explanation.

But there is an explanation, and a good one. Last month, I had a death in my family. I've been plodding along slowly through the grieving process ever since. First, there was the runaround of the planning and carrying out of the wake and the burial. After that, I was occupied with spending time with my other family members. And then when all the ceremony was over, I found that for the first time since I started blogging, I really just didn't feel like it. For one long week, I didn't feel like doing much of anything but sitting on my couch and feeling sorry for myself.

I know that I've carped on quite a bit in this blog about 'the importance of community'. I feel even more strongly about this issue now because my local community of diy spaces, diy bands, cultural, social and feminist activists, and generally cool and aware folks was what got me off the couch and back to living and doing stuff that matters to me. In the month since the funeral, I've gone to several great shows, volunteered at Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls, and somehow survived a real rager of a 26th birthday party in Brooklyn.

In the last month, I've seen Death First, P.S. Eliot with Big Eyes and football etc., Mortals, Each Others Mothers, The Shondes, and I caught Titfit twice. Going out as if nothing had happened felt strange at first, but I eventually realized and accepted that not going out and living your life doesn't bring your dead loved one back, and that there's no point in punishing yourself. You might as well go out, see your friends, hear some music, and enjoy the healthy distraction from your grief.

From July 11th - 17th, I threw myself into my beloved rock camp. As usual I volunteered to teach guitar and help out in the kitchen, and I forced myself to step outside my comfort zone by teaching the beginner guitar class. I also accepted a request from one of the other guitar teachers to act as a sort of guitar instructor 'point person', because I happened to be the only returning instructor. I don't know that I did a great job with that, but I'm still proud of myself for taking on the responsibility, and even more proud of how well all our campers did, and how successful our end-of-camp showcase was. Being around other like-minded feminist musicians was comforting to me, and knowing that I could control my grief well enough to do something like camp, and focus on something larger than myself for a whole week, made me feel like I would get through this.

A week after camp, a fair number of volunteers got back together again at a crazy birthday party for a friend and musician whose bands I've written about at length. I have to admit that I probably wasn't ready to deal with the unadulterated revelry and enthusiastic debauchery of that evening. There was a lot of dancing going on at this party, but the sadness and disorientation I thought I'd been handling so well turned into even more of a wallflower than usual. Everyone else seemed to be having so much fun, and I stood there watching them and wondering if I would ever possibly feel that good again. I know that I will, at some point, but when I left the party at 3 in the morning I wasn't so sure. Sometimes I'm still not sure.

But I'm still glad that I went, to all of these events. Sometimes it was hard, but I still usually managed to have some fun at them. I got to see people who I enjoy and respect, and it felt good to feel something like normal even if it was only for a little while. It was helpful to see that life does really go on, that there are still shows and parties and other positive things being planned.

Going out and being around people doesn't bring your lost loved one back, but it does remind you and force you to accept that you are still here, and that that's okay. Getting out and going to shows, and teaching young women how to play music, and watching people drink and dance and sing assured me that there are still good times to be had, and that there are still shows to be attended, reviews and articles to be written, bands and activists who deserve to be publicized, and good things to be documented. This community and its righteous activities will still be there, whenever I'm ready to fully get back into them. And it's really helpful to know that, at a time like this.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to The Acheron: Passive Aggressor and White Lung, Friday June 18, Part 2

The Acheron opened recently in the middle of nowhere. How is it that any locale can be in any part of New York City, and still be in the middle of nowhere? By being in the same neighborhood as nothing but factories, warehouses, bus yards, and storage units that have no visible names or signs. In the evenings, after these buildings close, the area feels and looks all but deserted.

Luckily for us intrepid New York show go-ers, some savvy and kindly folks have recently opened up a tiny eatery right next door to The Acheron, a warm and friendly little place called Yummus Hummus. It specializes, as you might have guessed, in a variety of hummuses (hummï?), breads, veggies, and related Mediterranean light appetizers and heavy snacks.

I wound up at Yummus Hummus that night because I got to the show really early. In a weird panic over some vegan brownies that had taken longer to bake than expected, I ran out of the house without eating dinner, only to find that the show had been delayed, seemingly by that night's Subway Series. (If you don't know what a Subway Series is, consider yourself lucky.) With nowhere else to go, I stood in front of Yummus Hummus for a few minutes before a guy sitting at one of its tables waved me over.

I didn't know him, but I went to his table and spoke to him. He asked if I was there for the show, and I said I was. He introduced himself as J___, and said that he was there to see White Lung, and he invited me to sit with him. And so I did.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am really not in the habit of hanging out with dudes I don't know, even guys who frequent the same diy spaces and shows I go to. Anyone who knows me knows that I am intensely wary of all men, to a nearly pathological extent. But I was getting absolutely no sleaze-reading from this guy, which is rare for me. So I sat down and got some red-pepper hummus and carrot salad.

J___ was a nice guy. While I ate, we talked about White Lung, Passive Aggressor, other local bands and shows we've been to, my blog, and the other related scene and show media we enjoy. He'd seen White Lung a week earlier, and he was a big fan; he claimed that their recordings were good stuff and that their live set was even better.

But what struck me about this young man is how much he wasn't a typical punk fan guy. There was nothing threatening about him, and there was nothing possessive, exclusive, or alienating about his fanhood. He was unlike most of the guys I've met at these types of events.

Which is not to say that I never meet nice guys when I go to shows; it does happen. But despite punk's insistence on resisting the system and being different, guys at shows aren't usually that different from guys in general. Guys at shows have been socialized, just like guys who don't go to diy shows, to feel a certain sense of entitlement, to not be so aware of boundaries, and to feel comfortable with being aggressive about their interests. Frequently, even totally nice guys at shows are kind of jerky in these ways without even realizing it.

Not so with J___. He came across as nothing but secure, and seemed to have no need to dominate our conversation, impose his views, or otherwise control our interactions. He came across as sincere, smiled often and openly, and giggled at my rambling freely. We were outside the venue, talking about Passive Aggressor's performance still when White Lung started, and when we heard the beginning of their first song, he and I ran back inside like a couple of hysterical '60s London teenagers running after The Beatles, no shame in our game. It was kind of fantastic.

White Lung more than lived up to the hype. After their set, J___ and I headed over to the merch table, and I bought one of their 7". And then we both departed, heading in opposite directions to our cars.

As you can likely tell, I'm still not completely over how cool J___ turned out to be. I probably sound a bit overexcited, but, consider the context: I've already posted about sexism, violence, and general verbal misogynist negativity at shows. I've posted about other ladies' experiences with male aggression both online and 'in real life', on message boards and websites and at shows. I haven't even gotten to how things are at music stores, and we haven't even begun to discuss security and safety issues at large festivals or on the road and on tour. One nice guy doesn't change all that, but one nice guy, one single person who doesn't make the people around him feel unsafe, is all it takes to inspire some positivity and some change.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The End is the Beginning: Passive Aggressor and White Lung, Friday June 18, 2010, Part I

Before you do anything else, QUICK: download Passive Aggressor's demos here and here.

Last Friday night I saw Brooklyn's own Passive Aggressor. It was to be vocalist Meredith's final performance with them, and I needed to be there for it.

I first heard Passive Aggressor at Death by Audio last January, at Little Lungs' tour kick off show. I was standing in the venue's backroom feeling my usual slight awkwardness when PA started. The growling, stomping, distorted, post-swamp rock sound of their song "Moonbeast" drew me into the main room, and I was transfixed for the rest of their performance.

The music itself was hypnotizing in the best possible way, and Meredith was the kind of frontperson whose charisma is impossible to ignore. Tall, lycan, aggressive, and with a long main of messy hair that doesn't so much feminize her as it makes her seem even more animal-like, Meredith and her throaty, punchy howl reminded me of two of my favorite singers, Selene Vigil and Cristina Martinez.

So I was admittedly kind of bummed when I read on PA's facebook page that Meredith was moving on and that the band is replacing her. I also couldn't imagine them without her. Who could possibly take her place? I wondered idly to myself while waiting for their set to start. And then I wondered, will they get a dude? Or will they get another female musician? Maybe more importantly, does it matter?

Regardless of gender, replacing a band member is a difficult business. A band's interpersonal dynamics is delicate, and personality is a factor. It can't just be about finding the best musician for the job; you also need to find the right person for the band. Finding a new singer is particularly complicated because audiences tend to relate to band's vocalists differently and more intensely than to the other musicians in a band.

But that different relationship between an audience and a band's frontperson hinges on a lot more than that frontperson's gender or sex. Marketing executives and record label people tend to focus exclusively on their musicians' gender, sexuality, and level of appeal, I suppose because it's the easiest thing for them to try and sell. But I know from personal experience that one's devotion to any musician is frequently much more complicated than that.

We notice a musician's sex and gender because we're socialized to immediately categorize everyone we see as male or female, and as 'masculine' or 'feminine'. But we also notice body type, skin color, and personal style. If we read or listen to interviews with a musician, we learn about her views, her background, and other information that may or may not like or care about. If we do care, we latch onto various aspects of that musician's personality and way of thinking.

And it gets even more complicated than that, because it goes far beyond the individual musicians in any given band; our interest is also dependent on the members of the band and how they relate to each other, musically, and sometimes personally. It can be hard to separate all of that from your love of a band's music, but if you're buying that music, and going to see that music live, it's a pretty good bet that it is, ultimately, about the music, rather than the musicians.

Despite such complications, a good band that makes good music is, by nature, more than the 'sum of its parts'. Passive Aggressor is more than its musicians, and certainly more than Meredith's stage presence. It occurred to me during their set last Friday that even without her, I really want to hear what they're going to do next. It occurred to me that I was drawn to their instrumental sound before I heard or saw their vocalist. It occurred to me that Van Halen has had three different singers, and that they always still pretty much sound the same...and that they always kind of blow. So I expect that Passive Aggressor will sound brilliant no matter what vocalist is fortunate enough to join them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Happy Accident Edition

Today's video features White Lung, who I sort of saw by accident last Friday at The Acheron (which is literally a story for a different post). Right now they're on a pretty respectable-length west coast tour, so go see them if you can, you won't be disappointed! And even if you can't go see White Lung, enjoy their dark, thrashy, rhythmic take on the punk tradition on this hump day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pride and the Single Girl.

I recently had to go up to school to return some library books during what happened to be the nearest city's annual gay pride weekend. Various pro-love, pro-sex, pro-LGBTQ events were scheduled, including a Friday night lesbian dance party at a popular bar. I went, mostly because I sort of knew the dj, and some of my friends were going.

I enjoyed it as much as I usually enjoy events organized around female queerness, which is to say that I didn't enjoy it at all for the whopping five minutes I was there. Despite a superb, friendly (and frankly rather attractive) dj, I just couldn't get into it. I've never liked clubs, because they're too loud and crowded for me, and the music is never good enough to get me to dance.

Whenever I go to something like this, I spend the entire time thinking that I'd rather be at a show, seeing someone like my beloved Zombie Dogs or Death First, and preferably at a DIY space like someone's basement or loft. The people I know at those shows are artists, activists, and feminists, and I feel way more connected to them than I do to strangers at a club who happen to share my sexual orientation. Lesbian events never feel socially active or feminist enough for me, and it just bums me out.

After my failed attempt at specifically lesbian partying, I had a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw moment. Still longing for a good feminist punk show, I couldn't help but wonder: what is punk and hardcore's relationship to the gay community? Is there a disconnect there, or is it just me?

It could very well just be me, considering that there's an entire genre of gay punk, known as Queercore. Queercore developed somewhat in tandem with Riot Grrrl, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in the early 1990s, where bands of both genres often performed and worked together, putting on shows where show-goers of the female and gay persuasion could feel safe and forge some sense of community.

And even before the the rise of queercore, gender play and homosexuality have been present in rock and its subgenres. People like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and even Mick Jagger, and bands like The New York Dolls and X-Ray Spex (among others) brought gender-consciousness and some pretty courageously gender-transgressive fashions into their scenes back in the 1970s.

But rather than proving some kind of diversity, I'd argue that much like Riot Grrrl, a movement like Queercore evidences rock and punk's exclusivity. It's not as if Queercore and Riot Grrrl coalesced because punk in the late '80s was just so damned progressive, open, and accepting. Feminist punk girls and gays formed and joined those movements in order to make space for themselves within the historically hostile and straightwhitemale-dominated punk tradition.

The legacy of those brave spacemakers lives on, at least where I come from. I feel incredibly lucky to be involved with a scene where female punks, regardless of their sex lives, are valued as full participants as artists, musicians, and organizers. Every day of my life I feel incredibly lucky that these women, like me, fell in love with bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Team Dresch, and Excuse 17 as teenagers, and that they're committed to continuing those bands' work.

It seems like my town is the exception, though, rather than the rule. Lately, it seems like I have read and heard about so much unmitigated sexism outside of Brooklyn; the B9 Affair and Total Trash's commentary on rape apologism in punk are the first that come to mind. That sort of disrespect for women and assault survivors, not to mention the shameless promotion of patriarchy it indicates, is linked directly to disrespect for other folks who don't fit the straightwhitemale norm and/or people who aren't willing to kneel before the hierarchy. There is visible, open, unabashed hate in our punk communities, and violence, too. It's not just me.

It's been demoralizing for me to face the bigotry that exists within punk. But here's the thing to remember: prejudice isn't insurmountable. We can overcome our differences, we can combat hate and violence, we can change punk, and that's not 'just me' either. Queercore and Riot Grrrl may have revealed punk's biases, but they and the people they've inspired also prove that it's possible to challenge hateful ideas, and to work through punk's issues. We just have to be willing to confront them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hump Day Treat, global punk feminist fight songs edition

When I'm feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by school stuff (which I have to admit is frequently, lately), The Two Funerals seem to be my go-to, non-chemical uppers. They recently posted this video of them playing an old favorite, "Hit the Ground" and then their contemporary classic, "Western Apathy" at their blog. Watch, be inspired, and then go out and do something awesome; I know that's what happens whenever I listen to TTF.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Missed Show Remorse Edition

I'm still bummed that I had to miss Witches when they came through New York during the last week of April, a.k.a. 'too close to finals for going to shows'. And I'm also bummed over other things, which you might have guessed from yesterday's downer of a post.

So today we have a 2008 three-fer video that somehow has the power to put me in a good mood now matter how overwhelmed or sad I'm feeling. It's a bit long, but stick with it, because each song is better than the last, including the surprisingly good Nirvana cover. (Here's a hint: it was inspired as much by my own family vs career issues as Cherie Currie's, but then that's what usually happens when you're any kind of writer.)

Hear and see more at Witches' new-ish blog, and check out some recently posted summer tour dates. Go see them so I can live vicariously through all of you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

'Cause a girl can't be tied down: Family Guilt in The Runaways

[WARNING: Major spoilers. Don't read if you haven't yet seen The Runaways and don't want to know what happens.]

Anyone remember that movie about The Runaways? Yeah, it got fairly awful reviews, but I will admit that I went to see it twice, and that I paid both times. Yes, for real. (This is a story for a different post.)

I concede that the poor reviews are not entirely undeserved. The acting is pretty good, and the subjects are so fascinating, but The Runaways has a lot of technical problems, the worst being that the script doesn't quite tell a coherent story. Sure, you see a band getting together, rehearsing, getting on the road, getting signed, getting fucked up and having a lot of sex with various partners, and then breaking up -- but nothing in the movie is really explained. Not even what motivated the band to get together, or what the band accomplished as the first all-girl rock band. It's like there's tons of story there, but director Floria Sigismondi can't be bothered to actually tell it, because she's too busy with her needlessly weird and typically unsubstantive imagery.

The story that does inadvertently get told is a provocative one that is relevant to any girl, woman, or ladyman who has any serious career ambitions (musical or otherwise). Based on a memoir written by original vocalist Cherie Currie, The Runaways ends up being about her struggle to survive tour while wrestling with guilt about leaving her troubled family.

The cover of Neon Angel, Cherie Currie's memoir

In her first scenes in the movie, Cherie seems like a typical California teenager who likes to do atypical things. She quietly defies her classmates and family by cutting her hair into a ragged Ziggy Stardust-type coif, wearing Ziggy-style makeup all over her face, and eventually flipping off her classmates while performing a David Bowie song during her school talent show. What we don't know is that the real Cherie Currie did these things in part because she was struggling to recover from the trauma of being raped by her sister's boyfriend. (According to Currie, this wasn't in the movie because the filmmakers wanted her to 'lose her innocence' later in the movie. Hmmm.)

The first scenes of the movie focus on other things that made Cherie's home life less than satisfying. We see Cherie's neglectful mother, who takes off for Indonesia with her new husband just after Cherie joins The Runaways. We see Cherie's twin sister, who is less than sensitive to Cherie's insecurity about feeling like the 'lesser' twin. We see Cherie's caring, kindly father who is also an alcoholic who is in poor health.

This effectively conveys Cherie's unhappy, stressful existence, but it also singles her out as the 'one with the family issues'. We don't learn anything about the other band member's families, we don't meet any of their mothers or fathers or grandparents or siblings. Drinking and talking by the Hollywood sign, Cherie asks Joan Jett and drummer Sandy West about their parents, and they both kind of shrug. Their parents aren't really present, they don't have curfews, it's not a big thing for them. That's the only mention of the other girls' families.

Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie. She all up in the club in this still.

The screentime given to Cherie's home life comes off as almost intrusive. For example: in a particularly crushing scene, the rest of the band comes to pick Cherie up to go on their first tour just as the family discovers that Mr. Currie is passed out in his car, which is parked in the driveway. The girls gawk and Cherie reluctantly leaves as her sister and grandmother help her father drag his ailing body, which has already sort of fallen out of the car, through the front yard and into the house. Cherie is visibly embarrassed in front of her band, but no one offers any words of support or sympathy.

On tour, Cherie is the one who gets homesick. She's the one who worries about her family, she's the one who calls home and asks how things are there. No one else is shown engaging in any of these perfectly reasonable behaviors. Cherie is also the one who develops the serious drug problem.

The movie suggests, in other little ways, that Cherie is the weak link in The Runaways -- emphasis on 'weak'. On top of being the one with the family and substance abuse issues, Cherie's taste in music gets criticized as too 'middle of the road', and which is another way of saying 'weak'. Cherie is attacked for doing a solo photo spread that verges on pornographic, and is accused of needing attention; in other words, she's too weak to resist the camera. Cherie is the one who can't handle manager Kim Fowley's abusive behavior, the other girls are strong enough to soldier on despite his constant barrage of insults.

When Cherie finally leaves the band, she uses her family, and her father's illness, as her reason for doing so. She tells Joan, "I need to be with my family," which is strange to me because Cherie has so many good reasons to leave the band that have nothing to do with her sick dad. Why doesn't Cherie just say that she's unhappy, or that her body can't handle the constant touring/drugging/drinking/etc anymore? Using her family as an excuse conflates Cherie's problems and 'weakness' with her attachment to her family.

The real Cherie Currie carrying Dakota Fanning! Guess she's stronger than the movie made her out to be.

I don't mind the movie showing Cherie's descent into addiction or inability to deal with the pressure of being on the road or Kim Fowley's traumatizing and exploitative manipulations. Dakota Fanning's poker-faced portrayal comes off as a believable response to her frightening reality, and it makes sense that with little support or adult supervision, Cherie would turn to drugs and sex to deal with her problems. If that's Currie's story, and it seems it is, that's fine.

What irks me is this implication that Cherie's family, and her wanting to be with them, is the cause of her problems. The movie perpetuates the idea that women who focus too much on their families are weak and bound for professional failure, without doing a very good job of explaining all the other factors that impacted Cherie and the rest of the band.

This idea is already pervasive in Western society, especially in the United States, where things like maternity leave and access to childcare are generally seen as crazy feminist demands that male-oriented workplaces shouldn't have to accommodate (forget paternity leave and elder care). Also dominant in our culture is the message that anyone with female parts absolutely must put her family before herself and whatever professional goals or dreams she might have. The contradiction makes it incredibly difficult to juggle your responsibilities, and leaves women in general vulnerable to lots of undeserved criticism from all sectors of society, no matter what type of work you're in.

I like that The Runaways actually shows this struggle, and the way that it comes between women who work together. I guess I just wish that the movie had a happier ending, or at least one in which it doesn't feel like Cherie 'broken home' Currie is supposed to be some sort of cautionary tale, meant to contrast the family-less Joan 'I'm so tough' Jett and her colossal post-Runaways, post-Cherie success.

The real Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, looking more complicated than 'weak' versus 'strong'

Because cautionary tales and depressing stories about girls who were too 'weak' to hack it aren't what we need. Every single girl I know, myself included, is struggling against inescapable social dictums that we don't deserve to be anything but servile to our families, often while also struggling against this irrational guilt we have for wanting more for ourselves. We already know how hard it is, we don't need to be reminded by standard rock bio-pics. What we need, as we finally find our like-minded artist and musician partners, is to see and know that things aren't as simple as Cherie or Joan, and that happier endings are possible for us, if not for Cherie.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Yes Homo edition

So I'm finally easing back into the blogging game after a much longer than expected hiatus. Today's video is courtesy of Little Victory, a NY quartet that I got to see live for the first time this past Saturday. I fell in love with them, and hope that you will too! Listen and help me celebrate the end of the semester, my first show of the season, the start of Gay Pride Month, and the return of Rock and the Single Girl all at once on this hump day!

AND THEN: be sure to check out Little Victory's facebook page for more songs, videos, photos, and information on their pioneering t-shirt slogans, as well as updates on the band's Pride Weekend activities!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Punk Feminist Reader, Finals Madness Edition

So even though I've been preoccupied with school-related matters, I have managed to keep up with my reading. Since it's Friday, and who actually does work on a Friday afternoon, I thought I'd share some links so you can dig what I've been thinking about/planning on possibly writing about. A lot of it is kind of old news, but still, enjoy, my punk feminist Friday slackers!

First: I rarely get to write about it here, but as the proud descendant of Puerto Rican migrants, I try to keep up with the island's news. Unfortunately, lately the news seems all bad: it's all about the aftermath of the hatecrime murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado, and the resurrection of the dastardly Proyecto 2499.

In better, gayer news, my personal heroine Trish Bendix has been bringing the gay music news over at AfterEllen (along with our morning brew). This week, she reports on how Lady Sovereign is FINALLY out, and last week Trish got us the news on Melissa York's latest projects. (Which includes Team Dresch reunion shows this summer, OMGYAY!)

In feminist blogger gal pal news: the lovely Maggie of Rocker Repro recently asked why Taylor Momsen is so into old school dude rockers. Another heroine, Alyx Vesey, has been killing it over at Bitch, and I especially loved her response to the new M.I.A. video. And then ANOTHER friend, RMJ, who has also been blogging over at Bitch (dang, I have some good feminist blogger taste!), recently posted at her blog Deeply Problematic about why Kristen Stewart doesn't have to smile for us. In other Bitch news, Jessica Yee asks us to consider when an issue becomes a feminist issue.

Meanwhile, my faves The Two Funerals and their tourmates/bffs in P.S. Eliot have been fighting and calling out scene sexism and misogyny in the trenches and on the intarwebs. Read all about what incited their righteous rage for yourself, read TTF's response, read Katie of PSE's response, and then get active and do something good for your own scene.

And if you still haven't got anything to do after that, go read some Tiger Beatdown, and maybe listen to some good, old fashioned, feminist straight edge vegetarian grindcore.

Promise to come back with a real post soon, my dear readers. Hasta luego!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hump Day Treat, just another manic Wednesday edition

Things have been quiet here for a bit because it's finals season here at my university. It's going to be slow here for a little while, as I'm caught in an end-of-term whirlwind of papers, books, and meetings, so tide yourselves over with this ridiculously appropriate Bangles hit on this hump day.

p.s. Fun fact: I remember getting this album on Christmas morning in 1986, even though I only was three years old. And I remember my mom showing me how to use my Big Bird record player with it. That's right, my mama didn't raise no fool.

p.p.s. It's weird (though not entirely unsurprising) that Prince (yes, the Prince) wrote this song, with its subtly sexist lyrics about not knowing what to wear and not being able to get it together in the morning. But in typical Prince fashion, it's still catchy as hell.