Friday, January 29, 2010

Even punk girls get the blues.

Last summer, the lovely and talented Hana Malia, with whom I am proud to have volunteered, turned me on to the idea of being prepared for emotional hardships and crises. She explained to me the simple and effective practice of having a box filled with phone numbers of loved ones, photos from happy times, mix cds of comforting music -- in short, a box full of things you know will elevate your mood.

A former Girl Scout to the core, this idea of being prepared for such a crises, just as you would prepare for for a natural disaster, makes total sense to me.

This makes less sense to me: last night, after a very trying week of school-related miseries, interpersonal breakdowns, bleak weather, and thinking about Haiti, Howard Zinn, and J.D. Salinger, I found myself huddled in a shaking mass on my bed. And I found out the hard way that the mix cds in my proverbial box o'coping methods are of angry, aggressive, politically-oriented music. When I am hurt or upset, my instinct is to listen to my favorite local bands and the ladies who inspire me the most -- bands like The Shondes, Cheeky, The Two Funerals, Scantron, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Zombie Dogs, Sleater-Kinney, among others.

It seems counterintuitive even to me to use rock and punk for such a purpose. Rock music has traditionally been made and performed with the intent of confronting, informing, and provoking, right? I know that my friends who listen to and play punk and hardcore do so because they want to challenge and be challenged.

I think partly because of my punk feminist beliefs, I tend to feel embarrassed when I'm upset by something. I know 'rationally' that feelings like sadness, loneliness, and despondence are perfectly normal, and that feelings aren't ever wrong, because they're subjective. But I can't get over this feeling that I'm being weak, and I wonder if my colleagues, and the girls in my circle of friends and acquaintances ever feel this type of shame.

I want to say this for both myself and for other girls who are struggling to balance being an emotional, functional human being with being a strong person: even the strongest, fiercest, most confident ladypunks get upset. The toughest, most anti-cheesy sentimentality, most hardcore diy of us female musicians, music writers, photographers, videographers, organizers, and promoters have days where we feel inadequate. We have days where we just feel bad, whether it's because of challenges at work, at home, with friends, or wherever. Even though the world is always demanding that all women, of all backgrounds, are required to constantly be perfectly happy and able to give of our time and energy.

And because we all have these negative and hard-to-manage feelings, I advocate a) having these feelings and learning to not feel bad about them and b) Hana's box. I have to admit that I haven't made an actual box, but I do have a sort of mental box, or mental list of things that I know will make me feel better. Here are some of the ones at the very top:

1. Will, Grace and Rachel Maddow. I know, I know: television doesn't seem like it has much to offer these days. But the fabulous genderqueerness and neurotically selfish antics on Will and Grace both make me laugh and remind me of home. On the other side of it, Rachel Maddow helps to keep me informed, and her reporting on big issues helps me to keep perspective. Also, how classy and clever is she? Watching her graceful takedowns of conservative pundits never fails to revive my faith in humanity.

2. The Girls Are and feministmusicgeek. Yes, I've already talked up feministmusicgeek, but I feel the need to do so again. Author Alyx Vesey never seems to have quite the same take on any given issue as I do, but she seems to care about a lot of the same issues around women and their access to music and performance as me. Her blog always makes me feel less alone. At the same time The Girls Are makes me feel less alone by supplying info and interviews with more and new underground girl and girl-oriented bands than I ever dreamed I could find all in one place. Their choices are impeccable, their writing is funny and sharp, and the blog is, in general, quite inspiring.

3. More Corin. My love of Corin Tucker is well documented in various places within this blog. The truth of it is that Corin is my most cherished feminist artist hero. So when I'm feeling sapped of my energy and drive, I read and watch interviews with her, and I remind myself of what I'm working for.

4. More talking. There's a lot to be said for being self-sufficient, and it's important to be able to take care of your emotions, yes. But that doesn't mean you always have to do everything alone -- a lesson my friends and I seem to keep learning, in new and different ways. I know that I personally find it hard to depend on others, but it's important to trust your friends and family to be supportive, and to tell them when something is bothering you. It's important to our individual well-being to be able to share our feelings, and it's important for our relationships.

And I'd even argue that it's important for our 'scenes': if you can't trust those closest to you, and build those relationships, how can you expect to trust your fellow musicians and colleagues, and to help build communities?

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