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.