Category Archives: feminism
I got a little worked up about things and then I had to stop. I had to watch ‘Vogue’ on YouTube and then I had to ask myself: why am I getting so worked up about this? What a colossal waste of my time and energy. By this I mean Miley Cyrus and all her shenanigans and everything that’s been written about her.
But what needs to be said is it doesn’t make a difference how many body parts Miley exposes because there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is Lorde.
EO and YO and their friends have moved on, fickle by right. And the new stuff coming from Bieber, Perry, Gaga is just same-old, same-old. So go and listen to the first 30 seconds of ‘Team’ from Lorde’s new album, Pure Heroine, and enjoy the future. It is glorious.
If I can paraphrase Willie Dixon here:
Well, the parents don’t know
But the little girls they understand
So this whole hot mess is just a bunch of adults tsk tsk’ing and/or celebrating whatever message of (dis)empowerment Miley’s laying down. Is she savvy? Is she stupid? Is she high? I’m not sure. But I do know two things: 1. She needs to get far, far away from that pervert disguised as a fashion photographer, Terry Richardson. 2. She will never be Madonna.
If there are any Miley fans reading this, you might disagree with the Madonna bit. But when you can find the following references in any Miley videos – German Expressionism, Catholicism, Racism, French New Wave, Andy Warhol, Busby Berkeley, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Martha Graham, Pro-Choice, Parkour – then we can talk. When Miley references ANYTHING other than porn, I’m happy to have that conversation.
A few years ago, back in the golden, wistful Hannah Montana sunset, I wrote my own open letter to Miley. I was trying to be sympathetic not preachy (but maybe a little full of myself too). I was trying to imagine a young woman who felt she had to go from her age-eight target audience to a sexualized adulthood in one album of pop songs. That can’t be easy. I don’t think Miley ever read my letter, but here it is again:
And for good measure, if you need this in your day:
ATTENTION MILLENNIAL GIRLS EVERYWHERE:
Never fear, therockmom is here! To advise, to educate and of course, to embarrass you, as most moms are want to do. (Do what you’re good at, I say.)
Yes, I know you’re sinking under a mountain of college debt. Yes, I know it’s tough to get a job or even an internship out there. And yes, I realize you girls don’t even know how to date. Maybe you’re too worried about climate change or budget cuts, I don’t know.
Btw, if you don’t believe me about the dating thing, click here. Weird but true.
But I’ve been contemplating your various issues and crises (and watching Girls once a week) and I think I can help. After careful study, including an exhaustive, multi-generational survey and lots of web surfing, I’ve pinpointed the one area, the one crucial variable, where Generation Y women truly struggle. And if you can change this one thing – say it with me, “Yes, I can!” – I think you’ll find your horizons will broaden, the skies will clear and you’ll enjoy life more.
So what, you ask, is Gen Y’s missing X Factor?
You have no Rock Gods.
Let’s be honest here, your music has a serious masculinity problem. I mean, do you really want to see Jay Z or Pitbull shirtless? Can you imagine Mumford & Sons with groupies? Do they even have groupies? And while he may love his torso and his tattoos, raise your hand if you think Adam Levine is truly dangerous. Come on now, one of 2012’s hottest bands – Fun. – is by name and reputation absolutely not dangerous.
If you still don’t believe me, see my helpful chart below.
I blame it on two influences: the all-singing, all-dancing, sometimes acting Michael Jackson; and Kurt Cobain and his sweater. You see, the current generation of multi-talented pop types (Usher, Bruno, the Justins) all profess a huge appreciation for and a desire to emulate the King of Pop. And while you can clearly see the genius in “PYT”, you can’t say the man was manly. (Well, maybe in countries where English is not a first language.) Hence, the generation that followed him has somehow forgotten that when you grab your crotch you really need to mean it. Now, over in the rock world, Nirvana influenced huge numbers of bands with its groundbreaking sound, sensitive songwriting and rejection of rock norms. But perhaps Cobain’s lasting legacy will be the fuzzy cardigan he wore for MTV’s Unplugged in New York, released in 1994. With one piece of thrift store clothing he tells the world and young girls everywhere, I want to be comfy. I have no sex appeal, so just ignore my piercing blue eyes and stringy blonde hair.
And all the while the peacocks of old – Plant, Daltry, Morrison, Roth, Rose – wring their hands and cry out in a Jack Black call to arms, “Where is your chest hair? Where are your leather pants?”
Where are your Golden Gods?
Okay, I can tell you’re still a little confused. I thought you might be. Not to worry. I polled a cross section of female friends and asked them to tell me what rock star (past or present) they’d most like to go backstage to… um, meet. With their answers, I’ve put together some bullet points – a handy checklist if you will – that you can refer to as needed when you’re trying to find out if a Gen Y guy is worthy of Rock God status. Do I think there are any 20something rockers out there who compare to previous generations? That’s like asking if Harry & Taylor are the Mick & Marianne of your generation. Get serious. Nevertheless, here goes:
1. He should have hips.
Rock can be political, it can have a sensitive side, sure, but when it comes to the stuff of teenage dreams, you need to remember that all rock stars start with the pelvis – censored like Elvis’, immortalized like Jagger’s or photographed like David Lee Roth’s. And, no, Psy’s dance-y hips absolutely do not count in this equation.
2. He shouldn’t be ashamed of his body.
Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi? Both proud of their bottoms. As are Robbie Williams and Prince (maybe too much in their cases). Even a rock star as articulate as Sting is proud to take off his shirt and sport a little skin. The yoga helps. Justin T, we may have seen you shirtless, but we also know you still get carded on a regular basis, so that’s not quite manly enough for us.
3. He should date a supermodel.
This is really a given, as it furthers the whole rock-as-theater image that we need. Jack White is your best bet for Rock God status right now, being a kick-ass musician and having married and subsequently divorced a model (though I’ve never seen him shirtless, nuts!). And I don’t know where this trend came from of sensitive guys in waistcoats settling down with slim, thoughtful actresses (Gwyneth & Chris, Marcus & Carey), but it needs to stop. We want you larger than life!
4. He has to drive, or sing about driving, or sing about cars.
I know we’re all worried about greenhouse gases but how disappointing is it to learn that Millennials would give up their cars before they parted with their computers or cell phones? You cannot write a great song about being ‘Born to Telecommute’ or ‘I Love My Samsung Galaxy’ or ‘Life in the Wi-Fi Lane’. Rock-n-roll and cars, people, that’s a religion.
5. He needs leather, big hair optional.
Has Lenny Kravitz taught you nothing? Rock is not about fuzzy sweaters, it’s not about comfort. It’s about planting your foot on the edge of that Marshall amp in your motorcycle chaps and letting people worship you! Eighties style! Having said that, however, I’ll give Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl in their flannel a hall pass on this one, because they’re awesome enough as is. And because Ed ditched his first wife to marry a model, so he ticked box #3.
6. He must embrace androgyny.
Play around with your sexual identity, absolutely. But, please, not in some respectable-Rachel-Maddow kind of way. Look at Bowie, still subversive and provocative after all these years. David Lee Roth may have acted like the most hetero guy on the planet but he had long blonde hair and happily agreed to be tied up and photographed by Helmut Newton. So start with black eyeliner and something fishnet-y and work from there.
7. He should rock with the Devil.
This is an oldie but goodie and disappointingly rare these days. A loose connection to Satan – real or imagined – is not required but it helps. Remember: dark, aggressive, occult-ish. For reference, see Nick Cave and paganism, Jimmy Page, The Beatles, even Billy Idol in a pinch.
8. And finally – Act. Don’t Tweet.
When was the last time a young rock star trashed a hotel room? Exactly. Don’t just post something inappropriate, do something inappropriate. (Though not harmful to any member of any gender, natch.)
Wait, rockmom, you’re thinking, we’re 21st century women. We’ve evolved. We work at Google, we volunteer, we’re in charge of our own FB status and we like hanging with our parents. Why would we want to embrace any of these macho, misogynistic stereotypes?
Because you’re young! Because rock should be dangerous! And because rock stars should remember, by extension, that danger is their business.
I rest my case, Millennials. It’s up to you.
Jack White – here to save rock-n-roll. Did you notice that he’s driving?
Roger Daltrey: last.fm
Robert Plant: The Sun UK
David Lee Roth: tcarsc.blogspot.com
Justin Timberlake: pastemagazine.com
That’s the question on my mind this week as I ponder what life has in store for America’s most famous new Mom, Beyonce Knowles Carter. I wonder what kind of nanny she’s going to hire. A drag queen, as suggested by some pseudo-reality-celeb? A reformed thug aka Memphis Poppins, from mediatakeout.com?
It’s a crucial hiring decision – one of the most important she and Jay Z are likely to make this year. So, in the spirit of rockmom solidarity and experience, I’ve drafted a sample want ad. Bee, feel free to use this verbatim. I believe it conveys your Super Couple lifestyle needs and requirements while conveying the aspirational ethos you live by.
Tell me what you think:
Much has been written about the low sales figures of Beyonce’s latest album, 4. Some speculate that marriage and pregnancy have been a natural pull on her ambitions, and after fifteen years in the spotlight who can blame her? I’ve never felt that Beyonce was anything more than a professional, and I mean that in the sense that she doesn’t betray any desperate need to be loved (yo, Britney) or to spread the ‘Beyonce’ message a la Madonna or Lady Gaga. You get the feeling she would do a great job at anything she tried – business, politics, teaching – and that the Beyonce we see and hear is nothing more than her public persona, not a window in to a tortured (Je suis une artiste!) soul.
I’m not ragging on her by any means. I’d prefer that my daughters listen to a true vocal talent like Beyonce or Adele, rather than a cartoonish, cynical vamp like Katy Perry or Ke$ha. It’s funny how you can watch Beyonce’s videos, with their full-on displays of sexuality, and yet not be offended by them. To wit:
I wonder why this is so. Is it because she is so physically superior that we can accept her bodaciousness the way we marvel at and appreciate the talents of a great athlete? Maybe it’s related to the lack of scandal in her private life. She works hard. She sings for Obama. She’s a humanitarian in stripper heels! Again, I think the key word here is professionalism. Beyonce covers all the bases: a feminist with an all-girl backing band and girl-power anthems; a woman who honors her roots by sporting afros and playing Etta James in Cadillac Records; yet edgy enough to appear in a weird ol’ Lady Gaga video. Not much there to cause insult or injury. So while we might prefer our rock stars to speak to and for our inner selves – Radiohead seems to fill that role for me these days – we can also swim at the shallow end of the pool and enjoy a good beat and an amazing voice.
Yet I still can’t answer the question: is Beyonce a good role model? Since my girls reached an age where pop culture is a part of their lives, I feel I have to consider these things, whether the girls understand the lyrics or not. Maybe I’m overestimating the power and influence of Sasha Fierce here. Who knows? My litmus test for tween music has always been: what’s the message and is it a good one? Is it harmless and fun like Camp Rock or spunky and friendly like Taylor Swift? If it’s subversive, is it rebellious in a healthy way (think Pink or Kelly Clarkson)? Are the women on equal footing with the men? Or are they being degraded, exploited or abused in the name of so-called sexual freedom? Rihanna, I’m talking to you! The funny thing with Beyonce is I’m still not sure. Back in the ’80s, Madonna grabbed her crotch, sang out ‘Express Yourself’ and we teens thought: right on! These days, Beyonce grabs her breasts and hollers, ‘Girls! We Run This Mother!’ and I honestly don’t know what to think beyond: well, I can’t put this on our Beyonce playlist because she’s basically saying ‘mofo’ in the chorus.
There was a rock critic named Ellen Willis; she wrote for The New Yorker from 1968-75, covering the heydey of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols, Lou Reed, etc. I’ve been reading a collection of her writing called Out of The Vinyl Deeps and have been struck by so many of her insights in to rock stars, especially one of her favorite performers, Janis Joplin.She writes, “unlike most female performers whose act is intensely erotic, (Janis) never made me feel as if I were crashing an orgy that consisted of her and the men in the audience. When she got it on at a concert, she got it on with everybody.”
Willis wrote those words over thirty years ago. Now how many female performers can you name who are truly like that?
It’s a short list.
I’ve never been a big fan of Patti Smith. I can admire what she’s done as a female rock pioneer, but that doesn’t mean I like her music. My earliest memory of her is actually Gilda Radner parodying her as ‘Candy Slice’ in an old Saturday Night Live sketch, where Gilda comes out in a thin white camisole and makes a big show of her armpit hair. It was funny.
But I’m starting to take a new interest in Patti after reading her stunning memoir, Just Kids, which is about her years with Robert Mapplethorpe.They struggled, starved, loved, lived and created together in New York City from 1967 to 1979, until Patti moved to Detroit with her husband, Fred Sonic Smith. After Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, Patti would return to NYC often to be with him, until his death in 1989. I’ve just finished reading the book but want to go back and re-read it immediately. It’s not just the great anecdotes about Warhol, Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs and all the other colorful NYC figures of the 1970s. It’s also about – primarily you could say – what it means to be an artist. Patti writes in great detail about the different work she and Robert created and the different avenues they traveled down before they found the truest, most meaningful ways to express themselves – she in rock-n-roll and he with photography. She drew, wrote poetry (still does), acted, worked in bookstores, co-wrote a play (with her then lover, Sam Shepard) while Robert dabbled in fashion, made jewelry and created intricate collages. Reading about their fits and starts and inspirations makes me feel more courageous about my own writing, that yeah! I can have a go at this. And running all through Patti’s recollection of their collective emergence as artists is a tender, heartbreaking story of two misfits who remained loyal and loving to one another until Robert’s death.
I really have to stop reading books that make me cry. Reading Patti’s words about Robert’s last days and nights… I can’t imagine the loss.
She is articulate, moving, funny, fearless and inspiring. I wish I could write as well as she does. I’m going to buy ‘Horses’ right now. Then I’m going to try harder, dig deeper for the right word. Not typing, but writing, Truman. Thank you original rockmom. Thank you Patti.
She still files lawsuits and burns bridges (et tu Mr Corgan?). She tweets – in raw, shameless bursts – about her daughter, Frances Bean (Frances recently chose to live with her paternal grandmother instead of her own mom). She talks openly about sex, drugs and of course rock-n-roll.
But she can also pull herself together for strong, entertaining performances, for example on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show and at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival.
So what gives?
What happened to the woman who’s been called:
“a verbally incontinent mascot to insobriety”
“the most controversial woman in the history of rock”
“a money-grubbing, no-talent druggie hack”
In many ways, she’s still a train wreck. With her sharp, scathing mouth and runaway id brain, Love’s the person who gets away with it: simultaneously repulsive (the ‘what the f-?’ plastic surgery) and impressive (“Violet” anyone?). The arrests, threats, overdoses, indecent exposure, custody battles and unstable conduct make you wonder: how is she still alive and standing?
You might disagree but I like to think it’s the music that has kept her in the public consciousness for going on 20 years now.
It starts with that voice – pure as rage, strong and nasty. Liquid nicotine. Bad girl telling the truth in lyrics that open up wounds and reveal scars. I listen to Live Through This and Celebrity Skin in the car when I’m driving alone. I turn ‘em up loud, real loud and just wail along with Love as best I can.
Let it burn.
On the new record, “Nobody’s Daughter” and “Skinny Little Bitch” rank up there with some of Hole’s best work. SLB, in particular, zeros in on that desperate, raging spot in your gut that makes you want to scream, shout, set fire to things and kick ass. The song opens with Love’s snarl and a guitar riff that’s pure rock 101 but so damn effective.
Love sneers and growls, hisses and threatens as she spits out a story of desperation and drugs. Is she singing about herself?
Born, of foul creation
Born, of sour milk
Coke and filth
You staggered here on broken glass
So I could kick your scrawny ass
And all the drugs and all the burns
What a nasty
What a nasty, nasty piece of work…
I was never a bad girl. I do everything I can to tick off my to-do list and teach my kids the merits of delayed gratification (finish your school reader and then you can watch iCarly). I’m the meal planner, the activities organizer, the designated driver.
But in my alternate reality a la Courtney Love, I rock out, wear totally inappropriate clothes and give the world a big, fat middle finger.
And I wonder, what’s it like to be her?
Is she Desperate? Lonely? Triumphant?
In a Spring interview with The Guardian, Love said, “I don’t like not being liked. I’ve always been a popular gal. I’ve got good social skills. Sometimes I’m a little bit weird, but never unpopular, never a bully…”
I suspect she resides in a constant state of mood management – am I happy? am I relaxed? can I get some sleep? Like some pharmacological zombie, a Damien Hirst artwork come to life, she lives in a single-minded pursuit of feelgood. And if she can’t find peace of mind, she’ll settle for messy, shameless… high.
Go, take everything, take everything,
I want you to.
I hope she makes more music.
As for me, I like tidy. I like getting things done. And I hate hangovers.
But, man, I sure would love to have her voice.
By now you may have read, heard and/or seen the latest Lady Gaga video, ‘Telephone’, starring Lady Gaga, Beyonce, various female prison skanks and a couple of transvestites.
I’ve seen the uncut as well as the edited versions (pixilated thongs = Asians aren’t allowed to see butt cheeks!), and I have to say I felt embarrassed. It’s the same feeling as when I first watched Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” back in high school. I was home by myself, worried my Dad would walk through the door; I was blushing and laughing and thinking, “Can he really say that on TV?”
But that was the early days of cable. Now you’ve got Lady Gaga shaking her scrawny nekkidness all over YouTube for all to see.
So should I be worried my daughters might see this? What is Lady Gaga trying to say anyway, and does it have anything to do with girl power?
Thankfully, music videos – unless they involve a Jonas brother – aren’t on my girls’ radar yet. They enjoy Miley, Selena, Demi and especially “Grease” though they haven’t figured out all of the lyrics to ‘Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee’. Whew.
And you know I never thought I’d use the words ‘classy’ and ‘Madonna’ in the same sentence, but LG could certainly learn a thing or two from Madge about how to craft a video.
Madonna’s video oeuvre borrows from artists like film director Fritz Lang and movie icon Marilyn Monroe, and she’s got enough religious imagery in her vids to fill a Catholic school. What influences do we see in ‘Telephone’? Why that would be Quentin Tarantino (often hailed as a feminist director – NOT), bimbo photographer David LaChapelle and… porn movies.
But it’s not the silly Tarantino references, the Natural Born Killers scenario and such. What’s troubling to me is this neo-feminist attitude that, if I choose to take off my clothes – if it’s my choice, however dubious – then I’m asserting my girl power and taking control of my sexuality.
On a hippie commune or the beaches of St Tropez, maybe. But in the real world, it still comes down to guys oogling your tits. Let’s be honest here, Lady Gaga. You can talk all you want about girl power and close your video with a feminist symbol, but once you shake your bare ass at the camera you’re no different than Pamela Anderson or any other Playmate of the month. You’re a product. Just like the blatant product placements in your video.
I’m so sick and tired of (female) entertainers trading in this porn commodity and calling it liberating. Wake up young women! Tell us what it’s really all about: selling music and selling yourself! Anything else is just so much self-deluded bullsh*t!
Lady Gaga might be hailed as a new pop icon, but her latest video shows she’s really just a skank with a canny agenda.
FYI: photo captions 1 and 2 are from Easy Rider.