Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Are you man enough to be a woman?"

Recently, NME blogger Rae Alexandra asked, "What Happened to All the Ferocious Female Punks?" Joel Gibb, Chris Korte and I were asking the same question recently over a casual cup of tea with the artist G.B. Jones.

A living legend, G.B.'s work has been compared to Tom of Finland (with female cops instead of bears) and was a member of the proto-riot grrl band Fifth Column. She has recently returned to music with the band Opera Arcana, with Minus Smile from Kids On TV and Julie Faught of the Pining.

Between G.B., Joel, myself, and Chris, (a curator who has performed with Norwegian opera creators Vinge and Muller), we thought up a seemingly endless list of amazing women in bands from the 80s and 90s- Chris noted Siouxsie Sioux, Exene Cervenka, Belinda Carlisle (who wore garbage bag dresses before superstardom) and Grace Jones, Joel mentioned the L7 tampon incident, and GB told us stories about the Toronto music scene in the 1980s, which, among other things, was home to Carol Pope, Canada's first (out) lesbian popstar. We also sang the praises of Frances McKee of The Vaselines, and Bikini Kill. And it wasn't long ago that the amazing genderqueer presence of artists like Divine and Jayne/Wayne County demanded of audiences "Are you man enough to be a woman?"

Compare that to the situation today, and it seems like apart from wispy folk and eccentric but non-threatening electro, there's not as much of a female presence as there was ten years ago. We have MIA, we have Peaches, but for the most part righteous anger seems to be taking a nap.

While NME blogger Alexandra partly blames the popularity of Suicide Girls for the dearth of angry women on the proverbial mic, there seems to be a deeper root to this regressive wave in music. I hate to be repetitive, as I recently blogged about cultural devolution that has seen the unapologetic and/or unthinking sexism rise like Phoenix from the ashes of the PC 90s, but it's a topic that won't go away.

It's time to take inspiration from the best of the past- not for nostalgia, but for illumination. The following clip is a love song, but let's think of it as a love song for a revolutionary moment, one we just need to get back to. In the spirit of optimism, here's "Right Back Where We Started From", by Maxine Nightingale.

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