Magana, by @mttmfeed

Cross-posted from: More than the music
Originally published: 13.02.17

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.27.09When did you begin making music, and did you ever ponder a different career?

I’ve been singing ever since I remember. Though my first instrument was piano…I was probably 9 and my family ran a fruit stand all summer long, which meant long hours of sitting around in the sun or organizing watermelons. I went to the church that was down the road and started taking lessons from the pastor’s wife in order to escape the boredom. We paid her in fruit.
Read more Magana, by @mttmfeed

Girls Who Play Guitar: Why Miley Cyrus Doesn’t Matter by @mttmfeed

Cross-posted from: More Than The Music
Originally published: 10.10.13

When I was 15 I started learning to play guitar. The man in the music shop who sold me the instrument encouraged me to learn because “there aren’t enough girls who play guitar” (his words). And back then, he was right – I really didn’t know of many female guitarists.

Fast forward ten years later and, while I personally won’t be rocking any stages at Glastonbury any time soon, the situation in the music scene has certainly changed. I have commented on this interesting development while watching the Glastonbury footage for the past couple of years . There are now literally loads of female guitarists, and I have certainly reviewed a fair few bands on here who contain at least one of these formally elusive creatures. At the very moment of writing there is a certain trio of LA sisters at the top of the charts and guess what? They play guitar.


Read more Girls Who Play Guitar: Why Miley Cyrus Doesn’t Matter by @mttmfeed

Lily Allen – Feminist Pop Artist? at Petals fall from my afro like autumn

lily-allen-baggy-pussy

 

Feminist. Pop. Artist. Three words I’m still struggling to put together. Yesterday, after nicking my godmother’s Sunday Observer, I was drawn into a Twitter debate all about Lily Allen’s new video: “Its Hard Out Here” (for a bitch). I’ve never had much of an opinion on Lily Allen, I don’t think she’s the worst of the worst or the best of the best, she just sort of is, rather like icing sugar, and soft-ball. Yet seemingly she is now being trended all over the internet as the latest controversy in the feminist pop-star debate. If you haven’t been filled in, basically, Allen’s music video depicts her first on a plastic surgery table, being poked and prodded, singing:

“There’s a glass ceiling to break”

and

“Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?
Have you thought about your butt? Who’s gonna tear it in two?”

It all looks good on paper, we’re thinking wow – some young impressionable women might actually google ‘glass ceiling’ and learn a thing or two about the world. The video later depicts her dancing in front of a sign reading ‘Lily Allen Has a Baggy Pussy’ an obvious critique on Robin Thick’s appalling ’Blurred Lines‘ (directed rather painfully by a woman: Diane Martel – I’m not giving men any more right than women to be objectifying, but one might hope that having ‘all the same bits’ would entitle you to SOME moral questioning of a video discussing the ‘blurred lines’ between saying yes and saying no to sex – or underneath the bullshit: was she raped or not, oh I don’t know, it wasn’t my fault, she was giving me mixed messages…really?)  The criticisms of the video declare that the film is racist, as the majority of dancers in Allen’s music video are black women who ‘twerk’, have their asses slapped, and are obviously not in control of  anything going on. The critique has been headed by Guardian writer Suzanne Moore, who I have to say makes a very good case:

“We are not post-racism any more than we are post-feminism. This is the context into which this video falls: a white middle-class woman playing ringleader to anonymous black women. Maybe there is a knowing wink here I missed. But I haven’t missed years of black women writing about how their bodies are used for white people to write their own scripts all over them”

However I’m inclined to stand somewhere between Moore and feminist performance artist and rock/punk icon Amanda Palmer who told the Independent:

“Say what you like about it or the provocation it caused, but it’s generated enthusiasm [about feminism] that hasn’t existed in my lifetime. A window has opened and if we don’t stick a fucking log through it, it will close.”

To be honest, I agree with both articles, but my biggest problem with the whole thing is the disadvantaged position all of these female artists put themselves in (Amanda Palmer not included) by seeming to have no idea of the semiotic readings of their work. If you put a woman on all fours behind a white woman, yes that racial connotation, if you put a naked woman (who incidentally looks underage) on a giant ball, it reads that she’s riding a testicle, licking the shaft of a “hammer”. You can read into anything – it doesn’t necessarily matter on its own, but you have to know what your selling, otherwise your just a tool for perpetuating sexism, and basically just down right objectification across the board – after all – men are not just their genitalia…but that’s another debate. Beyonce can call herself a feminist all she likes, but as far as I’ve found, there is no song she sings that is not about, for, or because of men in content, and she’s certainly not shaking her ass all over the TV for the benefit of women out there. But I do think Allen could have saved herself on this one, she could have taken a stand, she could have proved to the masses that she not only does she “have a brain” but that she is actually willing to USE it, even if she loses some sales over it. If she had stood by her lyric ”if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood” and come back to the criticism with a loud and clear, “Of course its about race, racism and sexism are the same argument, especially in this industry. Can you not tell, that I’m making a point of how black bodies are objectified? How both white and black bodies are made to look ridiculous by trying to imitate the dancing styles of black cultures, and the hair and make-up of white cultures? How its all such a big farce, a big, ridiculous joke, of which women, white women, black women, curvy women, slim women, women are all the butt? I am subverting these things, making them even more obvious and in your face, because no-one seems to realise that Miley Cyrus is putting sex and teddy bears on a stage and saying it’s okay, and Robin Thicke is basically making pornographic music videos that justify rape, and you know what, I just thought something kind of had to be said.” Ah – if only. Instead what we got was:

“[This video] has nothing to do with race, at all,” Allen responded yesterday in a post titled Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions. “[It] is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture … The message is clear.”

I really hope that I am not underestimating their ignorance, and that they are, all just a bit consumed with the industry and the media and the un-reality of it all, because if they are completely aware of the sexist, not to mention racial connotations of these images:

lily-allen-hoh-video-650-430c

 

lily-allen-hard-out-here-8

 

and are still happy to tell me it’s not about race – then I’m sorry, but we have a very serious problem. I look at these images and I think, yes Lily, the message is clear, it’s just such a shame, that its not the one your thinking of.

 

Ama Budge: A performance artist turned freelance writer commenting on gender inequalities, reflecting on my own challenges and experiences as a mixed-race Londoner and most importantly taking note, in awe, of the extraordinary resilience of human kinds striving for be better, and to love.

Fallen Feminist Heroes by @TheJadedLadies

(Cross-posted with permission from The Jaded Ladies)

At the end of last year Lily Allen wrote a “feminist” song and made a “feminist” video that seems to create at least as many problems as it attempts to solve. the video itself is addressed in more detail here so I won’t delve into that again now.

The furore however reminded me that I’d been here before with Allen, all be it on a smaller scale. I like her demeanour and devil may care loud mouth image, which are so unusual in a woman in popular culture, and find her songs catchy and occasionally witty. I particularly liked “the Fear” with its pointed references to the music industry and media. I laughed along at the ironic cutting of lines like “everything’s cool as long as i’m getting thinner” and “i’ll take my clothes off and it’ll be shameless, cos everyone knows that’s how you get famous” until a few years ago i was reading a copy of GQ in some waiting room and came across a multi page spread of…topless shots of Lily Allen that she’d done to accompany an interview. Oh. I thought. Oh deeeear. Perhaps it wasn’t ironic at all but entirely serious. Or more likely, here was another nascent feminist-y hero failing to live up to the ideology she professed to have.

The mild disappointment I felt then and now over Allen is frequently replicated by the parade of women involved in pro-feminist projects who make pro-feminist statements but deny that they are feminists or that there’s anything wrong with gender relations in the world. Most recently it was Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (who plays the fantastic Katrine in the fabulous Borgen) saying she doesn’t consider herself a feminist in an interview with the Evening Standard. But these are usually low level falls from a partial grace – they tend to elicit a sigh and a slump of the shoulders but not much more. No, the ones that really hurt are the proper feminist icons.

Margaret Atwood, one of my favourite authors and creator of the mother of all feminist sci-fi novels, The HandMaid’s Tale, not only distanced herself from the label “feminist” in an interview in the Independent in 2009 but spouted some ridiculous crap about why women naturally do more and care more about housework – specifically picking up socks, and, what’s almost worse resorts to “science” to back this up:

“Atwood’s theory is not just airy speculation but based in evolutionary science: “It’s because we were the gathers and they were the hunters. Women spent 80,000 years picking mushrooms, and men spent it running after animals. We see the mushrooms – which is this case are socks – they see the moving object””

She then went on to minimise the fundamental message in the HandMaid’s Tale saying “You could tell The HandMaid’s Tale from a male point of view. People have mistakenly felt that the women are oppressed, but power tends to organise itself in a pyramid.” WHY? WHY?

Similarly, we have Germaine Greer justifying the Sun’s page 3 as a bit of harmless fun for her “builders” in a comment that both misses the feminist point and manages to express a patronising class based snobbery. Even worse are her comments in her book The Whole Woman justifying FGM as part of certain cultures, arguing that criticism of it wrongly interferes with women’s right to choose to have it done.

But what is to be done about these flaws and failings of our hopefuls and heroines? With real life feminists who I know in person (and I include myself under that heading) I’m willing to excuse “lapses” or instances of conforming to the patriarchy – I shave my legs and worry about my weight, but I understand that we are living under an oppressive system that is powerful and pervasive, I’m happy to cut myself and others a bit of slack when we feel the need, or even desire, to conform. The fight is hard and we can’t be expected to fight on all fronts all the time, we can’t be expected to live ideologically pure lives. But with idols and icons it’s somehow different. You want them to be 100% pure, absolutely on the money all the time, permanent entirely correct politically. Is it unfair and unrealistic to demand this of public figures or as  public figures are we allowed to expect more of them, especially when there’s so few feminist voices out there?

 

The Jaded Ladies: 4 friends blogging about feminism [@TheJadedLadies]