Monday, January 14, 2008

Feminist and sexism

I was recently part of an intra-feminist conversation about misogynist and sexist themes in music, and it got me thinking about how much of the music I love is generally considered to be Not Feminist Approved. Which of course got me thinking about what that means, for something to be feminist approved or not feminist approved. Most of the music I love falls under the not approved heading just by virtue of genre – we’re all supposed to be listening to music written by and for women with somewhat political themes, right? Indigo Girls et al?

I don’t like that kind of music. I don’t like the male equivalent either, the stuff that as a socialist I’m supposed to like – Billy Bragg, etc (with the notable exception of the Manic Street Preachers, who are blatantly socialist, but then they don’t write music that sounds like a dirge). It’s not that I have anything against that sort of music, really, I just find it boring. I prefer my political theorizing to come in the form of a book, or an essay. I prefer music to hit me in an emotional way – the music I like best tends to bypass the brain and head straight for the gut.

There’s stuff that I can’t listen to because the lyrics piss me off or creep me out, though. If the lyrical content is sufficiently off-putting it distracts me from the actual music.
What do I mean by off-putting? It’s usually lyrics that are hateful towards any group of people as a group (stuff that’s more “you pissed me off, specific person!” I’m fine with). Stuff that’s hateful towards women will tweak my “fuck you, asshole” response pretty fast, obviously, and stuff that’s racist or homophobic has the same effect too. Apart from anything else it seems so very stupid, to be angry at any group as a group, especially if they’re a group with less social/structural power than you. Especially if it’s a white guy bitching about women/black people/gay people/whatever, my response is pretty much “Eh, shut up”. Which would explain why, although I love metal, most nu-metal irritates me. Well, there’s the fact that most of it sounds like it was written by a whiny 12-year-old, too.

I never have understood why feminists are supposed to dislike anything raunchy on general principles, though. Raunchy stuff that’s actively hateful towards women? Don’t like that, generally. But just plain raunchy? Why is this a problem?

So, I decided to put together a list of songs that I love that, at various points in my life, I’ve been told that as a feminist I’m not supposed to like. Some of them I can actually see why I’m not supposed to like them, but I do anyway. Some of them I think whoever thinks I’m not supposed to like them is falling into the trap of assuming that women just aren’t supposed to like sex, period, in which case…bite me. Once I started putting the list together I realized that what all the songs have in common is a sort of gleeful reveling in one’s own perversity. They’re not just sexy; they all leave me with a big smile on my face. It’s the idea of songs that talk about sex in a way that makes it seem like some or all of the participants are fucking miserable that puts me off. As long as it sounds like everyone is having a great time? Bring it on.

So, here’s my list

(Anything with a nifty little underline is a link to a downloadable version of the song)

Ministry – Stigmata (Violence, blood, kinky as hell…yeah, I know why I’m not supposed to like this one. Don’t care – best song to fuck to EVER.)

Dir en grey – Zomboid (Gleeful perversity at its finest - how can you not a love a song in which the macho male narrator declares himself addicted to come? There’s a reason why they’re my favorite band, folks, and it’s not just because Toshiya’s pretty. However, if anyone at your workplace speaks Japanese DO NOT play this song where they can hear it. Not only will you get fired, they’ll probably sue you for emotional trauma.)

Zilch – Electric Cucumber (Pretty much every feminist friend I’ve ever had has been horrified that I love this song. Vulgar, raunchy and utterly marvelous. Especially the part where the male singer says “eat me, beat me, treat me like a mother-fucking whore”. Me, I think that were it not for the unfortunate him-being-dead part the person who wrote this would be just my kind of guy.)

AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (I don’t have a digitisable version of this to upload, dammit! But I love this song. I once heard an AC/DC album described as “another ten songs about drinking and shagging”. That sounds about right. And again, it’s the gleeful tone that makes it work so well for me.)

SADS – Porno Star (The title alone should put this on the “Nice Feminists Don’t” list, and yet…I love this song. Then again, this guy could make just about anything sound sexy. Even the term “cock rock” doesn’t quite suffice for SADS – I could put almost any song of theirs on this list and it would fit right in.)

Miyavi – Night in Girl (This is the song that made me fall in love with Miyavi, musically speaking. Not that I don’t like all the pretty stuff, or the bluesy stuff, or his rawr rock stuff, but this? This is just plain hot. Perfect rhythmic acoustic guitar and ridiculously sexy voice and delicious lyrics with a playing-with-gender twist. Also, note to those who don’t think it can be done – as blatantly sexual as this is there isn’t the slightest sense that the man doesn’t like women. Quite the opposite in fact, which is especially remarkable when you consider that he was only 19 or 20 when he wrote this.)

Placebo – Nancy Boy (Sexy gender-ambiguous boys, how do I love thee? Oh let me count the ways…This also reminds me of my teenage clubbing days. Good times.)

D’espairs Ray – Marry of the Blood (If you’re into BSDM this is your house band. What do you get when you have a band with two doms and two subs? Stuff like this…slow and hypnotic and kinky as can be. I may well go to the otherwise tedious Taste of Chaos tour just to see these guys. Especially if Zero is going to be wearing the tight leather skirt with the big slits up the sides.)

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love (Clich├ęd as all hell, this is true, but still a sexy song. Also somewhat sexist in that typically 70s cock rock way. Not truly misogynistic though, I’d argue, just garden variety cluelessly sexist.)

Zilch - Fuctrack # 6 (This one makes the Genitorturers sound like Sesame Street. Right at the beginning you have a bitchy domme come in and say “I wanna fuck you in the ass until you bleed” and it just gets better from there. Pretty much everything by Zilch is raunchy and perverse and funny as hell, but this one may be the winner. And I love it, oh yes I do! This song isn’t so much sexy as laugh-your-ass-off hilarious.)

So, what are your “I’m not supposed to love this but I do” songs? The really raunchy ones that the Spinster Aunt would not approve of? C’mon, you can tell me.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Election blues

Has anyone else been following the coverage of the Iowa caucuses? I’ve mostly been turning a jaundiced eye away from the whole thing, mostly because all of the candidates are predictably uninspiring.

Hilary Clinton is a great politician, there’s no doubt about that, and she’s getting better all the time. Bill’s footprints are all over her campaign, and politically that’s a good thing – he has better instincts than she does. Actually Teflon Man has better instincts than any other politician of his generation. With both of them working together she may well get the nomination.

I wouldn’t vote for her, though (if I was allowed to vote, which as a non-citizen I am not). The reason I wouldn’t vote for her is simple – I have no idea what she would do if she was President. Every time I see her speak it’s all surface and no content – you can listen to her deliver a half hour speech and come away with no idea of what she plans to do except that there’s something vague and undefined in there about healthcare (she does get some points for being consistent in her interest in that issue).

Obama is more or less the same. Everything he says sounds good, but you come away with no idea what kind of a President he would be, because he never really says anything of substance – it’s all vague platitudes and rousing but imprecise promises.

These are our two leading candidates. Oh joy. Vague and vaguer. Vote for either of them and you have no idea what they care about or what policies they’ll implement, what’s really important to them and what they’ll be willing to trade away. That applies to most politicians, of course, but the constant press insistence that both of them are different because of their gender (her) or race (him) grates. Neither of them seem different to me – it’s politics as usual. Don’t commit to anything because then you might actually have to act on it.

I still think Edwards is a better candidate. I know the media doesn’t agree with me – even though he’s pretty close in the polls most media outlets are barely acknowledging his existence.

He may pull it off, though. Americans like sincerity and trustworthiness in a candidate, and he certainly does a better job of projecting those qualities than either of the other two. He has that same sort of folksy, relaxed charm that Clinton (Bill, not Hilary) has, and that might make the difference.

The real reason I want him to get the nomination is that I feel like I actually have some idea what he’d do with it, though. He’s the only one who ever seems to say anything. I also think that the press assumption that his legal background is a liability is silly – Americans don’t like corporate lawyers, but lawyers who represent normal people against corporations? Those they like. Plus he has a sort of warmth to him that the other two notably lack.

The folksy quality grates for me, honestly, but I still think he’s the one who’d have the best chance of beating whoever the Republicans put forward. Unless it’s McCain, then they might well end up neck in neck, just because their demeanors are so similar.

The media seems to be pretty sure that both of those two are doomed, though. Me, I’m just going to sit and watch. And scowl every time another media outlet doesn’t even attempt to hide its biases. Since when did they stop teaching the fact that that’s unprofessional in journalism school?