I’m basically done with the Being Me stuff. That doesn’t mean that I’m done with the thought processes behind it, though. There’s just a bunch of stuff that kinda-sorta fits in context but didn’t fit in the narrative I chose. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. It just means that I’ve been working somewhat harder on composition and not throwing all the shit I could find against the closest vertical surface.
Part of it, too, is that there are a couple of topics that I think are important but that I hesitate to say anything about except in a roundabout way. The big one on that list is feminism. That’s one of those things that privileged suburban white boys don’t talk about much on the internet unless they’re the type of privileged suburban white boy who wants to go to feminist sites and tell the people there that they’re all feminazis and they just don’t get how hard it is to be a privileged suburban white boy, man.
There’s also the bit where I came to the party kinda late and in a kinda sidelong fashion. I lacked a language to discuss the topic outside of things that had been fought and re-fought long before I arrived. As such, I defined the whole thing for myself to my own satisfaction and then I pretty much moved on. It wasn’t my fight, it wasn’t my place, it wasn’t my thing.
This was further complicated by the fact that feminism and discussions of feminism hit me at about the same time I was withdrawing from Christianity. I needed something to continue to fuel my neuroses in regards to my relations to the female gender in the absence of all the Jesus stuff. Rape culture, male privilege, the notion of the male gaze and all that other stuff fit the bill perfectly. I basically replaced, “Oh, shit, Jesus gonna hate me if I have sexual thoughts about women,” with, “Oh, shit, that woman is going to assume I’m a rapist if I so much as look at or talk to her in any way, shape, or form that isn’t completely and totally on-the-level professional.” So, hey, rationalization for the win, amirite?
So let’s say that’s not a thing anymore. Let’s say I want to talk about something that I consider to be damn important. Since my circulation on this blog is decidedly small, anyway, I figure I can go right ahead and do that.
Back in December I wrote a post about Soundgarden that ended in a bizarre little aside about an early ‘90s Christian surf rock band that went by the moniker Dakoda Motor Co. I ended up comparing Dakoda Motor Co. to No Doubt and making this observation:
What Dakoda lacks in bare midriffs and pointed social commentary compared to No Doubt they make up for with, um, happy Jesus-y stuff. So they’ve got that goin’ for ‘em.
It turns out that this comparison was less apt than I thought. The true secular match for Dakoda was Letters to Cleo, which I’ve called the most tragically underrated band of the ‘90s. But that’s not my point at all. My point is the observation above.
One of the things that occurs to me, and this post of awesome songs by ‘90s bands fronted by women kind of confirms it, is that I came of age during the golden years of riot grrrl feminism. That particular golden age did not make its way past the doors of my church, however. The difference between the Dakoda videos and No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” that lead to my statement quoted above wasn’t really an observation about one obscure Christian band against one major secular band. It was an observation about the Christianity in which I grew up against the larger world in which I grew up. We simply did not talk about important social issues in church.
Okay, that’s not actually true. We did talk about social issues. What we talked about, though, was how awesome it was going to be when everyone accepted Jesus and made Jesus the center of their lives and Jesus fixed all the social ills of the world. It should surprise no one anywhere, ever, that Jesus’s fix for the world would be to make everything look exactly like the church thought it should look. As such, in a weird way, Dakoda Motor Co. was making a social statement. The statement was just, “Jesus is awesome and will make everything awesome.” That’s a fantastic sentiment. It’s also completely and totally wrong.
So let’s talk about feminism.
Actually, I’m gonna yield the floor to the honorable Gwen Stefani, Esq. to make a few remarks.
I really don’t have that much to say about feminism as a personal thing, now that I think about it. It all boils down to the statement that I began using in college when I was introduced to the idea of feminism as a thing to be embraced and celebrated as opposed to a thing to be feared and ridiculed. Mostly, though, it boils down to why I hate using that statement.
The statement I started using was, “Women are people, too.”
The statement I would have preferred to use was, “Women are people.”
Actually, the statement I would have preferred to use was nothing. It seemed pretty obvious to me that women are people. However, it strikes me that in a world where we talk about how, say, President Obama fared in elections with women and minorities that we’re saying two things: first that women are a minority and second that neither women nor minorities truly count. Post-election Republican rhetoric certainly followed that logic.
Looking back I realize that I didn’t get that idea from the Bible or church. I got that idea from Shirley Manson, Nina Gordon, Louise Post, Sarah McLachlan, Kay Hanley, and Gwen Stefani. Hell, I even got it from Alanis Morrisette and Courtney Love. It was simply an accepted part of my life that there are women out there and that women have something to say and that what they had to say was valid because it was part of their experience and their existence. That didn’t necessarily mean I had to care what they wanted to say, but I don’t think that’s really a litmus test.
There are lots of white guys who say stupid shit that I don’t feel the need to listen to, after all.
The problem that I have talking about feminism, I think, is how feminism fits into my Unified Field Theory of Group Dynamics. Whenever you get involved with a group there are a collection of self-proclaimed gatekeepers. Those gatekeepers think that it’s their duty and sacred mission to keep the riff-raff out and make sure that only the properly informed and vetted are allowed into the discussion.
This, by the by, is why I love the feminist book store sketches on Portlandia. I don’t really see Fred and Carrie making fun of feminists there. I see Fred and Carrie making fun of a certain variety of feminist. For that matter, they’re making fun of a certain variety of atheist and a certain variety of Christian. They’re also making fun of me.
Part of my Unified Field Theory of Group Dynamics requires me to admit that I’ve appointed myself as a gatekeeper of something, too. In my specific case it’s music. I am a proud child of the ‘90s. I judge all music based on how it stacks up to the music I started listening to in the ‘90s and, more specifically, how it stacks up to the music I liked in the ‘90s.
To that end when I run into one of those people who says that there hasn’t been a single good album since 1979 I say, “Man, you’re out of touch. Soundgarden and Pearl Jam are so much better than Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.” Then I turn around and shake my fist at the damn kids listening to their Biebers and their One Directions and their Taylor Swifts.
If you have two brain cells to rub together you’re looking at my example above and saying, “Whoa, wait a minute. There’s a difference here.” You’re correct, there is a massive difference.
My boss might be a Black Sabbath fan. There’s a reasonably good chance that he’s not going to fire me for being a Soundgarden fan or make sure that I get paid 75 cents on the dollar, either. If I were to get elected President in 2016 there’s pretty much zero chance that it would be declared historic on the grounds that I’m the first Soundgarden President. I probably wouldn’t get death threats for it, either.
On some level I’m a fan of Soundgarden because that was the world in which I came of age. If I were a 13 year-old in a van in 2004 I might have ended up with Nickelback as my band of choice. If we go back to 1984 it might have been U2.
What I’m saying is that context matters. We find things when we find them. Self-proclaimed gatekeepers, however, tend to think that’s not the case. They don’t want anyone to join a group unless the new people join in exactly the right way and with exactly the right motivations.
The reason I bring all of this up is because it occurs to me that being a child of the ‘90s did actually equip me to discuss feminism in 2012. I couldn’t tell you what the difference is between 1st wave and 2nd wave feminism. I’m still a little fuzzy on the difference between Gloria Steinem and Gloria Allred. I’m a little baffled at people who find it necessary to label themselves as “sex-positive,” because who the fuck isn’t sex-positive?
I think I’m properly equipped because I heard No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” about seven thousand times between 1995 and 1999. No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” is pretty much a perfect introduction to what feminists are talking about in 2012, what with the rape culture and the slutwalks and the notion of white male privilege.
The reason I tossed “Sunday Morning” into my bit where I gave the floor the Stefani was because that, too, encapsulates a central point of my theory on feminism as asserting that women are people. I don’t know if it’s intended to be a statement about how women are treated like “Just a Girl” is, but I do know that I like what it has to say.
You're trying my shoes on for a change
They look so good but fit so strange
Out of fashion so I can’t complain
Seems about right.
Meanwhile, though, this is already much longer than I thought it would be. So let’s make it a two parter.
I’m not gonna lie to you, Marge. That’s probably based 90% on the fact that, holy shit, Letters to Cleo was way too amazing to be a marginal one hit wonder and 10% because I want Kay Hanley to find my blog while doing random Google searches for Letters to Cleo. Because Kay Hanley is awesome and right up there with Louise Post and Shirley Manson in my book o’ kick-ass ‘90s rock frontwomen.
I’ve never really liked Morrisette. I’m not that big a fan of Courtney Love and Hole, either. That said, I was having a text-based conversation with a friend about ‘90s music the other day while listening to a Pandora station with Letters to Cleo, Garbage, Veruca Salt, Republica, and the Breeders as seeds. I made my standard, “But Hole still sucks,” statement. My friend pointed out a couple songs he thought were good from them. Then the station threw “Celebrity Skin” down my earholes and I had to admit that, yeah, that song was pretty good.
Also, too, it’s probably important to bring country music into this one. I started listening to mainstream country in the late ‘90s because I made some terrible decisions during my sophomore and junior years of high school. There were a bunch of really good country singin’ women in those days. So, y’know, there’s that. I still like Terri Clark.
Ugh. Kill theoretical me. Kill theoretical me now.
Totally okay with that.
Okay, I’m not. I mean, I fucking linked to stuff about them. But it seemed punny to me at the time.
This one actually does genuinely baffle me. My sole interaction with someone who labeled herself as “sex-positive” was on o’ them online dating things. And I tell this story because it amuses me to no end.
I got an email from someone who lived a thousand miles away. The email said, and I paraphrase, “I’m going to be in your area next week. Want to get a drink?”
I, it should be noted, am I proper dipshit. So I went to her profile and looked around for some indication that, like, she was planning to relocate and looking for friends or something. Such things were not forthcoming. There were, however, keywords like “casual sex,” and “kinky,” and “sex-positive.” So I was genuinely confused and sent back an email that said (and, again, I paraphrase), “Sure. But why?” The response then pretty much spelled the whole thing out and the gist was that I should have been paying more attention to the “casual sex” bits.
Needless to say, we never did get that drink.