Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rewind: Crass - Penis Envy

If there ever was a record that could truly and honestly wear the label of "feminist album," it would be this one. Penis Envy is the only one of Crass's albums that features the band's female members (notably Joy de Vivre and Eve Libertine) on vocals, and actually managed to break into the British top twenty.

Released in 1981 as punk was taking its last breath, Penis Envy's themes of sexual harassment, sexual repression and the patriarchy's control over women's brains and bodies was really subversive stuff. In a recent article for the Guardian, Rosie Swash writes:

"If you were a teenage romantic in the 80s, you might have been the kind of little dreamer who bought Loving magazine. Filled with swooning love stories, it must have seemed an unlikely place to hear the latest record by an anarcho-punk outfit from Essex. And yet that's exactly what happened when a flexi-disc with a song titled "Our Wedding" by an artist called Joy De Vivre – purported by Loving to capture the happiness of your big day for "true romantics" – was given away to readers. Famously, the mag was forced to issue an apology when it emerged this was actually a subversive piece of feminist agit-prop from an album called Penis Envy by a band called Crass. This lent new meaning to the lines: "All I am I give to you, you'll honour me, I'll obey you" and caused the News of the World to describe them as a 'band of hate'."

Full disclosure: I came to this record pretty late in my music listening life, and I'm glad I did. The songs on Penis Envy are scathing, seething, and absolutely essential for anyone, especially a young feminist.

No comments:

Post a Comment