Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Listening While Feminist

I identified as a music fan long before I ever identified as a feminist. I'm loathe to admit this, but I spent a lot of years being a "guy's girl" kind of rock chick who prided herself on her knowledge of obscure music and being able to hold my own in, essentially, pissing contests of trivia and lyrical acumen. And for a while it actually worked. It was only after seriously thinking, reading, and examine my own listening habits as well as those of my friends that I realized how underrepresented female artists were in my music collection. I also started listening more to the lyrics of songs (revolutionary, I know), and saw a lot of old tropes about men and women being played out -- things I wouldn't tolerate in other media or among my friends. That's when I really started to take stock of what I was consuming.

It's not so easy to critically look at one's own music habits. It was only when I realized I tend to identify with the song's narrator that I started to look at things differently. I'd let things slide because "It's only a song," or "Who am I to stifle one's artistic expression," rather than honestly look at the messages some of those songs were sending. Case in point: a certain singer-songwriter, celebrated in underground circles, more than once has used the word "whore" in song. Overwhelmingly, I like this guy's music, and I'm not willing to give it up, but I can't ignore the fact that, you know, he just called someone a whore -- even if metaphorically.

I like Tami's take on Morrissey's racist comments from earlier this year, and what it means to be a fan when one of your idols makes bigoted comments:
I won't claim that I will never again let my iPod rest on a song by The Smiths or Morrissey, but the way I experience those songs has been forever tainted. While I have never listed Morrissey among my celebrity idols, many certainly do, and I find this perplexing. It is one thing to love the music and hate the man, but if you find bigotry abhorrent, how can you then idolize someone who has a history of demonstrating racial prejudice?
I'm not going to pretend my iPod is entirely free of hatred -- racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism is unfortunately the norm in society, and the culture we consume reflects that. But I'm learning.

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