Monday, August 18, 2014

Quoted: Sarah Shulman on Patti Smith

I hated Just Kids. I felt it was very disingenuous. She made herself very clean. She's a good person because she was understanding that her boyfriend was gay. Yet he ended up being pimped by a rich guy, whom she kind of pimped off also. She doesn't like women at all. Every man she hates ends up being incredibly connected and powerful, and propels her professionally. She also has a high ick factor around lesbians. The only woman she mentions is Sandy Daly, and experimental filmmaker who made the film Robert Get His Nipple Pierced, which we showed at MIX. She seems to have instinctively stayed away from women who don't have any power, and gone with men who had enormous amounts of power. I was shocked to discover that, because Patti Smith was my hero. -- Sarah Schulman in an interview with Zoe Whittall from Believer mag's Always Apprentices
Later in the interview, Schulman says, "[Patti Smith] write all that great lesbian stuff in her songs, apparently none of which is real." I thought this was pretty common knowledge. (If she's talking about "Gloria," I'm pretty sure Patti Smith has made it clear in various interviews that she's singing from a man's point of view.)

I like Sarah Schulman, but I don't entirely agree with her, or, at least, I don't think Patti Smith has committed some great offense aside from some pretty blatant (but clueless) homophobia. Using the N-word in a title of a song is inexcusable, but she doesn't mention that.

I don't know. I always thought of Patti Smith as proto-genderqueer, or gender nonconforming before it became the topic of thousands of Tumblr blogs, and I've always appreciated her for it. She never claimed to be a lesbian, so it's not as if she appropriated an identity that wasn't hers. I think what bothers me the most is that we hold female celebrities to certain standards of correctness -- political or otherwise -- but not male ones. Smith's misogyny is well-documented, pretty shitty, and baffling given her status as a feminist icon, but given the misogyny in pop music in general, is it all that surprising?

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