Saturday, October 18, 2008

Feminist Anthems: Step Aside

I just couldn't write a music column for very long without mentioning Sleater-Kinney. (They're pretty much my favorite band!)

But the song I want to look at today is unusually interesting: It's essentially a feminist dance song:

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that this song is perhaps the embodiment of third wave feminism. The Third Wave Feminist Anthem, if you will. Let me explain:

Now, I'm not going to try and define third wave feminism here. For one thing, it would take a whole book. For another, as a quick visit to you local feminist blog will tell you, nobody else really knows what it means either!

For the purpose of this post, though, some attributes of third wave feminism include: A rejection of the narrow focus of the second wave on women's rights to the exclusion of all else, an broader acceptance of sexuality, an emphasis on individuals, and individual action as a means for change, etc.

Back to the song:

It's a dance song. Not a protest song, not a ballad, not a love song, not a song that tells a story. You dance to a dance song. This is interesting. Dancing is a... frivolous activity, and one full of existing societal meaning. It previously wouldn't have presented itself as a feminist activity, but yet, here it is.
why don�t you shake a tail for peace and love
move it up one time for love

And the song is not focused on middle-class, white women, either, and it's about an individual's story:
this mama works till her back is sore
but the baby�s fed and the tunes are pure

And it's about other issues, too:

when violence rules the world outside
and the headlines make me want to cry
it�s not the time to just keep quiet
speak up one time to the beat

But of course, feminism is still about women:

janet, carrie, can you feel it?
(knife through the heart of our exploitation)
ladies one time can you hear it
(disassemble our discrimination)

I'm probably over-thinking this, (it's a pretty simple song, in the end), but hey, it's fun!

Next week, I'm going to try and find the second wave feminist anthem.

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