Saturday, January 24, 2009

Boy-fronted girl bands?

Those of us who like women in popular music, tend to favor listening to, well, bands that feature women musicians. Like the wonderful (and slightly misnamed, as they play pop, too) Girls Rock Radio, "...features the music of women artists, all-girl and girl-fronted bands." The same is true of Jennifer Corday's Girl Rock, or any random feminist/women-centric music blog. It's always all-girl bands, girl-fronted bands, and female solo artists.

But this makes sense, right? A male-fronted band wouldn't be much for women! I thought so, too - then I saw this:

Harmonica aside, it struck me that I had never seen a band with all female instrumentalists and a male singer before. This is interesting...

Now, there are lots of bands with a sole female singer, many bands with a 'token' (if you will) female instrumentalist, plenty (but not enough!) all-girl bands and bands with one male instrumentalist, and a very few bands with a more equal gender representation. But how many bands with a sole male singer?

Patriarchists don't mind male bands with a female singer. "She's just the singer," they say, "Anybody can sing. She's just there to look hot." (You don't often hear that about male singers, of course...) A token female is okay, too - especially if she's just the bassist. All-girl bands - well, there aren't any really popular ones, and they're not any good, anyway. But a boy-fronted girl band? That's a big, big problem! Men can't be 'just the singer'!

At least, that's the only explanation I can find for the almost complete lack of that particular band line-up!

There are a few male soloists who have, and often exploit, a female backup group, but Elvis and the Sweet Inspirations doesn't count here. And neither does this. I'm talking about a reversal of the guy-band-who-happens-to-have-a-chick-singer phenomenon - an band who's only male member is 'just the singer'.

After spending a large amount of time searching the internet and asking a number of people who know about these things, I found one reference to a defunct jazz ensemble, lots of off-one performances (like the S-K/Vedder stuff) and a grand total of three bands. And two of them may very well fall under the category of soloist+backup singer. First:

Jens Lekman, who loses points for naming the band after himself and for having all of the women dress in white, but they are standing evenly in a line, and have non-trivial horn parts, so... maybe.

Next, The World Provider, which is a very weird name for a fairly weird band:

And finally, there's Shlonk. They fit the criteria admirably:

(I'm not sure what this song is about, by the way - I doubt they actually want people to give their children guns... can somebody who not as lyric-dense as I am figure this one out?)

I suppose I should also mention Huggy Bear - near the end of their existence, their guitar player left, leaving just the male singer. Plus, I really like this song!

Any boy-fronted girl bands I have blindly overlooked? Is there some secret society that I missed? Does anybody else think that the extreme lack of such bands is odd/annoying?

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What is Feminist Sex?

Wow, so I've been REALLY bad at blogging for a while. A lot has changed for me over the course of the last few months. I'll have a lot to say about sex work and feminism in the next few weeks, but it's taken a while to solidify my thoughts into writing. I've also finished a rough draft of my honors thesis on feminist porn, so in lieu of a separate post, here's an edited excerpt from the paper:

"What remains to be developed is a view of sexuality that allows for the possibility of feminist change, even before the overthrow of the patriarchy." -Wendy Stock

I believe that both the anti-porn and sex-positive movements have made efforts to make egalitarian or feminist sex possible, but both have fallen short in figuring out what that is and how to make it happen.

The anti-pornography activists have attempted to criticize and undermine the current modes of sex to make way for a healthier kind of sex. However, they’ve come just short of saying what this new sexuality would be.

The sex-positive feminists have suggested that consent, self-knowledge, and mutual respect are necessary for a healthy sexuality, but they have not related these feminist ideals to the lack of them in popular culture (porn and film, books, news, etc). I see these as two sides of a single argument that have simply failed, as of yet, to meet in the middle.

So let's look at what egalitarian sex could be.

In order for egalitarian sex to happen, both partners must have equal value in the relationship. Their feelings, thoughts, desires, and sensations must have equal importance. Their orgasms must have equal importance.

They must both have the right to say yes and no to sexual acts. This consent should not come just from one partner striving to “get” something and the other giving in. They should each have an investment in the other’s pleasure and happiness, and in their shared positive experience.

Within these parameters, however, the sex itself could look like anything. If two heterosexuals were both interested in, for instance, an S&M scene where the woman hits the man with a paddle and tells him he’s been bad, that sex act could happen, but with certain prerequisites.

They would need to talk about it beforehand, share with each other what they wanted to do and find out if there was a mutual interest. They would need to negotiate specifically what was to happen. They would need to have some contingency for either partner changing his or her mind midway through the act, like a safe word. They would need to periodically check in with each other to make sure they’re both enjoying what’s happening.

The S&M community has actually made a great contribution to this dialogue about egalitarian sex, encouraging careful negotiation, mutual respect and caring, continued consent, and concern for psychological well-being., easily the foremost producer of BDSM pornography, has some of the most rigorous filming guidelines for directors that I’ve seen.

In addition to several rules outlining exactly what constitutes consent and ensuring that the models continue to have it throughout every scene, they require an interview with the submissive partner at the beginning of each film. In this interview he/she is asked about how he/she feels about what’s about to happen and asked to consent to it. This consent is shown (for once) not just to the authorities, but to the viewers.

So long as a mutual respect and care for another's well-being is present and all partners have the opportunity to state their desires and to say no to sex, even extreme BDSM porn and sex can be egalitarian.

Although it involves a narrative of submission and dominance, the sex act described above (with the paddle and the discussion) does not harm either participant. It is not predicated on an assumption of male privilege. If there are gender dynamics at play, they can and should be discussed and addressed as part of the negotiation over sex.

And gender dynamics will play a part in sex. Nobody is suggesting that we can banish patriarchy tomorrow. Until it is fully gone, of course it will affect our desires and the ways we act on them.

I frankly see nothing wrong with a conscious and open exploration of eroticizing the patriarchal patterns that oppress us. Taking a pattern in life (say, for instance, the systematic domination of women by men) and turning it into something erotic can be a way of psychologically controlling it, of regaining power over it until you are able to live with it without fear.

I don’t think we can suggest that people shouldn’t do this. It can be a very powerful psychological tool when done, as mentioned, carefully and consciously. I don’t buy the idea that eroticizing something automatically means you don’t question it.

That would suggest, as Catharine MacKinnon dismisses, the idea that “having sex is antithetical to thinking.” (MacKinnon, 17) I think anything we do without question is likely to be a problem, and understanding things as erotic is just another thing we can choose to question.

Cross-posted at Paper Cuts and Plastic.

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Suggestions Please!: Radical/WOC/Alternative/Global Feminist Blogs

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii and I are trying to generate a list of 100 (or so) radical/alternative/racially- and ethnically-diverse feminist/gender blogs as a companion/alternative to this list. We would LOVE your suggestions! Please leave links in the comments (if you think your own blog fits the bill, that's great too) and we'll post the list to both our blogs once it's compiled.

Thanks in advance, and please do forward this post to friends and/or ask for suggestions far and wide. We'd like to amass as diverse and comprehensive a list as possible!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Global Gag Rule Repealed

As of today, President Obama has repealed the "global gag rule", which, as we all know, was a "ban on U.S. funding for international health groups that perform abortions, promote legalizing the procedure or provide counseling about terminating pregnancies." Reagan instated the rule in 1984, Clinton repealed it in 1993 and then good ole Bush junior (good riddance!) reinstated it in 2001.

According to The Washington Post:
The memorandum revokes Bush's order, calling the limitations on funding "excessively broad" and adding that "they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family programs in foreign nations." In an accompanying statement, Obama said he would also work with Congress to restore U.S. funding support for the United Nations Population Fund "to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries."

Obama's decision was praised by family planning groups, women's health advocates and others for allowing the U.S. Agency for International Development to once again provide millions of dollars to programs offering medical services, birth control, HIV prevention and other care.

"For eight long years, the global gag rule has been used by the Bush administration to play politics with the lives of poor women across the world," said Gill Greer of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London.
Dang, our new President is sure hitting the ground running. Go, Obama, go! Also, Planned Parenthood has a form you can fill out to thank President go. Do it.

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Kirsten Gillibrand

My father, Fred, who writes for Die Achse des Guten (a German news site/blog) wrote me an email today sharing some of his insight on U.S. Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, who New York governor David Paterson just named as Hillary Clinton's replacement in the U.S. Senate. I would have probably written about her myself, but I'm more than happy to let him do the work since I've been a bit swamped with my dissertation of late. The rest of this post is in his words:

Gillibrand, 42, represents a conservative and, until she won the seat in 2006, Republican district that meanders from the Hudson Valley to north of Albany. She has been labeled a "Blue Dog" Democrat, especially because of her 100% rating from the NRA. Although she has a passion for hunting in common with Sarah Palin, her candidacy was strongly supported by the senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, an outspoken liberal and anti-gun advocate.

She is also quite liberal on women's and gay rights, consistently supporting a women's right to choose and advocating Federal recognition of civil unions on par with marriage rights as a precursor to full gay marriage recognition in the States.

In a recent interview with the Hudson Valley InsideOut magazine, she said:
What I’d like to do legislatively, on the federal level—and I think we’ll be able to do this with the new president—is actually make civil unions legal in all 50 states, make it the law of the land. Because what you want to fundamentally do is protect the rights and privileges of committed couples, so that they can have Medicare benefits, visit in the hospitals, have adoption rights. All [the] things that we give to married couples, committed gay couples should be eligible for. And then the question of whether you call it a marriage or not, what you label it, that can be left to the states to decide.

[It’s] so culturally oriented. My mom’s generation, they want their gay friends to have every right and privilege that they should be eligible for as a married couple, but they feel uncomfortable calling it marriage. To them, a marriage is a religious word that they learned from the Catholic Church: It’s a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. So they feel uncomfortable with the word. But they don’t feel uncomfortable with the rights and privileges. I think the way you win this issue is you focus on getting the rights and privileges protected throughout the entire country, and then you do the state-by-state advocacy for having the title.

(So, Gillibrand sounds pretty good--pro-choice and pro-gay--although I'm still wondering what happened with Carolyn Kennedy. And, hey, don't I have a great, liberal dad?)

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hillary Arrives!

C/O Shakesville:

Yay Hillary!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gene Robinson at "We Are One" event

You've all probably heard by now (or noticed it yourself if you were watching the HBO broadcast), that Bishop Gene Robinson's invocation during the pre-inaugural "We Are One" event was cut off (probably unintentional, but pretty negligent on the part of whomever planned the broadcast/event schedule). Well, here's the invocation for those of us (that's pretty much everyone who wasn't in the audience) who missed it:

(H/T Feminist Law Professors)

Also, check out Bishop Robinson's appearance on last night The Daily Show.

And, last but not least, Gwen and Tonni wrote an incredibly compelling post today on feminism and religion over at Girl w/Pen.

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The Obama Administration, Women's Issues and LGBTQ Rights

President (yay!) Obama has an entire page on the White House website devoted to women's issues, including agenda items about pay equity, health care, domestic violence, and education. Here's a small sampling:
Supports a Woman's Right to Choose: President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Administration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.
Investing in Women-Owned Small Businesses: Women are majority owners of more than 28 percent of U.S. businesses, but head less than 4 percent of venture-capital-backed firms. Women business owners are more likely than white male business owners to have their loan applications denied. President Obama and Vice President Biden will encourage investing in women-owned businesses, providing more support to women business owners, and reducing discrimination in lending.
Strengthening Domestic Violence Laws: Approximately 1,400 women a year -- four every day -- die in the United States as a result of domestic violence. And 132,000 women report that they have been victims of a rape or attempted rape, and it is estimated that an even greater number have been raped but do not report it. In the Senate, President Obama co-sponsored and helped reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, legislation initially written and pushed through Congress by Vice President Biden. The law funds and helps communities, nonprofit organizations, and police combat domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The reauthorized legislation establishes a sexual assault services program and provides education grants to prevent domestic violence.
Also, the Civil Rights page of the Obama Administration agenda includes these bullet-points, among others:
Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
What do you all think? I think it's a pretty impressive list, but only time will tell how it's executed. So, let's hold him to it.

(H/T Feministing and RH Reality Check)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

Care of Amnesty International (and H/T Womanist Musings), the first 100 days:

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Feminist Flashback #20

For Christmas, one of my best friends (whom I've known since 2nd grade) gave me a new collected edition of Alison Bechdel's comic strip, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For. I've always loved DTWOF and this collection is awesome, starting with some of her earliest strips from 1983 and leading all the way up into the present. Her comics are smart and funny and incisive, interrogating everything from gender and sexuality to politics, queer or otherwise. And, hence, for today's Feminist Flashback (one day late, sorry!), I present one of Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For strips from 2002 (click on the image to enlarge). Check out her website for more.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sounding Feminine

I haven't been able to listen to very much music this week, but one song did manage to catch my ear. The song in question, "Just Say When" by Kate Micucci, was featured on the web series Anyone But Me (which is also very, very good, by the way!)

Kate seems to mostly be a variety act sort of musician (judging from youtube, at least!) - she sings songs to go along with a comic act, but "Just Say When" is a song of an altogether different sort:

(You can listen to "Just Say When" on Kate's myspace page)

We could be
Better than we were
If you could only see
I'm different than before
Best believe that I will never knock upon your door
But than... again, you just say when

A first, I thought, Isn't it a little sentimental? Isn't her singing rather weak? Isn't this song just a bit boring?

But after a few seconds, I didn't agree with any of those anymore!

"Just Say When" is, more than anything else, about uncertainty. And while many singers would sing such an emotional song with, well, strong emotion, Kate does the opposite. The dynamic level (loudness) stays nearly the same throughout the entire song. Her voice cracks on the high notes, and waivers on the low notes. It is soft, truthful, not overtly confident, slightly vulnerable. At the risk of invoking a stereotype, the song is exquisitely feminine.

And yet, she doesn't sound weak; doesn't sound helpless. She doesn't need someone to come along and clear up her uncertainty, make her feel safe. She's simply telling us how life is and how she feels:

I'll be fine
Two feet on the ground
But no one knows when no one is around

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The Hathor Legacy's Year in Review

I meant to post about this a week ago, but somehow it slipped my mind. I may have mentioned before that I have a little side gig over at The Hathor Legacy helping out with marketing and PR. Last week, I posted two "year in review" posts over there, rounding up some of the great posts THL contributors wrote in 2008 and compiling a comprehensive list of all the television, film and book reviews posted on the site in the past year. If you have a moment, check it out! Jennifer Kesler and the rest of THL's contributors are fantastic.

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