Saturday, April 18, 2009

Girlschool (and Motorhead)

Once upon at time, long, long ago (okay, the early 1980s - I'm young, don't laugh), and far, far away (unless you live in England) there were two rock bands, Motorhead and Girlschool. Motorhead almost quit playing after being voted the 'worst band ever', but got on their feet and released a couple of UK top 30 albums. Girlschool started out as 'Painted Lady', took a while to get its line up straight, released a popular single, and then began supporting Motorhead on tour. They released a top 30 album, Motorhead released a number 4 album, Girlschool released a number 5 album, Motorhead released a number 6 album. The two bands collaborated on an EP, 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre' which reached number 5 on the UK singles chart - the highest charting single either band would ever have. Motorhead reached its height a few months later with a number one album, then both bands began to decline along with heavy metal in general. Girlschool suffered from further line up problems and disbanded in 1988 without producing another hit. Motorhead kept playing, retaining some popularity from the various [speed|thrash|other]metal musicians they had influenced.

One more thing - Girlschool is an all-female band; Motorhead is an all-male band.

Interesting, isn't it?

Ever since I heard these two bands, I've always wondered what it would have been like had things happened differently. Both bands were of almost equal popularity - what if Girlschool had started a year sooner, Motorhead a year later? What if Girlschool had been a bit more popular, and Motorhead had opened for them, instead of the other way around? Would all of the *metal rockers be worshiping Girlschool? After all, the two bands sound remarkably similar:


Yet somehow, Motorhead is considered one of the great bands of their era and style, while Girlschool is almost unknown outside the UK with only a (albeit sizable) cult following. No, Girlschool didn't have anyone as flamboyant as Lemmy for the band's public face. No, they aren't quite as trashy.

And oh, yeah - sexism. It's hard to believe how horribly some Motorhead fans run down Girlschool. (I had one guy tell me that Girlschool was "some bitches that Lemmy screwed, then took with him on tour just to be nice." Of course. In reality, needless to say, the collaborations were mostly the bands' management's idea, but that doesn't stop the rabid idiots.)

But it's still interesting to wonder what could have been. Also: fun to listen to! Girlschool is touring again, despite the tragic death of one of their original members. And from what I hear, they still rock pretty hard:

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Targe Women: Your Garden

Remember that ludicrous "mow the lawn" commercial? Well, here's Sarah Haskins' take:

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Presidential Commision on Women

Women Count helped facilitate the introduction of a bill to Congress to form a Presidential Commission on Women. Obviously, we've still got to get the bill passed by both the House and the Senate, but, in the meantime, Women Count wants to know what ideas you have regarding what this Presidential Commission should and could do. Head on over to their blog and let them know!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

R.I.P. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

I'm a few days late, but I just wanted to post a brief, through very heartfelt, note about the tragic loss of feminist and queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who died the evening of Sunday, April 12th from breast cancer at the age of 58.

There's an excellent tribute by Richard Kim in The Nation, beginning with a sentiment I wholeheartedly share:
I have only ever worn out one book. The first copy--which I still keep as an artifact of my 20s--became a palimpsest of sorts, its text underlined in four different colors of pencil, emblazoned with streaks of yellow and green neon highlighter. Little enigmatic notes crawl up and down the margins of dog-eared pages, and decomposing Post-it notes jut out untidily from the edges; the spine has long since given way. At a certain point, picking up this particular copy became too overwhelming an encounter with my old selves, and so I bought a fresh one, which I tried in vain to keep clean. That book is Epistemology of the Closet, and its author is the brilliant, inimitable, explosive intellectual Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who died last night from breast cancer at the age of 58.

It is difficult to calculate the impact of Sedgwick's scholarship, in part because its legacy is still in the making, but also because she worked at a skew to so many fields of inquiry. Feminism, queer theory, psychoanalysis and literary, legal and disability studies--Sedgwick complicated and upended them all, sometimes in ways that infuriated more anodyne scholars, but always in ways that pushed established parameters.
I, too, have an earmarked copy of Epistemology of the Closet and I deeply admire not only Sedgwick's body of work but also her singular intelligence and remarkable insight.

From Epistemology of the Closet:
...the question of gender and the question of sexuality, inextricable from one another though they are in that each can be expressed only in terms of the other, are nonetheless not the same question, that in twentieth-century Western culture gender and sexuality represent two analytic axes that may productively be imagined as being as distinct from one another as, say gender and class or class and race. Distinct, that is to say, no more than minimally, but nonetheless useful. (p. 30)
And, from her seminal article "Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl":
Today there is no corpus of law or of medicine about masturbation; it sways no electoral politics; institutional violence and street violence do not surround it, nor does an epistemology of accusation; people who have masturbated who may contract illnesses are treated as people who are sick with specific disease organisms, rather than as revelatory embodiments of sexual fatality. Yet when so many confident jeremiads are spontaneously launched at the explicit invocation of the masturbator, it seems that her power to guarantee a Truth from which she is herself excluded has not lessened in two centuries. To have so powerful a form of sexuality run so fully athwart the precious and embattled sexual identities whose meaning and outlines we always insist on thinking we know, is only part of the revelatory power of the Muse of masturbation. (Critical Inquiry, vol. 17, no. 4, Summer 1991, p. 822)
Rest in peace, Eve Sedgwick. You will be greatly missed, in academia and beyond.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hate and Murder on Trial

The trial of 31-year-old Allen Ray Andrade begins today in Greeley, Colorado, the place I now call home. Andrade is accused of bludgeoning 18-year-old Angie Zapata to death with a fire extinguisher, hitting her at least five times, in her own home. As horrible as this crime is, you might wonder why this particular case warrants a write-up here on Fourth Wave. Well, this trial is garnering national attention because it will not only involve charging Andrade with first-degree murder, but also violence based on bias against sexual orientation. According to the prosecuting attorney, when Andrade discovered that Angie Zapata was "biologically male," he responded with a hate-filled attack on the transgender woman. According to the defense attorneys, when Andrade discovered that he'd been "tricked" by Justin Zapata (Angie's birth name was Justin), Andrade was shocked and engaged in a passion-filled attack that resulted in "his" murder.

Individual attorneys' perspectives aside, the Andrade case is ground-breaking in that it will be the first case to use hate-crime legislation to prosecute an attack on a transgender victim. Obviously, this verdict will have profound ramifications well beyond our city of approximately 76,000. Colorado is one of only 11 states that currently include transgender and gender identity in its hate-crime statutes.

Many groups working to ensure the safety of the LGBT community have been lobbying for federal protection via more expansive federal hate-crime legislation. Unfortunately, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act--the Matthew Shepard Act--is currently languishing in Congress and many lobbyists see the Andrade case as a chance to increase the profile of this legislation. The extremely violent nature of this crime certainly points to the pressing need to pass such legislation in order to protect some of this nation's most vulnerable people. While past cases have shown how difficult it is to prove that a crime is bias-motivated, such legislation sends a powerful message to both the potential perpetrators and victims.

When this case hit the news in July, I was very impressed by the response of Greeley officials. I heard Greeley's chief of police state that his officers were here to protect all the city's citizens, particularly its most vulnerable. The police were also quick to insist that this particular crime was motivated by bias against Angie's transgender status--in large part because Andrade confessed that he killed "it" when he discovered she was 'really a man.' (Unfortunately, the judge has thrown out that confession because it came more than an hour after Andrade said he was done making statements.) Not all the coverage has been positive, however. I have read readers' comments in local newspapers that decry the murder but place considerable blame on the victim for "tricking" Andrade by not revealing her "real" gender. I have read that the judge has refused to allow any evidence about the murder suspect's substantial involvement in gang violence and other criminal activity, but will allow information about the victim's past sexual activities. It looks like the judge will not permit the inclusion of a taped phone call in which Andrade admitted to his girlfriend that the "gay things need to die" and vocalized numerous other hateful statements about homosexuals. I have read comments that claim Angie was an online "sexual predator" who victimized Andrade, much like the pedophiles who troll the internet looking for child victims. I have seen people present dictionary definitions of the noun "pervert" in order to describe Zapata, decry her decision to live as a woman, and justify Andrade's violent murder.

This case will challenge the public's understanding and sympathies and push the boundaries of state bias-crime legislation. With any luck, it will increase the national dialogue about hate crimes in the LGBT community, and the dangers faced by members of the transgender community in particular. And perhaps it will encourage legislators to take another serious look at the Matthew Shepard Act. The Zapata murder, and the public response to it, certainly suggests the profound need for legislation to protect this particularly vulnerable segment of the population.

If you'd like to learn more about Zapata, as told by her friends and family, please take a look at this youtube video. I'll also do my best to provide updates on the case as they are presented by local news sources.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Harper Valley PTA

I don't usually listen to country music, but I'm going to make an exception today! (I just don't like it that much... sorry country fans, I'm working on it!). Anyway, this weekend I was digitizing a bunch of vinyl records, and ran across this song:

It's a number-one hit (1968) about a woman who refuses to be slut-shamed!

There are a lot of things to like about Harper Valley PTA. For one, the mother is presented without judgment - just like she wants to be treated. In fact, the narrator seems to be quite proud of her mother! And better yet, there's no sexual undertones to the mother's character, like in so many modern country music songs. In fact, the mother's partners don't enter in to the song at all, except as 'rumors'. We're told she's widowed (this was '68, of course - I doubt she could have been allowed to be a single mother) but she is now apparently quite independent.

Furthermore, it's interesting how she exposes the PTA's flaws. She's not reversing the accusations. There's no "I might be trashy, but you're worse!" vibe present. She's merely pointing out that the others are just like her. It's equal opportunity hypocrisy-exposure as well - she mentions three men and three women. And the omnipresent low-key, almost bored tone common to most country makes her seem completely calm and non-judgmental, however strongly she may be making her point. There's no whiny bitching here.

Her point is, of course: "My life, my decisions - and the same goes for you."

Not too bad for 1968. Or, for that matter, today!

(By a curious coincidence, 1968 was the year that the modern feminism really began to heat up - first women's lib. conference, and all that!)

So now I'm curious - are there any other (proto)feminist/womanist country hits I'm missing?

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The White House LGBT-family-friendly Egg Roll

While the LGBTQ community chews down its collective fingernails over the possible betrayal by retailer, we can at least take heart in the spectacle of today's LGBT-inclusive White House Egg Roll.

(Image "borrowed" from The Advocate)

More information about the Egg Roll can be found on both the White House website and over at the Family Equality Council site. Also, check out the summary of events over at Pam's House Blend, and The Bilerico Project's Dustin Knight's liveblog of the event.

There was also an interview with one of the LGBT families on NPR's All Things Considered last night.

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Amazon Fail

I have no words. And not just because this rising scandal has been up and down the Internets today and everyone's already said everything I'd like to say re: censorship, discrimination, and sheer stupidity. I can't wait to see how this is going to pan out. And I'd really like to hear a better explanation from than that it was a "glitch." Via Salon:
While the much of the country spent Easter Sunday gorging on marshmallow peeps and pictures of the president's new dog, your trusty local blogosphere fired up a four-alarm scandal over goings-on at Amazon, which had mysteriously stripped the sales rankings of hundreds (thousands?) of books, many of them with LGBT subjects, and reclassified them as "adult" content. The move prevents those books from showing up on the site's Best Seller list and can seriously screw up search results, pretty much rendering some titles invisible.


So what constitutes "adult" material? What were these terrifying, racy tomes from which the public needed to be protected? Well, as the LA Times blog reported, they include Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors," Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" and the National Book Award winner, "Becoming a Man" by Paul Monette. Oh, and Ellen Degeneres' autobiography. Of course. So many books had been wiped out of the search terms that, on Sunday night, a book search for the term "homosexuality" turned up this: "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality."
Some glitch. Amazon better fix this...and fast.

ETA: More news on the glitch from Feministing's Jessica Valenti whose books Full Frontal Feminism and Yes Means Yes were both affected.

ETA #2: Kate Harding over at Salon reports on Amazon's official statement (though not really an apology), in which their spokesperson calls the whole debacle a "an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error."

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Feminist Flashback #32

For this week's Feminist Flashback, I present Angry Alien Productions' rendition of the great (feminist) action movie Alien, in 30-seconds and re-enacted by bunnies. The site's creator, Jennifer Shiman, has a lot of amazing 30-second cartoon movie re-enactments; she's been doing this since 2005 after all. You should, of course, check out the whole site.

But first, in honor of Easter, click here to watch the flash version of Alien in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven't happened upon the The Washington Post's Annual Peep Diorama competition, you'll definitely want to have a gander (H/T Feminist Law Professors).

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