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Thu May 24, 2012, 07:27 AM

Rock’s ‘secret feminism’

I found this earlier this evening when I was googling for guitar tabs. It's written by someone called LonerGrrrl and I thought it was pretty good, seeing it involved my favourite band of all time and feminism. I'd always been aware that they'd done Rock For Choice and Eddie wrote an article about reproductive choice, which I'll post if I can dig it up, but I'd never listened to a song like 'Why Go' and picked up that it was in any way pro-feminist, but I blame that on all the mumbling with the lyrics. The video linked to in the blog is a crap version of 'Daughter' so click on the one in this post to get a really awesome version of 'Why Go'

I really liked this article by Amanda Marcotte, Nirvana’s Secret Feminism. Not only because it focuses on Nirvana’s, and more specifically, Cobain’s, pro-feminist ethos (something too often overlooked in those umpteen ‘the REAL story of Nirvana!’ features malestream rock journalists like to trot out over and over again); but also because she highlights the profound impact a male rock band can have on the lives of their female fans and the pleasure and validation we can get from listening to their music (something too often overlooked in those umpteen ‘Riot Grrrl RULES! Dude music does nothing for us grrrls!’ features feminists like to trot out over and over again).

But why only focus on Nirvana? Pearl Jam also, “broke with the sexist norms of the era, choosing instead a pro-feminist public stance and song lyrics”. (And like Nirvana have also reached a 20-year anniversary- though not just that marking the release of their seminal album, but the successful 20-year career that followed too. Don’t burn out before your time. Steel yourself & bust through the bad. Know the joy of survival, of being Alive.)

Songs such as Why Go, Daughter and Betterman are as feminist as anything Bikini Kill ever put to tape. Eddie Vedder has made pro-choice and anti-rape statements on stage. He scrawled Pro-Choice on his arm during the band’s MTV Unplugged performance in 1992. They’ve Rocked for Choice. They’ve hung out with Gloria Steinem. Toured with and heart Sleater-Kinney (I’d never heard of Sleater-Kinney until I got into PJ. Now I heart them too). And you can find ripostes to this generally fucked-up capitalist war-mongering patriarchal world in which we live in a fair few of the band’s song lyrics and from other stuff they’ve said over the years.

In fact, that whole ‘grunge’/early ‘90s ‘alt rock’/whatever-you- want-to-call-it ‘scene’ was largely pro-feminist. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden too, all consciously set out to do rock ‘n’ roll in a different way to the hair metal bands that dominated rock before them. Out went the shit lite riffs and unoriginal lyrics, and in came guitars that soared and sludged and rattled raw and heavy in a myriad interesting and beautiful ways; songs that struck the whole heart/mind/soul. Here was a bunch of male rock musicians who were openly sensitive and intelligent, who weren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Yet Cobain/Vedder/Cornell were also still quite masculine. But it’s this “man-womanly/woman-manly” (to quote Virginia Woolf) combination, which for me, made ‘grunge’ music, and the men who made it, so different, sexy, inspiring… and feminist.


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Reply Rock’s ‘secret feminism’ (Original post)
Violet_Crumble May 2012 OP
Violet_Crumble May 2012 #1
seabeyond May 2012 #2
Violet_Crumble May 2012 #3
seabeyond May 2012 #5
JustAnotherGen May 2012 #4
Violet_Crumble May 2012 #6
JustAnotherGen May 2012 #7

Response to Violet_Crumble (Original post)

Thu May 24, 2012, 07:33 AM

1. Reclamation (pro-choice article)

Spin Magazine 11/92
by Eddie Vedder

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder explains why a woman's right to choose is more than just a women's issue.

Glasgow, Scotland. It's cold outside. I'm thinking about a problem. One group of people trying to force their beliefs on others, based on religion. And it seems as though we're regressing.

Above, a helicopter flies by. If it continues on its course, it will shortly be over Ireland, where as of this writing, the powers that be are deciding if a 14-year-old girl who was raped by the father of one of her friends should be allowed to leave for Britain to obtain an abortion. She's been ordered not to leave the country for nine months. Fourteen years old. Raped. The issue of an unborn fetus takes on more importance than the fact that the rapist walks free.

Extreme, but this is a place where the church influences the government. And when I think of the movements concerning abortion in the United States, it definitely seems as though we're regressing.

"My body's nobody's body but mine...
You run your own body, let me run mine."

At the University of San Diego a few years ago, pro-lifers gathered, while pro-choicers chanted the above. Sides clashed and tension ran high. A banner equating pro-choice ideology with Nazism and Hitler was displayed. "Baby Killers," a little red stop sign said -- a sign held by a well-dressed 3-year-old who sat atop the shoulders of his upper-middle class father. The kid looked confused and frightened. The ominous presence of armed police on horseback would be enough to upset anyone.

And I wondered how this child got pulled into this? I wondered how any of us got pulled into this. The fact is that those people handing down decisions on the abortion issue are not the ones who will have to live or die by it.


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Response to Violet_Crumble (Original post)

Thu May 24, 2012, 07:36 AM

2. that is so much fun vc. was listening to the music as i was reading what you had.


this weekend i had a blast, my oldest was going the artists that spoke out on issues in their son. he introduced me to a lot of different groups. my problem, the instruments in the background take otu the words and i can never hear what the song is saying. he was sure to put the videos up witht eh lyrics and that made it so much easier. i start dancing to the sound, and forget about the words

thanks. we had a weekend of this. i will talk to him about your article driving to school and see what his thoughts are. they are now of the age, and i am now of the age, where my boys educate us on this instead of the other way around. it is so much fun

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Response to seabeyond (Reply #2)

Thu May 24, 2012, 08:01 AM

3. Glad you liked it, sea. I was nearly going to post the lyrics...

But I got sucked into watching that video again for about the zillionth time and forgot.

When it came to the article, I think the writer was stretching to claim that Soundgarden or Nirvana were particularly feminist. Neither of those bands were into really into the activism like Pearl Jam was and still is, and when it comes to PJ's music, 'Daughter' is really the only song I would have picked out as having a clear feminist vibe to it. 'Why Go', not so much...

Daughter - Pearl Jam

Alone, listless, breakfast table in an otherwise empty room
Young girl, violence, center of her own attention
The mother reads aloud child tries to understand it
Tries to make her proud

The shades go down it's in her head
Painted room, can't deny there's something wrong

Don't call me daughter not fit to
The picture kept will remind me
Don't call me daughter not fit to
The picture kept will remind me

Don't call me,
She holds the hand that holds her down
She will, rise above

Don't call me daughter, not fit to
The picture kept will remind me
Don't call me daughter, not fit to be
The picture kept will remind me
Don't call me daughters

The shades go down
The shades go, go, go

Read more at http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/27/#qYS6bPTsv69jOA6r.99

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Response to Violet_Crumble (Reply #3)

Thu May 24, 2012, 08:37 AM

5. thanks. and true with Nirvana anyway. i had heard that they were a statement band and my


son informed me, not really, lol. though he did pull up a couple of the songs.

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Response to Violet_Crumble (Original post)

Thu May 24, 2012, 08:22 AM

4. Great post

I'm 39 - do the math! This is my music - my era.

And let's not forget Jeffrey Gaines - if you like a guitar and a beautiful voice.

Hero In Me - what happens when men and women toe the line. They lose themselves
Headmasters Mine

Choices -
Can't seem to copy and paste of the lyrics sites anymore - this one doesn't have invasive pop ups though:
Forcing me by law to follow
A life without love is something
An Innocent child shouldn't be pulled through

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #4)

Tue May 29, 2012, 06:32 AM

6. I hadn't heard Jeffrey Gaines before...

There's some US artists (VAST is another one from the early 90's) who rarely if ever got played on the radio here. I just went and took a look on youtube and like what I hear of Jeffrey Gaines, so I'll listen to some more later. Thanks for posting it

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Response to Violet_Crumble (Reply #6)

Tue May 29, 2012, 08:17 AM

7. Oh

He's awesome!

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