Wednesday, March 11, 2009

She's Just Not That Into You

I have never been the subject of a boycott, at least not that I've been aware of. I just figured a general lack of interest in my shows and records counted as, at worst, a passive-aggressive way of the universe telling me "no one cares". Well, boycotts really are passive-aggressive activism, so I am somewhat pleased to finally be subjected to one. What do you call a boycott by one person?
This upcoming show I'm playing in LA became one such subject, in a private setting amongst friends so I don't need to name names (unless this person wants to reveal herself) or even characterize it specifically in those terms. If you can guess, it revolves around the "boy" in the "cott."
My friend decided semi-privately to no longer attend shows that consisted of all-male performers. It is well within her right to do so and I can understand her personal reasons for doing so, though I find it somewhat arbitrary in that one lady or one trans in the mix makes it "okay". But it's her rule, she gets to enforce it how she sees fit, gotta respect that. The only reason I felt somewhat shitty about it was that I did not organize this show, and I do notice when there is a gender imbalance on the stage when I'm playing and when I'm an audience member. For other reasons, I thought that this bill had been put together with people I all like and respect that seem to fit together, almost too well actually. If anyone is the odd duck out on this line up, it's my band, but aside from that, the private discussions that occurred out of this announcement fell victim to several tropes that I need to take in another direction since I'd like that discussion to remain somewhat private.
I am guessing if you read this blog you might take a negative view of anything perceived as "politically correct". I am on message boards where I considered bringing this subject up, but feel like any attempt to bring up gender, racial, or class issues is viewed as Polyanna-ish, which perhaps it is. This also seems to be the tack that Z Gun takes in the newest issue, which has a section reevaluating the canonical output of Riot Grrl bands by Ryan Wells. He makes the distinction early on to set aside the kneejerk male record geek reaction to the politics and focus solely on the music. He does a good job of describing and guiding through an admittedly broad field that covers Skinned Teen and Huggy Bear, but it seems like the context and varying political bents of these bands are pretty intrinsic to their presentation. I'm not beefing at all with Z Gun or Wells, but maybe the implied kneejerkiness of their audience, the idea that liking Riot Grrl bands requires a caveat or apologist stance.
At the same time, there is an accepted or excepted tolerance in Z Gun world for what is termed "Crimson Wave". The ur-document of this, and a fairly new one at that, might be the Die Stasi XXperiments LP. It's a really good comp actually, but I thought it was interesting to see how it could be the antidote to the all-dude noise jam that, in my boycotting friend's view, was an echo of the decline of hardcore in the '80s.
I have had other discussions with friends regarding kids we know in the whatever-you're-gonna-call-it circa now weird music scene, under 21, born around the inception of Riot Grrl, who do not understand how the music they like evolved or reacted to the overt political messages. What I'm NOT suggesting is that the XXperiments bands force some kind of feminist agenda onto their sonic templates, or that Z Gun have a wymyn's music column. Expecting that someone figuring their shit out when they are 18 is going to hold up artistically 15-20 years later is a tall order, which is what happens if you listen to Tattle Tale or Bratmobile in 2009 (it's also the case listening to most male punk bands fer crissake- yup, you hate your parents and just wanna skateboard). However, it's better than NO discussion, or at the risk of sounding like a Fogey, pretending we live in a post-gender America even as we are supposed to be in post-racial America - one post at a time, right?


  1. this is funny, because i actualy spoke with the booker of this show and he considers both this show and the show at the same space on the next night that he also booked to be a 2 day experimental/noise fest. the next night there are lots of female performers. would this info help lift the boycott?

  2. Political Correctness and Poker sure are getting a lot of attention lately.

    Fuck card games. I'm there for the music and the people and the drinking.

  3. I'm so glad you're blogging about this. Your post is very well written and insightful. Three things that come to mind - 1. what are the pros and cons of boycotts, given that they are a type of passive resistance? 2. what happens when you take politics out of music created in a political context (i.e. - punk/hardcore or riot grrrl)? and 3. why are certain music scenes still so male dominated?

    There are no easy answers. I've learned the real lessons are in the questions.

  4. fuck poker. at least televised poker


    ...a wee response/validation for how that lady feels...thanks for posting this!

  6. as a music lady , my biggest repulsion has always been tokenism. As much as I love playing with other women , I'd be seriously bummed to be booked or validated because of my ovaries. \

    I think rather than boycotts , what needs to happen is more women and girls need to be empowered to play.

    I don't see it as productive to boycott boys.

  7. that's a good point. tokenism is frustrating. so are systemic/social barriers that don't make it easy for ladies to feel empowered to play.

    if someone needs a time out from all-dudes shows, i can totally understand that.

  8. i feel what chloe says in terms of "tokenism".
    because it kind of reduces you/the person to just one set of criteria, essentializing someone along a narrow spectrum. the only counter argument i would put is that ROCK is at an entry level a superficial/one criteria type of world and i know for myself that seeing at least a superficial diversity can be empowering.
    in my own life, seeing fisticuffs bluff or j church made me feel less isolated as a music fan seeing other asian american dudes really excelling musically in performance.
    i played as part of this asian american musi series in sf. in my group of 4 dudes, i was the only asian, and i wanted to represent what i was doing in the context of the asian am community because it's just not really represented, but i didn't really consult with my band who just viewed it as a gig and might have felt weird about it. the show was weird for several reasons, but race ended up being one of the minor points really, it was just oddly juxtaposed musics thrown together under this umbrella.

  9. "Fogey" is a discriminatory term used against old people. You are being ageist using that aggressive language against this part of our diverse community that identifies as being old. Old people are people too.

    I am thus forth boycotting all shows where an older person is not represented. I will only go to Sonic Youth, Jesus Lizard, Six Finger Satellite and my own shows.

    Forget these bigots like Vivian Girls.

  10. how old does one have to be to be old?

  11. When boys become Men and grrrls become Ladies I guess.

    I don't know, I really shouldn't be commenting here at all, I flunked my (Be)Coming Out: Race, Gender in the Material World Class for quoting Woody Allen.

    Plus I am into BDSM so that is a major disqualifier too.

    Also humor... baaaaaaaaaad.

    Aren't you supposed to be rocking now? Don't leave those MEN out there while you are blogging for fucks sake Chloe.

  12. Chloe, I'm sure many people will tell you it's a state of mind, but I'm beginning to feel that "old" is when the bands you loved as a kid are now revered by high-schoolers as their version of "classic rock".

    Haha....humor bad? I guess it was back in the 90s, huh? It was so hard to reconcile my fandom of HC and my longing for a hella-cute riot grrl of my dreams (all the while patiently waiting out her L.U.G.* phase) and my enjoyment of the Oblivians....and dare I mention the Country Teasers. Well, it wasn't hard for me, really, but for too many other people, it seemed like a big deal over nothing. And in the letters section of MRR.

    The indie/undie/DIY/punk world is so much more keen on "the big picture"'s really refreshing. I've been at shows in the past couple years where I've looked back from the front 'n center to see a sea of faces from teenagers to middle-aged-record-collectors-with-beards and all genders, sexualities, increasingly more races and multi-races, and there have been times where each and every face is smiling or laughing simultaneously, or perhaps looking like a sporting team coming out of a time-out huddle with the score tied and ten seconds on the clock and with 100% faith that executing the gameplan is gonna pay off in a championship(*).....and THAT is when I know that the music that's happening at that very moment is very likely historically crucial and will leave a lasting positive effect on music to come. Bands as varied as partyhardy picture-perfect catchy pop to arty garage/weirdpunk or whatever to spontaneously composed (s)avant-jazz. Surely, it's bands that are still predominantly male, but that can only change when more ladies, and especially this young generation that were mere toddlers when riot grrl was impacting, get deprogrammed so as to reject the socializing effect of seeing music as a man's world.

    I can tell you that "Crimson Wave" is having some measurable effect here in my community where XXperiments is currently a hit on the local community freeform radio station. Witness two all-female new musical acts debuting in live performance here which are definitely influenced by these particular artists.

    * Is it okay to make a sports metaphor when describing something happening at a punk/DIY/noise/whatever show? Pardon me, but I thought that taboo might've been crushed by that riff from "Rich People" by The Hospitals a couple years back. (Copped offa "Go! Fight! Win!" as heard every 15 minutes during March Madness on ESPN. Yes, it's still my pump-up jam!)

  13. this is a super depressing post. the subject matter of male-dominated music scenes is something no one wants to discuss, yet everyone tolerates. to be a woman in this context can be overwhelmingly depressing, though not all women 'let it get to them'.
    recently in olympia, a woman putting on a show was sexually harassed by a guy in a band. after she made it an issue, there was a lot of discussion about what kind of action, if any would be appropriate to take. what ended up happening, was a group of men (most of whom play in bands and would identify as 'staight rock dudes' who are not of the p.c. or activist variety) met to talk about gender, patriarchy and sexism. i thought this was a pretty rad solution...a step in the right direction.
    i also support the boycott... i've been playing in bands since 1985 and this has not changed and it is fucking bullshit. when all the bands are guys at a show women are often working the door and in the audience, yet when sexual harassment happens, how is it dealt with? it isn't. this is an extreme example of what can go wrong, but this is something that happens at shows often and is not generally dealt with. if shows are work environments of a kind, then what kind of recourse is there for women working the shows either as musicians or volunteers (or paid staff) when these incidents happen?
    because i played in bikini kill, a band whose main purpose was to challenge this climate, when we played shows we not only did we become aware of how many women are harassed at punk shows generally, but also of how much sexual assault happens within punk/hardcore scenes. we are talking about some serious shit here and you might think i am being extreme but you would not fucking believe how prevalent this is--at every single one of our shows for 7 years we had women and girls telling us their stories and this is something i will never forget.
    male dominance of public space is part of the problem and it needs to be challenged at shows just as much as it does in movie theaters on public transportation and on the streets.
    for me, as an artist, when i am super into a scene or an era it is just so psychically draining to have to deal with male-domination on that front. it's like, can't we please have a break? when is it going to stop? will it ever stop? it makes me so frustrated, so sad and so tired.

  14. i think its a shame that the kids now, that i run into, overall are absent of politics. recently these discussions have been coming up with the "older" opeople (23 +).
    i went to a strange party/ show recently at a house and was talking to my friend who is an 18 yo girl. this dude got mad that she was speaking to a boy and ran by and dragged her off. we yelled "WTF" but it all happened so fast we didnt know where she ended up. later she came out of the darkness looking like she had been crying, but like smiling trying to cover it up. me and my friend talked to her and were like "fuck that, its really important that you dont associate with assholes like that". she started to tell us about the guys at shows spitting on her, calling her a bitch, etc cos she broke up with her bf b/c he cheated on her! i mean this shit is fucking insane. and though i believe in "living by example" i am also fully aware that a situation like this wont be fixed by me trying to live right and support the people who need it. so now its the position of what the fuck do you do to try and change it? i dunno, sometimes i feel like i'm more at the superbowl than a show that is progressive and full of ideas that i relate to.

  15. I think some amazing points have been raised here!!! Yeah politics!!

    Okay! As a female performer in a band with two men, it is sadly barely even noteworthy on tour to play a show and be the only woman in the entire line up. And the word token is used too often. But then ShPx is a rather wonderfully extreme token band as we have queer and colour and women representation, and my bandmates often feel like they too are tokens.

    While I don't know if I would go so far as to boycott shows that only feature male performers (of course situation dependent), I would far rather that women were encouraged to get up and fucking do it, that there wasn't a barrier (however intentional or not, there is a barrier), and that we could have dialogue at shows about how unequal representation is in harsher music genres, and about how it is not "ladylike" to make abrasive music, and about how white-male/heteronormative shows usually are. I know the community here in Vancouver is very supportive of it's crew, and tries very hard to break down dividers, and I feel like it's getting easier here for women to get 'er done (to use a lovely, seemingly apt expression), so I don't really know how necessary it would be for me to ever boycott a show! But this is of course not the case everywhere, sad truth.

    And I agree all too strongly about the complete apathy that is at so-called punk shows these days, reflective of the general apathy I would estimate 99.999999999% of the population has. (Side note: I get so very excited at shows when I have even one amazing, thought-provoking, heated, challenging discussion with a like-minded person, but sadly this does not happen as often as I wish it would. Sigh.) We are all in the minority my dear friends, but what a minority it is!