February 17, 2014

"You can't be a strong or cool woman and be represented except in a harsh way, looking mean and cold and hard."

"It's like reverse sexism. They don't want to show a picture of you smiling because it's not good for their editorial."

Says Kim Gordon. (She was in the band Sonic Youth for 30 years and nowadays paints.)

She complains about sexism in the music industry:
"In rock music people have certain assumptions that it makes people more enlightened and it really doesn't. It was the same thing playing for Neil Young's audience [in 1991] and being reminded that hippies can be really narrow-minded. We were around people who felt like, 'We're groovy, we're cool,' but they were so sexist. It was just in your face all the time."
And today?
"Are women using their sexuality to sell records because they're empowered? In which case yeah, great. But with some women it's almost inbred and there's pressure of competitiveness: who can be the sexiest? Male executives don't have to say anything because women know. And it's all aesthetically pleasing but it gets a little boring after a while if that's the only side that gets promoted."
What if women became fully autonomous, empowered individuals and nothing changed? What would that mean? Maybe the unexamined existing culture represents much more of what we want than we expect when we demand power and freedom, but that doesn't mean that power and freedom are not good. You might want to choose the very life that would have been imposed on you if you could not choose. And you can just think about whether that explains Katy Perry, et al.

26 comments:

chickenlittle said...

Thurston Moore's songs were always more melodic; hers were full of anger.

chickenlittle said...

But Kim Gordon had great legs and looked good in a miniskirt.

Roughcoat said...

Instead of naval-gazing, vagina-gazing.

Roughcoat said...

Can a public hair or gay thread be far behind?

chickenlittle said...

Roughcoat said...
Can a public hair or gay thread be far behind?

John Edwards was known for flashing his public hair.

betamax3000 said...

Went Through Two Google Pages of Images of Kim Gordon: Some Posed, Some Candid, Some in Concert. One Photo Had an Honest Smile; Another Might Have had a Tight-Lipped One, Hard to Tell. I Always Thought Kim Tried a Bit Too Hard to Project 'Cool', and Part of That Concept of Cool was That Smiling Was the Visual Equivalent of 'Selling Out': Pop Stars smile, not Avante-Garde Rockers.

YoungHegelian said...

"Well, Mr. Lynskey", Ms Gordon said, "I worked in an industry that has a long, sordid history of exploitation & borderline illegal business practices. Was I among the many who got fucked over? Yes, I was. But compared to what happened to many greats in the world of blues, jazz, & rock & roll, I guess I got off lightly."

I guess saying something like that just wouldn't make for good copy, as factually true as it might be.

Sigivald said...

In rock music people have certain assumptions that it makes people more enlightened and it really doesn't.

Why on earth did they ever think that?

(On the other topic, Sonic Youth never did anything for me, at all.

Kinda like the Pixies, except Kim Deal's post-Pixies work was good.)

SOJO said...

A lot of 60s-era folks were more 'sexist' when it came to women in bands. They still came from the era in which they were raised.

Rock is so completely dead now that it is hard to say. The 90s were a high water mark of sorts for women in rock, but I also really enjoyed the return to divas with strong voices in the 2000s.

I think Katy Perry is utter crap, but I can understand a kid getting into Rihanna or even Miley in a pop way. Other than pure hip hop, we still seem to be in a completely female dominated chart era to the point that it is getting a bit one-sided and boring.... But then I'm older now and really only aware of it via the next generation of my immediate family.

Mark O said...

I look forward to the days when one cannot "use" sexuality.

The Crack Emcee said...

"What if women became fully autonomous, empowered individuals and nothing changed? What would that mean?"


I'm still waiting for them to come to terms with what they are, rather than trying to become something they're not, because they're not good at it. All they do is emulate male assholes.


My band played Prince's First Avenue club with Sonic Youth on the smaller stage - great night.

Kim didn't call me a sexist.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

It doesn't require a large market to provide incentive for a behavior. However, it requires a larger market to tolerate it. I wonder when feminists will begin to protest the adult industry. I wonder when women will begin to protest the abortion industry. Surely, they must know that they choose to be perceived as collection of parts or incubator for a clump of cells, respectively. There are consequences for supporting or tolerating the denigration of individual dignity and devaluation of human life. Perhaps Feminism 3.0 (4.0?) will finally figure it out.

William said...

Rosemary Clooney and Barbara Cook had long careers after they got fat. Fat women can sing about the sadness of time passing and lost love and really sell it. If you want to sing about love in bloom, youth and sex appeal are the way to go. I can't tell about Madonna. Maybe she's in denial or maybe her audience is.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Perhaps it's not "the music industry" that's blameworthy here, but the rock industry. Classical music execs aren't above showing off babes of both sexes (the marketing of Joshua Bell comes to mind on the male side), but in the end it does generally boil down to how good you are.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

She ruined many a great song with her trite 80's women's studies post-colonial lyrics. Too bad her husband had better musical taste than lyrical judgement. Or he was whipped.

"Hey, Kool Thing, come here, sit down
There's something I go to ask you.
I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?
I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls
From male white corporate oppression?
Tell it like it is!
Huh?
Yeah!
Don't be shy
Word up!
Fear of a female planet?
Fear of a female planet?
Fear, baby!"

Her lyrics to the first song released by them on a major corporate label. So edgy!

Unknown said...

Wonderful program on PBS a couple of months ago about Joan Baez. Dylan was a side-note.

Is that what AA was fishing for? All Dylan all the time?

Anglelyne said...

William: Rosemary Clooney and Barbara Cook had long careers after they got fat.

Perhaps actually being able to sing had something to do with that.

Fat women can sing about the sadness of time passing and lost love and really sell it. If you want to sing about love in bloom, youth and sex appeal are the way to go.

There are musical genres where large, not particularly young women of debatable sex appeal often get cast in the steamy fires-of-spring roles (fires of spring-rolls?). I suspect actually being able to sing has something to do with this.

I can't tell about Madonna. Maybe she's in denial or maybe her audience is.

Madonna can't sing, never could. She wisely chose to work in a genre where actually being able to sing was no longer considered a requirement for being a singer.

Xmas said...

I once went to an alternative music festival that was so hip, the audience yelled at Sonic Youth for being corporate sell-outs.

Terrastock if you're wondering...

jr565 said...

"I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?
I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls
From male white corporate oppression?"

Oh brother.

RecChief said...

yep, empire is falling....see Rome, et al.

The Crack Emcee said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
Perhaps it's not "the music industry" that's blameworthy here, but the rock industry. Classical music execs aren't above showing off babes of both sexes (the marketing of Joshua Bell comes to mind on the male side), but in the end it does generally boil down to how good you are.


And don't look at Rap - tons of women.

tam said...

I do notice this in the current generation of classical music album covers. The pictures are carefully posed and airbrushed, seemingly more for a Cosmopolitan cover than for a violin concerto. I guess they wouldn't do it if they didn't think they'd sell more CD's that way. But I don't buy a CD for the babeitude of the artist.

sydney said...

"You can't be a strong or cool woman and be represented except in a harsh way, looking mean and cold and hard."

Musical talent aside, Madonna had a strong/cool woman vibe in her heyday and she was feminine, not "harsh,mean,cold and hard." Ditto Cindy Lauper. Bonnie Raitt, too.

TMink said...

I like Sonic Youth and her songs. Her politics are rubbish, but the songs work for me.

Trey

Trashhauler said...

I've never understood the apparently widespread belief that entertainers have anything particularly insightful to say about the human condition. The sheer willingness to speak in no way guarantees that there is a brain attached to the mouth.