Last night, k. (mrs. sepoy) went to see Maybelline presents Chicks With Attitude with ourlawyerfriend at the House of Blues. For a take on Liz Phair's music, I urge you to read wonkette neÃˆ theanticmuse's thoughts. k. upon return was thoroughly disgusted by the GirlsGoneWild vibe of the place. So, enjoy a review of the show prompted by an email from ourlawyerfriend. This was not intended for CM audience but it needs to be shared:
well, let's see...
you could start with the way overt sexuality has usurped intelligent challenges to dominant gender paradigms to become the new feminism.
elaborating on sexuality, you could explore the changed role of sexuality. see, as time passes and women push the boundaries of the status quo, forms of rebellion have to change too. these women ("chicks with attitude") - or perhaps the men producing them and promoting them - are operating under the mistaken impression that female sexuality is still a forbidden topic; that somehow it still has some bit of mystique about it. but a woman's sexuality is no longer the scary, taboo thing it once was. it is an accepted part of life and society. as such, women must find another stigma or barrier against which to rebel. the obvious choice would be the stigma against ugly and/or fat women's sexuality: the beauty myth. only hot women can be sexual. ones who don't live up to the harsh standards set by ford modeling agency are expected to do nothing but bask in their pathetic-ness and try to attain impossible ideals, all the while hating themselves and depriving themselves of the exuberant life the media would make us believe belongs only to hollywood starlets. in this respect "chicks with attitude" totally fails by being sponsored by a make-up company, offering makeovers to all those chicks with attitude (reinforcing the notion that there's no such thing as natural beauty) and cavorting on stage with "everyday" hotties like bunnies at hef's mansion. the absence of any women of normal everyday proportions on that stage - whether due to liz phair's refusal to pull them up there or their own insecurity - only underscores the blind eye society as whole turns to un-hotties. furthermore, the hotties on that stage - grinning and bumping and grinding away - are not celebrating female sexuality; they are celebrating the fact that they have finally accomplished their goal and buffed their way into the hottie mold.
a note on "chicks", "attitude" and ugly bitches:
some mention must be made of the need for "chicks with attitude" to be hot; an ugly woman with attitude is just a bitch with an ax to grind. (have you noticed this distinction? only hotties are chicks and their hottie status is what allows them to be "cool" when they offer their watered down opinions. an attractive woman with a truly controversial attitude or opinion is deemed crazy. an ugly one is scary. did you notice the crazy backlash against fiona after her "this is bullshit" rant?
i have a friend that works for liz's label. i wanted to get his opinion on this post. im going to share his thoughts cause i thought they were valid. im not posting his name cause i dont want him to be in trouble or to seem as if he is speaking for the label. its just his own opinion... that i believe is valid. "we've basically heard it all several times before as far as people ripping into liz. I dunno... she's got a good record as a feminist writer, whatever feminist means anymore. just because she wants to be skinny and hot should not negate what's she's said in her songs over her career. also, it's just music and just a concert tour. I don't think Liz, or anyone at my company, has much of a cultural agenda in mind. Maybelline wants to promote and encourage girls to realize that it's ok to have "attitude" and that having an attitude or being opinionated is your right as a human being. but it's really more about selling makeup than anything else. it's shameless capitalism. I'm not going to defend it to the death, but despite its faults it works better than pretty much any other from of economics or government. and I say it's better to have a Chicks with Attitude tour with actual musicians and writers than it is to have whatever Brittney's last tour was with nothing but farce and show and sleeze."
"she's got a good record as a feminist writer". huh? did i miss something? Liz Phair made one record that had a certain sneer to it. The only record of her "writing" that I have is her letter to the editors at NY Times, after they panned her record: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Chicken Little screeched, terrified they would not heed her and would be found the next morning, buried among the intellectual debris. She pecked and pecked at them with her sharp little beak until they finally agreed to be awakened. The three readers rose up and shuffled outside to be greeted by a warm, summer rain falling steady as a heartbeat, wondrous and quiet as unexpected relief from pain. "Why, Chicken Little," said one reader, "it's only a summer shower come to feed the land. It feels great!" this in response to Meghan O' Rourke's saying: Not only will Ms. Phair alienate her old fan base, as she has defensively acknowledged in recent interviews, but in trying to remodel herself as a contemporary Avril Lavigne or Alanis Morissette, she's revealed herself to be astonishingly tone-deaf to her own strengths. Lyrically, this album has little of the potent acuity of her early deconstructions of relationships, and musically it has none of her tactile immediacy.
is she just now discovering that mass pop culture commodifies dissent? where exactly was this pop cultural space where major label popstresses intelligently deconstructed sexism, so rudely usurped by hot chixism? how did she manage to identify hot chixism as the new feminism, given the many competing alternatives in the world? and how many la chat albums does she own? reading the koranic interpretation post, i thought to myself, why is dude talking about irshad manji and reminding readers that religious injunctions are socially constructed when he could be telling us about koranic interpretration under the abbasids wrt the mutazila and soroush and things/people i have never heard of... can't see what's interesting abt this letter either. oh yeah, and our rap can kick your rap's ass: http://www.ambedkar.org/News/Trpkgnbthsl.htm
i will see your chomsky and raise you a lacan. the issue isn't conquest of cool, its disgust at a bad concert. and that "rap" link is well, "rap-like" - which, my friend, is un-bling-bling. sorry.
here's some $0.02.... if it's "just marketing" or "just to sell some makeup", then that's fine, people have been using hotties and sex to sell commodities for ages. i just don't think she should be taken seriously otherwise. when a tour preaches "grrrl power" in one breath but then "hide those blemishes, grrrls, with this product", it kind of falls flat. it just seems like posturing. rather than push the boundaries, they're reinforcing the norm. if her art is to be regarded as "just music" and "shameless capitalism" then it can be disregarded just as much britney's tripe. where do i get my $0.98 in change?
its disgust at a bad concert. she went to see liz phair, what did she expect? and sympathy for the usurping new feminism, no less? re:rap, rap-like is why our rap can kick your rap's ass. the realness.
Man, talk about axes to grind. This myth of being sexually liberated as signal of being out from under the patriarchy is one of my longterm bugbears. (don't believe me? ha.) K's points are all valid and only serve to remind me how furious I get over this sort of stuff. The NYT had an article a few months about about the culture of hooking up among little baby teens these days, and it's just more of the same. Though that article did pitch stuff in a crooked way, by suggesting a deep level of alienation and disembodiment. Basically, this shit is guaranteeing that we end up with a full generation of women like Annie Hall, leaving their bodies to sketch or thing or something while abandoning their flesh to the patriarchy. That kind of duality can't be good or healthy--it's too Christian. I guess the point is just the aforementioned conquest of cool. People are taught "here's the new shit. Learn this subversive new shit." But you know what? It's like O'Brien giving Winston the Book in 1984. He knows that if Winston thinks he's being subversive, he'll be more willing to love Big Brother. (And, yes, my hate using sexuality to refuse to address the serious problems of gender equality comes up in discussions of the novel, too). This is why the only culture I do these days is downloading mp3s and wondering when I'm going to go see Harold and Kumar. But also, don't be too mean to Liz Phair or the concert. It's more of, sadly, the same.
btw, esteban, what's with selling out britney in that last quoted paragraph? Her mascara's probably running.