I promised I would post the remarks I made for the Punk Feminism and The F Word shows in Stanford and Oakland last week. The first half of my presentation, with images from the slide show and notes of music cues, follows. I’ll post the Patti Smith critical karaoke another day. The lecture began with music: X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage Up Yours.”
Punk is a female energy.
Look it up, in the Oxford English Dictionary. The first use of the word punk dates back to the 17th century and meant strumpet or whore. Later, the word referred to catamites, aka homosexuals, and then petty thieves. Etymologically, punks are gender outlaws – the OG victims of slut shaming and fagbashing. Musically, punk is the sound of dissonance, of dissent against even the hegemony of dissent. Making noise and ugliness virtues in a culture obsessed with harmony and beauty, punk’s means are destructive, but its impulse is creative. Sometimes, in its frisson of friction, lies escape.
Evelyn McDonnell, Tracie Morris, and Alice Bag
Tracie Morris and Alice Bag had never met before they joined me for “The F Word Vol. II” panel last night. And yet the pieces they presented — Tracie’s improvised exegesis of 1950s Hollywood femininity and Alice’s excerpts from her memoir Violence Girl — complemented each other fiercely. It was an emotional night at the Orange County Museum of Art, with an attentive audience of second-, third-, and no-wave feminists.
Following is an approximation of the remarks I made to launch the panel. Continue reading
Wall of handbills at Alien She
Tonight is the night: Join writers Alicia Armendaiz (aka Alice Bag), Tracie Morris and moi for The F Word Vol. II panel at the Orange County Museum of Art. Book signing, food truck, and screening of a video of the original F Word panel — including GB Jones, Sha-Key, Erin Smith, Jean Smith, Tinuviel, Kathleen Hanna, Chin-a Pannacione, Tracie and me — starts at 6. Panel at 7 in the museum auditorium. And don’t forget to check out the Alien She show of Riot Grrrl inspired art, including the wall of handbills pictured here.
“Pussy Riot 2” by Jean Smith
Revolutions don’t happen in a day. Sometimes they take weeks, or months, or years. In the early ’90s, a group of grassroots activists, artists, and musicians declared Revolution Girl Style. The Vancouver duo Mecca Normal were at the vanguard of that movement, which grabbed the media’s attention for a moment, then dissipated. But Mecca Normal never stopped making music, art, books, and trouble.
Last night at their LMU presentation “How Art & Music Can Change the World,” Jean Smith showed slides of some of her latest paintings: vibrant tableaus showing women performing with their heads covered in splotches of bright colors. Pussy Riot has put Riot Grrrl and RGS back on the world stage, as Mecca Normal’s singer pointed out, bigger and badder than ever.
I presented last night’s performance; it was a chance for me to honor and catch up with a band I’ve followed and written about for decades. When OG (Original Grrrl) Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile) showed up, it felt like a mini reunion. Wolfe recently returned from Georgia — the country, not the state — where Pussy Riot has helped reignite protests. And those activists turned to the original girl rioters for help and inspiration. “Coming full circle” was a refrain of the evening. Sometimes a revolution spreads in ripples, drip by drip.
Mecca Normal was one of my favorite bands of the late ’80s and ’90s. I loved David Lester and Jean Smith for their protest songs, like “I Walk Alone” (which I recently saw a band cover in San Pedro), and for their sometimes beautiful art noise. Hidden Cameras just recorded a cover of “Throw Silver” for an album about Canadian bands. It’s not as good as the original, but it’s interesting to hear. Thanks, David, for sending it my way.