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.
After she’d spoken openly and sung movingly about domestic abuse, after she’d talked about coming to terms with her bisexuality and detonated Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” after she’d read a passage from her memoir where she destroys an “insect”s glasses, after she answered lots of questions from myself, copresenter Ruben Martinez, and enthralled students, Alice Bag sang a song from her childhood. It was an old tune, familiar to the chicano/a students in the audience (though not to this gringa); one young lady came up to the mike and sang along with the woman also known as Alicia Velasquez: two chicanas claiming their place.
Alice Bag was the lead singer of pioneering LA punk band the Bags in the late ’70s. They performed, briefly, with bags over their heads — a brilliant statement on Hollywood looksism, and a prequel to Pussy Riot’s balaclavas. Violence Girl: From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage is a blunt but poetic memoir that began as a blog — required reading for all acolytes of punk feminism and Chicana identity. Joined by bassist Angie Skull, she drew a SRO crowd March 19 in the LMU English Department village.
Afterwards, Alice, Angie, two women’s studies students, and myself piled into Ms. Bag’s Honda Fit to hear “Salad,” a balls-out vegetarian anthem by the all-girl band No Small Children. It felt so great, rocking out to a new band with a pu
Me, Alice Bag, and Ruben Martinez
nk legend and the next generation of rabble rousers. I’ve met a lot of incredible woman artists in my life, but Alice is truly special: brilliant, open, generous, articulate, fierce.