Janis, Patti, Viv, Bjork, Carrie & Amanda

(*Sylvia, Frida, Tracey Emin, Georgia O’Keefe, Sinead Morrissey, Marina Carr, Doris Lessing, Simone de Beauvoir, Carson McCullers, Joan Didion, Angela Carter, Charlotte Bronte, Anneliese Mackintosh, Kay Ryan, Elizabeth Bishop, Naomi Shihab Nye, Rachel Amey. Iris Murdoch. )

(learning to be a woman)


Carrie Browstein, ‘Hunger Makes Me  A Modern Girl’ (2015)

‘I had very little desire to be present, only to be presentational or to pretend.’

‘My story starts with being a fan. And to be a fan is to know that loving trumps being beloved…to be fan is still to be a participant, and to participate is to grant yourself permission to immerse, to willingly, gladly, efface and subsume  yourself for the sake of the larger meaning but also to provide meaning…This is what it is to be a fan: curious, open, desiring for connection, to feel like art has chosen you, claimed you as its witness.

I always think about these moments when fans approach me, or write letters, or send messages on social media. I try to recall the sturdiness that comes from recognition…These are the ways fans maneuver through the world, with flimsy connections and strong hopes.’

‘Thus, I decided to retreat, to put the energy further into the performance. My persona would not be about artifice or flamboyancy, it would not be alien or otherworldly, it would be about kineticism, it would be about movement. Again, I returned to the notion that my salvation was to be in motion. I would be galvanic onstage, so that offstage I could try to figure out how to eventually live with a stillness, with myself.’

‘”Little Babies” is a song that sounds like it’s about the fans, and maybe it is. But later I realized that it was probably also about me, some confluence of Corin’s caretaking role toward both me and the audience, feeling taken for granted and misunderstood by both. The role of a woman onstage is often indistinct from her role offstage – pleasing, appeasing, striking some balance between larger-than-life and iconic with approachable, likable, and down-to-earth, the fans like gaping mouths, hungry for more of you.’

‘Musicians, especially those who are women, are often dogged by the assumption that they are singing from a personal perspective. Perhaps it is a carelessness on the audience’s part, or an entrenched cultural assumption that the female experience can merely encompass the known, the domestic, the ordinary. When a woman sings a nonpersonal narrative, listeners and watchers must acknowledge that she’s not performing as herself, and if she’s not performing as herself, then it’s not her who is wooing us, loving us. We don’t get to have her because we don’t know exactly who she is. An audience doesn’t want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness. Persona for a man is equated with power; persona for a woman makes her less of a woman, more distant and unknowable, and thus threatening. When men sing personal songs, they seem sensitive and evolved; when women sing personal songs, they are inviting and vulnerable, or worse, catty and tiresome. [catty??? bad language…]

‘We wanted to be a sonic call to action, anthemic, to either join in or get out, to be shaken from indifference – not only the listeners but ourselves.’

‘It was unnerving to venture back into a world where we might yet again have a label or indexer placed before the term ‘band’. We had spent years attempting to exist free of excess and arbitrary labels that were not descriptions of our music: female, indie, queer. Riot Grrrrl, post-Riot Grrrl music. Now here we were with the potentiality of being a ‘political’ band. But in the interim years we’d realized that denial is its own form of compliance and self erasure. Plus, it’s exhausting. We would go out on the road and play these songs and people could interpret them however the hell they wanted.’

‘certainly the affectlessness remains, the gutlessness…Entitlement is a precarious place from which to create or perform – it projects the idea that you have nothing to prove, nothing to claim, nothing to show but self satisfaction, a smug boredom….It’s an inverted dynamic, one that sets performers up to fail, but also gives them a false sense of having already arrived. I don’t understand how someone would not push, challenge, or at least be present, how anyone could get onstage and not give everything.’



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