Beer and Pavement

Womyn’s History Month

Posted in Activism, GenderBender by Zac on March 9, 2010

OK. So, I don’t know that this piece is post-worthy or not. I’ve had no time to work on it and really don’t care anymore. There were to be pictures and videos and possibly more footnotes than you could shake a stick at, but I’ve done as much with this as I can. It’s time to move on. Be nice in the comments. I have things to say in the coming days and weeks. Don’t unsubscribe just yet.

I used to teach fourth grade1. Every year, I’d make my students study up on Black history in February and women’s history in March. One student asked why they had to study about women for a whole month. I explained that every other month was men’s history month. The boys in the class thought this was great, but I squelched their celebration with the revelation that this isn’t fair to only recognize the contributions of women for one month a year, something they understood as poor African-Americans in the inner-city2. I earned a lot of respect from my girls that day.

So, it’s March again and it’s still Women’s Womyn’s History Month whether I’m teaching or not. It’s sad that we have to set aside a whole month for such topics just to insure that kids are presented with a balanced perspective on history3, but that’s how it is.

If I wanted my daughter to follow in the footsteps of any female rocker of the past century, I’d choose Katleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fame4. In the late 80′s/early 90′s, even the underground rock scene was terribly sexist5. Hanna and her merry band of grrrls stuck it to the hardcore boys in the most punk way possible: They made uncompromising, vag-to-the-wall punk rock. Bikini Kill and the like stood up to the boys and put them in their place6.

It wasn’t just about the music. Hanna and others lead a revolution within feminist ranks, calling attention to the racism, homophobia, and classism that once plagued the movement7. Some refer to this era as the onslaught of third wave feminism. Whatever it’s called, Hanna and the Riot Grrrl movement broke down a lot of barriers. Suddenly, it was kewl8 to be feministy and not so hippie-dippy9. Hanna’s brand of feminism spoke to those not totally sure about its causes10.

For a taste of what I’m talking about, check this interview she recently did for GritTV here. Also, one can peruse Bikini Kill memories as told by their fans in the ultimate demonstration of community building over at the Bikini Kill Archive.

Of course, Hanna is just one of many feminists/female-rockers-who-may-or-may-not-be-feminist I’d love for my daughter to look to for inspiration. A top-10 list is below…

1. Kathleen Hanna (Read above.)

2. PJ Harvey – No one rocks or takes more control of their sexuality than Polly Jean Harvey. She is so ridiculously bad-ass that she the same effect on her listeners as a  Mick Jagger or Iggy Pop. She’s not classically beautiful, but she gets your attention and tells you how it’s going to be.

3. Kim Gordon – She married a younger man in band mate Thurston Moore. She doesn’t stand out just because she’s the only w0man in the band, but because she’s friggin’ awesome. All that and she invented the baby-t.

4. Beth Ditto – I have never seen more of a punk rock moment than the night six or seven years ago when I witnessed Ditto take it off for the crowd, flaunting her voluptuous body for all the dykes11 in the house. The best moment of that show was when she called out the kid in the “Feminist Chicks Dig Me” t-shirt and informed him that they didn’t.

5. Kim Deal – I know she’s had a rough go of it with the drugs and alcohol, but she is arguably the most successful of all the former Pixies…in terms of record sales. That and she’s from Dayton.

6. Liz Phair – My early exposure to feminism happened when I first listened to Exile in Guyville. It’s been downhill from there.

7. Bjork – Unapologetically weird but not in that creepy, Tori Amos sort of way. No one sings like Bjork or attacks paparazzi like her either.

8. Thao Nguyen – Cool and self-assured, I don’t think any other musician I follow on Facebook sends me more political messages than Thao.

9. All of Sleater-Kinney – They should probably be higher on this list, but it’s not a contest. One member is maybe the best two or three drummers in indie. One member writes the best music blog on NPR’s site and makes a good viral video now and again. The third just belts shit out. When is their reunion tour?

10. Herself – Lucia, my daughter already has demonstrated a love and proficiency in music.I only hope that I will do enough to encourage her growth. Either way, she should always look to herself for inspiration in both her feminism and musicianship.

I know I’m missing someone. Who are you honoring this Womyn’s History Month?

Bonus Non-Rocker: Angela Davis – How many folks have ever had a former Black Panther as their professor? Davis talked the talk and walked the walk way before the Riot Grrrls. She is still one bad mother.

Notes:
1
It’s a long story, but I may find myself back in a classroom yet.
2I mean, Black History is not only given a month itself, but it’s been relegated to the year’s shortest month. What kind of racist shit is that?
3Of course, I realize even these special months do not insure a balanced approach to history. For that, we must depend on Texas to make the right decisions and we know how fruitless that will be.
4Actually, I’d choose her mama, but in the interest of keeping this blog universal and devoid of too much personal information, I’ll leave her out of it. I’ll just say that my partner is the smartest and most thoughtful person I know, a perfect role-model for our daughter.
5Sans a more-enlightened rocker like, say, Ian MacKaye. Either way, there was not a lot of room at hardcore shows for girls and women. Hell, there wasn’t even a lot of room for those of us guys who don’t need to thump our chests and tear off our shirts.
6I could insert some emasculating idiom here, but it would defeat the point. The idea is to turn shit around on the boys. It’s always about sticking women back in the kitchen and all that, but why don’t we make the boys fix our sandwiches??
7OK. It still plagues the movement and many other movements. However, what Hanna and the Riot Grrrl movement did do was teach us to critically look at all perspectives, especially those that have been so embraced by our communities for a certain length of time.
8Sorry for the Carles slip there. I have been reading too much Hipster Runoff lately. Lucky for you, I am usually able to avoid such a miscue.
9FYI, I really don’t care for hippies, but I now just find them harmless, useless.
10By this, I mean boys like myself who were pulled in by the rock rawk.
11I mean this only in a loving way. I am reclaiming the term for my lesbian sisters and brothers.

Trust and Choice

Posted in Activism by Zac on January 22, 2010

I trust my partner. She makes it easy as she is probably the smartest person I know. I know that whatever decision or choice she makes is researched and well-reasoned.

When she decided that she was OK with getting pregnant, I knew she had thought things out. If it happened, she would be due at the beginning of a semester, giving her leave for that entire fall.

As we navigated prenatal care and birthing options, her poise and thoughtfulness revealed themselves to me time and time again. No matter what doctors, midwives, or family thought, we knew that a home birth – one with as little medical intervention as possible – was right for us. It was her body, our fetus, and our choice.

Even had we decided not to see the pregnancy to full term, I know that it would have been the right choice. My partner – and any woman for that matter – doesn’t make such decisions lightly. As with the pregnancy and birth, she carefully considers options and consequences. Birth is not a simple thing to make a decision over a cup of coffee or on a whim. Every person who makes a decision to have kids or not considers it very, very carefully.

I trust that anyone who is faced with pregnancy thinks long and hard about their next step. It would be foolish to think otherwise. They may not always make what you or I think is the right decision, but they take it very seriously.

It’s important that we trust women with such decisions. They can decide what’s right for their bodies. That’s not up to you or me and certainly not the government. I trust that every woman will make the choice that is right for her.

This trust is what drives the movement to protect a woman’s right to choose. I want people to trust that I will do what’s right for me, allowing me to make decisions for myself. So, I trust that women will do the same. Whether it involves birthing or abortion, it is important we trust women to make these decisions for themselves.

Let’s do what we can to keep abortion and other family planning measures accessible, safe, and protected under the law. Check out NARAL’s site to learn more about this issue of a woman’s choice and today’s “Blog for Choice” effort.

I mean, you don’t have to. It’s your choice. I trust you to make the right decision.

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