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Sunday, 1 May 2011

Where Are You? Let's Be 'Avin' You!!

~Failing to get in touch with our Feminine side~

It seems sadly ironic that in a week where we lost a truly inspirational and confrontational female spirit in Poly Styrene, we should also pay witness to the rise of Kate Middleton whose anorexic body image and ludicrous, farcical, fictional life-goal, i.e. marrying a Prince, could not send out a more risible and belittling message to young British women.

So with that in mind, I felt it only right that we should address the issue of the lack of positive role models for young women within music or indeed culture itself these days, and ask 'Where have all the strong feminist Pop/Rock icons gone?"

Looking back at the ghastly, sexist, misogynist 1970s, it seems only right that, from the original explosion of Punk, strong independent women would arise who simply weren't going to take any of the bullshit dished out by the media, the advertisers and the entertainment industry any more. Women like Poly, Ari Up, Siouxsie Sioux and Pauline Murray (from Penetration) were too much for some to handle, tackling the male dominated media without having to 'glam-up' to do so.
But if Punk gave Women a head start, it was Post-Punk where we would find true Feminist ideals again, not sugar-coated in a layer of tawdry make-up, but drenched in anger, vitriol, piss and vinegar!

The Post-Punk era gave us some of Feminist-Pop's greatest voices; from Lesley Woods of Griff's beloved Au Pairs, Julz Sale of The Delta 5, Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivre from Crass, Honey Bane from The Fatal Microbes, Vi Subversa of the Poison Girls, Zillah from Rubella Ballet, Annie Anxiety, and of course Linder Sterling from Ludus who, it should be noted, was wearing dresses comprised of rotten meat and chicken heads before Lady Gaga was even born, and for far more salient reasons.

You could also throw into the mix Punk singers like Beki Bondage (of Vice Squad) and George Cheex (from Action Pact) as examples of strong female singers not pandering to the Boys Own mentality that hung around rock music like the stink of the Rolling Stones dressing room.

The 1980s, that horrid Me-Generation of Big Hair, False Smiles and Yuppies, gave us precious little as the original Punk and Post Punk bands faded. There was Alison Statton of Young Marble Giants and Weekend, and Jayne Casey of Pink Military/Pink Industry (and allegedly once Morrissey's, seriously!), and of course there was Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth) over in the US.

But it would be in the cultural wasteland that we now call the 1990s that Radical Feminist ideologies would arise. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the world of Riot Grrrl!

Sure, the Riot Grrrl movement was sadly under-represented in the UK, but what we had was more than enough. The mighty Huggy Bear genuinely frightened people, for the first time since the Punks had crept on to Top Of The Pops. Some more right-wing music papers simply didn't even cover them, many buried their heads in the sand and tried to assure it was Grunge and Brit-Pop that we wanted. Oh no it wasn't!

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised they tell us, but on dreadful Scum-athon TV show 'The Word' we saw the nearest thing to it as Huggy Bear ran through 'Her Jazz' to a befuddled and bewildered audience. It was almost TOO good, it was almost TOO powerful. Things reached an apogee when, after a sleazily sexist article, a member of the Huggy Bear entourage jumped from the crowd and slapped host Terry Christian's smug face. If you see the clip, watch as a startled Christian lashes out with his foot to try and kick her.
(Sadly the video clip has now been removed from Youtube!!)

Huggy Bear were GENUINELY exciting in an era of bland faceless mediocrity, but apart from friends Blood Sausage, the Riot Grrrl movement didn't have much of a voice over here.
In America, however, Riot Grrrl became a phenomenon with bands like Bikini Kill, Heavens To Betsy, Bratmobile, Slant 6, Babes In Toyland, Cheesecake, Excuse 17 and Team Dresch to name but a few.

Some of my friends (though not Griff and Ray, I should point out) HATED the whole Riot Grrrl thing, but we loved it. In an era before the Internet, the whole cut-and-paste, fanzine culture, DIY ethic coupled with some of the spikiest, most scattershot music imaginable was a pure and honest thrill at a time of utter complacency.

The decade would end with the Spice Girls proclaiming 'Girl Power'.....but that was a decidedly Thatcherite brand of so-called 'Girl Power' and should be swept away into the nearest litter bin.

The 2000s saw ex-members of now defunct Riot Grrrl bands continue the cause; Kathleen Hannah of Bikini Kill now made music as Le Tigre and Julie Ruin, while members of Excuse 17 and Heavens To Betsy became Sleater-Kinney, and Kat Bjelland of Babes In Toyland continued as Katastrophy Wife.
Britain, however, became rather barren on the Feminist Pop front, sadly.

(Sleater-Kinney above)

The rise of dreadful TV Talent Shows and Reality TV guaranteeing microcelebrity has once again brainwashed the masses. Why make a splash and rock the boat when you can make yourself financially safe for a few minutes of televisual ridicule. It's horrific.

The ideal British Woman now seems to be a grotesque hybrid of Katie Price and Kate Middleton; a pornographicised caricature with no life goals other than sitting around on their pampered arses, unaware of the dangers of their own objectification. Piffle and Poppycock my friends!
Yesterday the three of us ~Streetlampers~ found ourselves questioning where the new Feminist Pop/Rock icons were. Lady Gaga? Katie Perry?? Madonna??? Do us a favour!! Face it, Madonna may be held up as some Feminist icon but this is a woman who promoted and created objectified pornography. Yeah, right on Sister!
Sadly we couldn't come up with too many of our own; Shrag and Vile Vile Creatures were about it, although there is a Manchester band called (hooker) who I'm very fond of and who do seem to be blazing a Feminist trail....but that's it!
Unless, of course, you can tell us differently!

That is the whole point of this Blog. Away from our usual smug, we-know-everything twattery, we hope we are proven wrong here. We really hope that readers will get in touch and tell us of some Radical Feminist bands that we are unaware of. Hell, we even hope some of the said bands will get in touch so we can write about them and enjoy their music.
Please prove us wrong, Friends!

The buck stops with you!



  1. Aw man this is piece is just perfect. You have given me so much to go and check out and the overall theme is very close to my heart. Please please please keep up the good work. Power to the peaceful.....

    - Jer

  2. Thanks Jeremiah,
    Your views and support are always welcome.

    For me, personally, the whole Riot Grrrl movement was the only genuinely thrilling music that existed in that cultural vaccuum we call the 1990s, and as sucg forever has a special place in my heart.

    Happy listening,

  3. The Russian band "PUSSY RIOT" is a good one to look at. They have taken the aims of the Riot Grrrl movement to a more aggressive political stance.
    "Our goal is to move away from personalities and towards symbols and pure protest"
    I dig their attitude and force. XXX

    And then the beautiful band, "Those Darlings" <3