the most perfect song: “deceptacon” & activist fatigue

This is a post about “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre. Here is the music video:

You can read the lyrics to the “Deceptacon” here.

backstory
I discovered Kathleen Hanna & Bikini Kill through The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock, which I found at the library when I was about 12 and worked my way through systematically in my quest for Awesome Music. (This led me to discover most of the artists on Kill Rock Stars, because when I first got a computer capable of downloading & burning mp3s, I went through all of the independent music labels I knew of and downloaded their samples. This was during the three month period before I embraced Napster. OH, 2001, YOU WERE RAD AND SEEM SO ~STRANGE~ NOW.) I found out about Le Tigre through the , who is responsible for igniting the eternal flame that is my love of electronic music and, more relevantly, burned me a copy of Le Tigre’s self-titled album.

Then I got to college and found out, via , that “Deceptacon” was everyone’s favorite song to dance to at gay parties, a.k.a. parties thrown by various folks in Pride Alliance. It was the first time I’d encountered folks IRL who listened to all my wonderful feminist rock music, and hell yeah to that.

this song is so fucking meta
So, returning to lyrics. This song is about how people ignore the message of Le Tigre’s music, want Le Tigre to make catchy dance music, and guess what? this song is a catchy dance song.
Wanna disco? Wanna see me disco?
Let me hear you depoliticize my rhyme
One, two, three, four
You got what you been asking for

Well, they have catchy dance music. But it’s not content-free:
Yr so policy free and yr fantasy wheels and everything you think
And everything you feel is alright,
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright

Nope, it’s a commentary on mainstream music listeners who like content-free music.

I used to like this song because it was a catchy song with feminism, but over the years, I’ve developed a more nuanced reading of it. I don’t like this song just because it’s catchy, or because it has political rhymes – I like it because it’s a catchy dance song about activist fatigue, and how futile and frustrating it can be to rail against an inescapable system like the patriarchy day after day, year after year, and still keep on going.
I take you home now watch me get you hot
Yr just a parrot when yr screaming
And yr shouting “More crackers please, more crackers please”
You want what you want but you don’t wanna be on yr knees
Who does your/ who does your hair?

Hanna is in charge, and she’s “tak[ing] you home” and “get[ing] you hot.” On the surface, this might seem like some pretty straightforward sexual innuendo, but it’s also an apt description of what her music is doing for “you.” Her music can be substituted for herself as the embodiment of “your” desire. But “you” (who can be read as singular, but I read as plural) can’t stop spewing the rhetoric they’ve been fed by society – by patriarchy. “You” feel entitled (sexually) to her in the same way “you” feel entitled to her music and “depoliticiz[ing] [her] rhymes.” Hanna, like a hairdresser, is seen as a woman in service, whether it’s sexual or as a musician.

Then there is the verse that made me hash out some nebulous ideas and write this post. This verse is pretty much my favorite verse in any song ever.
You bought a new van the first year of yr band
Yr cool and I hardly wanna say “not”
Because I’m so bored that I’d be entertained
Even by a stupid fuckin linoleum floor, linoleum floor
Yr lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor
I’ll walk on it
I’ll walk all over you
Walk on it, walk on it, walking one, two
Who? Who? Who? Who?

I can’t find a citation for this Hanna quote, although I’ve seen it in print so I know it’s legit: “I hate the attitude of, ‘oh we already have a Lydia Lynch, so we don’t need a Bikini Kill.’ Well, there’s like 2 hundred million all male bands writing ‘baby baby i love you, let me drag you around on my ankle.’ Is that enough already?”
The “you” in this song has shifted from previous verses, and I read this new “you” as the league of male bands Hanna talks about above. Hanna is so bored by their bragging (their “new van” purchased in “the first year of [their] band”) that she can hardly even bring herself to object to it, which is, uh, so much this. Because the thing about patriarchy (kyriarchy)? It IS boring. After the first fires of incandescent rage against oppression, it can be really exhausting to take up the banner and keep fighting, because you’ve realized the essential truth that the societal structure and its embodiment in *isms might shift in manifestation but is never going to fucking change, it’s always going to be the same stupid shit over and over.
Even something as commonplace (in the US) as a linoleum floor is more interesting to Kathleen Hanna. And me, frankly.
Yr lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor
I’ll walk on it
I’ll walk all over you

But, even though she’s tired and she’s bored, Hanna is still going to get up and rock the fuck on.

The chorus to “Deceptacon” initially appears nonsensical and pretty random. But it’s actually a rhetorical question to which Hanna alludes several times in the song.
Who took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp?
Who took the Ram from the Ramalamading dong?
Who took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp?
Who took the Ram from the Ramalamading dong?

It’s the same “who” to whom Hanna refers when she asks “who does your hair,” and it’s the same “who” as at the end of the previous verse:
Walk on it, walk on it, walking one, two
Who? Who? Who? Who?

Kathleen Hanna, as avatar of womanhood and avatar of feminism, is taking the bomp out of your bompalompalomp: she’s taking the fun out of your stupid music. Don’t like it? Too bad.

But don’t be surprised if you come for the catchy tunes and end up sticking around. They’re kind of new and innovative and stuff.

Just sayin’.

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