Tag Archives: patriarchy blamin’

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’.

briefly interrupting the complete lack of content on this blog for…

Old Spice Guy meets FEMINIST HULK. Judith Butler ensues.

I did not write this but may have been responsible for the original prompt.

wise as serpents and innocent as doves

Hey, gentle readers. Sorry about my absence! As much as I enjoy linkspam, I like this blog to have actual content, and while I’ve had a few ideas kicking around in my head, none have entirely come to fruition. So this post is kind of all of them at once. In case you get confused, just come back to the thesis, which is: how Olga is Miss Marple.


My first grown-up book was Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, which I read at the end of third grade or beginning of fourth grade, and which was pretty freaking morbid for a 9 year old, and also kind of racist, but whatever. I got totally hooked on Agatha Christie and plowed my way through most of her back catalogue over the next three years. As a result, I have read almost all of her Miss Marple books and short stories, a fair amount of her Hercule Poirot works, and ALL of Tommy and Tuppence because they kind of rock. Namely, Tuppence rocks. Can I be Tuppence? But that is not the topic of this post. The topic of this post is why I really like Miss Marple.

This is Miss Marple’s schtick, for those of you who are not familiar with her: she is a little old lady who lives in St. Mary Mead, a quiet little English town, and people think that she is a tad bit doddering and off in the head. But Miss Marple is incredibly smart and a great observer of people, and she solves crimes, often using her harmless appearance to great advantage.


Recently, I have been reflecting on how much I no longer regret my decision to major in classics. For quite some time after choosing to forsake the world of togas for the world of forsaking bras, I looked at my classical period primarily as a springboard for future endeavors and six years’ worth of training to write the best Harry Potter spells OF ALL TIME. (At least, that was my motivation when I started taking Latin in 2001.) Now, however, I’ve realized that a background in classics has had other benefits, namely, accelerating my transformation into Miss Marple. Wikipedia agrees with me: “Miss Marple’s Olga’s acquaintances are sometimes bored by her frequent analogies to people and events from St. Mary Mead the internet The Past, but these analogies often lead Miss Marple Olga to a deeper realization about the true nature of a crime the patriarchy life, the universe, and everything.”

Being Miss Marple means that I spend a lot of time connecting the dots, but it also means other things, namely that I spend a lot of time sitting around going, “Somehow, Inspector Fox, I don’t think you’ll find the murder weapon in Mr. Clarendon’s shed.” In other words, I spend a lot of time debunking things. Prehistoric matriarchy! Goddess worship = female empowerment! The decline of Western civilization!

I really, really hate the “decline of Western civilization.”


In other ways, I have also been like Miss Marple. For a long time, I liked appearing to be innocent and sweet, and in some cases, namely in my relationships, I really tried for the sweet part. But when you are a grouchy and smart old lady, that tends to rear its head after a while, especially if you are trying to keep some of that on the down low. It also gets aggravating, day after day, to have people constantly underestimating and undervaluing you, assuming that you are eye candy or just She Who Keeps The Home Fires Burning (not that these in particular are Miss Marple problems).

At a certain point, appearing harmless and fluffy, having people tune you out because you don’t get straight to the point, and then surprising them when you hit them upside the head with your awesomeness isn’t subversive. It’s just kind of sad.

I’m still a grouchy old lady, though.


Ironically, after I came to the realization that it was best to just fly my freak flag and let the chips fall where they may, people started making even more erroneous and frustrating assumptions about my innocence and purity because I got Jesus. (That’s a phrase I deeply enjoy using. Like, fuck yeah, Jesus is the mud I’m rolling in! except it’s like spa mud because it’s made by God, and it’s also like regular mud because it’s outside and available to everybody, at least in rainy seasons!) What I had once enjoyed – creeping out my housemate with my tentacle bunny plushie, getting approved of by partners’ parents (hoo boy), alarming various people with the egg story (I only tell that one in person) – had lost its charm. When my mom told Martin that it was okay to tune me out sometimes, I just talk a lot, it runs in the family — that was not funny. Also, not ok.


For a long time, when I was very sick — that’s why I’m a grounchy old lady! not exaggerating, my dear readers! — I kind of forgot I was smart. I assumed people tolerated me on sufferance and attempted to buy their loyalty with baked goods. (In case you were curious, I make a truly bitchin’ three bowl devil’s food cake.)


Miss Marple is smart. She is a badass. People often forget this. That’s why, when she catches the bad guy, it’s a surprise. It shouldn’t be a surprise when women are smart, observant, socially aware. Those shouldn’t be “women’s secrets,” either. And when women talk, it’s worth listening. If people ever listened to Miss Marple finish her stories… well, those books would be a lot shorter. And possibly more morbid.
Which is fine by me.

books to read!

I’ve been putting off posting because I want to do an in-depth look at why Elaine Showalter’s Hystories is the worst book ever written… ever (ok, that’s not true, Mere Christianity is a tough contender), but that’s taking a while. It’s rare that I read a book that is so bad that it is painful for me to read (as opposed to hilarious), but this… this is one. Anyway. You have that to look forward to!

TOP FIVE BOOKS EVERYBODY SHOULD READ AND BY EVERYBODY I MEAN YOU
The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, Sheila Jeffries. I tell everyone about this book because it is even more awesome than the title, and you know what, that is hard. I do not agree with some of the things that Jeffries says, but her work is amazing and groundbreaking and her arguments totally valid. This was my first real exposure to discussions of global and transnational feminism, and it blew me out of the water.
All Our Kin: strategies for survival in a Black community, Carol Stack. I love this book. I don’t think that this book says everything about race, or class – the author was a middle-class white ethnographer researching a poor Black community – but for insight into outside economies, it can’t be beat. It is a golden oldie.
Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman. This is basically THE book.when it comes to the history of trauma studies and current thoughts on dealing with trauma. As a survivor, this and Angela Shelton’s Warrior Workbook have been the two most helpful things for me. As She Who Is Really Into The History of 19th Century Women’s Mental Health, this book is also quite excellent.
Beyond God the Father: toward a philosophy of women’s liberation, Mary Daly. Mary Daly needs no other recommendation.
Gender Trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, Judith Butler. I feel like choosing this for #5 is a little bit of a cop-out, because everybody already knows MY PURE AND GLORIOUS LOVE for JB, but hey – this is, again, a book that everyone should read. It is not easy going. But it will make you think!

sarah g brings us this sad news…

Mary Daly, blasphemer, radical, kicker of many patriarchal asses, has died. She was 81.

From the newsbrief I just linked to:

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Daly once wrote, “There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.”

Words to live by!

boring stuff about my new layout to which you are probably completely indifferent

I made this blog header while I was practicing lomo-izing random images in CS3, although I don’t think you can tell that very well due to cropping. Predictably, I’ve just realized that the image is of Buffy looking up to Giles, who, in season 1, is kind of The Man. :/ Although I can make all kinds of very valid arguments for the relationship between Buffy and Giles subverting the paradigm of patriarchy, that doesn’t really challenge, you know, what’s going on in the image. Ah well. It’s pretty and it’s staying like that for now. new header, yay!

The blog has a new title (thanks to the culture of livejournal, I perceive blog titles as very fluid even if URLs are static), “The Harvest,” which I do want to take a moment to talk about. “The Harvest” is the second episode of BtVS, in which Buffy SHOCKS DUDES by OMG KICKING SOME ASS, WTF MAN, and prevents the Hellmouth from being opened. Although I pray that, in this day and age, my blog is not TOTALLY SHOCKING to dudes, I do like the themes of this episode a lot. I contemplated “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” the title of the first BtVS episode and my journal elsewhere, but I settled on the “The Harvest” for a couple of reasons. We all know what the Hellmouth is (in the context of my journal, not the (symbolic) context of the series), and my blog is not Feminism 101. Also, the threat of the Harvest (magical Hellmouth opening configuration of the stars or whatever) contrasts nicely with the conclusion of the series, in which Buffy, Faith, and the potential slayers open up the Hellmouth, because they’re going Fight Some Evil on their own terms, dammit.

The moral of all this crap you don’t care about: no matter how much there is out there to deal with, out of the seeds of our fear can grow something stronger and more beautiful. We can reap this freaky-assed harvest. And we can do so on our own terms. Gourds optional.

reading dudes

I just redid my livejournal, so I decided that this blog deserved a reciprocal souping up. I’m quite happy with the layout, and I encourage you to check it out!


I read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians shortly after I returned home (to Chicago) post Thanksgiving, and I am probably going to read it again on the plane home (to Orlando) this afternoon. I’ve been mulling over how to talk about it for two weeks now; this isn’t exactly my final word on the book, but it’s good enough to get started.

About three years ago, when I was working in Wash U’s library and processing new books, I realized that I was reading an awful lot of cisgender male authors. Without thinking too much about the implications, I decided that I was going to go out of my way to read female-identified authors (all other non-cisgender-male flavors of the gender spectrum being equally awesome, but not consciously on my radar at that point), because it seemed kind of silly. As a classicist, I was already trawling through a lot of dead white* dudes. This was also the summer that I read Cunt by Inga Muscio, because that is a book that all college ladies who like women and gender studies love, subsequently desiring giant posters of daisies to put up on their walls, at least if by “all college ladies” you mean “Olga.” Although I can’t say that I took anything directly from my reading material at the time (aside from the fact that the reason I’ve always thought Che Guevara was hot is that he looks like one of my ex-boyfriends – see: processing the new books) , I had become more aware of what I was reading, and more importantly, what our library was buying.

Right now, I read a lot of stuff by non-cisgender-dudes (let’s call ’em NCDs), even without taking into account that Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls. Part of this is that my reading tends to center around my academic work; part of this is just due to the fact that I tend to prefer books written by NCDs for whatever reason. I could never get past The Hobbit because even the promise of slashy subtext could not compensate for 700 pages of dudes slogging through a forest or whatever. The best part of that shit was Legolas’s hair, and Orlando Bloom was not in the book. Back on topic. When I do read books by cisgender dudes, I’m conscious of their gender identity, albeit in casual way. Terry Pratchett’s CD status would never put me off a Discworld book.

My friend H. Susanne Moore sold The Magicians to me with promises of drunk magic students making fun of Quidditch. Like I could refuse that. So I began the book with few expectations aside from meta magical boarding school lulz. I didn’t look at the jacket flap — actually, I still haven’t looked at the jacket flap, even though the book is within grabbing distance. TOO BAD, GENTLE READERS. For the first half of the book, I though it was going to be like Harry Potter with booze and sex, so I was taken by surprise as the book slowly veered away from the obvious path into a serious meditation on what fantasy means and the implications of power with few limits or purpose.

The Magicians is a really, really good book; I recommended it a few posts back cheek-by-jowl with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which is a smart and sassy feminist coming-of-age story, and my favorite book of 2007. I lend it to everyone. Like The Disreputable History, The Magicians ends with the main character having reached a place of knowledge rather than a “happy” ending. Frankie’s story is written for a younger audience, although it translates wonderfully to older readers; Quentin’s story is darker. The story doesn’t resolve with the conclusion of the novel; instead, we’re left with more questions than we ever had answers. They’re good questions. They messed me up for a few days, in the best kind of way. Like I said: a good book.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
But it’s not quite as simple as that, of course. The Magicians is also incredibly and disconcertingly sexist. Although the most powerful magician in the story’s world is a woman, the female characters are never truly developed or explained to the reader. The magician in question sacrifices herself to save her (CD) lover, who is a jerk who cheated on her and has been spending his time post-graduation loafing aimlessly around NYC. The female characters in the book serve as objects of male sexual desire, symbols of motherhood, and/or they die. They are defined by their relationships to men: mother, sister, hot teacher, daughter, lover, sexual conquest, whatever. It’s pretty bleak for a gal in Fillory, NYC, Brakebills, wherever she goes in the magical world, or outside it.
SPOILERS CONCLUDE

I love this book. And I want to read it, think about it, discuss it, take it apart. But it’s like a barrel full of apples and some of them are the most delicious and some of them are rotten to the core. I came away with good questions, but I also came away with questions I didn’t want to have to ask: where are we? why are we invisible? why aren’t our questions important? why does my cunt make me pure and self-sacrificing and dirty and deranged? Also, dead.

I don’t have a daisy on my wall.

*Although we tend to forget that a lot of the Roman empire was, you know, Africa/the Middle East. I’m not sure how many authors from that area were of Italian descent (probably a good handful), but there were certainly people indigenous to those areas writing at that time, albeit those raised and educated in Roman imperial culture. Somebody has probably written about this, but I am heading out to the airport in three hours, so I do not have time to J-STOR.