Archive for the ‘Courtney Love’ Category

"There is no power like my pretty power…."

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Who said it? “There is no power like my pretty power…there is no power like my UGLY UGLY POWER!”*
The answer appears after this exclusive (!) excerpt from The Radical Housewife, in which I expound at length upon just one of the tensions existing between Second and Third Wave feminists–BEAUTY. And the lack thereof.

Like it or loathe it, a woman’s appearance means something. Whether you wear heels or Doc Martens, no “choice” can be made independently in a consumer culture. Free will does not exist. Such was the revelation I found in my college media studies curriculum after Professor John Schott handed us syllabi that would challenge our deeply held beliefs about soap operas, Madonna videos and Cover Girl commercials. Symbolic language? The object and the objectified? Semiotics? Jacques Derrida?!! What the fuck??

Let us cool our Prada boots while we return to the thoughts that began our chapter, a consideration of the second wave’s flaws. Betty Friedan opposed lesbian leadership in NOW for many reasons, one of which is how they looked. Many lesbians of the time didn’t sex up their drag the way Marlene Dietrich did—they took off their bras, let down their hair, and rubbed off their makeup. I see no problem with this, but remember: I was born in 1971. My cultural touchstones were the rough and tumble kiddos on Sesame Street, not prim maidens like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. Once upon a time the sight of a woman in pants was so transgressive as to inspire revulsion: not because the pants were ugly by themselves, but because the act itself was so outrageous as to be unfathomable. Susan B. Anthony stopped wearing bloomers when she sensed they were distracting people from her suffragist message.

Her words didn’t matter as much as her clothing. Sound familiar?

Over time, the pants really did get ugly, and someone heard something from someone about the burning of a bra. The fact that no bras were harmed during the 1968 Miss America protest is a truth so persistently rejected that the story remains a long entry in the debunking website, right up there with alligators in the Manhattan sewers and death by Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola. The message was clear: FEMINISTS BURN BRAS. According to Newtonian physics, without the support of sturdy underwire, perky tits will eventually droop. According to the marketing department at Maidenform and the pages of Playboy, girls with droopy tits are gross. Therefore, feminists are gross. QED.

When I ask around for nominations for Best Feminist in America, no one names Friedan, who inspired the Second Wave, or Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who kick-started the first. Almost every single person will name Gloria Steinem. A fine feminist, to be sure: a powerful activist, writer, speaker, and thinker. But you remember her before all others because she is very, very pretty.

Much of the Third Wave has consisted of studiously breaking down this feminists-are-ugly stereotype, and not just because heterosexual feminist women were getting desperate for a lay. Women of the Second Wave who rejected consumer culture were brave in numbers. The times were a-changin’, and plenty of men were breaking down long-cherished beliefs themselves—resisting the draft and militarism, embracing androgynous hair and clothing, recognizing their part in perpetuating discrimination.

Reagan’s election in 1980 and the defeat of the ERA in 1982 brought all the marching to a grinding halt. The communal spirit of the Second Wave fragmented. Reaganites declared a new era of rugged individualism, of freedom. Not the freedom that comes from constitutionally-enshrined gender equality, though; this freedom was that of the lone cowboy riding into town with nothing but a knapsack and a gun, free to blast his way to prosperity in pursuit of the American Dream. There were no cowgirls in Reagan’s America. His pal Schlafly made sure they were all at home, boiling diapers over an open fire.

Second Wavers in Reaganland soon realized that opposing the forces of capitalism required a lot of difficult emotional work. To delve inward for clarity is much more challenging than, say, purchasing a finely woven shirt that telegraphs that confidence for you. If self-acceptance is available at Macy’s, in a Chanel bottle of beveled glass, then to the mall we shall go! Sitting in the lotus position is for suckers.

I call myself a radical in every sense, but even I gave into temptation and bought a bottle of Oil of Olay at Target. I stopped using it not because I suddenly realized that true beauty comes from within, but because the acids meant to slough off my aging (read: ugly) skin made my face break out in a rash, and rashes are not only uncomfortable, they’re ugly.

Betty Friedan suggested that liberal feminism, in which changes are made by working within the system, would result in greater gains for women. Which is more effective—the pretty power, or the ugly power? How to you obtain the power held by men—by taking it, or by convincing them to give it to you? Do you attract more flies (button or zip) with the sweetness of honey or the sourness of vinegar? Am I really the power player in my marriage because my husband’s salary pays for the Secret Powder Fresh deodorant and rounded-tip Tampax that he will never use?

Oh my god……I can’t believe I use DEODORANT. I want to smell pretty. So much for being radical.

*Come on, could that REALLY have been said by anyone other than Courtney “Pretty on the Inside” Love? She may not understand sobriety, child-rearing, or anything else about human relationships, but she sure as hell knows about power, baby!

Daughters of the ’90s, mothers to no one

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Ah, the 1990s! I may be been a child in the ’70s and endured adolescence in the ’80s, but the ’90s is when I really grew up. I spent the first twenty years of my life being what was expected of me: a fine student, an exemplary daughter, a sidekick to my dominant friends. If an unsettling rage occasionally bubbled to the surface, it was my fault for not playing my role appropriately. Girls weren’t angry–girls were good. I identified strongly with fucked-up boy-men like Holden Caulfield and Paul Westerberg, though my cis-gendered hetero-normative temperament prevented me from imagining myself as anything but a grunge god’s loyal girlfriend. I had no seething female role models save Sylvia Plath, whose example was not one I cared to follow.

Enter Courtney!

Now, one could make a convincing argument that like Plath, Courtney Love isn’t a role model worth following, but in the early nineties, it seemed that the world might be ready to embrace a loud, smart, cranky, bitchy, flawed, contradictory, kickass feminist. Those were heady times! I loved (and still love) the riot grrrls with all my heart, but be honest: isn’t Kathleen Hanna a little too perfect? She’s the punk Anne Welles, while Courtney is Neely O’Hara, who, despite her many flaws, always says what she thinks and is the Doll you root for in the end. In the ’90s, I finally learned to appreciate honesty over perfection. It doesn’t make you popular–hell, it might not make you happy! But it’s better than the alternative, to “fake it so real [you are] beyond fake,” as Courtney warned. I remain flawed, but I’m no longer a liar, to myself or to anyone else.
I’m very excited that years of following Courtney’s career have led to my first piece for what is probably the smartest magazine in the country, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. In “Nobody’s Mother: Abandonment as Art in the Courtney Love Family Tree,” I look at memoirs written by Courtney’s mother, Linda Carroll, and grandmother, Paula Fox, to trace four generations of women who’ve been either unable or unwilling to care for their firstborns, all daughters. The article is not available online, so please support feminist media and yours truly by picking up the REVERB themed issue at your favorite local indie bookstore (True Colors here in south Minneapolis) or, failing that, your big box Barnes & Noble near Ms., Curve, and Bust. Your best bet? Getting a subscription for only $25. This feminist truth-teller thanks you.
Postscript: I’ve just learned that there are THREE different covers for the issue, featuring red, blue & black vinyl records. I got the black one in the mail, so I’m off to True Colors for the other two. My granddaughters, of the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and beyond, need to have them all!

Mixtape 1997!

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Found: a mixtape labeled with one small scribble across side A: I’m miss wrrrrrld. This leads me to believe it was the background music for the Halloween party my roommates and I held in 1997, the year I dressed in tribute to the Lady Courtney. I wore a thrifted prom gown, a sequined tiara, globe earrings, and nasty makeup that included blood red nails. Photos exist, but have yet to be scanned. That’s probably for the best.

Side A

Miss World–Hole
If I Can’t Have You–Eve’s Plum
Web in Front–Archers of Loaf
Complete Control–the Clash
Dame with a Rod–Juliana Hatfield
Alien She–Bikini Kill
Sweet 69–Babes in Toyland
Supernova–Liz Phair
Words & Guitar–Sleater-Kinney
Never Say Never–that dog
License to Confuse–Sebadoh
I Live Off You–X-Ray Spex
Makes No Sense at All–Husker Du
City of the Dead–the Clash
I Wil Dare–Replacements
Boat Song–the Picketts
Lookin’ at the World Through a Windshield–Son Volt

In tribute to the hot trends of 1997, our friend Seth dressed as Rollergirl from Boogie Nights, and my sister and our friend Jesse came as Posh and Sporty Spice, respectively. My roommate Jen dressed as Carl Sagan. I don’t know why.

Side B
Moby Octopad–Yo La Tengo
Devil’s Haircut–Beck
Someone I Care About–Modern Lovers
Say No Go–De La Soul
Young Offender–New Order
Peg–Steely Dan
Big Fun–Inner City
Girl You Know It’s True–Milli Vanilli
Night of the Living Baseheads–Public Enemy
Love’s Theme–Love Unlimited Orchestra
The Only One I Know–Charlatans UK
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Dub–Apollo Four-Forty

I remember precious little about this party–I got madly drunk, just as Courtney would. For some time I forgot that Liz was there, visiting from Boston, just because she didn’t appear in any of the pictures. She stuffed a pillow under a lace dress and was a shotgun bride. I was a poor hostess, unfortunately, spending far more time securing a drunken hookup than paying my visiting friend any attention. If Liz were here I could call her for her version of the story, and I know she’d take great pride in embarrassing me over my horny tactlessness.

After Liz died, I never expected to feel that parts of my history, my life, would disappear with her. What else don’t I remember? What more could she have shared with me? And where the hell are the rest of the mixtapes I made over the years?? I know there are more, dozens upon dozens more. Where did they go?

The Buddhists teach that nothing is permanent: not parties, not mixtapes, not memories, not even people.

Oh Well, Whatever, Never Mind: On Misogyny, Courtney Love, and the Guitar Hero 5 Controversy | Bitch Magazine

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I have been waiting a long time for my favorite pop culture mag to take on the Yoko & Courtney connection. I even considered pitching them my own article on Rock’s First Widows (my working title) but didn’t get around to writing more than a page or two of scribbled ideas, including the lyrics to “20 Years in the Dakota,” a song Courtney wrote about Yoko in 1992, long before Courtney’s own widowhood began. I just love it when Courtney screams “WHOA YEAH, YOU DON’T FUCK WITH THE FAAAAAAAABULOUS FOUR!” That’s the very charge weighed against Yoko back in the day.

Interestingly enough, these days Yoko is the one warning haters away from her husband’s legacy. The piece I hoped to pitch included how the public has mellowed towards Yoko Ono, while the vitriol against Courtney keeps on cooking. I think the big difference is that Courtney Love decided not to retreat from the world. She didn’t put her Nirvana funds into a Cobain Foundation–she spent them on plastic surgeons, rehab clinics, and frilly Victorian doodads from Etsy. The world prefers their widows to be serious custodians of their husbands’ legacies, not to lead lives of their own.

Okay, okay, the life that Courtney’s lived since 1994 hasn’t been the smartest. I certainly wish that she hadn’t melted down in public, because as an out feminist she once brought serious attention to the problem of deeply-rooted sexism in the entertainment industry. Now she’s a punchline, and she brought much of that on herself. Still, I maintain that Courtney Love has a lot more to teach us about what intelligent and assertive women endure when they raise their voices.

…..they get shit on.

Oh Well, Whatever, Never Mind: On Misogyny, Courtney Love, and the Guitar Hero 5 Controversy | Bitch Magazine

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