6 July 2016

Feminist role models in music & why I dislike Kim Gordon

The topic of feminist female musicians came to my mind a few times whenever I came across it on the internet. A subject mostly talked about by fellow female bloggers or musicians, it's basically when one lists female musicians or bands that have a feminist attitude that might have inspired them or served as support.
I found myself at a loss for when I tried to think of a few, and this is why I've decided to write this post.

I almost cannot name any particular female feminist role model, since I have never had the need to search for one. Call me privileged in that sense, but in all my years of listening and playing music (classical and not) I have never came across an incident that urged me to comfort or "empower" myself with female musicians screaming about social injustice.
In fact, I am a very unpolitical person and only in recent years began reading about feminism, and liking it.

But when it came to music, it has never been a topic my thoughts have drifted to. It's just music, regardless if it's a boy or a girl making it. If it has political messages, that would be a secondary thing of interest for me, as the first one would always be the music itself, and I might as well search for other kind of support in it, which is emotional - about feelings and things in your soul that trouble you and separate you from conventional society. That's what has always been on my mind.
Of course I do not enjoy bands that place women as sexual objects in lyrics and imagery, there are enough of those out there. But in the music I have always listened to it has never been a theme - not in post punk or alternative rock or progressive rock or what have you. Maybe if you come from other genres as metal or punk or hardcore you would have a different experience.

Speaking of bands, I find some particular female band members being adored as feminist role models. I would like to mention Kim Gordon, the bassist of Sonic Youth, as an example for that, .
I am quite surprised as to how many women musicians look up to her. In my personal opinion she's just another bass player. As a bassist she has never inspired me, I don't think she plays very well, her bass lines are often stray from harmony (because it's noise rock, ugh) but I don't personally see it as a smart move for a bass part (guitar yes, not bass) and I dislike her singing voice. She allegedly wrote feminist lyrics which you can hardly understand since they're really abstract, as all Sonic Youth lyrics.
I do like the band as a whole, bus I appreciate any bass player based on the context of the music they place their bass line in. And I just don't think Kim Gordon does that very well.

I find it difficult to talk about feminist musicians since most of the feminist oriented music I heard was completely indigestible. Bikini Kill are a strong band, but their music is horrible, even from a punk perspective. And mention any hardcore feminist band and it would be even worse - how can you understand the lyrics with all the screams? How is that a good message?
Speaking of punk, I completely detest the idea of expressing political opinions through aggression and rage. That is the one thing I have always disliked about punk in general, female or male, feminist or with any other political views - you will not convince me to think like you if you scream and express hate and violence, despite being the victim yourself (which might be in many cases relatable). You will not convince me by being vegan in screaming in my ear, and you will certainly not convince the average joe like that. So with any other good political message - if the music sucks nobody will be interested.

The only feminist female band I have ever related to were strangely Jack Off Jill. Now, I know what you're thinking - how are they different with all the screams and rage and, quite frankly, all the exaggerated childish "he was a bad boyfriend" lyrics and provocative attire.
I honestly don't know why I like them, maybe because when I heard them I was a teenager and the ideas seemed childish but fun to me. And I liked the unapologetic rage, which even then I realized was an allegory, a sort of theater if you will.
But I have not met a single person who knew about JOJ who hadn't come from some dark corner of the internet, which is a shame.

So it's all a matter of perspective on music and bands, I know and acknowledge that. But let me say this - just because a women is playing in a band doesn't mean it's a feminist act. If you play shit, you're music will be shit. All depends on how one presents things. and I do not deny entering a very controversial topic here.
I would be much more convinced of feminist ideas when there would be heterosexual men screaming about it, and playing damn well while they're at it; When there would be queer people in bands; When all-male bands won't use naked women for album covers. Just because a woman is singing about something is not enough good reason for me to consider it feminist, even if the idea is close to my heart.

I get a lot more "empowered" as a person when listening to music that truly speaks to me, when the ideas comfort me and make me think that I am not the only person having these thoughts about myself and the world, having these feelings. It doesn't have to be a woman, it can be anything. That's the beauty of music. I guess I am having a hard time with the idea that listening to music should be like writing a B.A assignment for political studies. You can learn from music and build your ideals without being yelled at (I am looking at you, Crass, who I equally dislike).

Or rather - don't brainwash me with anything, just be an amazing musician, the rest will come. Don't tell me anything, let me figure it out myself.

As a counter example, here's Against Me!

I don't expect anyone to agree with my opinion but thanks to the ones who read it.



  1. Bands like bikini kill and sonic youth always bugged me and I didn't know why exactly until you explained it perfectly above. I was never a fan of their music either. Esp sonic youth.

    1. Happy it kind of made sense! I do like quite a few Sonic Youth songs, they have an interesting atmosphere and they were very influential on bands like Placebo for example. But other than that they are faceless and vague and it's annoying hehe