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We have brains - Music Entry, 2002-05-27, 6:53 a.m.


When I was in grade ten, I went to a provincial drama festival. My first. I went with a group that was mixed - almost equal with girls and boys. Three of the boys started walking down the road singing 'That's the sound of the man {get back} working on the chair g-a-ang'. The were proud in their manhood and wanted to let the world know they were men.

As girls, we were annoyed. They were doing this song with actions, walking down the road. We felt marginalized. We wanted a song. But none of us knew one and as the festival drew to a close, we'd not made up an appropriate one. We felt belittled and small - we had no song to show our pride (and no song to show them up!).

This is my first feminist memory of music. I remember not knowing a song to define me as a womyn. I think that had I known the classics - 'I am womyn, hear me roar', 'Sisters are doin' it for themselves', 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T' - I would have felt better about that encounter. Surrounded by testosterone, I had no estrogen response.

Thus begins my We have Brains commentary. The questions are as follows: "Is there music that changed your perspective on feminism? Changed you? Have you ever listened to a particular artist because that music defines you as a feminist, like wearing a "fish without a bicycle" t-shirt would have in the late eighties? ".

I feel that there is music that changed me. First learning of early feminist works - the above mentioned as well as others made me feel that we weren't totally unheard as a gender. Learning more of the early composers and the contribution to music that females made was also good. However, as with many things, I feel that you can find female examples in a male world. In discussing the troubadour, how often do we discuss the Trobairitz ? Doing a quick search, few webpages mention this female sector of the musical tradition. In fact, they were never mentioned in my music history class - I found out about them in my Womyn in Medieval Writing course.

Quite often, when studying any age of music, we are left with a sample from a mainly male field. Despite the fact that she was just as talented as he, Mozartís sister was never heard of after she grew up. That is, in many ways, the defining example of womyn in music history.

So, do I feel there is a particular type of music that has changed my perspective on feminism? I feel that the absence of womyn in most types of music has changed my perspective. After studying music history from the first song until disco, I can say that my feminist musician perspective changed as I realized that I was performing and learning primarily about males.

Unfortunately, I did not get a change to pursue this further. I'd love to do a masters in music history and develop my thoughts on this matter. Elaborate on a sketchy knowledge bank which I now draw upon. This enhanced my feminism, but has not changed me to a great extent.

The music I generally listen to is feminine. I often say that I listen to 'Angry Grrl' music, but there are some not so angry 'grrls' in there as well. And some males. The question states "Have you ever listened to a particular artist because that music defines you as a feminist, like wearing a "fish without a bicycle" t-shirt would have in the late eighties?". I would have to say that I've not listened to an artist because they define me as a feminist. I, like many, search for music that touches me. Womyn generally can reach my emotions more due to the common bond of womynhood, even if there are no other bonds tying us. This is not to say that men never reach me in their thoughts or art, but I find artists such as Dar Williams, Tori Amos, Ani Difranco, Lizband, Veruca Salt, Bif Naked, Liz Phair, Courtney Love and others reach me. If not in their words than in their daring. Their daring to yell. Their daring to say the unsaid. Their daring to finally, now that womyn are producing more publicly heard music, to put it out there. To say the things that used to be covered up, 'there-there'd away and generally said to be a 'female thing'. They are doing it now. And as a feminist, while this doesn't define me, I feel that it enhances me. It reinforces me as a feminist at times that someone else is screaming with me. I do not pick these artists because they define me. I pick them because they compliment me.

This is an interesting topic. As a teacher who has a womyn's studies background meshed with her theatre, social studies, english and music background, I constantly try to include womyn. Worthy womyn. It is a pity that in the music field, as well as so many others, their contributions have been brushed aside. Perhaps now, between the Aniís, the Toriís, the Courtneyís and the Darís, teenage girls, when faced with singing testosterone, will be able to respond with their own estrogen anthem.


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