Songs for the Struggling Artist


We Tried Asking Nicely.

The former prime minister of Australia was on a podcast talking about how the gender pay gap won’t be closed for decades at the current rate. She found this “frustrating.” I found it enraging. And it’s not new information. I know that every single measure of equality is moving at a glacial pace.

But it struck me as I listened to her that the problem is that we are attempting to make change without making waves. The current pace, the current rate of change is unacceptable – but anything faster or more aggressive will rock the boat. The waves will be too big to allow us to go along as we’ve always done. If there’s anything we’ve learned so far in the current pandemic moment it’s that going along as we’ve always done isn’t going to work anymore.

The upshot of it is – we won’t see real change without pissing a lot of people off. For all these years, many women have advocated for change, but, like, a nice change, a change that doesn’t really upset anyone. Like, just give us the right to vote. Just an itsy bitsy voting privilege. If you don’t mind. If it’s not too much trouble. We just want a tiny slice of reproductive rights, nothing greedy. You can have a slice first, of course. Yes, please.

I’ve been this kind of feminist myself. I called myself a Hello Kitty feminist a few years ago. You know – a non-threatening, cute, smiling, sort of feminist. The kind who’ll ask for her rights and give you a greeting card. I was nice and polite and didn’t want to trouble anyone. And honestly, I still don’t. I’d really much rather give you a slice of pie than demand one for myself. It is very confusing to have spent a lifetime trying to avoid confrontation and now be leaning into radical change. I’ve found myself in deep admiration of the early suffragettes who created chaos and anarchy in order to be heard. I’m impressed by the bomb makers, the balloon droppers, the strikers.

Did I really think equality would be given us if we just asked nicely enough? I might have. Or at least I hoped that the world would see reason and begin to adjust itself. It won’t. The rate of progress is embarrassing. The blatant misogyny that has risen to the surface is impossible to smooth away. My former self would have attempted it, would have found a way to see the good in even the worst perpetrators. No more. I’m in a head knocking mood now.

And not just about feminism, either. I saw a show about a coal mine disaster that was caused by corporate neglect and malfeasance and while I was touched by the stories the actors told us about the workers’ lives and attempts to get justice, all I wanted to do was go storm that CEO’s mansion. I came home and listened to The Coup’s “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” on repeat. I haven’t stopped listening to it since. In this world of glaring income inequality, I have found The Coup to be my music medicine of choice. It’s always a good time to listen to “The Guillotine” for me these days. (“We got the guillotine. You better run.”) Do I really want to kill a CEO and/or bring back the guillotine? No. Of course not. I can’t even watch someone get an injection on TV without hiding my eyes so of course I don’t want to see an execution. But I think the fact that a peacenik like me is so thoroughly enjoying revenge fantasies in stories and music is a sign that a corner has been turned. I’m at the point where if I saw an angry group of Amazon employees who’ve been denied PPE and bathroom breaks drag Jeff Bezos from his home, I might just cheer them on. The revolution may be upon us and it might be violent and that might be just, actually, and what has happened to me that I feel this way?

I find myself in a constant state of flux – feeling both the, “It’s fine. I don’t need anything, thank you so much. You’re so sweet.” And the flames shooting out of the side of my head.

Watching Elizabeth Warren take Bloomberg to task was one of the most liberating things I have ever had cause to see. I’m sure Warren is a real sweetheart when ordering a tea but get in the way of her and someone’s rights and you’re in trouble. There she is, the best listener on the block, a model of feminine compassion – but not everyone deserves her kindness. Some deserve her fire. Just as some deserve mine.

I have to figure out how to find that pathway – how to be as courteous as I want to be and knock heads when it’s time to knock heads.

I find, having never really learned how to channel my anger, I tend to toggle back and forth between fury and accommodation and I don’t always get the settings right. Sometimes I automatically accommodate someone and then suddenly realize that they were not worthy of my accommodation. That makes me mad but it’s not nearly as tricky as the moments where I’m more aggressive than I meant to be. Those are harder to forgive myself for – because the niceness is the baseline and deviations are disruptive, not just to the person I am not nice to, but to me – because niceness is my baseline. But as the reality of possibility of change in the world sets in, as I realize how unlikely it is that we’ll see any gender parity in so many arenas, or economic justice, my baseline starts to shift. I feel less and less uncomfortable with not being nice and more and more ready for wave making change.

We tried asking nicely. We tried incremental change. We tried pointing things out in calm, bright, friendly voices and writing polite well reasoned articles. It got us next to nothing. Those in power will not release their hold on it until we wrest it from their cold dead hands, I guess. Maybe it’ll be the guillotine that gets them. Or just their own venality. There are five million ways to kill a CEO.

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In Which I Get Myself F-ing Mad About the Roma movie

Both swearing and spoilers ahead. I’ll warn you before the spoilers. Consider yourself already warned about the swearing.

I really wasn’t mad about Roma while I was watching it. It was a quiet arty experience and I appreciated the cinematography and getting to see the very specific world it created (and perhaps documented). But I didn’t find it moving. I expected to. I brought a pocketful of tissues and I did not use a single one. Not that my tears are required for a moving experience. But I was oddly unaffected and I was trying to understand why.

So I did some googling and saw this cascade of articles declaring Roma to be a feminist film. That’s when I started to get mad. Sure, there are mostly women in the film and that’s really nice and all but crowing about it as a banner feminist film? Sorry. No. Now I’m mad about it.

Just putting women in your movie does not make it feminist. Having your movie declare that men are trash also does not make it feminist. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Feminism holds that men are equal with women (and vice versa of course) and, in fact, men are quite capable of being great (in other words, not trash). Feminism has had a bad reputation for being a man-hating ideology but in truth, it holds men to higher standards than the trash men are often accused of being. Demonstrating that men can behave badly and sometimes leave women to fend for themselves in the world men created is not a particularly feminist demonstration. It’s just something that happens. Feminism doesn’t flatter men or give up on them. It says, “You could do better and you should.” Which is how I felt about Roma.

If (SPOILER ALERT) when Cleo’s character got pregnant she’d been able to get an abortion, that would have been fucking feminist. Assuming Mexican abortion laws were restrictive at the time, there would still be ways to make that a more feminist movie. For example, if her employer had taken her to get an abortion where surely all the rich ladies got their illegal abortions, (because people with money always have more access to abortions even when they’re illegal) that would have been fucking feminist. Even if neither of those things were possible, a feminist film would have at least discussed the possibilities for dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Instead this film acted like everyone needed to be super happy about a baby no one wanted. And when that baby was born dead – we could maybe not, as an audience, have been put in a position to think, “Well, that’s probably for the best.”

I resent a film that made me feel relieved about a dead baby. Really. Come on. That’s why abortion needs to be fucking legal. Because no one wants to feel relief about a baby born dead. No one. Come on.

And then – at the end, the big fucking reveal is that she never wanted that baby in the first place? What the fuck? Of course, she didn’t. From the moment her boyfriend ditched Cleo in the movie theatre, we all knew she did not want that baby.

In addition to all the personal reasons that the baby was a bad idea, she could have lost her job. It’s clear a different employer would have fired her immediately. That pregnancy was a catastrophe long before it had a gun aimed at it. Somehow the movie pretends it’s not and somehow thinks that women wouldn’t talk about that.

Cleo is a sort of domestic saint, who always does the right thing, is always put upon. The pregnancy somehow makes her more holy. I kept expecting her to get martyred and I’m glad she survives the movie but I guess her declaring that she didn’t want that baby is meant to be an acknowledgement that she is not an actual saint? I don’t know – but domestic sainthood doesn’t rank high in my feminist book.

END of major SPOILERS – some very minor ones ahead:

This sanctification of a boy’s nanny appears to be a thing. I don’t know why boys who grew up with nannies feel the need to make art about them but they do and they seem to be these saintly loving self-sacrificing figures who endlessly give of themselves to help form genius young men. I’m thinking, also, of Tony Kushner’s much lauded musical, Caroline, Or Change, which has similar issues of a woman of color raising white children. Both Roma and Caroline, Or Change have been fictionalized but both creators make it clear that their work was based on their youth. They also both drive me up a fucking tree with their magical negro/magical Native American tropes.

Anyway, speaking of how Roma was based on Cuarón’s nanny, I highly doubt that the big fulfillment in Cuarón’s actual nanny’s life – the end of her story – was to be told that her charges loved her. I’m sure hearing what she meant to her employer’s children was very gratifying but the odds that his family never once drove her crazy and never once made her want to cry out in frustration or kick a hole through one of those glass doors – those odds are very low.

I’m super glad that Cuarón has introduced us to Yalitza Aparicio, who is an extraordinary indigenous actor and that this film got her an Oscar nomination and all that – but we never learned anything about the character she plays or where she’s actually from. The barest minimum we learn is that her village looks a bit like the countryside where they spent New Year’s Eve. Her indigenousness was inconsequential in the end and that feels like a real missed opportunity – especially when it feels like the only real purpose of the film is to tell us that some men can be trash sometimes. Yeah, we know.

Now, can we get some reproductive freedom for everyone?

I’m not saying the film’s not brilliant – the sequence of the father trying to park that whale of a car in his garage is as poignant a look at masculinity as I’ve ever seen. But lionizing Roma as a feminist film just makes this feminist fucking mad. No. Not all men are trash and not all movies about women are feminist. Fade out on ranting feminist.

photo by ProtoplasmaKid via WikiCommons

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

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You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Posse. Team. Community.

Here’s what I’m looking for: A Squad. A Posse. A Team. Specifically: a squad, posse or team that is ready to mobilize for protests and marches and events.

Here’s why: I do not enjoy protests and marches. I’m a highly sensitive introvert with an aversion to crowds and shouting. But I know they make a difference and I often feel as though I OUGHT to go. Unfortunately, sometimes I just can’t muster the will. The main obstacle is that while there are many many things I am very happy to do by myself – protesting is not one of them.

So going to a protest often becomes the act of trying to find a date for something I don’t even really want to do myself. (“Hey friend – you feel like going to go do something I am definitely not going to enjoy but feel like I should go to and which I’m hoping you’ll say no to so I have a good excuse not to go?”) There are just too many opportunities to forget the whole thing altogether. It’s too easy to NOT go.

What this brings to the forefront for me is how little community I have in my life. I have a lot of wonderful individual friends – but I don’t have a community anymore and it’s become clear that I need one. Or several. Because here’s the thing – if I had, say, a What’s App group of protest buddies, I could just find out where they were meeting at the reproductive rights rally on Tuesday and turn up. Maybe go get a drink after, even.

If I had a squad, I could start the conversation or just show up. Sometimes the community would call me to action and sometime I could call the community to action. I now really understand why so much of the civil rights movement began in churches – because that is a ready made community. You can speak to a room full of people all at once that way. You don’t have to call up each individual church member and ask them to come to the march. You just ask them all at once. And then those people can car pool to the event and the next and the next and if a strike gets called, everyone’s ready to walk. It is very handy for organizing people.

So where’s an irreligious person to go to try and get some community going? Where do I go to find a squad? I tried the feminist book club in my neighborhood but when I mentioned I was looking for protest buddies, I got a lot of blank stares and one person said, “I have to work.” Uh, the protest I was talking about was five days ago. You’re already off the hook.

The thing is – I know I am not the only one who is reticent to go to a protest on my own but who would be easy to include with a suggestion from a community. Humans are social animals – even the most introverted among us still can be brought into a circle by the desire of the group. I need a group to want me to show up – because it is just too easy not to.

I mean – “I have to work.” You know?

What time do I have to work? Oh, you know – um, when’s the protest? Oh. Yeah. Then. Then’s when I have to work.

The times are such that we are likely to need to hit the streets more than ever. Reproductive rights are under fire like never before and we have to get out there to save women’s lives. We all need squads. Maybe you don’t need a squad right this second. Maybe you, like me, live in a state that’s not in too much immediate danger of attacking women’s personhood but I think we have to start building our squads now so we can hit the streets at the drop of a text. Not because they’re coming for us right now but because they’re coming for everyone. We all need a protest posse, I think, even if we don’t think we’re going to go.

And since my feminist book club was a bust, I figure I’m just going to have to start my own squad. So if you’re in NYC and you want to be in my squad, let me know. I’ll drop you a text.  We’ll all hit the protest, maybe get a drink after and call it community.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast version of this post on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me build my squad?

Become my patron on Patreon.

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis




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