Ah, content– you capricious minx. As this is not a political blog, but its author is caught in the depraved frenzy of election binging, things have been a little dry I’ll grant. But do not despair, gentle readers! I have a wealth of ingenious and world-shattering musings to share once I find the time to author my thoughts with something we might charitably call elegance.

In the meantime consider the following observation courtesy of Richard Fannan in the May 11, 1968 issue Rolling Stone:

“The other day I flashed on an album that should but never will be released, and album combining the greatest hits of the Ronnettes [sic] with the greatest hits of the Shangri-las, the two most unbelievable rock groups that ever existed. They were the archetypes of a significant part of America at that time. They were the tough, whorish females of the lower class, female Hell’s Angels who had about them an aura of brazen sex. The Ronnettes were Negro-Puerto Rican hooker types with long black hair and skin tight dresses revealing their well-shaped but not quite Tina Turner behinds. And their songs, “Do I Love You,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and the rest were not about holding hands in the park, not about puppy love, but about sex…

[on the Shangri-Las] Dirtier and filthier than Ronnettes and girlie magazines, this is stag movies about fellatio and Hell’s Angel’s branding their women. It’s everything we deplore and idolize. It’s the new car and the new stove, Mr. and Mrs. John Doe in the back seat of his car while they were going together in high school. All-American kid trying to feel his date’s breasts during the drive-in movie while Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments is playing. It’s high school when they get knocked up. It’s sex in America.

So now we have Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix doing the same stuff but how come Mama Cass isn’t shaking it down and inviting people in? How come Grace Slick and Janis Joplin really aren’t that sexy? And how come Nancy Sinatra, who comes out of nowhere music, is? What is going on when it’s Mick Jagger, instead of Marianne Faithful [sic], who sings “Let’s Spend the Night Together”? What would happen if Grace Slick starred in a stag movie? Then would everything be alright? Who’s better in bed, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin or Brenda Lee? Is there a female equivalent to “fag rock”? Have you ever seen Little Eva naked? The answers to the above questions just may be important.”

I’m not in complete disagreement with Fannan– rock ‘n’ roll means sex. That’s the heart and soul (or should I say T and A?) of the matter. The answers to the above questions may well be important, but the reason they’re asked, and the way in which Fannan asks them might have something to do with the revelation he seeks.

I’ll leave you with one of the Shangri-Las’ “Out In the Street”. Their gothic extravagance is not quite what I would call “whorish”, but “everything we deplore and idolize”? Yes, indeed.


…uh, Elvis?

“In the early 1960s, the male artists moved into woman’s domain and pillaged with impunity. The result was Pop Art, the most popular American art movement ever…If the first major Pop artists had been women, the movement might never have gotten out of the kitchen. Then it would have struck those same critics who welcomed and eulogized Pop Art as just women making more genre art. But since it was primarily men who were painting and sculpting the ironing boards, dishwashers, appliances, food and soap ads, or soup cans, the choice of imagery was considered a breakthrough.”

-Lucy Lippard, From the Center, 1976

Tom Wesselman, Still Life #30, 1963

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup, 1964

Roy Lichtenstein, Kiss V, 1964

Let’s not be coy: Love Lockdown is what incandescent happiness sounds like. As my readers already know, I’m a big believer in Kanye West’s star power and name him Madonna’s true successor. We can waste our time squabbling over his artistic merits, problematic “authenticity”, often suspect politics, and nearly indiscriminate ambitions, but I for one would much rather cast these hypersubjective positions aside and just revel in the stature of his Pop genius, his sprawling personae, the decadence that is Pop Hip-Hop– typified by Mr. West.

Whatever your take, Love Lockdown is a brave offering. I marveled at West’s VMA performance at the song’s premier, but must admit I’m somewhat more ambivalent about his official music video which premiered two days ago:

It recalls a lot of the questions I raised with the photography of Jean-Paul Goude, especially concerning the place of Afro-Primitivism in fashion.

On one hand, we see that West attempts to reveal his diasporal Pan-African anxieties, which is certainly a resonant theme in black music from the earliest slave spirituals, but one wonders how these images (when existing in the everywhere for the consumption of everyone) will read to viewers who are not sensitive to the complex singularity of the African American experience. Anyway, does Kanye West– an African American— have a fair claim to these primitivist images of Africa–especially of the hypersexualized women? I honestly don’t know. I wonder if there is nuance here that I’m not picking up on, or if the crude juxtaposition is simply meant to be provocative. Well, provocative it is, whatever the aim.


A few months ago Mentasms brought this music video for The Knife’s Pass This On to my attention. I’ve been sitting on it ever since, trying to work out a way to write about this rich pop text from a feminist perspective, but am finally going to admit defeat. There is simply too much here to explicate, from gender performativity, to a Mulvyan disruption of narrative exepctation (not to mention an obvious “gaze theory” angle ), to intersections of class, geography and so-called gender deviance, to a discussion of hate crimes– I could go on. Finally, I’m going to let this video stand for itself. Make of it what you will:

Read today’s New York Times Magazine profile of super heroine Queen Latifah here.

“I know people who are twice as creative as I am, twice as smart,” she said, “but they didn’t do anything because they feared going into a room and opening their mouths. My parents told me to truly accomplish things in my life, there would be times I would have to stand alone. It may be scary, but that’s what it requires. So the times I had to stand alone, I got it. I understood where I was coming from, so hopefully, everybody else would get it eventually.”

Black Panther icon Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul On Ice (1968) is a fascinating document for feminist thinkers. Cleaver delineates between the omnipotent administrator and the supermasuline menial (white and black men respectively). The omnipotent administrator, though the dominator of the supermasculine menial, is also gendered feminine, as he is linked to “weakness, frailty, cowardice and effeminacy,” whereas the supermasculine menial embodies “strength, brute power, force, virility and physical beauty” (180). White women are thus “ultrafeminine” as the subordinate of the omnipotent, and black women become “subfeminine”.

I suggest the document is consulted if you’re interested in further explication of these, uh, provocative categories. For those predisposed to outrage: at times you will be so– just try not to make it of the blind variety. As always.

Amazingly, when Cleaver was living in exile in Paris 1975, he founded (of all things) a line of menswear to put his politics on the runway. Cleavers’ basic idea is that the supermasculine menial must celebrate his phallic prowess and masculine prowess he’s been forced to conceal (the case of the castrated and murdered Emmit Till is a stirring symbol in Cleavers’ political rhetoric). In an interview with Newsweek, Cleaver claimed “My design has a tremendous future both artistically and commercially, because not just the intellect–the head and face– is honored. The other half of man’s identity, the sex organs, is too.”

(click on the image to enlarge)

The (amazing, strangely confessional) copy reads:

Life is just a chain of daisies when you slip into (careful, now) these revolutionary hot pants–with their ever-so-daring accent provocateur–just unveiled by famous radical designer Eldridge Cleaver of Paris. They’re bad, they’re mad, they’re up front (but never out of sight)…and, of course, they’re for men only…real men…the three-fisted variety. “There is no mistaking they are men’s pants,” says M. Cleaver (seen here modeling a high-waisted two tone pair of “Clavers” with side zipper and matching “appurtenance”). “The pants that men wear now will be looked upon as girls’ pants after my models are sold.” So far, Eldridge admits, none have been, either wholesale or retail, but he’s busy working on that problem right now in his Latin Quarter office. He’s also orking on some new designes, including a red-and-white-striped appurtenance for the U.S. Bicentennial.
Up your revolution! And don’t forget…heavy on the starch!


Quotes via “Pinks, Pansies & Punks: The Rhetoric of Masculinity and American Literary Culture from the Depression to the Sexual Revolution” by James Lon Penner of UCSC.

Enough said.


Read more about Courtney Love from a feminist perspective here.

The exceptional History is Made at Night offers up these great posts on Disco.

“Disco was the only time we were equal. No one cared whether you were black or white – no one even knew. We were using the culture and the clubs to elevate our thinking. It was revolution in a primal way… If you think about it, the whole movement was run by women, gays and ethnics: Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Grace Jones… I mean the Village People were revolutionary! People who would never even stand in a room with a gay person were dancing to San Francisco, and that’s what was so subversive about disco. It rewrote the book”
Nile Rogers of Chic, ex-Black Panther

I’m not quite ready to write about it yet, but I’m becoming convinced that the 1970s was a more transformative and significant decade than the 1960s, despite their respective reputations. Obviously, this shouldn’t be too difficult to convince feminists of, but most others give the mirror-ball, roller skate, polyester-era the historical shaft. Stay tuned for more on this. In the meantime, see my Disco Demolition Derby post for more.

Sly and the Family Stone’s consistently jubilant and surreal album covers.

All the wisdom you’ll ever need in life can be found in these albums. Lesson #1: Stand.

So I’m going to give away a good bit of party-trick-trivia: punk group The Ramones are named after Paul McCartney. How so, you ask? When the Beatles were delinquent hustlers in Hamburg Germany, they were prevailed upon to take up stage names. The second bit of “Beatles cred” trivia is knowing what those names were:

1. John Lennon: Long John
2. George Harrison: Carl Harrison (clever)
3. Stuart Sutcliffe: Stu deStael
4. Richard Starkey: Ringo Starr
5. Paul McCartney: Paul Ramone

You learn something new every day! Go out there kiddos and impress your friends!

This fact is a delightful feature in one’s rock-knowledge arsenal because it’s rather counter-intuitive. Why would punk gods the Ramones name themselves after pop-prince, girl culture favorite, McCartney anyway? I’ve always chalked this fact up to an oddity or a charming bit of Beatles-fandom on the part of the Ramones, but as I read “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk“, my attitude about this fact has taken on larger proportions.

Here’s another bit of trivia: Danny Fields, a central figure in this abject history of underground punk from orgies of Warhol’s factory to the vomitorium of the Fillmore, was the editor-in-chief of none other than teenybopper rag 16 Magazine. Danny Fields was also the manager of (surprise) The Ramones, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Doors and The Modern Lovers. In Please Kill Me, Fields refers to Jim Morrison as a “teen idol” (as well as a “callous asshole”, “a monster”, “a prick” and curiously “fat”) he felt that the music of the Doors was “Sophomoric bullshit babble”, and “was garbage disguised as teenybopper”. Aside from being assured that Fields, like, doesn’t mince words, again and again in his half-coherent rants we realize that Fields’ understanding of the underground New York punk movement is inseparable from the bottom-feeding “bubblegum” pop stars featured on the tacky pages of 16.

Naming a music genre “bubblegum” is pretty sociologically revealing. Bubblegum, as we know, is highly processed, infused with artificial sugar, quick to stale, and contains absolutely no nutritional sustenance. Basically, the musical subject of this derisive metaphor doesn’t reach the lofty spiritual heights of exultant human artistic endeavors. I don’t think it’s worth wasting energy figuring in the role of age, class and gender regarding bubblegum: duh. Now, okay, what is Bubblegum anyway? One song that comes to mind is 1969’s “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies, which couldn’t be more of an irredemable piece of junk, topped only in sheer depravity by Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy”, which is my own. personal. hell.

Yet, as we confront a central theme of Pop Feminist, we must contend with the fact that music genres are not just somewhat arbitrary, subjective and hotly debatable, they are often conflated with identity categories rather than musicological ones. Listening to The Ramones, it’s clear as day to me that they fit the musicological pattern of bubblegum to a “T”, albeit with a shot of testosterone.

In fact, early punks were quite deliberate to lend authority to bubblegum girl group standards. The Ramones’ only US hit 1980’s “Baby I Love You”, is a cover of the Ronnettes original, the Sex Pistols released “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” as a single, which was originally a Monkees track, and we find that one of the most iconic rock moments offered up by the New York Dolls is when David Johansen opens “Looking for a Kiss” by stating, “when I say I’m in love you best believe I’m in love L-U-V”, which is lifted from the Shangri-Las track “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”.

I’m no expert on the later manifestations of punk rock, but I do know that early on, punks didn’t have beef with disco as is widely believed. The objectionable Goliath against which punk stood opposed was heady “Classic Rock”, which brought rock ‘n’ roll into the elite realm of “great art” with their high-production value and literary virtuosity that appealed to the highbrows of society. The idea of punk is to regress to a back-to-basics, working class model of rock where the mythical disaffected teenager makes great music out of simple chord combinations, devoid of any pretension or aspiration beyond the pursuit of fun.

I’ve argued previously that this shift of rock into “high art” that takes place over the course of the 1960s, creates a gender divide– the lo(w)athed status of Bubblegum and girl culture serves as a foil and distancing mechanism to legitimize the more serious work of their skilled male counterparts (this, of course, is not limited to music but exists as a binary in most professions: the cook/chef the teacher/professor, the secretary/assistant etc). Is it any wonder that in seeking a return to the egalitarian rock ‘n’ roll past, that punks would defer to girl culture to authorize its self-fashioned marginality? Here again, we see the Counterculture v. Counterpublic tension, where these punks wear the troupes of lowliness, but are quite able in most cases to escape the stigma that has rendered the most members of the Ronnettes and the Shangri-Las nameless (which is the case of many early girl groups: the Shirelles, the Chiffons, the Marvelettes, etc), and the Monkess scandalously excluded from the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see that punk rock is a counterculture movement against counterculture, waging a war in which I posit feminism has a stake.

Another notable point of departure for punks is their idealization of high school and teenage years. As opposed to the roadphilic Beats (the first masculine framework into which most subsequent counterculture movements fit), the punks do not shirk the emasculating era of youth, but rejoice in the naive torments and pleasures of domesticated adolescence under the implicit watch of a perhaps disapproving, but not completely forsaken, mother.

Finally, it seems clear to me now why the only explicitly feminist genre of rock ‘n’ roll, the Riot Grrl movement, would naturally be in the same tradition as punk. It’s not that any feature of punk somehow made a space for girls’ active participation, rather it’s that girl culture made a space for punk— the Riot Grrl movement isn’t a radical break, or the forging of a new path so much as it’s a return to roots, and a reclaiming of a term I’m coining now as “Bubblepunk”.

The Ramones perform “Baby, I Love You”:

The Ronnettes’ original:

An aside: Pop Feminist favorite Billy Idol‘s pop vagabondage is now clear! He failed to commit unambiguously to either masculine punk or feminized bubblegum, choosing instead to situate himself on the troublesome border between the two. Thus, he becomes unintelligible as an identity marker and prompting a pervasive silence by rock journalists unwilling to confront the fact that Idol is the personification of the secret marriage of these two genres. Um. Love him. L-U-V.

Sam Cooke.

Watch all of Sam Cooke: Legend here.

Photo via If Charlie Parker…

For those who can stomach it, listening to Rush Limbaugh is kind of one of the best ways to educate yourself about the position of a lot of conservative voters. Born and raised in a swing state myself, I’m all too aware of how much power this blow-hard wields.

Listen to Limabugh on Palin here:


I promise I’ll write more about “pro-woman pop” soon. This election is making me spiral into rage-fueled paranoia. Indulge me.

via (click picture for larger file size)

I just love her.

It’s a wonderful thing indeed that pop figures of John and Yoko’s magnitude offer Pop Feminist so much fab material.

Here’s a selection from a 1980 BBC radio interview where J&Y discuss the inversion of gender roles in the household (listen to the audio here):

BBC: You said that you reversed roles, that John—
Yoko: Yes my dear.
BBC: –looked after Sean. How good a cook are you John?
John: not bad not great. I learned- I mastered the art of rice. They say anyone can cook but few can cook it well. I can cook it reasonably well. I can do fish—
Yoko: You’re a good bread maker
John: I’ve learned to make bread. Which I was thrilled with! I took a Polaroid of my first bread (laughs) you know, just these two lumps—I couldn’t believe they came out like that—
Yoko: In a good old macho tradition. I mean, you had to record it in history.
John: I was thrilled! That’s not macho, I mean anybody would it was the first bread. It looked great you know and it tasted good. That was pretty damn good. And so, for about half a year or a year I was providing the food for Yoko, the baby, even the staff was eating! I was so excited that I could do it that I would stop—bring all the staff to eat lunch you know. But after a bit it was wearing me out. I was thinking geez, cuz life becomes as most housewives know,
Yoko: A routine
John: A routine between the meals you see. Those people are saying, well weren’t you thinking about this that and the other—you don’t because you think from breakfast. Once the baby’s had the breakfast, he’s had the breakfast, you’ve got about an hour—
Yoko: [laughs]
John: Before breakfast starts you’ve got a little time for yourself, a coffee and a smoke or whatever, and then everybody comes out and wants to eat. Okay, feed them. You don’t get a gold record, they just swallow it!
Yoko: [laughs]
John: If they swallow it, that means you were a hit, if you don’t swallow it, it means you did something wrong, you know—
Yoko: And that’s what most women go through!
John: That’s how I really feminized in a different way. And it was quite an experience. I’d say equivalent to going to a monastery and withdraw, by becoming—it was a zen experience to master that cooking thing and and put as much energy into that bread—
Yoko: Which disappears very quickly.
John: –and make it right! Not just wack it away, I made it right, not just powder from a pack of Pillsbury, just it blows up into bread. From scratch. With the flour and the hand. Doing it by hand. And then the time between breakfast and lunch is very quick. You hardly have time to read the paper. That’s presuming it ain’t raining and the baby sitter can take the child take the boy out so that you get a break from the constant “daddy look at this, daddy look at that” you know, “look at me, look at me, look at me”. Feed the cats. Then it’s bloody lunch time.
Yoko: [laughs]
John: So this when on for about 9 months and I really enjoyed it, you know because I constant, I put my mind to it. But the meals is what you live. You live a regulation between meals. On the other side of me, that had always been served by women whether it was me aunti Mimi, God bless you wherever you are, how are you dear? Or whoever served by females, wives girlfriends, you just expect to flop and drunk and expect some girlfriend to make the breakfast the next morning even though she’d been drunk as a dog too with you at the party certainly there were females…suddenly to get on the other side of the counter. It was quite an experience and I appreciate what women have done for me all my life and I had never really thought about it.
Yoko: A woman’s work is never done
John: Oh, it’s so true love! It’s so true! It’s never ever done!
Yoko: And you know, he makes this bread
John:– and I done the dishes
Yoko: If you make bread you want people to eat it you know, and if they don’t eat it’s a personal insult. So he went through this, “well, you’re not going to eat this? But I made it!’ No, it’s just that I’m not hungry thank you, you know.
John: Your mother is always hanging around saying eat up, clean up your plate, because she put all this sweat into it and the kid comes in and [whiney voice] “I don’t like sausage!”
BBC: Did you become a dictatorial mother, and did you not appreciate—
Yoko: He was going through the experience in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way and—
John:— they love the bread. I make it Friday, it’s supposed to last a week, it’ll be gone Saturday afternoon. Like pigs. Womph. It’s gone, so I started buying the bread again.
Yoko: [laughs]
John: So I started buying the bread.
Yoko: If we don’t eat it, your offended, if we eat it up you think, “well, now I have to make it again”
John: I enjoyed it. I looked on it as a discipline. An absolute discipline. And that’s how I approached it. And through that I got into a whole other world.

get registered to vote here.

Just sayin’.

via feministing

pseudo-intellectualism + aspirational consumerism + women + coffee = Starbucks backlash
Read my analysis here.

Jay McNeeley and (homo?)erotics.

I can’t think of a less controversial thing to say than “No Diggity” by Blackstreet (feat. Dr. Dre) is one of the best tracks of the 90s. This smooth groove is downright timeless. It would be no rarity to find me, iPod in hand, trying (and failing) to maintain my stony stoicism on the subway as this pop classic sweet talks me on repeat.

I can’t say I find the lyrics here to be misogynist, though okay, they objectify the woman whose “it” is worked approvingly. Still, I have to defend this track and proclaim: if we reject all art, literature and music that participates in any form of so-called objectification then we can just resign ourselves to taking no part in, and deriving no joy from, the vibrant symbolic understandings of Dionysean lust that inspires pop’s more riotous fantasies.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Where I get all Pop Feminist about No Diggity is when Queen Pen unexpectedly busts on the scene, with her hard-ass answer to Blackstreet’s groveling. One seldom finds, if ever, the muse responding to her crooning admirer(s) in pop music, much less doing so with Queen Pen’s self-possessed pomposity.

Queen Pen gets the last word, telling “Chauncy” when and where she will meet him, the song concluding with the object of desire taking ownership of the sexually-charged situation, giving into Chauncy’s fantasies on her terms.

No diggity? No doubt.

No Diggity – Blackstreet


Pop Feminist was a prominent women's interest and pop culture blog which ran from October 2007 to March 2009.