NEXT LETTER >
Tailhook '99, revisited
Last week I wondered: whence the bad misogynist
at this year's Woodstock? I called; you responded -- I read everything.
though they were, many readers suggested grimly that a certain number of
were, simply, statistically likely. Eeuw, but yeah.
But see, I'm also talking about the stuff that went on that is above the
yet beneath contempt. As in (as Ann Powers wrote in the New
" ... rampant displays of vicious male behavior throughout the festival
weekend that began on July 23, from the lone fan who scrawled a demand for oral
sex across his chest to the many who shouted at female performers like Sheryl
Crow to expose their breasts onstage...Sexy fun is one thing, but this was an
orgy of lewdness tinged with hate. If only this were an isolated phenomenon
arising from the primal state that concertgoers entered after three days in
the dust and the garbage. Sadly, though, boneheaded sexism is on the rise
the rock scene. At the Warped Tour, which came to New York City a week before
Woodstock '99 came to Rome, N.Y., numerous performers shouted nasty remarks
at the 'ladies' in the crowd, culminating in a suggestion by Mark Hoppus of
Blink 182 that female fans come up to the stage and sexually service his band
mates. A few nights later, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock shared the Hammerstein
stage. Both artists proclaimed they loved women even as they performed songs
condemning them as whores."
She went on to describe the rock-chick factor: men who proclaim they love
even as they perform songs condemning them as whores, and the women who love
What. Is. THAT. About?
I'm not yelling; I'm just trying to get it. Many of your responses helped,
like this [excerpt of] one from Aida:
"I love Kid Rock. I love Rage Against the Machine. I also love Liz
Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey, Heavens to Betsy, Hole, and many other artists that
promote feminist ideas. I love them all for different reasons. Kid Rock is a
Rock Star, much like (as Ann Powers said), Mick Jagger. We're missing rock
these days. People need a figurehead to admire and fear and want all in the
same heart-pounding guitar riff/bass line. Do I like what Kid Rock says about
women? Mmmmänot particularly. In fact, I'm pretty offended by it. But how can
you resist the flash and the confidence in his being? Also--he happens to be
a brilliant musician, in my opinion. Flash and rock-n-roll is a historic and
Aida also says: blame it not only on flash, but also on cash.
"...many of these kids have spent their formative years getting new
and plastic surgery. Many parents want to give their kids everything that they
can--and they did. Only now we see the repercussions, because these kids now
feel a sense of entitlement--they HAVE to have everything work out for them,
all the time. Remember how in Driver's Ed, they kept hounding the phrase
is not a right, it's a responsibility" into your head, and in the back of your
head you were thinking "Whatever--I HAVE to drive myself to the mall on
is my RIGHT" -- ? It's like that, only with everything. They can have "it"
fame, cheap pizza, beer, members of the opposite sex) all because the future
is bright and there are no obstacles. Get a bunch of self-centered, indulged,
immature, young adults together for three days, deprive them of what they're
"entitled" to get at a fair price, trap them in an environment that strips them
of cash and dignity, and I'm sure you'd see it happen again."
I also still say there's something about the music, at Woodstock and
-- so I'm not just talking about Limp Bizkit goading fans to "start
or whatever. And I'm not I'm not drawing a straight cause-and-effect line in
the mud here. But this did make me think about -- and remember -- the intense
near-opiate (or its opposite) effect of the music (not to mention celebrity)
on the cranky, peaked, hormonal masses. Hey, if it happened for me with, like,
Toto, surely it happens with the pounding, soul-searing,brain-throbbing tunes
Point is, let's step away from the stage for a sec. As I said, I remember
how obsessed we were with pop music; how on one hand, we memorized the songs
mutely and rotely, with no inner ear for what the lyrics actually meant, yet
on the other, we used their snippets as our semafore. When I switched schools,
leaving a boyfriend ("boyfriend") in the process, whom did I lipsynch
in my farewell note? Styx, natch. A different boy mixed his breakup sadness
onto a homemade tape; I still can't hear the unresolved (geddit?) chord at the
end of "Against All Odds" without a pang.
To some degree, this taking-tunes-to-heart phenomenon has been around since,
gosh, at least 1964 ED (as in SULLIVAN). I don't mean to sound too
but those pop songs -- and even those that went before -- were, you know, kinda
nice and wholesome. ("I get no kick from cocaine..." and all the
Now, some of what we absorb is a bit more insidious. And I'm not just
about Judas Priest, or Barney, backwards. I'm talking about even the tamer
that -- duh, like tv and movies -- says that it's lame to be alone, that only
a Pretty Woman gets a second glance, and oh, that women are bitches and sluts
and men's worth is measured in the size of their swagger and the size of their,
um, "swagger." (<-- that's supposed to be dirty; see below). You
say, "Oh, I don't really listen," but you do. I did; I do.
I know there are so many counterpoints, so much excellent music; I know. But
I still say -- as I have before -- sans knee-jerk
He=Jerk assumptions, that all -- boys and girls, bitter and naive, Buffy and
Angel -- are confused about how to behave in relationships, about what "love"
means, about who we are when we're alone. And the most vulnerable people get
their answers from the least reliable, yet most readily available, sources.
Somewhere, somehow -- Could it be at home? Could it be at Hooters? Could it
be at the movies, when Schwarzenegger shoots a woman, says 'Consider this a
divorce,' and everyone falls over laughing? Could it be at HMV? on MTV? --
boys have gotten the idea that Being the Man is how relationships work, and
certain girls have gotten the idea that they should shut up and put up. Or jump
into the mosh pit and play real cool.
Yeah, we listen. So let's just listen more carefully. Hey, enjoy the music
you enjoy. But make sure the songs stuck in your head, the ones moving your
feet, are not on the soundtrack to Gotta Do Whatever It Takes Get and Keep A
Boy/Girlfriend -- or At Least Male/Female Approval -- No Matter What, Cause
Otherwise I'm a Loser.
And, as Aida writes: "A thought for these kids themselves: get a hobby;
if you're a girl, make sure it's a guitar, and keep your shirt on."
NEXT LETTER >