Reflections of Ourselves
(This is day 3 of my blog-a-day-challenge. So far, so good, right? For more information on why I’ve succumbed to this particular brand of madness, check out the post from Day 1)
In yesterday’s post I started to compile a playlist of queer friendly and queer-positive songs in light of the fact that it was National Coming Out Day. Today there will be even more songs for your listening/viewing pleasure. And feel free to suggest your favorites in the comments or on the official When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution facebook page!
In addition to more music, I did want to reflect a bit more on why these songs are so important, and why I feel it’s important for musicians to embrace queer and feminist themes in their music…so here goes!
Thirteen years ago today, Matthew Shepard was killed as the result of an brutal, anti-gay attack. His death is not the only death associated with bullying for being different. Hate crimes have not disappeared, despite the best efforts of LGBTQ community centers throughout the nation and campaigns like “It Gets Better.” As much progress as the LGBTQ community is making, there are still vast inequalities and there are still a lot of myths about the LGBTQ community that continue to exist despite our best efforts to dispel them. We are still too often thought as “other” and in situations with new people, the chances that we will be asked “do you have a boyfriend/husband” if you’re a girl or “do you have a girlfriend/wife” if you’re a guy continues to perpetuate our conversations. Heteronormativity is too often assumed, especially once we leave the comfort of our queer, radical, feminist circles.
We can do everything we want within our own communities to make a difference and to promote acceptance, but sometimes the most important thing that we can find is a reflection of ourselves. Somewhere. Take music, for example. It doesn’t have to be a perfect reflection, just enough of one that we can listen to it and feel like we are not alone. And with that realization we our lives, our work can come back into focus. That is why Melissa Etheridge’s decision to come out in the 90s was so important. Yes, she made good music even before she was vocally out, but the radical act of coming out allowed her to be who she was as a musician and allowed her fan base to connect with her in a deeper way. For those who identified under the LGBTQ umbrella, it gave them someone to look up to and, more importantly, someone to relate to.
While I believe in music for music’s sake, I do think musicians and the industry at large needs to promote a greater acceptance for queer artists speaking it like it is. Artists like Athens Boys Choir could do an infinitely better amount of good than artists like Ke$ha (and do, without the big record label), and could go a much longer way in the promotion of acceptance as well as queer visibility. The same thing goes with books and the book industry at large. In September of this year two authors came out with what should be a startling truth, but in the heteronormative world we live in, isn’t as shocking as you’d want it to be. They were told by their publishers to straighten the gay characters. Terrifying? Yes. True? Also yes. Check out their whole story here. (and be part of the solution with floating YA Diversity Book Clubs here)
We all find pieces of ourselves sprinkled throughout our favorite songs. Music–and other art forms–are not just products to be consumed. They’re something deeper than that. And as such, we should be able to relate to songs and books. And those songs and books should be able to relate to us.
Now. Onto the music, yes?
1) MEN-”Off Our Backs” and “Who Am I to Feel so Free”: If you’re looking for radical electropop to suit your dance shoes and your politics, look no further. JD Samson–who you might recognize as one of the Le Tigre band members–has not stopped making radical music, and she continues to be on the frontlines of excellent beats with hard-hitting messages that you don’t often expect in electro-pop tunes.
2) Boyskout-”Back to Bed” Boyskout was an all girl San Francisco band with openly queer themes throughout their music. Their music is both catchy and irresistable, and this has been one of my personal all time favorite videos since discovering it a few years ago.
3)The Butchies-”Send Me You”-If you don’t know who the Butchies are then you need to visit google. Immediately. And learn everything you can. I can only hope to see the Butchies live one day, with their random-seeming reunions….
4)The Gossip-”Heavy Cross”–this is another band that I’m going to have to say if you don’t know, you must look up. Immediately. Since their appearance, Beth Ditto and co have been taking over musical landscapes. From punk rock with attitude to pop-heavy tunes with a lot of soul, The Gossip is one of those bands that has to be on your radar.
5)Bitch-”Pussy Manifesto”-It is impossible for me to put into words how much I love Bitch. She is a colorful musician with mad skills on the violin and her wordplay is unmatched. Unapologetically feminist and 100% musical badass, she’s someone worth paying attention to. check her out if you are for some reason not already familiar with her. And if you get the chance to see her live–don’t miss it. Seriously.
6)Agent Ribbons-”Chelsea, Let’s Go Join the Circus”: I’ve written about Agent Ribbons and my diehard love for them before. And while I’m not sure where the band and the LGBTQ community fit in together, this video has adorable queer fairytale written all over it.
“Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.