Saturday, June 25, 2005

Philosophical advice for Riot Girls

Amanda makes the old Marxists proud -- by placating the workers, the moderate socialists prevent revolution! -- as she makes their move in a feminist context:

In fact, I would argue that Morrissette and Stefani and all their little Avril Lavigne imitators are actually bad for women because they provide nice little outlets that help contain female rage so that it's not turn onto tearing down the institutions that oppress us.

I think this the thing to consider: In the absence of Avril and Alanis, who would fill their space and get their audience? My guess is that bands like Bikini Kill wouldn't, especially in the Avril case. If some necessary aspects of teenybopper marketing preclude feminism, you don't get feminist teenybopperhood. Now maybe these antifeminist aspects of teenybopper marketing can be avoided, even while getting Avril's audience, or at least a large portion of it. This isn't an area that I know much about, so I don't know what the counterfactual possibilities look like. But if a world without Avril has Justin Timberlake devouring her audience, a pro-Avril position may be the one to take. The problem isn't her, it's whatever social phenomenon blocks a better version of her. There, O Riot Girl, shall you find your true enemy.


Amanda Marcotte said...

It's an impossible dilemma, because there is no way to collect data. Would I have been mollified by Alanis as a kid? Highly unlikely. Would your average Alanis fan find Bikini Kill instead? Unlikely. But there is probably overlap in their prospective audiences.

Edna Smith said...

As I said over at Pandagon, to my little sister, who's 15, "Hollaback Girl" is acting as a prelude to feminism. Gwen isn't a shining example of feminism, but the ideas in the song can be extrapolated on, and that's precisely what my sister's starting to do. She wouldn't have been transformed by Riot Girls because she doesn't like that sort of music. If it takes a more pop-styled sound to hook girls like my sister now, then that's what it takes. I'm not suggesting that S-K or BK or anyone switch their sound, just that there's a void in the market that feminist chicks ought to consider, and that there are a lot of teenage girls that the Riot Girl sound isn't going to reach.

Blue said...

In defense of Amanda, she wasn't saying that these bands are a half-measure that makes the girls complacent with their lot (like Bismark's social insurance was according to Marx). But that they actively drain the rage itself, which deadens the energy and doesn't even provide the practical benefits. So not quite so Marxist.

Although I'd disagree with both Amanda and Marx here, in that I think "rage" is less burned up than encouraged.

Daryl said...

Would this be a parallel to the argument that Dilbert acts as a means to sop up rage against capitalism and thus dissipate it?

Anonymous said...

The conventional wisdom is that punching a pillow dissipates rage. But according to the current consensus in psychology, the conventional wisdom is wrong. Angry acts begets anger. Thus, as innocuous and corporate as the music of Stefani, Morrisette and co is, I agree with Neil that they do more to further feminist culture than to stem it. Think of them as the gateway drug rather than the methadone, if you will.

Of course, I don't blame Amanda if the whole phony "girl power" phenomenon just pissed her off.

Anonymous said...

Capitalism, Communism, who cares, as long as we are respecting human dignity.

Cantor Steven Joel Levin