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Fuck Politeness

This is a revolution, not a public relations movement

So the lovely Orlando put up an interesting post over at Hoyden about Town regarding jjj and the approach to getting together a listener-chosen ‘Hottest 100 ever’. In order to whet the imagination of the public, the radio station had done a kind of ‘top ten’ of the decades – Orlando noted the almost total absence of women from these decade lists – a mention of the record labels the Supremes were on and a note that Joplin appeared at a music festival – apart from that (and a female butt-shot on an album cover of a male band) nothing – women in music, as far as Australia’s national alternative music station is concerned, you don’t exist and your contributions count for squat…got that Patti Smith? PJ Harvey? Tori Amos? Janis Joplin? Bjork? Kim Deal? We let you pretend you’re ‘in music’ but when push comes to shove you’re like a kid with a hairbrush practising in front of a mirror – what you expected to be taken *seriously*?

And of course when the listeners made their choices, very few women featured. Can you honestly maintain that this is due to the poor quality of women in music, or is it, all over again the ‘men are great/do great things’ issue – as Orlando noted in a later comment:

I think even if your average music consumer has plenty of female artists they like, they are unlikely to include them when asked to name the ten songs that are the greatest ever. Whenever words like “greatest”, “most important”, “best”, “most influential” and so on, are used in any context we are taught to think of men (I think this is exactly what happened when JJJ put their history pages together). We just aren’t given models in our formative years of women having places beside men in “history”, just occasionally in that disreputable annex “women in history” or “women in rock”. It’s going to take a couple more generations of us modelling a different kind of list to our children before we can hope to see a fair representation.

Ok, see this is it kids – did you know there were female gangster overlords in Sydney during early white settlement? That people were terrified of them? Did you learn as much about female warriors as you did about male? Did you read much at all about women’s contributions in history (beyond that they entered the workplace during the war when men were scarce and employers grudgingly accepted women, paying them less)? Female scientests? The female code breakers during the war? Female athletes? Look at it – every school, every church, every community organisation runs on the steam of women’s unpaid work. Women’s volunteer work/work raising kids is what allows society to function and yet it’s erased or treated as insignificant. As are the achievements of women militarily, educationally, scientifically, musically, athletically – how many times in your education can you remember a woman being referred to as ‘great’/’a genius’ for instance?

You ask a harmless sounding question like ‘name your top ten songs for the nineties’ and suddenly Salt’n’Peppa, Hole, Tori Amos, Kristen Hersch, Sinead O’Connor, Kim Deal, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, L7, and Bjork (not to mention an entire movement of riot grrl music) are ‘poof’ gone from memory while we struggle to make the ten solely from men, while we try to remember ‘great’ songs – and watch for it, come the thousands Powderfinger will be in there with a few mediochre power ballads because any song that gets men to throw their arms around one another and bellow tunelessly at the end of a drunk night is ‘great’, whereas for a female song to be called ‘great’…well there’s quite a bit more scrutiny there isn’t there? Ok, so Push It got every one dancing, you couldn’t get it out of your head, it was an excellent track and it was some groundbreaking stuff to have women sing those lyrics, but oh, gee, great? I don’t know about that. Ok sure, Cornflake Girl was fucking everywhere and Tori’s bizarro style had everyone intoxicated, but great? Well…it’s no Foo Fighters blandness is it?

Anyway, I had a point and now I’m getting mired in grump – jjj erased women in their selection of top ten from each decade (and after Orlando and others wrote to them they went back and reinserted some), then of course the listeners do that thing where male=great so they don’t bother nominating any chicks, what a waste of time that would be, and now in reporting it the SMH have gotten in on the action by erasing female listeners and voters.

Bernard Zuel has a small article on how old songs are dominating with some unexpected appearances such as ‘Tiny Dancer’. SMH decided to entitle it ‘Revenge of the dad’s’ – cos it’s obviously only men who listen to music/care about music/get nostalgic about music and vote in these things – or is it simply that only their opinion counts?

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