Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Music Stands for Comfort 2: Bikini Kill
Category: Fashion, Style, Shopping

Women fascinate me: they always have. I remember watching "Basic Instinct" when I was 10 and thinking it was the best movie ever- it was so sexy, and Catherine Tremell seemed perfect. I was too young to really put it together that she would like, totally kill me. I was entranced with her.

So when sex got really introduced into the mix, (you know, like, 12- I remember it like it happened in one day, first day of 6th grade, and I was hit by the thunderbolt), and at first it was like, I had no idea. I had these crushes, and I read a lot- I wanted to learn about the adult world, be impressively worldly, but I was a total dork. So I lived vicariously, or more accurately, perplexedly, reading books like Lolita, Closer and Exquisite Corpse. None of them really made sense, but I pretended to like them.

Around 15, I became interested in music- maybe the summer before 9th grade, when I discovered Nirvana and Hole, and that they totally kicked ass ! And I loved to listen to them ! and you know, because I am obsessive, and I want to be popular (which I failed at for years- though once I stopped seeking approval I got it), I dug around and discovered other, related bands (because nerdy punk scholarship wins friends- see how bad my strategies were ?). One of these bands was Bikini Kill.

The first Bikini Kill record I got was REject All American, and I did not like it. It was noisy and raw, and incomprensible. I liked the Spice Girls a lot- they were my speed on girl power, along with Courtney Love- and Bikini Kill was just- I didn't get it. It made me feel weird, especially about how much I objectified women. I still like the Spice Girls, but I LOVE Bikini Kill now.

But I kept reading, thinking, learning, and I did finally get into punk rock- X, the Germs, Sonic Youth and most importantly, for this subject, Sleater-Kinney. Sleater-Kinney opened a lot of doors- they were 80's grrls, coming of age when the B-52's were hot, and helped me to find out about Joy Division and Gang Of Four. But thats not important:

back to Bikini Kill. So somehow I bough the Bikini Kill singles. I listened to it. It was OK.

But I kept listening to it.

And it rocked harder and harder.

And I fell in love- but like any romance, this one was delayed. It was delayed by the fact that I left punk behind, got into the Smashing Pumpkins and Post-punk and was like, whatever about punk. and I filed it away. My friend Sam and I would occasionally discuss how good a record it was, but we were too buys elsewhere.

Sam was the only other guy I knew who liked female vocalists as much as I did, and who I think shared my fascination with women. I'm very suspect of most men's heterosexuality- they might like to sleep with girls, but most of them do not seem to like them or to revel in femininity. They do not find femininity beautiful. Instead, they have a 'type', which I think is a mystical standard of beauty. I believe a type is an aesthetic, not a sexual concept. It is an ordering of the world of attraction, which I think is one of the parts of the human soul that I think is impossible to order. I think we are all attracted to a wide variety of people (genders, races, etc.), and we often don't realize how wide a sexual world we're shadowed by.

I think that the natural polysexuality of humans is scary to most people, and so they impose an order on there desire to rule it out. And typing is such a repression that I believe it must cover great chaos.

Sam also has a subtle tyrannical streak: he draws people close, but just close enough. I always get the sense talking to him that he is with-holding something, enough at least that you never know exactly what he thinks. It makes him fascinating, because there is always an edge of threat to him. He is also a chameleon, who can make himself seem like your homeboy, and make you feel like he really understands, even when he thinks your a moron. I think he likes power and control, but doesn't do it through direct confrontation- instead he creates the situation in which you walk into his power.

That's not whats important to this discussion- Sam loves girls in a fundamental way- he is interested in them, interested by everything about them, just as a connisuer doesn't just want a porsche- they want the history, the design, the imperfections- the whole package.

I don't have a type beyond women, (which is pretty big- cuts off 50% of the population), and i've found myself attracted to girls of every description. I find them fascinating to look at, I love female art and voices (I love women's voices- its the one flaw the Passionistas have- that neither me nor Myles are a woman, and we can't become one to sing a song).

Years later, after starting my first band (Colossal Youth), starting my current relationship, going crazy, coming back, breaking off my first band and starting my second band, I re-discovered punk. I re-discovered it because I wanted to start a new band that was going to just kick ass and be really popular and awesome. I pulled out my clash records, my strokes cd's, and incidentally the Bikini Kill singles.

And I loved it all. But I especially loved Bikini Kill. Everything that had been threatening to my insecure lustful adolescent state was now empowering to my aggressive adult self. It's funny that Bikini Kill helps to embolden me to follow my heart in the most traditional of male roles- rock star- but they do, and thats one of the powers of art. I find them thrilling: its so loud and threatening and sexy and confident- while the lyrics are insecure, nothing else is: Kathleen Hanna has the strut and sadism every get rock n roll singer needs to have. She wants revenge and when she's singing, she gets it.

'Rah Rah Replica' is one of my favorite songs from the album, and it is terrifying. The words are about a woman who's boyfriend comes home with a replica of her as his new girlfriend, and then cuts off all of the original girlfriends hair. Thats it: its a snippet of science fiction sung in the most terrified manner of being replaced, thrown away, destroyed by someone else.

This is the magic of Bikini Kill: they sang about the moment of destruction, about rebellion in the face of being crushed, and the moment of being crushed. They went there over and over again, finding new ways to try to escape, to create art.

I have a Bikini Kill tattoo on my arm.

Music Stands for Comfort 2.5: Addendum

I just want to clarify two things that I forgot to mention in the last post:

(1) I still identify as a riot grrl. Riot grrl is the only group identity i've ever been able to get into. The main reasons for this is, because (a) it feels transgressive to identify outside my gender, (b) Riot grrl was long dead by the time I got to it, and so I never had my image of it tarnished by you know, actual riot grrls. They felt like amazons.

I could never identify with punk rock or any local scene because they always seemed so stupid and conformist. You had to think that awful music was good to be a part of it.

(2) I don't think objectification is neccessarily a bad thing. I think objectication of other people, animals, plants, nature, etc. is a normal human thing, part of our rational and ordering nature. By doing this, we are able to turn things into concepts that we can manipulate in our mind, which is the pre-requisite to manipulating it in real life. I also think that objectifying others into erotic objects is what we do to be able to mentally enjoy sex: its the root of sexual creativity. What sex means is often as important as how it feels. The best sex is in an emotional context that feels good- whatever that context is.

1 comment:

ohnochriso said...

Okay, now I seem like a stalker commenting on this post too. I am Jeremy's friend and I was reading WFISF and saw your comment about Chris Crocker and was all "Oooh, another blog for me to read while I am bored to death at work!"

It's really interesting for me to read this post because I love Bikini Kill (and Sleater-Kinney) and have always had a love for female vocalists/musicians more than male my whole life. Same with other types of art like writing, visual art, etc. I am often more interested in and excited by work that's generated by women. But I'm gay so I always thought SOME of it had to do with when I was younger and never hearing men sing about relationships with other men but hearing lots of women do so - even if the relationships being sung about were awful or oppressive, not just love/sex stuff.

But it's really cool to read something by a guy who is romantically and sexually interested in women and who also finds a lot of empowerment in stuff like Bikini Kill. I think it goes to show how powerful their music is and how powerful an artistic statement can be - that it carries past it's "target audience" to have meaning and resonance for others outside of that core group.

Ack, that sounded so pretentious. Anyways, this is a great blog. You should definitely write more in it some day.