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“On Kim Deal and the Importance of Empowering Women in Realms of Self-Expression”

A year ago on this blog, I criticized pitchfork for celebrating the indie rock success of Sadie Dupius’ band Speedy Ortiz as “advancement” for women, and I think I was wrong in doing this. I no longer feel that it should be underestimated the bigoted, stymying forces in our country which serve callously to quell self-expression.

My reasoning in finding it to be crass that pitchfork attributed a “Boss Status” to Dupius was that many female artists had come before doing things similar, such as PJ Harvey, The Breeders [1] and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and so while I disagreed that the existence of Dupius’ band was a big GENDER statement, abiding it to fit worthily within the genus (if not necessarily the canon) of indie rock, I think it’s possible that I may be wrong about this. Hell, Dupius even says it, in the interview: “I was writing songs about having agency as a woman, and not letting other people control you.” The very fact that she brings this up shows that it is a pressing issue worthy of examination, and I’d like to admit that I was wrong, that I underestimated the misogyny waylaying women in rock music in 2015.
What’s especially tragic about my erstwhile disapproval of the singer’s empowerment is that true artistic expression eventually yields a win-win situation for all involved, ideally. Indeed, I do address this too, but I accuse pitchfork of equating Speedy Ortiz’ success with something economic, when in reality the topic at hand was just Dupius’ ability to do whatever she wanted to do, as an artist.
Now, when I think of Speedy Ortiz, I cannot help but likewise conjure up thoughts of The Breeders, though, for the record, no girl bands on earth touch Menace Beach right now, at least that I’ve heard (Lonesome Sisters a comfortable second). Per Deal’s own report on the ’90’s and late-’80’s, things were very exclusive of women as far as formation of bands went, especially in Ohio — remember, Deal migrated to the East Coast for her only assignment with male bandmates. I think that the fact that The Breeders must have been essentially formed as a rebellion against misogyny, paired with their almost complete lack of gender bitterness within the lyrics, speaks volumes of their artistic efficacy — the unavoidableness of their existence.
With the way my past post was written, I must have just assumed that a song as good as “Cannonball,” along with PJ Harvey,’s say, “Hook,” up through most Be Your Own Pet songs, [2] would open the floodgates of female libido on the mic, and would implicitly but actively admonish any future sexism among burgeoning male musicians, record execs., and especially fans. But with the way Dupius talks in this interview, saying things like that a lot of the artistic obstacles she encountered she regarded to be due to her sex, and not any qualitative aspect of her livelihood, it’s clear that that stigma is still there, the pathetic attempt by weak men to curtail women into subservience, at the cost of their self-expression as individuals. What offended me about the pitchfork framing initially was that it presented the musical work of this lead singer/guitarist as something exclusionary, like something which would isolate the artist from the rest of the world, instead of a PRESENTATION of the artist, which is what anything of quality inherently should be. But upon further rumination, I realize it’s possible that in cementing herself as superior to certain old-fashioned bigots, Sadie Dupius may have just been fighting fire with fire.
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[1] A recent tour cohort of Speedy Ortiz, at that.
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[2] Meaning not “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle.”

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