I've been tapped to do a DJ set at a Feminist Initiative party on April 4th, to which you're all welcome, by the way. (Spread the word!) Right now I'm going through my record collection in order to figure out what to play, and I keep coming up with the same problem - can this record be played on a feminist night without being offensive?
Last time in this mini-feature I talked about sexual self-objectification as a potential feminist borderline. But of course, even when a female singer expresses a very strong self-oriented sexuality it is often not "their" thoughts that are expressed. A majority of producers and songwriters are male, and they usually have no problems putting seemingly self-assured words into the mouths of female performers.
Still, this is something I have to accept if I want to DJ eighties disco music at all. I'm largely convinced that a female performer is far from necessarily expolited, no matter who writes and produces her songs, and that she's usually in at least some control of her own expression. The rockist image of the non-songwriting female as a tool in the hands of her producers is, as far as I'm concerened, to a significant extent false. (And sexist.)
But what about the children? Won't somebody think of the children?
Alisha, when this track was recorded, was 15 years old. She sings extremely frankly, and somewhat graphically, about sex. Is she being exploited? "Yes," said a couple of friends I was preseting this case to. So over the borderline then?
What about this?
Karina Paisan - 16 @ War
Another child, this time 16-year-old Karina Paisan, singing a song written and produced by men. But this time, it's a deeper social commentary about social exclusion and teenage existentialism. Is she being exploited?
The thing is, I have a huge problem arguing for the first track (which I'd like to play, since it's great) without totally gutting the second one. Because my argument would be along the lines that these are just lyrics. Just as we might be embarassed but not shocked at small children reciting "adult" lyrics, here we can view the lyrics as an instrument, as rhythmic vocalisation, a series of sounds in a composition. Or as fiction. There's absolutely no indication from the video that any of the lyrics are "true", and indeed, the visual presentation seems completely divorced from it. But if we think like that Karina Paisan's poignant lyrics are rendered equally meaningless... Or are they?
What do you think?
COOPER UNION TALK
14 hours ago