The politics of pop culture
As I mentioned before, I've been really struggling to stay on course when it comes to blogging these days. My heart is in Gaza right, now, but my fingers tell me I must be here, in front of the computer, writing essays about everything except Gaza.
I'm thankful for the opportunity that Bitch has provided me here. A chance to at least meld what is going on in my life with what I'm "supposed" to be doing--talking about pop culture. Debbie's support at this difficult time has meant the world to me.
What I wanted to discuss was a comment that I received on the thread about Gaza (http://www.bitchmagazine.org/post/attacks-on-gaza). Specifically it said:
I am really disappointed to see this on the Bitch blog. This has nothing to do with pop-culture and connecting it to feminism is a bit of stretch. I see that it's possible (connecting anything to feminism is possible..) but it seems like Bitchs blog has been exploited so you, La Macha, could post your personal, very biased, borderline anti-Semitic views.
For some reason, this comment reminded me forcefully of the Dixie Chicks. I'm sure most of us are aware of how they were treated when in the middle of a concert, Natalie Maines let those fateful words slip out of her mouth, "Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."
The reaction to Maine's opinion was intense, immediate, and often violent. And as the Dixie Chicks note in their song, "Not Ready to Make Nice," "shut up and sing" was a common reaction to Maine's words. Shut up and sing--you're not here to give us an opinion, you're here to entertain *me*, to provide *me* a service. Look pretty, sing perky songs and then shut the fuck up.
This is not an uncommon sentiment. Look at how Barbara Streisand is often mocked for her political fund raising. She's a singer--what does she know about politics! Or how Oprah was even boycotted for supporting Obama during the presidential run. Or how Richard Gere was mocked post 9-11 for espousing his Buddhist faith as a reason to not support the war--and even more shocking, as a possible different road U.S citizens could take over bombing countries.Or how he (and many many others) has gotten banned for espousing political beliefs during Oscar acceptance speeches (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gere#Personal_life_.26_activism). Or look at how Yoko Ono has faced a lifetime of gendered hatred because of the way The Beatles (specifically John Lennon) became more political and less content with "pop" structures as John became more intertwined in a relationship with her (http://thecurvature.com/2009/01/07/yoko-ono-a-feminist-analysis-addendum...).
Which is really making me consider how 'feminism' interacts with 'pop culture', or more specifically, how 'pop culture' often acts tool used to silence dissent.
Now, before I go on, I want to be clear, I'm not saying that readers shouldn't come expecting a feminist critique of pop culture at a blog/magazine that specifically states it exists as a feminist critique of pop culture. More, I'm asking--what are the rules artists in general and pop artists specifically supposed to follow when it comes to merging political beliefs with their work? And why is that so often it's women artists who are told to shut the fuck up or face the consequences?
What are the rules? If a person/group/organization exists as a commodity (because by definition, that's what pop culture is), does that person/group/organization ever have the right to break through illusion s/he is selling and prove his/her humanity by endorsing politicized causes (for example, supporting the deeply political work of Incite! Women of Color over the more acceptable mainstream Red Cross) or expressing political opinions?
If pop culture is a commodity to be bought and sold--do those doing the selling ever have the right to punch out and do off the clock work? Or is that part of his/her job? To never ever exist as anything other than a commodity that reinforces the appearance that a magical world where political neutrality exists is actually possible?
And in light of these questions, is it possible to make a legitimate feminist critique of pop culture without somehow solidly grounding that critique in the political nature of the real world? Or as fellow Bitch blogger asks (http://www.bitchmagazine.org/post/an-open-letter-to-the-feminist-blogosp...):
Is there any organization among feminist blogs, other than category, which typically function more for division and ease of surfing? Do we, feminist bloggers, agree on ANYTHING? Or are we in existence the same way, say, culinary blog are - informative for their audiences, community building for those seeking alliances, challenging those who want to learn? Those are all fine purposes, but, I can't help but feel more responsibility than that. Am I alone? As a feminist BLOGOSPHERE, do we hold any form of higher purpose for women's lives? Or do we get wrapped up in our individually wrapped fem-brands and remain set in our preferred ways of blogging? As a collective, can and should the feminist blogosphere strive to serve a unified deeper purpose than others? Is that even possible?
Or, in other words, is there a way to blog about pop culture AND the lived reality of (hopefully) many of the readers of Bitch? Do we dare assume that all readers of Bitch! have never been touched by the effects of colonialism, war, militaristic violence etc? Or that those people are "doing' pop culture in a political way? Is there a way to make a feminist pop culture critique as dangerous as Natalie Maines was to the collective psyche of the U.S.? Or as dangerous as Yoko Ono was and remains to Beatle lovers?
What makes the critiques of those women so dangerous? And how can I get me some of that?
Palestinian poet: Suheir Hammad
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